“Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles”.

A recent piece on the range of historical meanings associated with the Greek word thumos, “rage, wrath”, inspired me to revisit Gebser’s discussion of Homer’s Iliad. In works such as Transformations of the West and The Ever-Present Origin, Gebser puts forth the idea that the first line—indeed the first word—of the Iliad encapsulates the entire thrust of the mental-rational consciousness that would emerge from Greek civilisation. Mental consciousness, for Gebser, was directed, straight, and focused on an object, an impulse that burst the cyclic seams of the prevailing mythological consciousness, which was, by contrast, circular rather than straight, polar rather than dualistic, and complimentary rather than mutually exclusive.

For Gebser, the irruption of the mental structure of consciousness was distilled in the word menis. It’s leitmotif—wrath:

Wrath or anger is the force which bursts the confines of community and clan, to the extent that it manifests the “hero” in the individual and spurs him on toward further individuation, self-assertion, and consequently ego-emergence. We noted earlier the decisive role of the concurrent emergence of wrath in both the Bhagavad Gita and the Iliad; the Iliad begins with the words: Menin aeide, thea, Peleiadeo Achileos (“Sing, goddess, the wrath of Peleus’ son Achilles”), words in which we can recognise a summons to consciousness.

Gebser draws out the nuances of meaning that surround the word menin both in Greek and in its Indo-European cognates to suggest that it is “the first intimation of the emergence of directed or discursive thought”, signalling a break from the cyclic complementarity of the mythical world. Menin and its cognates encompass meanings such as wrath, courage, resolve, anger, power, intent, thinking, thought, and deliberation, according to Gebser, who draws heavily on a solid body of Indo-European philology.

This aggressive shift towards directed thought was “literally earth-shaking”.  It “bursts man’s protective psychic circle” and ruptures his congruity with the “psychic-naturalistic-cosmic-temporal world of polarity and enclosure”.  “The ring is broken”, remarks Gebser, “and man steps out of the two-dimensional surface into space, which he will attempt to master by his thinking”.

The idea of rupture in relation to the emergence of metal consciousness is emphasised in a further layer of meaning that Gebser ascribes to the myth of the birth of Athena, whose “imagery and allusions” are “unmistakable”:

Zeus has wedded Metis, the personification of reason and intelligence, who, being one of the daughters of Oceanus (“the river encircling the world”) had the power of transforming herself. Fearing the birth of a son more powerful than he, Zeus devours Metis, who is already pregnant with a daughter, thereby transporting her [the daughter], into his own body. When Hephaestus (or Prometheus, or Hermes) splits Zeus’ head with an axe, this daughter, Athena, is born. Pindar has described this birth brought about by the blow of an axe as having taken place accompanied by a terrible tumult throughout nature, as well as by the astonishment of the entire pantheon. The sea (the all-encompassing soul) surges forth, and Olympus and earth—until that moment in a polar relationship—tremble and shake; the carefully preserved balance is destroyed; even Helios interrupts his course. The circle is indeed interrupted, and, from the breach, the wound, a new possibility of the world emerges.

The idea that the breach, rupture, or wound is the very means by which the new world and consciousness will emerge is significant for a number of reasons. Not only does it signal the principle of creation arising from destruction, it suggests that the wound itself is actually the hidden key to the emergence of consciousness. For emergency yields emergence. Dissolution is the solution. The poison is a Gift (to play on a dual-language pun).

Within the broader purview of Gebser’s work, it becomes self-evident that it is precisely the mis-directed wrath of the (deficient) mental-rational consciousness that is destroying our contemporary world. Given Gebser’s insights into of the very birth of rationality from wrath and rupture, we can begin to look deeper into our contemporary wounds for answers to our present predicaments. To what extent are the symptoms of fragmentation potential openings into a womb—lattices in a matrix in which a more integral world is gestating? In other words, to what extent are the wounds of civilisation also the wombs of consciousness?

On Poetry and Philosophy: An Interview with Sabrina Dalla Valle

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Sabrina Dalla Valle, MFA, is the current Vice President of the Gebser Society. She has presented at our conferences since 2009, and co-hosted the 2013 conference at the University of Philosophical Research, where she also teaches a Gebserian approach to creative writing and consciousness. Her book, Seven Days and Nights in the Desert, was released last year via Kelsey Street Press. In the following two-part interview with Anna Soteria Morrison, she discusses her poetic and philosophical influences. In this connection, it is imperative to recognise that Gebser himself was first and foremost a poet, and that it was from his essentially poetic insights into reality that his philosophy emerged as a co-expression. Comments Dalla Valle:

I find this dualistic relationship between poetry and philosophy in your question difficult to connect with ~ because for me they are reciprocals and they mirror one another, so they are found in each other. Build fires to worship the wood, burn wood to worship the fire. This line from one of Susan Stewart’s poems really encapsulates my response.

The full interview is available here:

Computer Graphics and the Perspectival Mind

Hello Gebserians!

I sure hope you’re finding the new site easy to navigate. While we’re working on putting up new content — as well as getting our bearings — I thought I’d share with you an interesting article I found on io9 today: “The Forgotten History of CGI.”

As it turns out, the origins of CG (computer graphics) have their roots in a classic Renaissance aim: that of mastering the perspectival eye:

The roots of CGI lie in the first mechanical aids to drawing and painting. The earliest of these were developed to help solve a problem every artist has found to be sticky: perspective.

Read the full essay at io9.

John David Ebert on Jean Gebser’s Life and Work

My new book, “The New Media Invasion” can be ordered from Amazon here: This is a lecture I gave at the Astrological Institute in Scottsdale, Arizona in March of 2001. It was part of a three day workshop on “Mythologies of the Evolution of Consciousness.”

John David Ebert is an independent cultural critic and philosopher. In addition to being a prolific essayist, Ebert has recently published a number of works from “Art After Metaphysics” to his recently brilliant analysis of graphic novels, “Giant Humans, Tiny Worlds.” He writes regularly at Cinema Discourse. Check out his Amazon Author’s page here.

If you’re interested in hearing the rest of the lecture series, see the whole playlist, or watch this 2-part review of Ever-Present Origin.

Get your Gebser on

This post officially inaugurates our freshly updated and mutated Gebser Society website, and announces the much anticipated Call for Papers for this year’s conference.

This year we are very excited to bring Gebser to New York City!

The conference dates are 17-18 October 2014. The theme this year is Crisis and Mutation. The deadline for abstracts is 31 July 2014. Note them well.

Full conference information will be available in the Conference Program, which is scheduled for release directly after the Call for Papers draws to a close (31 July 2014). In the meantime, updates will be made available here as they arise.

I wish to personally thank Jeremy Johnson for his instrumental assistance in securing the conference venue—the fabulous and historic Judson Memorial Church—and setting up the new website. Jeremy presented at last year’s conference in Los Angeles, and when he’s not being generally invaluable to the Gebser Society, he does great work at Evolver Learning Lab and Reality Sandwich.

On a technical note, we wish to assure you that all the material from the old website has been saved. Relevant material will be uploaded over the coming weeks. If you have any specific requests or enquiries, please contact Jeremy directly (

Much is on the horizon, and we will be writing separately about some of the new features and opportunities that will be afforded us, including our vision for a more creative, interactive, and truly international Jean Gebser Society.


Aaron Cheak, PhD
Gebser Society President