Feeling into Our Roots

By Edith Friesen for Enlivening Edge Magazine

The other day, as I listened to Jeremy Johnson talking about the gift of Integral philosopher Jean Gebser on Jeff Salzman’s Daily Evolver podcast, I experienced an ah ha moment that was both unsettling and liberating.

First, a little context. Gebser, author of The Ever-Present Origin, was the mid-20th century philosopher on whose shoulders Ken Wilber stood when he developed his Integral framework, especially the developmental dimension.

And Ken Wiber was the philosopher on whose shoulders Frederick Laloux stood when he described Teal organizations. This makes Gebser foundational, and a grandfather of Teal or next-stage organizations.

For a moment, I invite you to send your toes into those roots.

According to Johnson, Gebser described five unfolding structures of consciousness and how our experience of time changes in each.

Here is a pocket-sized feel for these worlds drawn from my understanding of Johnson’s vivid and lyrical description of them.

Archaic World









The archaic world is like deep sleep. You are merged with the whole. Things just happen. There is no past or future, only the ever-present now.


Magic World









The magic world opens to nature. Now everything is interconnected. Your head is in your gut. You have an intuitive capacity to sense into the we-space of the tribe. Time has a dreamy, timeless quality.


Mythical World









In the mythical world, the realm of the soul opens up. Everything happens for a reason, and every encounter carries a message for you. The hero’s journey comes alive. In the cosmic drama, as above, so below. Time has a seasonal, cyclical, rhythmic feel.


Mental World









The mental world opens to visionary, rational, and dialectic thinking, and also to novelty. You move from your gut and heart to your head. Writing comes on line. Maps and models divide and measure the world, and things eventually become fragmented. Access to the magic and mythical worlds shuts down. Time is linear, progressive, historical, and directional through space.


Integral World









In the integral world the magic and mythical worlds start to bubble up again, even as you lean into the future. The world is transparent, and you can see through it. Everything is spiritually suffused and diaphanous, including the whole karmic stream and linear history. All that you were and will become is present. For you, past, present, and future form a whole; time and timelessness are one. When you are truly present, all of time is present with you and thus you are free from time.


Can you feel into each world or that structure within you? What feels familiar and true? What feels foreign and out of reach? Can you feel the leaps, the losses, and the gains with each move from structure to structure?

From my perspective, the implications are staggering, especially for those of us who aspire to embody Integral/Teal consciousness. And especially for those who attempt to write from that structure of consciousness.

I often wonder why so much Integral or Teal writing sounds overly conceptual and flat. Why is the diaphanous missing? Could it be because Integral concepts, Teal thinking, and evolutionary awareness itself arise from the mental worldspace? Could it be because we learned to write within that mental worldspace and have not yet brought the lyrical and ensouled qualities of the magic and mythic back on line?

What are the implications for you or your next-stage organization? Is your evolutionary purpose captured lucidly, yet in embodied and ensouled language that can be grokked intuitively? In terms of self-management, to what extent are you free from time or struggling with it? When expressing your wholeness, how present are you to everything you have been and will become?

Now zoom out to the Integral/Teal movement itself. What have we lost and what have we gained since Gebser first described the Integral structure of consciousness 70 years ago?

These are provocative questions. I find them unsettling and liberating. What do they stir in you?


As a lifelong writer, Edith has worked in diverse organizations and coached writers. She enjoys helping people write in Teal-inspired ways that touch the body, heart, soul, and mind. Send email to arcadiawilds@gmail.com.



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