The Magellan Courses Experiment

Books Discussed in this Section 
Basseches, Michael (1984) Dialectical Thinking and Adult Development. Ablex Publishing. Norwood, NJ
 Bhaskar, Roy (2002) From Science to Emancipation. Sage Publications, New Dehli
Gebser, Jean (1985) The Ever Present Origin. Ohio University Press, Athens
Gendlin, Eugene (1997) A Process Model. University of Chicago. Chicago
Hansen, Chad (1992) A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought. Oxford University Press. New York
Hartshorne, Charles (1983) Creative Synthesis and Philosophical Method. University Press of America. Lanham, New York
 Heimer, Hans. Integrative Explorations Journal.
 Oliver, Donald and Kathleen Gershman (1989) Education, Modernity, and Meaning. State University of New York Press,.New York
 Ryan, Robert (2002) Shamanism and the Psychology of C.C. Jung. Vega Press. Melbourne
 Suares, Peter (2001) The Kyoto School’s Takeover of Hegel. Lexington Books. Lanham, New York
 Whitehead, Alfred North (1978) Process and Reality. The Free Press. New York
 Wilber, Ken (1999) The Collected Works of Ken Wilber. Shambhala. Boston, London

The Magellan Courses

An experiment in self-organizing,

co-creative transformative education.

~ The illiterate of the future will be those who cannot feel. ~

Early Roots in Theory

At the 2010 Integral Theory Conference, I presented a paper on the emergence of a new type of reasoning that was not based on dualistic categories and therefore not associated with any kind of dialectically structured abstract operations. I called this new type of reasoning, onto-logics to point to a way of thinking that was both based in embodied being (ontos, being) as well as speech (logos, word). Onto-logics is inherently an integrative term, as it combines body, mind and speech as an integrative human activity. Onto-logics can be considered as the integrated movement of body, mind and speech, and by extension, the becoming (i.e. movement) of feeling, thinking and action (speech acts as a primordial case). If our deepest spiritual intuition is of non-dual becoming, then the view from the onto-logical movement is resonant with this intuition. There is no longer a need to excuse our confusions around “ordinary dualistic tendencies” such as the separation of subject and object, the tension between agency and communion, the dialectics of immanence and transcendence, or to appeal to a spiritualized version of ultimate conceptual contrasts such as “emptiness and form,” or “relative and absolute truths.” Although the onto-logical movement emerges from an implicit intuition of non-duality, the re-presentation of this is nearly impossible, given the conventional way in which our dualistic languages work, and the way the logical categories our conceptual apparatus are structured. Therefore, to make the onto-logical movement explicit, we need new types of conceptual categories and new types of language. What is wanting to be transformed is more radical than you might be thinking right now. For example, there is the language of symbol, archetype and myth that offers an alternative to mathematical, scientific and academic styles of reasoning. However, beneath our symbols, archetypes and myths can be found the same dualistic structuring of reality. This is why disembedding from dualistic formulations of reality is so terribly difficult – it has been evolving for approximately 2000 years, with the advent of what Gebser (1948) called the Mental structure of consciousness. Gebser chronicles the advent of the mental structure of consciousness, and its polarity-driven dialectical reasoning, as evolving from “oceanic thinking” – which emerged at the latest stage of the Mythic consciousness. We can see in the writings of Plato and Plotinus, the development of dialectic – as a methodology of reasoning which, as Plato describes, depends upon diaresis, or separation of conceptual parts from the mythologeme, or symbolic narrative. This conceptual separation is the origin of the dipolar construction of all the Indo-European family languages, which mediated thought from Greece to the western world, and from Persia to the Indian subcontinent. It is no coincidence that the kind of East-West dialogue that has benefited interdisciplinary scholarship in so many ways, fails to deconstruct the view of a dualistic world somehow floating above, or fallen from a non-dual reality, since all the discussion is taking place within the Indo-European language family and the intellectual and scholastic trade epitomized by Benjamin as the Axial age. By contrast, we can find, in the pre-Buddhist Tibetan Bon texts, as well as the pre-Buddhist classical Chinese texts (Lao-Tzu, Chuang-Tzu, pre-Mohist Confucianism), completely different conceptual schema and completely different ways in which language functions.

As Hansen (1992) reminds us, the influx of Buddhist scholasticism from India, spread the dipolar construction of discourse through China. This created a prolonged period of tension between the “anti-language” Daoists and their notion of language as “innate guiding discourse”, and the Buddhist-influenced Mohist “analytics” who developed a system of epistemological dialecticism to augment Confucius’ notion of language as “rectifying names” – an intellectual and cultural battle that ended with driving the Daoists underground into secret societies, and the adoption of an uncomfortable authoritarian implementation of an analytic style of Confucianism. Similarly, the Buddhist infiltration into Japan, through Korean scholar-monks, created the various Zen schools depending upon the different degrees of influence of Daoism or Buddhism incorporated into the indigenous mythology and native philosophy. Suares (2001) describes how this trend toward dialectical modes of discourse continued in the east with the development of the Kyoto School through the fusion of Hegelian dialecticism with more conventional forms of Zen by Nishida Kitaro. The increased global nature of “poltical trade” during the pre-WWI era created novel opportunities for cross-cultural interfaces of both contemporary and ancient cosmologies, and catalyzed cross-paradigmatic thinking among free-thinking scholars. Nishida’s famous Logic of Basho, for example, was an experiment in attempting to resolve the subject-object dualism outside of a Hegelian structured dialectically transcendent synthesis, which resulted in one of the first explicit expressions of paradoxical thinking (holding opposite perspectives simultaneously) – fueled by metaphysical insights that paralleled Heidegger’s own meditations on Dasein back in the homeland of Hegel. Synchronously, during the same decade, Carl Gustav Jung, (Nishida was born in 1870, Jung in 1875, and Heidegger in 1889) was becoming aware of the extent in which language and culture over great swaths of time, have over-determined the dualistic construction of the unconscious – noting for example, at the level of shamanism, the archetypes were not dualistically arranged (good/evil; masculine/feminine; upper world/lower world; light/dark, etc…) but more closely resembled the rich and chaotic diversity of the natural world. So impressed was Jung by his insight, that later in his life he expressed the belief that at bottom, humans and the physical world are one.

The deeper layers of the psyche lose their individual uniqueness as they retreat farther into the darkness… Here they become increasingly collective until they are universalized, merging with the body’s instinctual and biological functions and eventually with nature itself. (Ryan 2002 p.26)

In other words, Jung saw the natural self as a whole system which continuously renewed and regenerated through access to deeper levels of subjective content. When this generative cycle is impeded, it turns into a vicious cycle of negative dialectics, espousing some aspects of the self system, while eschewing the remainder. It is easy to see this as the psychological source of dialectical mind. Language, religion and taboo emerge as cultural structures that function to reproduce this cycle of negative dialectics, creating mythologemes based on dualistic ideas from more primordial nondual archetypal, animistic and energetic primes.

The point of all this is, since we can trace our current dualistic condition from pre-dualistic, pre-dialectical origins, it is perfectly reasonable to imagine a human nature evolved beyond the dualistically-conditioned mind and psyche, which limits us to dialecticism and fragmentation. Very late in his life, while he was dying, Gebser dictated his final thoughts to his wife, as a foreward to his final book, Decline and Participation: Concerning Polarity, Duality, Identity and Origin — a compilation of a long, trying lecture tour across Germany. Summarizing his own life,  Gebser says”

“In the end everything is simple”.

Translating and commenting on Gebser’s final reflections Heimer (2003) writes:

This is astonishing statement, by someone who had spent years in developing and communicating complex ideas, including the 615 pages of EPO, [Ever Present Origin] shows that at his life’s end, Gebser had achieved clarity, transparency and the desire to express this to his listeners.

“Of course to say this, appears foolish”.

At the end of one’s life, our fears and inhibitions about appearing foolish and going against the ideas of the majority, drop away. Many great men have held back their innermost convictions, because to voice them would cause problems affecting their livelihood, status …

“Because we sit in a self–constructed cage… our complicated cage–thinking.., cage–security.., the bars of the compulsive images etc. … Now it is clear; the cage we construct is the particular structure of consciousness which is prevalent in our culture.

‘Cage’ is another word for ‘structure’ . Twenty years after the publication of Part 2 of EPO, Gebser is able to survey his own life’s work and summarise it:

“Origin and the presence . . . are equal . . .the whole. … The simple is in us, it is participation”. This is the integral (whole) view. When we can see that our complex theories and concepts such as space, time, causality, the ‘I’, the world, are self–made cages, forms of awareness, then they become transparent and cease to be cages, giving us freedom from our own images and we live in the ever—present. Participation means that we are part of these concepts and images, we are ourselves.

To participate, means to enjoy movement and reciprocity within the generative ground of our universalized becoming and the foregrounding of our being. To participate means to act and to be acted upon, to affect and effect, to mediate both spatial and temporal extension in infinite directions and dimensions. To participate means to be “in the soup”, not somehow above, beneath, behind the action, through the veil of transcendence, assumption of objectivity or inference of subjectivity. To participate means to lose track of cause and effect, agent and object, knower and known, actor and script. To participate requires a pre-conceptual or post-dialectical orientation to reality as “a movement, a happening, a transformation… as events that are constantly transformed.” (Oliver, 1989) To participate means, as Whitehead would have it, is to be in a relationship of feeling among a society of all other entities, human and nonhuman, biotic and a-biotic, within a nexus of shared history.

“The great moral danger,” writes Oliver (1989) “is to lose one’s sense of direct participation.” In this context, direct participation is pre-conceptual and a-perspectival, and therefore either latent or dormant in the perspectivally-structured reality of the modern self and its subject-object world. Participation means a fundamentally different perceptual process of “coming to know.” Oliver (1989) sees the potential of participation in Barfield’s research on pre-literate and animistic cultures:

… there may be a perconceptual process in which the micro world of humans interacts with the micro world of nature, and only at a second stage is this set of unified interactions transformed into a dualistic subject-object world of human observer here and materials [sic] things and figures ‘out there.’ Moreover, through cultural conditioning it is presumably possible either to sense one’s participation in this ‘unconscious’ initial stage of perception or to defend oneself against any apprehension of its existence—the latter being characteristic of … modern people. (p. 89)

To be not an observer, requires awareness of oneself as what Gendlin (1997) calls first-person process which, he reminds us is not a perspective. This process, this transparency, this awareness, that is not an observer and does not observe – which I call View—is the generative process of becoming presence, feeling, image, body, self, concept, time, space … perspectival multiplicity – which only thereafter, the dialectic mind, blind to its own dualistic perversions,  divides along the conceptual fault-lines of the AQAL quadratic. Whether this happens “before” or “after” its association with the dualistic phantoms deposited deep inside the enculturated psyche, doesn’t matter – because from the   a-temporal view of pre-separated origin, these kinds of distinctions cannot be fixed in a static frame of reference.  The problem situation we have, here in the epoch that Gebser identified as late stage Mental structure of consciousness, the problem situation is that we have concretized the evolving products of a generative process into self-made cages, by believing that this world of duality is a necessary property of being, rather than a rolling transformation in a continuum of becoming.

In Heimer (2003) Gebser continues:

The realisation/awaring of the origin is only possible if, when we look backwards and into ourselves, neither the darkness of the magical, the twilight of the mythical or the current daylight of the mental–rational are obstacles (cage bars). Compared to the structure of simultaneity (the ever presence of the past and future in the present), darkness, twilight and daylight are impenetrable and non–transparent walls; where however the three grades of darkness and light of the consciousness structures have become transparent, there also the walls become illusory; a more powerful consciousness, the integral, which life and spirit supporting, transcends and is not overwhelmed by all previous consciousness structures, makes it possible to become aware of the origin, through darkness, twilight and perhaps dazzle, to see the original consciousness, or to use Sri Aurobindo’s term, the universal consciousness. Where this happens, due to its partaking of the origin, our consciousness changes into the integral consciousness and gives up its bar–like compulsive images.”

A Map of the Known Territory

Starting in 2011 I began to compose a map of the known territory, from oceanic thinking (early or latent d­ialectical thinking) to the three stages of reasoning associated with the Mental structure of consciousness – pyramidal (emergent), modern dialectical (Gebser’s efficient stage), post-modern perspectival (Gebser’s deficient stage) and paradoxical (a transitional phase in Gebser’s scheme). 


This allowed me to contextualize various authors in a way that highlighted a best guess as to how and where we might be able to see the emerging process of the new type of reasoning. What I was looking for were works that demonstrated some of the key characteristics that Gebser had predicted[i] as well as the elements of onto-logics that I had distinguished from late-stage dialectical thinking that Baseeches had described (see Figure 2)

I began to consider “what are the processes through which consciousness transforms?” and realized that this was not essentially a meta-theoretical challenge, but a challenge to facilitate embodied transformation. I realized, for example, that although it took a genius like Kant to articulate the then-emerging modern view, and a genius such as Derrida to articulate the then-emerging post-modern view, everyone today who has a conventional Western-style education is a peculiar hybrid of Kant and Derrida – not because they have “thought it out meta-theoretically” but because they are born into the morphic fields of the new consciousness. Therefore, I reasoned, how might one design educational fields that would have the potential of facilitating the emergence of the type of what Gebser called the Integral structure of consciousness?[ii] First, by drawing this map of the known territory (see Appendix , Figure 1) I could help us eliminate the trajectories that seemed to be pointing “in the wrong direction”, and orient ourselves toward the “streams of consciousness” that seemed to be playing a more significant role in the emergence of the new type of thinking called “onto-logical reasoning.” I began to imagine this process of transformative education as a journey into the unknown, where we would be required to struggle without familiar bearings.

I decided to call the experiment The Magellan Courses based on a compelling metaphor of the famous voyage around the world. Setting up what would become the wordpress-hosted classroom (or dojo, as it were) I wrote:

Magellan set out with his fleet of four, the Trinidad, Victoria, Concepcion and Santiago, to sail around the world. Although only a few of the original 247 men survived the circumnavigation, it was the first time in recorded history that humans experienced the world as a whole planet. Until the space age, all exploration of this planet was painstakingly done by moving through the terrain. We had yet to gain a vantage point from space from where we could simply observe its wholeness. Every individual perspective, from every individual hill, hillock and seaway, contributed a piece of the whole picture, and we used the stars to triangulate their relations.

This is a metaphor for the Magellan Courses. Our fleet is comprised of broad domains of special interest. And because we cannot yet completely see the kinds of new consciousness we are working from, we will need to piece together the innumerable points of reference by identifying the stars we will navigate by. For those who survive the trip, success will feel like having closed an epistemic circle, where once was a huge gap of expectancy for what is “not yet here” will be found to have been always already arising. This is the key moment of the onto-logical discovery –

Like Magellan, starting off knowing at least that he had to go west, the map of the various philosophical streams oriented us in the direction of Buddhist dialectics (a soteriological stream) and Western process thinkers (the onto-logical stream). This map, and the metaphor of Magellan’s voyage, combined as a kind of “orienting generalization” to remind us that we were experimenting with something radically new that had to be discovered through radically new terms of engagement.

Getting Started

Knowing from the start how structure influences process, I wanted to design the Magellan Courses from the view of onto-logics. It was crucial that the design of the experiment modelled the anticipated outcome as best as possible. This was extremely tricky in this case, since the outcome couldn’t be anticipated from the start. Modelling the process of discovery, in an educational setting is equivalent to modelling the unknown. First, I made it explicit that the purpose of our engagement was not to manage what we already knew—nor even to ponder the questions we had already formulated. These had to be given up to allow a whole new kind of mind to arise—one that was naïve and curious, better at sensing and observing, more facile with feeling, intuition and imagination, gentle with both sense and nonsense, grounded in the concrete and ordinary while contemplating the fantastic and extraordinary. On our facebook page we practiced a new type of discourse. Absenting the endless dialectical collisions of a perspectival frame of mind, we read each other’s posts and comments as “points of entry” to our own creativity, and found this practice to be enormously generative. Threads flowed inwardly deeply, and outwardly through tears of wisdom and rounds of laughter, silliness and joy. We talked about how palpable the encounter was, how strongly the feeling of saying came through the digital and virtual interface. We co-created, and through us emerged insights, poetry and song.

Lessons from the Field

Each of the Magellan Courses is designed to take a fresh look at the polarities that pre-constitute our understanding. Like a street grid that determines the limited number of routes that traffic can follow, these polarities limit the way we can compose, interpret, or even perceive reality in dualistic terms. A mind structured by polarities is like a system of train tracks where we can only go right or left, north or south. Moving dialectically, means we can add “up or down,” or any number of two-way opposite tracks – but we never get off the track system itself. This is what the AQAL map illustrates – the system of tracks that over-determine the routes of our reasoning. The courses are designed to follow authors who have some of the characteristics of onto-logics, by reading their work together over an 8-week period. There are weekly conference calls, formal posts and comments on the wordpress hosted classroom-dojo, and a facebook back chat where a larger community engages in a wider variety of discussion. The “pioneer” authors, their domain, and the topic addressed are summarized in Table 2 (see Appendix )

The Magellan Courses began on-line in January 2012. By the summer it became clear that there was a need for a real-life venue to support the community. Through the Magellan Fellowship Initiative, we made plans for holding three 4-day retreats at Alderlore[iii] in Northwest Connecticut. Envisioning this initiative, I wrote:

Think of The Magellan Courses as our flagship, and then imagine a real-life embodied “ship of fellows” — this is the Magellan Fellowship– a collaborative envisioned as an international, inter-generational society of fellowship who contribute by being mentors and benefit from receiving mentorship from others.

Our Fellowship is an open, self-organizing fellowship of personal commitment and shared response-ability, in an intimate field of deep interpersonal relatedness and care. This “ship of fellows” is envisioned as a fluid, flexible, living field of human care and concern, where fellows are held in a sacred space of shared endeavors around meaning-making and visioning. In this field, we are better able to develop clear mind, right body and vital spirit– our personal journey toward self-mastery. But it is also evident to the Fellowship that the greatest strength and power resides in the relational ground that unites each fellow into a more excellent whole. The programs offered through the Fellowship focus on discovery and wisdom, and the processes that enrich the qualities of interdependent care, integrated development, and deeply shared trust that arise from basic human kindness and well-being, as generative of transpersonal fields of Love, that are capable of acting in the world in powerful and extraordinary ways.The longer-term mission of the Magellan Fellowship is to develop and deploy a global field of inter-generational fellows to enter into and transform the existing structures of education, politics and business.

From September 10 – November 4, the 2012 Fellowship series, called The Nature of Wholeness, explored the connections between three themes: Gathering Together to Hear the Call, Spirit Becoming Body, and Falling in Love with the Future. A sense of the retreats can be gleaned from the language developed for the inquiry:[iv]

Listening to Being as strings tuned in order to play together.                                                   We gather together because in order to feel we need to be touched.                                  Alone, we are the night, holding onto stars.                                                                          Together we are light reflecting as open sky.                                                                        Naturally, we thrive in fellowship.

In-becoming body, spirit realizes ever-emerging wholeness, fullness and freedom …   … in the dance of energetic primes, primordial elements, archetypes and angels.

Who are we? Where are we headed? The earth knows where we have been. She follows our lead. The sky above, the ground below, are always here. They know us well. We follow their lead. Is Time a riddle to be solved? What are people for?

Over the course of our first year, we learned some valuable lessons for designing emergent systems for catalyzing transformative education. I now see the process of transformation as the crystallization of insights into a newly composed whole, which entails the whole “organism” – self, spirit and soul. The role of the designer is to “seed the field” with opportunities for individuals to gain insight. It is not the designer’s role to steer individuals to any particular insight, or to mine the individual’s own intuition of what is leaning into their own horizon. Sometimes an insight or intuition can seem to be off track, or seem to take the student in the “wrong direction” – but emergent design requires that we drop the notion of “wrong direction” and allow the inherent genius of the co-creative, adaptive process to be generative of the process. To design for co-creative emergent process, means to discover, by trial and error if necessary, the minimum elegant structure[v] for insight-generation. Since this can lead to periods of intense chaos, a community of trust must be developed and maintained through a deep and intimate fabric of mutual fellowship, which includes respect and reciprocity (see the description above). A crucial component of trust is theory-practice consistency; and so it is important to be on the lookout for means-ends conflicts, since they are the way theory-practice inconsistencies show up in community. It is also crucial that we don’t have prior assumptions about what community health or process looks like, or what the “we-space” is supposed to feel like, or how the transpersonal should express itself in a collective endeavor. This is why the metaphor of the Magellan journey is so apt – we cannot expect our usual navigation devices will give us useful answers. In fact, one of the key characteristics of emergent co-creative systems is that the experiences are not reproducible or formulaic – they are uniquely particularized expressions of the universal, arising from causal generativity. To design for emergent transformation, requires designing from causal generative states of awareness. This takes the form of what I call “ritualized inquiry” combined with a deep sensitivity to what is latent and wants to emerge – a sensitivity which arises in the core spaces of one-self(s) as universalized creative energy. It is here, in the fluid flow of causal energetic fields generating fields of self-other-worlds as arising inter-faces, that the designer must live.

Implicit Ontologies and Hidden Metaphysics

Ken Wilber’s AQAL theory shows us how we anchor our understanding of reality in eight different and non-reducible ways. The particular “default setting” we have, is a kind of “implicit ontology” that governs the choices we make from the assumptions about “how reality is” or “how things work.” The philosopher of meta-Reality, Roy Bhaskar, warns us to watch out for “implicit ontologies” and says it is one of the tasks of philosophers to disclose them, and by making them explicit, free us from their limiting assumptions. When we are anchored to an implicit ontology, our thinking and experimenting cannot stray outside its boundary assumptions, and therefore we cannot discover more choices when better choices are needed. When an underlying ontology is exposed however, we can utilize it for as long as it continues to create meaningful choices, or we can hold it up to critical examination, experiment with its usefulness, revise it when needed, and discard it when necessary. This is the way paradigmatic change happens. Still, even a rather wide range of ontological options can be seen to be constrained by a single hidden metaphysical framing. This is the case with the Indo-European language family, which despite the variety of ontological contestants developed within them, remains constrained to the dualistically structured categories and the various dialectical systems which have been developing around them for 2000 years.

Through experiments like the Magellan Courses the hidden metaphysics of modernity are being exposed to more and more people. This is the way that meta-paradigmatic transformation will happen. Part of the process is gaining insight through well-designed embodied practices such as ritual inquiry or insight meditation. Part of the process is the hard work of reading pioneer authors trying to describe to us that which is like trying to describe water to a fish. Part of the process is by recognizing the value in alternative types of reasoning that has evolved in traditional indigenous cultures, and in isolated pockets of wisdom traditions unaffected by the Indo-European language family of cultures. We have found that we already have some underutilized capacities toward post-dialectical reasoning, especially where art, poetry and music is incorporated, as well as the capacity for play. We have also found that one significant way to cultivate a highly developed nondual language is by nurturing our faculty of aesthetic judgment, applying it to themes and issues such as empiricism, ethics and morality. In a course on Shadow, and Shamanism, for example, we explored the extent to which the authentic life depends upon creativity that pours from free, spontaneous and open imagination, rather than determined through a rationally derived system of moral principles.

A large part of the continuing project is just the difficult work of engaging onto-logical thinking to compose a new kind of language. We began to work with new categories directly by  following Hartshorne’s lead in working out new ways for conceptual categories to be related, and new ways to widen our choice field in the process of ordinary existence as everyday becoming. Mostly, we must be ready and willing to throw all our previous projects out the windows that are opening for us. Time and again, during this year of Magellan Courses, individuals have experienced the moment when like Humpty-Dumpty “all their walls came crumbling down” and had to go back to their studios, their businesses, boardrooms, and editing labs to begin something anew. Coaching students through that kind of experience can steal the words from your mouth. Amidst the fractured remnants of the self that they once were, and the life they once lived, I can only remind them, with full sincerity and in earnest, “the Dao is not broken.”

What Needs to Transform

~ The illiterate of the future will be those who cannot feel. ~

The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said that reality arises through a series of moments which feel into the past moment as they feel for(ward) the next moment. For Whitehead, the action in-between was nothing at all like the tight wire between the physicists’ cause and effect. Rather, Whitehead thought of this feeling-process—which he called “prehension” – as incredibly sensitive, provocative, and loving; and he construed it as the long, long moment of possibility, freedom and choice, in the timeless space of becoming, before the actual occasion is concretized into being. If you situated yourself imaginatively inside Whitehead’s process reality, you would experience yourself as a living center of transformational process. Without a sense of separate self, nevertheless you would feel the act of cause-creating-effect-creating cause… and in the a-temporal pulsations between cause and effect (actual and potential) you would discover vast promise and freedom. The more you prehended your neighbors and relations, the more extensive you would become, until you felt the in-becoming of one body through the simultaneous presence of many bodies. The more stabilized your prehension, over the long slow moment of feeling, the more expansive you would become, until you realized the in-becoming of one novel moment through the simultaneous presencing of many moments.

The role of transformative education is,  in the words of Donald Oliver (1989) “ an integration of the most basic mode … of causal efficacy and the more focused information brought to us by our senses … where ontological consciousness … apprehends both primary perception, which connects us to the process of being in the broader universe, and our sense of immediate occasions in our own lives. (p. 136)

This requires a whole new mind – one which allows the range and diversity of our (humans’) ontological narratives to continuously compose and decompose ourselves as participants in a persistent plurality of novel relations. This demands a whole new view – one which becomes increasingly aware of the metaphysical necessity of plurality, diversity and asymmetry in any cosmology that is authentic to the apperception of a shared unbounded wholeness. The dualistically-constructed dialectical mind cannot achieve this scope where incommensurability of beliefs is a sign of novelty, and novelty is a sign of a unified generative process of shared becoming. As Oliver points out:

In Western thought there is a history of difficulty, even unresolvability, with opposed aspects of reality. We commonly employ two intellectual and practical techniques in our effort to deal with such contradiction. One is domination or destruction: we either attempt to dominate one pole of the antinomy… or we attempt to destroy one pole. … The second strategy for dealing with contradiction is the dialectic: the effort to transform both poles of a contradictory set of metaphors into some new and higher state of understanding. (p.148)

As participants, then, our key role in co-creative transformative education is to “put down our defenses” in order to compose holistic cosmologies which generate persistently advancing comparative interfaces – a process wherein our being and knowing (participating and composing) would become a perfect reflection of the underlying processural continuum expressing itself as our being and knowing, participating and composing. We will have, in effect, like the few survivors of Magellan’s famous voyage, circumnavigated the globe, to discover the world is whole, again.

[i] These characteristics can be summarized as:

  • the Integral structure would require new types of language
  • a new kind of process-based reasoning would arise
  • this process-thinking would account for the perception of space and time (space and time would no longer be “a priori or external features of the universe, rather they would be seen to arise within a generative process of thinking, similar to Bohm’s notion of “thought as a system.”
  • that our understanding of the nature of being and how this relates to the human existential condition would give us deep insight into the nature of time
  • this insight into the nature of time would be experienced as the “ever-presencing” or origin or alternately, the “co-presencing” of all matter and being
  • there would be a de-objectification of phenomena
  • and an accompanying of the de-localization of the subject
  • that dualistic opposites on which all rational thinking is based would be resolved in a view of a unified dynamic field
  • this would entail a new conceptualization of wholes and parts and
  • a new gestalt of figure and ground.

[ii] It is crucial to note the distinction between what is called the developmental level of cognition called “integral” in Spiral Dynamics and AQAL theory, and the evolutionary structure of consciousness that Gebser called the Integral structure. The cognitive level (integral  teal and turquoise) is still within the Mental structure of consciousness, although it often shows up as paradoxical thinking – which is a transitional phase of the Mental structure.

[iii] Alderlore is the home/farm of the author in Northwest Connecticut, as well as the operating location of The Horses of Alderlore Present, and Alderlore Insight Center.

[iv] The full text of the Fellowship Initiative and 2012 Retreats can be found at

[v] I have Ria Baeck to thank for this elegant phrase.

Appendix: Figures and Tables

Figure 1:

Table 1    


Late-Stage Dialectical


Logical Categories                  (thesis, antithesis, synthesis)

Forms of Existence (perspectives, holons)

Onto-logical Categories (anterior, posterior)

Composite Structures (constructivist)

Constitutive Structures (emergent)

Onto-genetic Relations     (orders, phases, transformations)

Synthetic                       (algorithmic)

Integrative                             (relative, relational)

Generative                               (fractal, anisotropic)

Transcendent Whole

Prior Whole                           (ground)

Mutually Generative               (wholes and parts)

Transcendent Knowledge

Collective Knowledge

Implicit Knowing



Creative Imaginaries

Perspectival                         (universal, absolute)

Multi-perspectival (hierarchical)

A-perspectival                                  (a-conceptual, de-ontological)

Table 2

Author/Artist Domain Topic(s) Inquiry
Jason Brown Cognitive Psychology Cognitive Microgenesis Subject-Object
Christopher Alexander Architecture/ Design Nature of Order Subject-Object
Joel Morrison Philosophy/Theoretical Mathematics Morphogenesis of Concepts Transcendence-Immanence; Epistemological/Ontological
Gendlin Psychology Thinking at the Edge        Implicit-Explicit
David Michael Levin Social Philosophy Listening Self Being-Doing
Thomas Arthur Environmental Art Facing Nature Self-Nature
Panikar & Bhaskar Spiritual Philosophy Being and Reality Emancipation-Liberation (self-culture)
Goethe Science Goethe’s Way of Science Empiricism –  Phenomenology
Charles Hartshorne Process Philosophy Metaphysics Absolute – Relative
Bruno Latour Philosophy of Social Science Political Theology of Nature Nature – Society


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Oliver, Donald and Kathleen Gershman (1989) Education, Modernity, and Meaning. State University of New York Press,.New York

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