Consciousness Evolves at the CIIS

This fall I’ll be teaching an online course in the evolution of consciousness for the California Institute of Integral Studies, based on my book A Secret History of Consciousness. We will be looking at the work of William James, Henri Bergson, P.D. Ouspensky, Colin Wilson, Jean Gebser, Rudolf Steiner and other thinkers, in an attempt to trace the outline of what I call “participatory epistemology,” an overly abstract term for the fundamental insight that consciousness does not merely mirror the world, but actually participates in bringing it into being. I will be trying to link a phenomenological analysis of consciousness to some central esoteric themes. The class code is TDS 8225 and you can find it the CIIS course listings. The description of the course currently on view is different from what we’ll be looking at, and is from a previous class. Here’s an overview of what we’ll be doing:

TSD 8225 ‘Evolution of Consciousness’


For the last four centuries, science has tried to account for everything in terms of atoms and molecules and the physical laws they obey. In recent years, this effort has been extended to include the inner world of human beings, with debatable results. But throughout the period of science’s dominance, there has been another approach which sees consciousness not as a result of neurons and molecules, but as the creative force behind them. In this view of consciousness, ‘meaning’ is not something we passively absorb from the outer world, but is a product of consciousness’ interaction with reality. In this approach, consciousness is a living, evolving presence whose different stages can be charted through different historical periods.


This course will focus on how the idea of an evolution of consciousness is presented in the work of both esoteric thinkers such as Madame Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner, P.D. Ouspensky and others, but also in the ideas of mainstream philosophers such as William James and Henri Bergson. It will also look at the important but little known work of contemporary thinkers such as Jean Gebser, Colin Wilson, Jurij Moskvitin and others. The central text is my book A Secret History of Consciousness with forays into the work of the different thinkers discussed in an attempt to uncover the secrets of this important current in the history of the human mind.


I’m not sure if you need to be a full-time CIIS student in order to take the course, or if it’s available to people outside the Institute, but I will be posting more information and links as they become available. In any case, it’s an honour to be doing the course and I’m thrilled about having an opportunity to share and discuss these ideas with others.




21 thoughts on “Consciousness Evolves at the CIIS

      1. Dear Gary,
        I trust you are teaching your online course at CIIS this Fall. I don’t see it on the class schedule. If so, I would like to audit it and need permission from you. Can you please send me an email confirming that you’re teaching it and that I can take the class. Thank you. Alzak Amlani

      2. Dear Alzak,

        Yes, I am teaching the course. I’m surprised to hear its not listed – TSD 8225, I believe it is. I skyped with some of the people taking it recently, during the intensive at Pacifica. Please let Martha Brumbaugh know that it is fine with me for you to audit and thanks for your interest.

        Gary Lachman

  1. Dear Professor Lachman,

    I was delighted to read this as I am using your *Secret History of Consciousness *as one of the texts in my own evolution of consciousness seminar I will be teaching this fall at Clark University. I am also using Richard Tarnas’ *Passion of the Western Mind *as a foundational history to Albert Linderman’s book on Owen Barfield *Why the World Around You Isn’t as it Appears,*Barfield’s *History in English Words and your Secret History*.* *The seminar is the first part of a two semester project that will culminate in a devised theatre piece called …….*like sisters. *Sort of of theatre collage using parts of the Chekhov, Tarnas’ C*osmos and Psyche,*and also thanks to the hint given in your Steiner book possibly some scenes from th*e R*adetsky *March* and *Man Without Qualities. *Using these* *and other works including (numbers stations??/* *in an attempt to give a poetical look at the End of Empire (consciousness) including the beginning of the End of the American Empire at the turn of the next century.

    Colin Wilson has been a huge influence on me since I was kid. I try to read everything he writes. Now I am trying to do the same with your excellent work.

    All best,

    Raymond Munro Professor, Theatre Arts Visual and Performing Arts Department Clark University

    On Sat, Jul 20, 2013 at 4:50 AM, Gary Lachman

    1. Dear Raymond, Many thanks for this warm message. I am delighted and flattered that you’re using my book, and in such esteemed company and at such a prestigious establishment. I don’t know the Linderman book on Barfield – I will have to look for it. And if anything I’ve written takes you to Roth and Musil I am glad. Will any of the theatre piece be up online anywhere? Please let me know if and when as I’d love to see it. All the best and please keep in touch. Gary

      1. Thanks so much– I will definitely get that to you next spring. Also if you are ever on the East Coast and you think you might want to do something here at Clark– maybe something surrounding the new book (?)— I would happily go to work here to try and make that happen. It would be great—

        All best,


      2. I will certainly do that. I will be in NYC this October, speaking at the Occult and the Humanities conference put on by NYU, but sadly won’t have time for much else. But there’s always the future. By the way, do you know The Master and the Emissary by Iain McGilchrist, about the left and right brain? It is probably the most important book of the last ten years. I’ve posted my review of it below.

  2. Brilliant review! I have ordered the book. I had stayed away from books like these as I always suspected that the divided brain theory was the left brain’s strategy of making all consciousness merely epiphenomenal to the brain’s machinations.
    On the other hand this might be the 21st century explication of Steiner’s Lucifer/Ahriman dichotomy. Speaking of which did you ever have a look at Andrew Welburn’s (another Floris author) The Truth of the Imagination? A wonderful look at Romantic poetry and even though it was an academic publication it still had anthroposophical terminology ablazing——

    1. McGilchrist is very sympathetic to the right brain; in his view, it is the master, not the left, which is generally regarded as more dominant. And he is also very critical of an overemphasis on the virtues of the left. He has a foot in both camps: he’s a neuroscientist and an English professor and has written quite eloquently on poetry and depression (oddly, the right brain seems to tend toward depression, the left to being over-optimistic; if you know Colin Wilson’s “Laurel and Hardy” theory of consciousness this makes much sense.) He is also very partial to philosophy, which is my own neck of the woods. I’m glad you’re ordering it, it certainly deserves wide recognition and it’s insights can be used in a wide range of applications. The Lucifer/Ahriman opposition is apt. I don’t know Welburn’s book although I do know his name. Another title for my ever-growing list of books to read…

  3. Dear Gary,

    During the riots in Los Angeles in 1992 a funny thing happened. McDonalds restaurants were spared, left undamaged. (Or is that a funny thing? Have human mobs *ever* been like termites, destroying everything in their path? Or have they always been selective? I just don’t know at this point. But for now let’s assume that human mobs have usually behaved like termites.)
    I’m a little more than halfway through Jean Gebser’s “The Ever Present Origin.” I’ve taken a break from it to read your book on the subject, and others, (e.g. Feurstein). Anyway, I’ve wondered for some time what this, the sparing of the McDonalds restaurants during the riots, says about crowd or mob psychology. It reminds me of the Spanish versus the Aztecs. The Aztecs couldn’t lay a finger on the Spanish. Similarly, the rioters couldn’t seem to lay a finger on the McDonalds restaurants. Would this also represent a conflict between the mental/rational structure (McDonalds) and the magical structure (the rioters)? What if it’s not a simple dichotomy like that? What if, among the rioters, there were representatives of the integral structure, or whatever the structure of the rioters was, *plus one*?
    This is all very inchoate. My main question here is “What if this seeming anamoly is somehow a manifestation of the integral structure?”

    1. I lived in LA at the time of the riots but didn’t pay much attention to how any McDonalds fared. If the rioters did leave them alone, I suspect its because they intended to eat at them afterwards. It’s doubtful if anyone of an integral bent was among them: integrated people don’t riot, and if they do they’re not integrated. In any case, here in London a year or so ago, during the riots over student fees or some other social/financial issue, rioters did attack McDonalds, as a symbol of corporate evil. So perhaps LA was a fluke. Cheers.

      1. Dear Gary,

        I’ve since learned that selective destruction during rioting is not at all unusual. In fact it seems to be the norm, going back at least to the French Revolution. (See “A Note on Mobs in the American Revolution” by Gordon S Wood. I had to join the site to see the full report, which is why I don’t give a link here.) I was no doubt too eager to see signs of the growth of the new consciousness. The following occurred to me overnight.

        Does the new mutation have mainly to do with the withdrawal of a projection? Could that be the withdrawal of the projection of the visual pyramid? If it ceases to be projected, what happens to the object, the *it* which now appears to be *out there* ? We might say that it becomes a part of, or even one with, the subject. Together they are the it-self. But this is misleading, because it is still a spatial metaphor. I might speak here of the the* identity of discernibles*. The object and the self are separate in space, but not in time. And when we remember that time is logically prior to space, that space presupposes time, we have that diaphaneity of which Gebser spoke, I think. For the self is no longer *an enclosure*.
        PS How does Jung’s notion of the “transcendent function” relate to all this?

        PPS I also enjoyed your “Turn Off Your Mind”. Now I see you’ve been quite busy writing. So there’s more to look forward to,

        Last but not least. Thank you very much for your prompt and thoughtful reply.

        Paul Amrhein

  4. Dear Gary,

    Even if I were to sharpen the question about a representative of the integral structure being *among* the rioters by pointing out that “among” does not always imply “one of”, what would that accomplish? “She walked *among* the children does not imply that she was *one of* the children. Well so what? It only leaves the possibility open. It’s still much more likely that those who spoke up during the riots saying “Do not *direct* your violence *that way.* were operating out of the mental/rational (directive) structure, than out of the integral structure.

    1. Thanks for your very perceptive remarks. But I’m not sure how helpful it is to localize Gebser’s structures in the actions of particular people. Or rather, while it seems clear that rioters would qualify as being immersed in the magical structure – or, perhaps more precisely, the magical structure becomes dominant in them – it is not so clear that non-rioters would be acting out of any particular structure. Gebser relates crowd and mass psychology to the magical structure – you might want to look at Elias Canetti’s Crowds and Power – but it isn’t as clear that non-rioters actions are rooted in a particular structure in so definite a way. Also, we are all in the mental-rational structure, as that is the dominant structure of our time, but, as Gebser argues, all the previous structures (archaic, magical, mythic) and ‘latent’ ones (integral) are present too, if not actualized. So, a variety of different sensibilities could draw back from rioting – out of fear, timidity, laziness, civil responsibility, even pride (“I’m not one of the rabble”.) But your suggestion of a link or commonality between Jung’s “transcendent function” and Gebser’s “integral structure” is promising, I think, and I’ve thought the same myself. Both seem to be involved with an integration of opposing states – for sake of a better word – and a rising above a previous deadlock through their fruitful union. But as you know, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what Gebser has in mind with diaphaneity, concresence etc., as we are forced to use the vocabulary of the mental-rational structure to speak of the integral structure, which, by definition, exceeds or transcends it. If you have a chance, you might want to look at Iain McGilcrhist’s very important book The Master and His Emissary about the right and left brain. I have a review of it here All the best and thanks for the kind words about Turn Off Your Mind.

  5. Dear Gary,

    Something Gebser mentioned almost in passing – that space presupposes time – caused me to look into the philosophy of science especially for this issue. I’ve found someone I find quite extraordinary for his clarity, rigor, and thoroughness, without scientism, Max Jammer. I’ve started with his “Concepts of Simultaneity[…]”. I should probably wait until I’ve finished it before giving a full endorsement. That said, so far there’s no heavy math. I have the Kindle edition (waiting for the book). So I find it hard to skim and scan the rest of it, so there may be heavy math later, but I don’t think so.

    Here’s a link to Max at Amazon;

    Paul Amrhein

  6. Hi Gary, just published a work on Plato and Jung (The Platonic Jung and the Nature of Self) through Chiron…with some new material for Jungian studies … also with a chapter on how to conduct analytic psychotherapy from a Fourth Way perspective, using some of Gurdjieff’s work, of which i have been a long proponent, along with esoteric studies in general. i am a practicing psychologist, so apply these ideas i have written about concerning the nature of the self as soul …. i wonder if you in your crazy busy schedule would be interested in taking a look at it. i am trying to get it out to the Jungians, and loved your Hermetic Jung.

    thanks for reading this!!!

    1. Hello Jane. Your book sounds fascinating. I think bringing Jung, Plato, and Gurdjieff together is a great idea. There are many similarities I think between Jung and Gurdjieff, both personally and in their ideas. They both used a form of what William James called the “bullying method” in order to shake their students out of their ordinary selves. I would be happy to read it. I’ll send you an address via email. Cheers and all the best, Gary

  7. thanks Gary. I have been away, and just checking this now. i will look for your address on my email and get the book off to you. i appreciate your interest very much.

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