Tag: Bergson

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.