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The Evolutionary Dynamics of Consciousness: An integration of eastern and western holistic paradigms

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Gebserian consciousness structures (Archaic, Magical, Mythical, Mental and Integral) as expressed in human culture are readily understood as analogous to developmental dynamics in holistic biology, and eastern praxis and philosophy. Probably the most integral and fruitful western paradigm of whole-organism biology is that carefully developed in the Goethean tradition to incorporate an understanding of consciousness. This tradition profoundly understands our early childhood through adult development as a dynamic organic process in time, thus integrating the study of heterochrony and chronobiology with morphology, physiology and consciousness. In addition to revealing compelling convergences with the classic work of Gebser on consciousness structures, this Goethian tradition reveals significant parallels with contemporary studies in the realm of biophysics, the science of complexity and eastern spiritual traditions which regard the body as a coherent field, manifesting dynamic, directed currents of development that can be traced and mapped out. These paradigms recognize the importance of recursive (fractal) organizing principles that structure the biosphere’s spatial dimensions and, in the temporal realm, structure long- and short-term evolutionary cycles. The marriage of Gebserian cultural philosophies with Goethean biology, the science of complexity and eastern praxis traditions leads to a simple, elegant and remarkably broad appreciation of the fundamental role of consciousness as an essential property of dynamic living systems. This synthesis helps address many of the difficult questions faced by students of consciousness in a relatively simple and straightforward manner, beginning with a focus on our own species and close mammalian relatives. Two main conclusions arise from this synthesis. First, although enjoying increased attention recently, the Gebserian and Goethean paradigms were far ahead of their time and so have been overlooked. Second, consciousness must be regarded as a primary biologically-embedded datum of life/existence and not merely an epiphenomenon associated with the function of localized or specific organs.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Colorado at Denver, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, Colorado 80217-3364, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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