One of the most underappreciated figures in the history of evolutionary spirituality is the German philosopher and linguist Jean Gebser. His masterpiece, The Ever-Present Origin (1949), outlines his unique vision of the emergence of human consciousness. Gebser tracks human history through a series of “mutations,” or structures of consciousness, from the archaic mind of our ancestors to the more contemporary stage of mental focused awareness. In one particularly evocative passage, Gebser reflects on the beginnings of this mental awareness, as represented by the myth of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom who was born from the head of Zeus. To Gebser, such powerful imagery captures the heroic struggle of human development:
And it would be well for us to be mindful of one actuality: although the wound in the head of Zeus healed, it was once a wound. Every “novel” thought will tear open wounds . . . everyone who is intent upon surviving—not only earth but also life—with worth and dignity, and living rather than passively accepting life, must sooner or later pass through the agonies of emergent consciousness.
To learn more about the work of Jean Gebser, read author Gary Lachman’s masterful portrayal.