What makes Integral Consciousness “Integral”?

Andrew Venezia is an Integral theorist, researcher, and practitioner; co-founder of Felicity Consulting, and progenitor of the practice of We/Dreaming.

He will present „Integral Consciousness as Trans-Symbolic: Towards an Integral View” in the INTEGRAL PSYCHOLOGY 2 section, and leading a “Mind-as-Space: Intersubjective Awakeness & Becoming Creativity” workshop at the 3rd Integral European Conference on 22-27 May 2018, in Hungary.

Andrew has been obsessed with two facets of Integral Consciousness for most of his adult life: awakening, and intersubjectivity. After years of practice, research, theorizing and discussing this, and working with others, he has come to the conclusion that Integral Consciousness –anything that’s worth the name—is as such awake, and intersubjective. Let this unpack a bit.

What Integral is ‘not,’ can be hard to get at. We are embedded in a Mental world, after all. Even if we are witnessing a transitional period into Integral Consciousness, we were all born in a Mental world. “Mental” through an exploration of Jean Gebser sense, to mean any kind of consciousness that revolves around a separate “I,” or an ego. So even if you’re more of a “feeling person,” or a “body-type,” if you act as if or think that what you are, fundamentally, is an “I,” a “self,” this is Mental. (While they aren’t perfectly overlapping, this basically means anything between red and turquoise, for those of you familiar with SD/ SDi.)

Awakening, in the Buddhist sense, is the self-evident recognition that this is not the case. That what you are is, well—this. Everything and Nothing. Buddha mind, here, now. There isn’t another option. That this is luminously self-aware, unconditioned, unlimited. The highly appreciated work of Jeffery Martin when talking about this and use his term “Non-Symbolic Consciousness” (which he cribbed from Susanne Cook-Greuter,) as a non-denominational way of framing this recognition – this phenomenon of very real, very attainable human realizations. “Non-Symbolic” as a word colors the ego as being fundamentally symbolic.

But Non-Symbolism in itself is not Integral Consciousness. For a fuller view, we need to look at intersubjectivity.

Intersubjectivity, and the practices of intersubjectivity, reveals that the boundaries that we use to define ourselves are not quite as solid as we imagine them to be, in a way rather different than what we find sitting alone on a pillow. In a traditional meditation practice, I may see through any and all objects (and subjects) of consciousness as being expressions of Buddha mind. In intersubjective practice, I recognize that what those objects and subjects are – their contents and contours, so to speak, are creative, relational, participatory activities.

I am not you, but we are the relationship, and I am the relationship, as are you.

This realm of paradox I take to be a hangover of the Mental way of seeing things. At the heart of Mental Consciousness is an activity that I call “Reality Location” which, simplified, means something like the embodied and pre-conscious activity that creates separation as fundamental categories of Being. Or, Being is not Non-Being. Activity is not Passivity. I am not Not-I. Ontology is not Epistemology. Observer is not Observed. Etc. It’s not the categories themselves, but the reality of their separation.

One particular and very practical line that comes up again and again in these practices is the line between Myself and The Group. I cannot be me, fully, in relationship. I cannot be 100% me and 100% with you. As that self-other construction becomes more and more transparent, this ‘cannot’ goes right out the window, revealing a way of being with each other that elicits a much greater sense of individuality and uniqueness, while at the same time participating in a much deeper sense of community and communion.

This in itself is a massive rabbit hole, but it comes out in a beautiful place: even duality is non-dual. Our constructions, our boundaries, our words and symbols, our referents: they don’t go anywhere. Freed from the obsessive activity of trying to maintain our own Being with these creative actions, we can put them in service to whatever we intuit as being the greatest possible good, a good not subject to good and bad, one which is always and obviously in constant flux and change, and which never changes. Something we see: we always have been doing anyway.

Of course I am different from you. Of course we are not different. Of course there’s no contradiction between those.

I call this a Trans-Symbolic orientation. One rooted in a persistent expression of Non-Symbolic Consciousness that recognizes the basically arbitrary and creative nature of self-construction and symbolic referentiality, and has come to re-embrace these as being efficacious, creative and skillful expressions of Reality.

In this sense, I become – anything I want to be. Not in the magical, pre-egoic way: I cannot literally become Santa Claus. I will probably hurt myself horribly if I decide to step out the second story window instead of the door. Not in the tyranny of the ego way either – what I believe about myself and life is subject to constant feedback as my life itself. But what I am becomes all of this – this entire, endless Kosmic wheel. No one is the Universe, but the Universe is entirely each and everyone, including you, including me.

This is not a thought, alone – it’s something that can itself be recognized directly as already being the case. It can become the basis for activity, in the way the fundamental (unexamined) assumption that I am finally separate from the world is the basis for Mental Consciousness.

The talk he will be giving is an overview of this line of thinking running through Gebser, Martin, Tibetan Buddhism, and his own research into Intersubjective Awareness practices, and presenting a handful of concepts that he thinks must be included (meaning – up and running in living, emanating embodied expression) for any genuinely Integral Practice, Theory, or Life.

As most of what he’s writing is understood best in experience, he will also be doing a workshop aiming to look directly at the construction of the boundaries between ‘I and You, and We’, in real-time. You and I are separate. You will never be in my experience, and I will never be in yours. We are each fundamentally and utterly alone. At the same time, and without a whiff of contradiction, we are one; we are the relationship we each emerge from. Mentally, this cannot be. Symbolically, this cannot be.
But it is. And it can wake up as us.

About Andrew

Andrew Venezia is an Integral theorist, researcher, and practitioner, in Gent, Belgium. He has a Master’s degree in Integral Theory, for which he conducted two-years of research into Intersubjective Awareness Practices. He is a co-founder of Felicity Consulting and progenitor of the practice of We/Dreaming, which draws on Tibetan Buddhism, Focusing, Integral Psychology, subtle energy, We Space, Integral Polarity Practice, and other approaches in service of birthing a culture of generativity.