Friday, December 9, 2011

Steve Jobs and the Evolution of Consciousness and Technology

There is an extensive body of research that suggests that there are distinct evolutionary stages of individual and collective human consciousness, and that these stages co-evolve with developmental stages of techno-economic system growth. One of the scales used for these correlated stages was put forth by American philosopher and psycho-social researcher Ken Wilber. This scale correlates the Mythic, Rational, Pluralistic, and Integral stages of human and cultural consciousness with the techno-economic stages of the Agricultural, Industrial, Informational, and now the emerging Convergence Age.

As individual humans in all spheres (science, technology, art, philosophy, etc.) evolve through the various stages of consciousness, their created works reflect these stages and act as catalysts for the evolution of the consciousness of other individuals and their cultures and societies. Along this co-evolutionary path, there have been and continue to be certain individuals who are major contributors to this process, including Leonardo da Vinci, William Shakespeare, Rene Descartes, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Sigmund Freud, among many others.

Since the recent passing of Steve Jobs, there have been many who have commented on his profound influence on our world, and on his possible ranking with some of these other evolutionary-influencing individuals. I believe they are correct in this assessment, because the technological devices that Steve Jobs helped to create and share with the world are, on the most basic level, powerful and elegant convergence devices.

The iPod, iPhone, and iPad are tools that integrate and converge previously separate technologies and their corresponding individual, cultural, and social functions (i.e., the phone is no longer just a phone, it is also a computer, calculator, appointment book, portable music and video player, gaming console, etc.). The ramifications of this convergence extend from the way we perceive our world to the way the world around us works. Embedded in these convergence tools and their converging functions is the Integral structure of consciousness, which allows us to perceive self, culture, and world in deeper, more expansive, and more integrated ways. In light of this, I would indeed say that so far Steve Jobs is one of the major individual contributors to the emergence of the Convergence Age, and that we owe him and those that have come before him our deepest respect and gratitude. Thanks Steve!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Integral Acting Q & A – Part Two

The following in an edited transcript of part 2 of a Q & A session I had with a young actor I am working with who was interested in my Integral Approach to acting:

Question: From past experiences with different actors on film, I get worried that I’m not getting the give and take that I deserve from them, that will help us be the best that we can be in that moment..? If I’m stuck with someone as a scene partner who isn’t giving their all, how can I get them to help me develop my character, as well as theirs in the manner they should?

Answer: From my perspective, worrying about what the other actor is or isn’t giving/doing/etc. is not your job as an actor. If you are bringing your best, deeply rooted in your character, your presence, energy, and beingness will lift every other actor to a higher level. I cannot count the number of times I have heard stories from actors how being in a scene with a great actor elevated their own performance beyond anything they could imagine. There is a term called “social contagion” which refers to the contagious nature of higher levels of presence and beingness in relation to human interaction. Your job is to be the character as deeply and fully as possible and interact with the other actors as other character-beings, no matter how flawed their beingness is.

Question: As an actor such as myself, what do you think develops first in becoming a character; The Physical or Mental or Emotional, etc?

Answer: This varies from acting school to acting school, and from actor to actor. The key to an Integral approach is to recognize that all four dimensions (physical/behavioral, experiential/intentional, relational/cultural, and environmental/sociological) co-arise. You can use any dimension as your entry point as long as you recognize and move into a place where all four dimensions co-exist simultaneously.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Integral Acting Q & A

The following in an edited transcript of a Q & A session I had with a young actor I am working with who was interested in my Integral Approach to acting:

Question: What’s the best way to know one’s self as an actor?

Answer: That is a big and tricky question; one that every acting theorist, coach, etc. would answer a little differently depending on their approach, etc. Since human beings have varied ways of perceiving, what is the “best” way for one actor, may not be the best way for another actor. That said, my own humble opinion is that knowing yourself as a person is key; that is, becoming conscious of the many dimensions of your own being, gives you a strong foundation from which to study the dimensions of your characters’ being. Knowing your self and knowing the self of the character gives you powerful reference points of where you are at and where you need to go to become the character. For example, if you know how you perceive the world, how you relate to others, how your environment has and is impacting you, etc., and if you know these same aspects of your character, you will be able to develop a felt-sense of the difference between these two realms of beingness.

Question: Now I've heard of dimension before, but exactly does that mean?

Answer: As with your previous question, the issue of what dimensions we are talking about varies depending on what acting theory we are using. In my experience and research I have found that no matter what these different approaches call these dimensions or how many divisions they make, in essence they are all talking about the same basic realms. The approach I use is based on Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory, which is a metatheory that attempts to integrate all human knowledge, and according to this approach we can say that we as human beings have and exist within four main dimension-perspectives: 1. Intentional/Experiential: Our thoughts, feelings, awareness, consciousness, intentions, sense of self or “I”-ness – this includes our multiple lines of development (Cognitive, moral, emotional intelligence, creative abilities, etc.); 2. Behavioral/Physiological: Our bodies, actions, the objects and other bodies we interact with – this includes our physical limitations and gifts; 3. Relational/Cultural: Our cultural worldviews and identity, how we relate to others, or our way of being in relationships or our “WE”-ness; 4. Environmental/Sociological/Systemic: The ecological, political, economic, technological systems that we were born into, grown up in and now operate in and how they have and continue to shape us. Here is a chart from my journal article on Integral Cinema that summarizes these dimensions in relation to a character:
For more on these dimensions and the Integral approach, see my Integral Cinema Studio Series at The Holonic Lens; The Quadratic Lens; and The Developmental Lens.

Question: In your Integral Cinema Studio article on the Holonic Lens you state: “Cinematic holons also have positive, neutral, or negative charges, much like atomic particles. At the level of text, an example of positive and negative charges can be illustrated by the energetic difference between moments of affinity and conflict between characters.” Can you please clarify negative, neutral, or positive; in what aspect; for a film maker or a character?

Answer: Holons are a useful perceptual lens for all aspects of cinema (and life), recognizing that every moment, every experience is a whole in and of itself, and at the same time all the past moments and experiences in your life (or the life of your character) are part of that whole moment/experience as well (i.e., everything that happened to you is part of the whole of who you are right now)…and this whole NOW moment/experience you are having will become a part of you as you move forward into other whole moments/experiences. When we are talking in terms of “charges” connected to these whole/part moments/experiences, as related to a character: Your character can be having a negative (i.e., fear, hate, anger), neutral (i.e., indifference, detachment), or positive (i.e., love, joy, wonder) emotional experience in any given moment. This moment is experienced as a whole unto itself, yet under the surface, deep within the characters unconscious, all the other moments in their lives that resonate with this moment help to color their experience in the present (i.e., in an onscreen moment your character may be feeling love for another character, while at the same time every other experience of love in their life is swirling inside them under the surface…so for example, if your character has had bad love experiences in the past, their present moment of love may bring up a tiny quiver of fear inside them. This fear may not be easily seen on the surface, but a great actor can feel this and energetically project this undercurrent to the audience). This performance moment then becomes a positively charged whole moment with a subtextual negative charge as a part of it…a holon…a whole/part.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Integral Cinema Studio Series at

Announcing the INTEGRAL CINEMA STUDIO article series at Integral Life...
The Integral Cinema Studio at Integral Life is an article series on the application of Integral Theory to cinematic media theory and practice.

Integral Theory is a metatheory that offers several perspective-taking frameworks or lenses of perception through which we can perceive, experience, and integrate the multiple dimensions of existence. In this series of articles I will be exploring applying these various Integral lenses to the creation and viewing of cinematic media, which I am defining as any media that uses moving (kinetic) images as a means of expression.

This series is written with a general audience in mind and no prior knowledge of either Integral or cinematic theory is required. My hope is that there is something here for the novice and the expert, for the artist, theorist, and the average viewer of cinematic media in all its forms, and for those on the journey to better understand their self, culture, and world.

The first Integral lens I am exploring is the HOLONIC lens. To view this article click here.

Please join me in this exploration of the further reaches of the cinematic arts...

Special Thanks to Ken Wilber, Corey DeVos, David Riordan, Michael Schwartz, and all the gang at Integral Life for the inspiration and support, and for providing this wonderful platform for sharing my work.

Images: Integral+Life Logo; The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Communicating Meaning Through Art

As an artist of many different mediums (film, drawing, text, photography) I can honestly say that on one level it feels like a miracle when a viewer understands my work in the way that I intended it. And there is often another miracle, when the viewer sees something in my work that I did not consciously intend, but when they speak their truth it rings true for me as well.

I have studied the language of my mediums and how each of their material elements communicate differently across cultures and societies; I have studied the psychology of how individuals perceive and view art; I have studied symbols, metaphors, and archetypes across cultures; and I have studied how different states and stages of development in the viewer and the work communicate with each other. I believe all of these are factors in how the artist communicates to the viewer.

Yet, there is also something else involved here; something I learned in the form of both direct experience and teachings from some of the masters of art I have studied with over the years...this something else is that the more a creative work comes from a deeply personal meaningful place in the artist, the more universal its meaning becomes. This is the great paradox of art and meaning; the more personal the work the more universal and the less personal the work the less universal. Actor and playwright Sam Sheppard said it beautifully when he spoke to my class at the AFI many years ago. He said that if an artist starts with a deeply human truth, one from their own experience or one from the life of another, then the work becomes universal because what is true for one human heart resonates with all other human hearts.

As a practitioner of art as an integral spiritual practice, I also see myself as a creative channel for the Divine. When I align myself with the Creative Source as the Divine Suchness, Thou and I AM, the Source speaks through me into the work and out to the viewer. From this perspective, in addition to my own personal meaning being expressed in and through the work, I believe there is a higher meaning being channeled through me and the work that I most often am not even conscious of. Sometimes I discover this meaning when a viewer shares what they received from the work; other times, years later, I discover this hidden meaning when viewing my work from a different place in my own life journey. In the end, each individual views the work from where they are at on their live journey and when a work of art is a channeled work; I believe it has the capacity to become a kind of magic mirror in which the viewer receives the message that is perfect for them at that particular moment on their life path.

From an Integral perspective, I would say that meaning in art is tetra-resonant, in that a work of art can have subjective, material, cultural, and/or social resonance. This resonance channels meaning between the work of art and the viewer, and one can gauge the general message of the art work through any and all of these resonance channels/dimensions. The more this meaning is rooted in a deep truth in any and all of these dimensions, the more universal the message becomes.

In the end, as an artist I never know for sure beforehand if my intended meaning will translate to others; I can only strive to speak the truth as I perceive and feel it and attempt to communicate it through as many resonance channels and dimensions as possible. I have found that I feel that I have communicated with the audience if I have touched them somehow, and I have come to feel that the reception of my intended meaning is not as important as the reception of the meaning that arises through the wondrous and miraculous process of channeling the creative force…

*Image: Enlightenment by Diana Calvario (dicalva)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Birth of Integral Cinema

La Coquille et le Clergyman (1928)

The term integral cinema was first used by French avant-garde filmmaker Germaine Dulac in the 1920s. Dulac employed this term to describe cinema that utilized the natural inherent language of the cinema to evoke the interior life normally hidden beneath the exterior life of the objective world (Flitterman-Lewis, 1996). This form of cinema was also called pur cinema or visual music, because of the contention by its adherents that the language of the cinema is a language all its own, more related to music or poetics, than to literature or drama. In order to liberate the cinematic image from literary or dramatic expression, “…Dulac sought to create for the spectator a ‘cinegraphic sensation’ that could be achieved through the contemplation of pure forms in movement—the melodic arrangement of luminous reflections, the rhythmic ordering of successive shots” (Flitterman-Lewis, 1996, pp. 69-70).

While Dulac’s theoretical writings and public discourses on integral cinema mostly focus on this definition, her films reveal two distinct types of cinematic approaches. Whereas some of her films did seek to explore pure visual music approaches of using cinematic imagery, movement, and rhythm to reveal the interior life, films like her 1928 classic, La Coquille et le Clergyman (The Seashell and the Clergyman), reveal the raw beginnings of a more comprehensive or “integral” approach that attempts to use the inherent language of the cinema to capture and express the interior and exterior lives of both the individual and the collective. Dulac hints at this approach when she writes, “It isn’t enough to simply capture reality in order to express it in its totality; something else is necessary in order to respect it entirely, to surround it in its atmosphere, and to make its moral meaning perceptible…” (Dulac, as cited in Flitterman-Lewis, 1996, p. 49).

This more comprehensive approach hauntingly captures some of the constructs of Jean Gebser’s integral worldview (1985) and Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory (1995) while predating both by 21 and 67 years, respectively. These Integral constructs, as elementarily expressed in Dulac’s La Coquille et le Clergyman, include rudimentary cinematic representations of Gebser’s aperspectival structures of the concretion of time and interiority, and Wilber’s Integral framework of multiple dimension-perspectives with evolving levels of depth and complexity. More recent examples of these types of cinematic structures include: The concretion of time in films like Groundhog Day (1993), where concrete shifts in time affect objective and subjective realities; the concretion of interiority in films like The Matrix (1999), where individual and collective subjective realities are given concrete forms;  and multiple dimension-perspectives of evolving depth and complexity in films like Inception (2010), where the characters move through different dimensions of reality as they evolve toward deeper levels of understanding and being.

While Dulac’s integral cinema movement was a significant contribution to the evolution of the cinema in many ways, it was also short-lived due to several factors. In 1928, the year that Dulac made La Coquille et le Clergyman in France, Hollywood released the first talking picture, The Jazz Singer (1927), and ushered in the sound film era. For many film theorists and historians, the introduction of sound marked the downfall of the artistic trailblazing of the silent film era as cinematic artists attempted to adjust and adapt to the new technological advancement, and audiences became enthralled by the heightened sense of reality of the talking picture (Andrew, 1976). The following year Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí made Un Chien Andalou (1929), which took the avant-garde cinema world by storm and established a precursor of postmodern relativism and meaning deconstruction as the center of gravity for the artistic worldview of experimental cinema, overshadowing Dulac’s more integral vision (Ebert, 2000; Short, 2008).

Finally, since Dulac operated from an unconscious expression of a worldview that had yet to be named or theoretically mapped, her integral vision ultimately fell dormant. Wilber notes that some kind of prescient emergence of integral consciousness appeared sporadically throughout Western civilization in the early to mid-20th century. Examples of this emergence include Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga (1921/1990), Jacques Maritain’s Integral Humanism (1996), and Vladimir Soloviev’s Integral Christianity (Kostalevsky, 1997). Wilber also notes that these integral visions, along with Dulac’s, were short-lived because they were initial emergences not supported in all four fundamental domains of experiential, material, cultural, and social realities (Wilber, personal communication, July 20, 2010).

Beginning in the mid-1990s, concurrent with the dissemination of Wilber’s Integral Theory, there has been a growing movement of individuals and groups who have been applying integral principles to their personal and professional lives. In the domain of the cinematic arts, scholar-practitioners have explored the application of Integral Theory to cinematic story creation, acting, and video game design (Melody, 2008; Ornst, 2008; Silbiger, 2010). In addition, several cinematic artists have begun to explore and engage in dialogue about Integral Theory in relation to both their personal and professional lives (Aronofsky & Davis, 2006; Brill & Wilber, 2006; Crichton & Wilber, 2004; Konietzko & Davis, 2007; Ormond & Wilber, 2004; Stone & Wilber, 2007; Wachowski & Wilber, 2004). Wilber’s Integral Theory was also an inspiration to filmmakers Larry and Andy Wachowski (Wachowski & Wilber, 2004) in the development of The Matrix (1999), The Matrix Reloaded (2003), and The Matrix Revolutions (2003). The Wachowski brothers also invited Wilber to record a commentary on the films for The Ultimate Matrix Collection (2004), a complete DVD set of the films. Nearly three quarters of a century after Dulac’s work, many people within the integral and cinematic arts communities are raising the same question that Dulac asked many years ago: “What is Integral Cinema?”

This material is an adapted excerpt from: Kaplan, M. A. (2010). Toward an integral cinema: The application of integral theory to cinematic media theory and practice. Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, 5(4), 112-138. Copyright © 2010 by Integral Institute. The complete article is available for download at

Germaine Dulac’s La coquille et le clergyman is available for viewing online in its entirety at:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Notes on Transcinema

There are two uses of the term “transcinema.” One is used to refer to films about transgender issues and is usually spelled “trans-cinema;” the other usage, spelled “transcinema,” refers to creative works that use cinematic expression as part of a hybrid creative work, usually a combination of live performance and projected cinematic imagery.

The transcinema movement can be traced back to avant-garde art movements in the 60s and had a resurgence back in the late 90s and early part of the 2000s. This later expression appears to be connected to the introduction of digital media technologies and a greater cultural movement of convergence in media platforms. This movement can also be correlated to Integral and transpersonal cultural and creative trends in that it is boundary transcending (transpersonal) and represents a striving toward an integrated multi-dimensional mode of expression (Integral).

During my research into this area I discovered several patterns that appear to be unique to this form of hybrid cinema. It seems that once you start combining live performance and imagery and sound, audiences gets hooked on it and the absence of one or more of these elements must be used with extreme purpose and prejudice.

There is also a natural expectation of a “third and fourth story” beyond the story of the performance and the story on the screen; there is the story of their convergence (the convergence story) and the container for this convergence (the spatial story).

In addition, the audience tends to expect and anticipate a build in convergence between the live performance and the cinematic projections as the piece unfolds; they also tend to anticipate a convergence climax. Of course, the transcinema artist/team, have the choice to fulfill this pattern or consciously play against it, either subtly or overtly.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Announcing the Integral Cinema Project's Affiliation with the Integral Research Center

The Integral Cinema Project is now affiliated with the Integral Research Center (IRC). The IRC’s mission is to support the advancement of Integral Research (IR) and the global community of Integral scholar-practitioners through a variety of activities including: Supporting Integral research projects through grants and support services; providing a forum and resources for the Integral research community; supporting graduate level education and fieldwork in Integral studies; publishing academic articles and original research through special issues of Journal of Integral Theory and Practice; and by sponsoring the bi-annual Integral Theory Conference.

Integral Research is an emerging approach to mixed methods that is explicitly grounded in Integral Theory and makes use of its post-metaphysical position and its practice of Integral Methodological Pluralism to provide a multi-method approach that weaves together 1st-person, 2nd-person, and 3rd-person methods. IR makes use of multiple methods (qualitative and quantitative) as a way of exploring the multi-faceted and multi-dimensional nature of complex phenomena.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Toward an Integral Cinema

Announcing the publication of…

Towards an Integral Cinema:
The Application of Integral Theory to Cinematic Media Theory and Practice

By Mark Allan Kaplan, Ph.D.

ABSTRACT: Germaine Dulac’s “integral cinema movement” of the 1920s and her integral cinematic work, La Coquille et le Clergyman (1928), are analyzed from a historical and theoretical perspective. Results suggest an early introduction of integral consciousness into cinematic media that corresponds to and predates the integral theories of both Jean Gebser and Ken Wilber. Defining characteristics of what may constitute an integral cinematic work are mapped out and developed into a set of evaluation criteria using the works of Dulac, Gebser, and Wilber. A test of these evaluation criteria with the viewing of several motion pictures is summarized; the results suggest that several past and recent films demonstrate qualities that could be said to constitute an integral cinematic work. A preliminary typology of forms of integral cinematic creation, and the potential benefits and challenges for the application of Integral Theory to cinematic theory and practice are presented and discussed.

Published in The Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, 2010, Volume 5, Number 4, Pages 112-138.

The complete article is available for download at:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Transformative Creation States

I have been researching what I call transformative creation-states for several years now. By this I mean the use of spiritual, transpersonal, and integral approaches for creative expression to induce altered states of consciousness in order to intentionally convert the creative act into a deeply transformative experience for both the artist and the viewer.

During my research in this area I have discerned several discreet transformative creation-states including creative inspiration-states, catharsis-states, visioning-states, witnessing-states, resonance-states, integration-states, and states of creative grace. I also observed and experienced various group creation states including creative group fields and I-Thou creation states in which members of the creative environment become the “sacred other.”

In addition, during this inquiry I also found a confluence of both structure and flow in the transformative creative process, manifesting within, around, and between any and all of these various transformative creation states. There also appears to be a process in which these two state typologies converge, leading to a transformative creative synthesis of structure and flow.

For example, in my own creative work (film, writing, drawing, etc.), I have found that I can approach the transformative-creative act from a pure flow approach (mindfulness/beingness approach) or from a pure structure approach (e.g., applying sacred rituals and practices or esoteric spiritual structures like Kabbalistic Divine-creation patterns). When I really click into either one of these two creation-state typologies a synthesis appears to occur: The flow-process produces previously hidden structures, and the structure-process leads to a kind of structure-flow experience in which Divine energy appears to move through the structures and, if I am open to it, takes me into a flow through the structures along with it. These experiments have led me to play with a synthesis approach, consciously marrying flow and structure in a sacred-creative dance.

Looking at this triangulation pattern through the masculine/feminine typology lens, the flow-process can be correlated to the feminine, the structure-process correlated to the masculine, and the synthesis of the two can be seen as a union of the deep masculine and feminine.