Figure 1 Mapping Mind (of the Ages, developmentally) 


"Of all spheres of understanding, the social sciences have been most influenced by the postmodern contribution....The postmodern contribution has radically challenged [the] Modern Age assumptions. And at the same time, with each social science sphere...it has proven to be severely limited in its ability to provide a useful alternative."

-Charles M. Johnston (2015, p. 497)

In this very brief essay, I wish to re-introduce the In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute (1991-) which I founded and have been Director of since. This ISOFRI has been a site for my researching, teaching, writing, publishing and transdisciplinary explorations into the nature of fear(lessness) and applications for that new understanding to the wide world. There was a website for it back in the early 2000s but it didn't stay up. And since then there is no such site online but there have been various branches from this institute, e.g., Global Fearanalysis Institute, and the latest one has been up just over a year Fearology Center.

One might ask why ISOFRI did not flourish or have a grand website? There wasn't the backing for it. People weren't that interested. Maybe this will change in my life-time, and maybe it won't. None the less, it has been my central home as an independent scholar-educator and now fearologist. 

Focus of this essay is to create a skeletal framework of the mind of the ISOFRI so people can get a 'picture' of it and hold it, then contemplate it, and/or comment on it and even revise it. But at least, I wish to stir much more conversation with others even if they are not overly interested in the subject of fear(lessness). The more broad and deep common ground I am looking for in dialogues with diverse peoples (academic and/or laypersons, secular and/or spiritual) lays in the territory of Knowledge. I could also include Truth, of Reality, Power, etc., and of 'Who we really are.' Figure 1 (above) is the simplest way to show the arc of evolution of Mind in a particular map and set of categories, and these latter set are utilized by a wide range of academics and other critical thinkers that I too utilize. Not that all of us would exactly agree on what the exact definition (or order) is per se of the terms in Figure 1. 


Let me back up slightly before diving into Figure 1 and its general representation of how knowledge (thought and its consequences) has evolved on this planet over millenia. Many do not know that when I took on the topic "fear" as my primary research in late 1989 (founding of In Search of Fearlessness Project), that I was thinking that this subject would be as good as any (if not better than most) for inquiring into the worst problems of humanity on this planet. Many also do not know that I was already influenced in my methodology (i.e., my worldview, my meta-perspective on perspectives) by the integral philosopher and psychological theorist Ken Wilber. His transpersonal theorizing led him in the 1980s to come up with the buds of a new branch of psychology (and philosophy) called Integral Psychology/Theory. I became a budding integralist in the early 1980s and then particularly intensely in the 1990s and onward. I am a Wilberian thinker but not a Wilberite. I am more so, an integralist thinker and I am also a critic of Wilber and his work and the movement he instigated. That is a much larger discussion beyond the scope here. The point is, when I took on the topic of "fear" systematically I did so through the Integral Lens (is one way to call it) but also a Fearlessness Lens. Simply, I wanted to know fear(lessness) from many perspectives, transdisciplinary, holistic-integral and yes, post-postmodern. But to know fear from a post-postmodern perspective, which I think is the most fresh and exciting in its discoveries and possibilities, I (like you dear reader) will have to step backward along the historical (spiral) trajectory of knowledge (i.e., of "Ages of Mind" is another way to think of it). 

Figure 1 represents a map of the way "Mind" shows up now and has done so over the Ages. Mind is way grander and inclusive than merely "brain" (another topic for another time). Mind is closer to thought (but that is even quite a gross reductionism). Thought is like consciousness.

Yet, without getting too technical, my mapping (and others) in Figure 1 is sufficient as a basic foundational guide to what comes before Post-Postmodernist thought. Oh, and keep in mind "thought" here is also consciousness and all the values and ways of knowing and organizing the world and oneself and societieties, that goes with it. "Schools of Thought" is also like what I have mapped in Figure 1.

In including the history (spiral) of Mind collectively, the oldest in evolutionary and developmental terms in anyone's life-time as a human is ARCHAIC (ancient, and pre-modern, as some also call it). There is no definite 'real' boundary between any of these (St)Ages and remember that the 'seeds' of the higher Ages are already budding (implicate order of things), more or less, in pockets of places and times within the earlier Ages (some call "Stages" of development). Roughly, TRADITIONAL (is a few thousands of years ago) and still flourishing in many parts of the world (more or less dominant in socieities and cultures and in individual's thoughts).

Knowledge and ways of knowing are carried in these 'big forms' (stage-structures) as memes (not merely in genes)--and as what Michel Foucault called "discourses." Culture is a big part of the transmission mechanism for these Ages but it is more complex than that alone.

Next, MODERNITY-- starting rougly after the Middle Ages and Renaissance into the Enlightenment (c. 1700s on). This is what most of us who call ourselves "modern" human beings have been steeped in. It is the water we swim in, in terms of thought/mind/frame of reference for reality and knowledge etc. But around 100 or much less years ago (especially 1980s) POSTMODERNITY came on the scene (specifically developed in academic criticial thought and theories, especially in the Humanities). And, this type of thinking is not familiar to Modern peoples, and virtually unheard of (or despised) by Traditional Peoples (especially religious conservative people who equate it with "liberal" or "progressive"). Moderns don't tend to like it either and find it virtually unhinged and difficult to understand.

Most recently evolved is another necessary adaptive (intelligence and) change (as all these Ages are depictions of changes required by evolution of the Mind itself). POST-POSTMODERNITY (or as Wilber prefers, INTEGRAL AGE). So, you simply (for heuristic purposes of this essay) conclude, more or less, that Mind has taken a spiral form of variant forms, and continues to do so. There may be new forms that come after post-postmodern and so on. Note: Most people like to 'stick' to the familiar form (of thought) from a particular Age or they may mix a couple of these but that's it. They don't want all the complexity of looking at all the (St)Ages as valid. That's a big problem, but I'll indirectly address that as an epistemological problem in the last section of this essay re: Wilber's Critique. 

Again, I remind you that all of these Ages are now mapped by an Integral Mind. It is the Integral (post-postmodern) mind structure and thought that cares about them all as equally important in the Spiral's integrity (or wholeness). Most non-integral thinking "minds" don't see it this way and tend to think their own fav. way of thinking is 'best' and all the rest are not worth much or they are even 'evil.' Lots of conflict going on over the six or so formations of Mind in Figure 1. I remind you also this essay is about how I come to study fear(lessness) since 1989 and I really think this kind of Integral mapping of Mind is one of the best of the best for analysis and solutions. I won't go into all that as you are better off to read my more extensive studies and writing on this all (e.g., go to Google Scholar and enter "R. Michael Fisher" and "Fearlessness").  


For a matter of context, some eight years before I focused on fear(lessness) as research subject, I had come across Ken Wilber's theorizing. It was not popular nor was he, other than in a very small circle of transpersonalists (mostly in California). I took it at face value when I opened one of his 1981 books, and it blew my mind with the depth and breadth of analysis of cultural evolution and the massive literature summarized in it. The thinking of this philosopher of consciousness (in all its forms) was stunning and so different than anything I had read and I had read a lot of people by that time. It started a journey of investigation and sub-specialization of what we can call "Integral Thought" as part of Mind. But it was only in the late 1990s that I fully got the 'big picture' of the Ages (Figure 1) sort out and why it is important to map the Mind in this particular way (historically). Brilliant. I will quote Wilber (1998) and his critical analysis at length: 

[he is arguing with his integral critical lens that we don't want knowledge/realty/truth and methodologies to be too much in the extreme of attention on "objective" only nor do we want them on the opposite side of "subjective" only; he has just argued a good deal of all the Ages in Figure 1 can be healthy and can be pathological in part if not 'corrected' integrally] 

"Since modern science had, in effect killed two of the three value spheres [1] (I-aesthetics and we-morals), postmodernism would simply attempt to kill science as well, and thus, in its own bizarre fashion, attempt an 'integration' or 'equal valuing' [extreme pluralism] of all three spheres because all three of them were now equally dead, so to speak [i.e., from an integralist mind perspective]. Three walking corpses would heal the dissociations of modernity. Into the postmodern wasteland walked the zombie squad, and the wonder of it all is that they managed to convince a fair number of academics that this was a viable solution to modernity's ills. 

Nonetheless, (extreme) postmodernism is now by far the most prevalent mood of academia, literary theory, the new historicism [and new identity-politics], a great deal of political theory, and (whether the proponents realize it or not) virtually all of the 'new paradigm' approaches to integrating science and religion. It thus behooves us to understand both its important truths and its extremist distortions [pathologies]." (p. 120)

[Note, for my part as a critical integral fearologist, I too have had to battle with these conflicts of "minds" of the Ages, their healthy and pathological applications, and I have had to sort through how they each impact the conceptualization of fear ("fear") ('fear'). And thus, that influences how fearlessness is conceptualized. It is a major deal. Deconstructing and reconstructing the vocabularies we take for granted in fear management/education is a lot of work. Rare few understand why the need to do this, and only an "integral" mind and thought system can understand it truly. Yet, there is still lots that can be relay to other "minds" of the spiral and Ages [2]. Oh, and I am convinced that all children in schools and elsewhere ought to be familiar more or less, and age-appropriately with the Integral Mind schema and methodologies and imaginaries. Twenty-first century thinking cannot be, without this approach, very accurate or useful to framing the relationships of all the other options (forms) of Mind through the Ages.] 

Wilber (1998) concludes this passage with the most important piece to understand, as far as I am concerned: 


"Postmodern philosophy is a complex cluster of notions that are defined almost entirely by what its proponents reject. They reject foundationalism [e.g., Traditionalism], essentialism, and transcendentalism [e.g., Integralism]. They reject rationality, truth as correspondence, and representational knowlege [e.g., Modernism]. They reject grand narratives, metanarratives, and big pictures of any variety [e.g., they would reject Figure 1 above]. They reject realism, final vocabularies, and canonical description. 

Incoherent as the postmodern theories often sound (and often are), most of the 'rejections' stem from thre core assumptions: 

1. Reality is not in all ways pregiven, but in some significant ways is a construction, an interpretation (this view is often called 'constructivism'); the belief that reality is simply given, and not also partly constructed, is rferred to [negatively] as 'the myth of the given'

2. Meaning is context-dependent, and contexts are boundless (this is often called 'contextualism') [3] 

3. Cognition [Thought] must therefore privilege no single perspective (this is called 'integral-aperspectival'). [i.e., Integral Age Thought form or post-postmodernism]

I believe all three of those postmodern assumptions are quite accurate (and need to be honored and incorporated in any integral view). [4] Moreover, each tells us something very important with regard to any conceivable integration of science and religion [and art], and thus they need to be studied with care. But each of those assumptions has also been blown radically out of proportion by the extremist wing of postmodernism, and the result is a totally deconstructed world that takes the deconstructions with it." (pp. 120-21) [5]


With Wilber's integral critique, and the guidance of Figure 1, we begin a journey to piece together 'an image/picture of the Mind' (as one of my colleagues believes is so important for humans to have, at least those who have to try to live well in the 21st century). There are more 'pictures' (maps) to also bring into this inquiry but we have a good start with this one and Wilber's nuanced understanding particularly of POSTMODERN thought. I do think that there are immense gifts in POSTMODERN thought/mind that are essential to being a good thinker today and into the future. That's a larger argument for elsewhere. This boils down to how best to define (conceptualize) fear and its management and education on this planet. And what parent, adult, schooling systems can carry on and "plan" education for the future IF they do not have a picture of the Mind. It is inconceivable to me to do so. But obviously, lots of people are doing 'their own thing' and not necessarily at all utilzing the truths of POSTMODERNISM that Wilber has identified so well. Constructionist thought, contextualist thought, and integral thought are all part of that postmodern improvement plan--yet, rarely, do people have a clue what this means. Our task is before us to at least given a map and let people then choose what they will, at least then, they have a comparison to chose from, so that ought to make for a better choice-making. Yet, I am not naive to think that the map will resolve all conflicting discourses and favoritisms that go on in how people think and value. 



1. Many philosophers (including Wilber) have named these three as "Science, Arts, Morals"--at the basis of what could be called "Quality" (e.g., this latter point is one I have made for a long time and recently Ian McGilchrist is making in his important critiques]. 

2. I acknowledge the problems of "hierarchy" and all the different meanings and schools of thought/mind that are brought to bear on the concept of hierarchy and its consequences. Way too big of a problem to tackle, and especially I encourage you see Wilber's writing on this and how he distinguishes "holons" or "holoarchy" and/or his notions of "natural hierarchy" vs. "pathological hierarchy" (e.g., the ideology of patriarchalism). The Spiral form for this evolution and historical unfolding of Ages/Mind is not meant to be pathological hierarchy nor only privileging Post-Postmodern (Integral) even though a simple reading of Figure 1 may look like that. Wilber makes a useful distinction in evolution and development between "foundational" and "significance" on the Spiral--and, thus, all forms are valid and essential--now, one has to nuance that premise with the fact that all of the forms can go off the spiral (rails, so to speak)--and become more or less pathological. A good deal of discernment is required, and arguably the Integral perspective is the 'best' viewpoint for that discernment overall on the Spiral (but, surely, that is speculative as well, it is not an absolute truth).  

3. In an impressive lecture by Ian McGilchrist (2024), "Everything...is altered by its context." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REB7GOxX5Mk

4. What Wilber is profering her is a basic premise (developmental theory) of knowledge via the Integral lens, and that is: an integral view ought to include but transcend the prior Ages (Thought, Mind). 

5. Wilber, K. (1998). The marriage of sense and soul: Integrating science and religion. NY: Random House. 





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