Version 3.0, November 2022
Ed Sarath


The International Consortium for Academic and Societal Transformation seeks to usher in a new era of creativity, spirituality/consciousness and socio-ecological justice and flourishing through new paradigms of education and social practice.


Buckminster Fuller’s assessment over a half century ago of the future prospects for humanity, as conveyed in his book Utopia or Oblivion, may be even more relevant now than when he first articulated his thoughts. On Fuller’s account, there is no middle ground: Species homo sapiens sapiens will respond to its array of crises—from renewed nuclear threats and impending ecological catastrophe to epidemiological uncertainties and social justice transgressions, among a long list of challenges—through either realization of entirely new levels of human flourishing, or the collapse of civilization as we know it.

Driven by both the urgency and optimism inherent in Fuller’s account, the International Consortium for Academic and Societal Transformation (ICAST) advances a fundamentally new conception of what it means to be an educated individual, and a corresponding social vision, at this extraordinary juncture in the history of the world.

The ICAST vision is grounded in the following premises:

Consciousness as the Next Frontier
ICAST embraces an integral understanding of consciousness that extends far beyond materialist perspectives and unites cutting-edge findings in the sciences with age-old insights from the world’s wisdom traditions and the robust creativity of the arts. An integral, or noetic educational paradigm thus expands the epistemological scope to include meditation and related contemplative disciplines that penetrate to the innermost dimensions of soul, improvisatory engagement and sensibilities across wide-ranging disciplines, and the best of conventional learning modalities.1 The significance of the model is perhaps best understood in terms of a noetic continuum: Enhanced cognitive sharpening, freedom from anxiety, improved resilience and well-being are among the preliminary benefits from contemplative engagement, followed by experiences of increased self-actualization and interconnectedness—with self, others and environment—amid glimpses, and possibly more enduring episodes, of higher stage development (e.g. subtle perception, transformed self-object relationship, mystical cosmic unity). A new educational/developmental model emerges whereby expanded creativity and consciousness permeate the entirety of psycho-somatic engagement and understanding of self in the context of culture, world and cosmos.

The primacy of the arts and Afrofuturism
ICAST celebrates a wide range of apertures to the consciousness-based noetic transformation. Working in tandem with the sciences, humanities and formal spiritual/religious disciplines, the arts—often overlooked in burgeoning academic conversations on consciousness—have seminal contributions to offer this work. Music may be of particular significance in this regard given its improvisatory vitality, age-old correlations between musical sound and primordial frequencies of creation, and corresponding linkages with spiritual/religious traditions across the globe. Within music, moreover, are the unique contributions of Black musical traditions, in which connections to the spirituality/consciousness realm are particularly fertile. ICAST thus celebrates the resurgent wave of interest in Afrofuturism, as well as parallel fields such as Afrikology and Archeoastronomy, where ancient wisdom unites with leading-edge contemporary inroads and application, all grounded in a Black aesthetic syncretic in which the arts, improvisatory creativity, spirituality and a vastly expanded conception of science coexist and coevolve.2

New Conversations on Racial Justice
ICAST thus expands contemporary conversations on race in two significant ways. First, prevailing deficit narratives—which focus on racist transgressions and the casualties thereof—open up to a celebratory vision that heralds African American achievement as the source of important wisdom and interventions for entirely new educational and societal vistas. In so doing (and because of the robust interior dimensions of integral lens), ICAST is thus able to more fully diagnose structural racism to be as much a spiritual crisis as one involving inequities in housing, healthcare, education, employment, criminal justice and other criteria that typically characterize structural analyses. In a single stroke, the integral, noetic framework affords deeper penetration into racist pathology and its multi-tiered manifestations and a more expansive vision of future transformative possibilities.

Expanding the Boundaries of Contemplative and Consciousness Studies Movements.
ICAST celebrates and seeks to broaden the horizons of nascent contemplative and Consciousness studies movements in the 21st century academy. Whereas contemplative studies tends to extricate meditation and related practices from their traditional roots, ICAST promotes restoration of these roots (where appropriate) as a means for cultural integrity and also integrity of practice and understanding. ICAST also takes a strong stance in response to tendencies in consciousness studies to remain ambivalent, if not decidedly averse to post-materialist perspectives in centering the integral, nonduality premise. In short, consciousness is neither reducible to, nor even an emergent property of a physical substrate, but rather is ontologically primary in the broader scheme of creation. ICAST does not view this premise as beyond critical interrogation, and in fact welcomes informed debate on the topic. However, unlike much academic discourse, ICAST proceeds with the nonduality premise as a provisional guide given both its direct roots in age-old wisdom, linkages across wide-ranging cultures, and contemporary applied ramifications. Indeed, from the premise that consciousness is primordial, a range of phenomena that are often either sensationalized, or outright rejected, as anomalous assume front and center stage as intrinsic features of human nature, and which may spawn important interventions in response to contemporary challenges. Of particular significance may be the principle of a collective, intersubjective field of consciousness within which not only all of humanity, but all of life and creation are fundamentally interconnected. The idea that this field may be enlivened through collective meditation and related practice to exert harmonizing influence in socio-ecological environments may rank among the most extraordinary of our time given socio-environmental challenges.3

Transcending Ideological Divides
The integral, noetic perspective sheds new light on the ideological divides that riddle the US and much of the world. While there is no denying the complex web of political, psychological, economic, cultural, racial, gender, sexual identity, religious and other factors that fuel the polarization, rare is conversation that unravels these threads and identifies key patterns for productive exchange. Given the prominence of competing viewpoints about spirituality/religion and race in much of current tensions, grounding in an integral, noetic paradigm of consciousness development may have much to offer the emergence of leaders who are able to bridge the divides. Such leaders will draw upon direct experience, understanding and corresponding language of nonduality that transcends, yet celebrates, wide-ranging religious and spiritual boundaries. The realization that labels such as liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican are, in large part, academic and societal constructions enables conversation to proceed from deep connecting bonds at the level of soul rather than surface political/ideological rifts.

ICAST advocates special training programs for preparing trans-ideological facilitators.

Transdisciplinary and transcultural education
The very principles that enable transcendence of ideological/political divides also apply to expanding the educational epistemological spectrum. Efforts toward breaking free from highly fragmented curricular models, which in any case have been largely futile due the external focus of conventional education, find fulfillment when education opens up to integral interiors that transcend disciplinary category. While the term “transdisciplinarity” is sometimes used in mainstream circles to denote movement beyond multidisciplinarity, the transdisciplinary concept takes on fundamentally new meaning from an integral, noetic perspective. Consciousness is where all fields unite; integral transdisciplinarity thus combines immersion in this unified core where surface boundaries are fully transcended, and simultaneous capacities for even the most rigorous attention to discipline-specific detail.

Similarly, multicultural interventions in response to the pluralism imperative open to up to transcultural engagement. Here surface culture-specific detail is grounded in access to deep inner experience of soul-based interconnectedness.

Athlete as artist and visionary
While athletics are prominent in education and society from entertainment or recreational standpoints, ICAST views sport as a powerful form of artistic expression and soul-based transformative impact. Uniting dramatic, improvisation-based peak performance experiences, often approaching the mystical, to mind-body integration and rigorous attention to analysis and craft with high social visibility, the athlete is an important creative, spiritual and social justice visionary for the 21st century.

Ecological justice
While sustainability programs have begun to appear on many college and university campuses have programs, ICAST takes the next step in grounding this work in deep interiors of consciousness, which opens up new strategies and levels of understanding the interconnectedness of humanity and the natural world, as well as the richly intersectionalized of the climate emergency as it interweaves a wide assortment of socio-political-cultural-spiritual issues. While the possibility noted above that human consciousness is both collective, or intersubjective in nature, and is also interactive with the physical world, represents among the most radical (for the academy) principles in the history of higher education, this principle may also be among the most central to the future of our world.

Peace building
While peace studies remain far less commonplace in the academy than sustainability
studies, the area is prone to the same exterior focus as dominates most of higher education discourse. ICAST does not dismiss the importance of socio-cultural, political, historical and psychological perspectives, but rather grounds these in consciousness-based approaches that may open up paradigmatically new understanding of the nature and causes of, and potential inventions for, conflicts and war between nations. The prospects of an overarching, intersubjective field of consciousness that might be enlivened, via collective meditation, focused intention (different from, though complementary to meditation) and other strategies to generate harmonizing influence

Enlivening the Cosmic Imagination
When all is said and done, the time has come for the academy—long criticized for its annihilation of creativity, imagination and spirituality—to place development of these realms front and center. Integral philosopher Sean Esbjörn-Hargens’ advocacy for cultivating a “cosmic imagination” further raises the bar when it comes to the individual and educational transformation in question. Among the more powerful catalysts for movement in this direction may be an area that poses the most radical challenge to conventional academic discourse, yet potentially significant ramifications for the future of humanity. This entails not only the possibility of the existence of alien civilizations, but contact therewith. While many if not most academics (including perhaps those who have recovered from the shock of soul-based education) may relegate this possibility to the realm of the unthinkable (at least as a topic of college/university inquiry), the fact that—driven by decades, and recently escalating reports and encounters with Unidentified Aerial Phenomena—governments, militaries, industry, religious and other leaders have begun to take this topic seriously may suggest that this aversion represents yet another form of academic imaginative annihilation. As Harvard astrophycisist Avi Loeb, a lone and courageous voice among the academic science community to take a strong stance on the issue, emphasizes—the possibility of advanced extraterrestrial life is not only a statistical likelihood, but discovery of such would represent what is arguably the most exciting and extraordinary moments in human history. What could possibly be the rationale, particularly in light of mounting evidence for aerial craft whose performance far exceeds known technical capabilities (and even known laws of physics), for even ambivalence—let alone outright aversion—to inquiry into this area?4

ICAST engages this topic neither presuming or denying the validity of the extraterrestrial hypothesis, but as yet another realm of anomalous phenomena that, at once, illuminates conventional academic rigidity and myopia, and—most importantly—points in the direction of broader transformative possibilities. As the late senator Harry Reid stated, the UAP question cannot be investigated apart from the question of human consciousness.5

–Consortium of institutions to include both mainstream and progressive institutions
–New degree programs, including PhD in Noetic Studies, possibly involving collaborations across member institutions.
–Undergraduate degree in noetic studies
–ICAST Peace Proposal
–ICAST Declaration


  • U-Michigan,
    Contact: Ed Sarath, Professor of Music
  • California institute of Human Science,
    Contact: Thomas Brophy, PhD, President
  • Nelson Mandela University,
    Contact: Gareth Williams, professor of music
  • Florida International University
    Contact: Frank Anderson, chair, dept of Health and Humanities
  • College for Creative Studies,
    Contact: Molly Beauregard, professor of consciousness-centered learning.
  • Harvard University
    Contact: Avi Loeb, professor of science (astrophysics).
  • Oakland University
    Contact: Mark Stone, professor of music

For more information, contact Ed Sarath at

1 The term “noetic” is inspired in part by the Institute for Noetic Sciences, founded by Edgar Mitchell in the 1970s to promote research into farther reaches of human consciousness and evolutionary potential. California Institute of Human Science offers several graduate degrees, including a new PhD program, in noetic studies.

2 See, for example, Robert Bauval and Thomas Brophy, Black Genesis: The Prehistoric Origins of Ancient Egypt, which poses significant ramifications for more recent forays into Afrofuturism. Important to the latter realm are the creative excursions and worldviews of seminal jazz icons, including Sun Ra, Yusef Lateef, and Alice Coltrane.

3 Institute of Noetic Sciences, University of Virginia Division of Perceptual Studies, Society for Scientific Exploration, Scientific and Medical Network, and California Institute for Human Science are among the sites where this research and ideas are pursued. Important recent books on the topic include Dean Radin, The Entangled Mind, and Julia Mossbridge and Imants Baruss, Transcendent Mind.

4 Avi Loeb, Extraterrestrial.

5 Harry Reid’s comment is found in his forward to Skinwalkers at the Pentagon.