The International Consortium for Academic and Societal Transformation

Ed Sarath, Founder

 GUIDING PRINCIPLES

  • Humanity has reached a crossroads where nothing short of a revolution in creativity and consciousness/spirituality, which needs to take hold in the world’s educational systems, will suffice to address the problems and opportunities for growth that are unique to our time.

 

  • The arts are central to the revolution through their capacities to heal prevailing science/spirituality polarization and promote spirituality/art/science synthesis.

 

  • Within the arts, jazz—with its long legacy of improvisers/contemplatives/mystics—and a corresponding Black aesthetics provide a creativity/consciousness blueprint that can be applied across fields; from architecture, athletics, business and engineering to ecology, medicine and global peace efforts and beyond.
  • ICAST’s 20 pillars of thinking and action operationalize these principles and, through heightened diagnosis of prevailing patterns and expanded evolutionary visioning, fundamentally change the narrative on change itself.

An educational paradigm that neglects, if not overtly denies, the innermost dimensions of the human being is a primary indicator of a civilization in sharp decline.

The ushering in of an educational paradigm that bridges inner and outer worlds is a defining feature of a civilization on the ascent.

Please consider being part of ICAST’s commitment to planetary leadership inspired by the above principles.

The world is waiting.

PROSPECTUS

ICAST Mission

To promote an arts-driven revolution in creativity and consciousness in education and society.

ICAST Vision

Ed Sarath

The central message of Buckminster Fuller’s 1969 book, Utopia or Oblivion, may be more apt now than it was at the time the book was written.

In response to the many challenges of the present moment in history, there is no middle ground. Humanity will either achieve new levels of planetary flourishing, or succumb to the wide ranging socio-ecological crises that threaten the very survival of civilization as we know it.

Informed by an emergent worldview called Integral Theory, ICAST brings together the spiritual insights of the world’s wisdom traditions, the creative and cultural vitality of the arts and humanities, and the technological advances of the sciences to advance a paradigmatically new educational vision.

 In the words of the preeminent American philosopher Ken Wilber, largely regarded as the primary exponent of integral thought, Integral Theory synthesizes and makes available the “knowledge, experience, wisdom, and reflection of all major human civilizations,” from the timeless insights of “the ancient shamans and sages” to the latest “breakthroughs in cognitive neuroscience.”1

The arts factor prominently as a catalyst for the spirituality/art/science synthesis, with a Black aesthetics and its uniquely broad epistemological scope—particularly as embodied in jazz—a guiding precept. Integral Theory thus unites with Afrofuturism, Advaita Vedanta, Quantum Nonlocality, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Archeoastronomy and a wider array of thought streams that bridge ancient wisdom with contemporary understanding to redefine what it means to be an educated individual in the 21st century.

Improvisation, transcultural and transdisciplinary syncretism, the inextricable link between art and life as a whole and spirituality/consciousness are among the cornerstones of the emergent vision.

Diverse epistemologies—or diverse ways of knowing and being—are thus a key distinguishing feature of the integral framework, in sharp contrast to conventional education’s epistemically limited science-spirituality divide. Whereas prevailing epistemic dearth renders education fragmented, surface-bound and static; epistemic breadth—particularly when grounded in creativity and consciousness—promotes integration, inner-outer wholeness and robust capacities to respond to increasingly challenging and unpredictable world circumstances.

Consistent with integral approaches across fields, the creativity/consciousness-based model does not jettison conventional practices but rather resituates the strongest examples of existing models within a fundamentally new developmental context. The emergent framework also significantly expands understanding of, and approaches to a range of contemporary issues. These include familiar themes in higher education such as DEI, ecosustainability, mental health, arts advocacy, and AI as well as more academically elusive, yet equally essential topics such as spirituality, critique of religious and scientific fundamentalism, healing political and ideological divides and peace building. As examined more closely below, DEI is a key example of prevailing change discourse that, due to epistemic ambivalence, is not only incomplete but which actually fuels the crisis—in this case, systemic racism—in question. ICAST thus strongly recommends renaming and fundamentally reframing the pluralist imperative.

An educational paradigm that neglects—if not overtly rejects—the creative and spiritual dimensions of the learner is a signifying feature of a civilization in peril.

Restoration of spirituality/arts/science wholeness to the heart of learning and human development is key to planetary flourishing.

The time has come for individuals and institutions that harbor leadership aspirations to step up and initiate what may well be among the most extraordinary revolutions in the history of education, with equally significant ramifications for society at large.

1. Ken Wilber, 2006, “Introduction to Integral Theory and Practice,” Journal of Integral Theory and Practice 1, no. 1: 1–40.

 

 

Key Terminology

  • Science/spirituality divide: Conventional academia privileges science, categorically excludes spirituality and marginalizes the arts.
  • Spirituality/art/science synthesis: The coexistence and co-evolutionary development of spirituality, arts, and science, aligning with Integral Theory’s 1st-2nd-3rd person epistemologies.
  • Materialism: The core of the science/spirituality divide, asserting that consciousness is either reducible to, or a byproduct of the neurophysiology. Dismisses concepts like soul and collective consciousness. Exemplified by Francis Crick’s “You are nothing but a pack of neurons.”
  • Integral Theory: A consciousness-based worldview merging spiritual, scientific, artistic, cultural, and philosophical wisdom, emphasizing the coevolution of spiritual/artistic/scientific ways of knowing.
  • Noetic: Soul-centered knowing. Astronaut Edgar Mitchell founded the Institute for Noetic Sciences to explore the further dimensions of human consciousness and understanding. 
  • Integral and Noetic: Overlapping but distinct principles in the emerging educational paradigm that can often be used interchangeably. The term ‘noetic’ provides a poetic lens into education that proceeds from the soul level. The term ‘integral’ provides an analytical lens that maps the richly differentiated tapestry of states, stages, epistemologies and lines that comprise noetic/integral (creativity/consciousness-based) education.   
  • Post-materialism/prematerialist paradigm: Predicated on consciousness as primary in the broader spectrum of creation (materialism, as noted, situates matter as primary). Because materialism. at least to the extent it engulfs the modern academy, is a relatively recent development (in the broader context of the world’s philosophical/intellectual traditions),  the integral/noetic paradigm could just as readily described as pre-materialist as post-materialist. ICAST uses post-materialist for simplicity (see commentary below for more on ICAST’s materialist/post-materialist dialogic framework).
  • Improvisation-Across-Fields: An interdisciplinary movement that recognizes the centrality of improvisation to much of human creativity, including humanities, sciences, arts, athletics, politics and activism.

ICAST PILLARS AT A GLANCE

 

Primacy of Consciousness: The Post-Materialist Turn
      From science/spirituality polarization to spirituality/art/science synthesis

Noetic Science Gateways   
      Areas within existing science disciplines with fertile noetic openings

Noetic Arts Advocacy
      Revitalizing and galvanizing all arts around creativity/consciousness principles

Black Music Matters
     Improvisation, soul and cosmos as Black aesthetic cornerstones for arts-driven change

Collective Consciousness
     Harnessing the transformative impact of collective creative and spiritual practice

Transdisciplinarity, Critical Thinking, Rigor
     Redefining educational achievement from the inside out

Redefining Mental Health
     From psycho/emotional stabilization to psycho/emotional/spiritual fulfillment

Post-DEI Noetic Pluralism
     From pseudo-progressivism, hence racism in disguise, to soul-based global healing

Ecosustainability/flourishing
     From eco-modification to eco-spiritual-transformation

Eradicating Global Poverty
     Socio-political/economic/creative/spiritual campaign to eradicate poverty

Science, Technology and Artificial Intelligence
     Restoring the connection between science, soul and technological progress

Healing Religious, Scientific and Aesthetic Extremism
     Identifying and addressing three key forms of fundamentalism

Transcending Ideological and Political Divides
     Reconnecting liberal and conservative voices at their common source: the soul

Peace Building
     New paradigms of arts-driven and consciousness-driven unity between all nations

Public Education as Transformative Gateway
     Empowering public school teachers and administrators as paradigmatic change agents

Noetic Sport Leadership
     Mobilizing the artist/athlete as creativity/consciousness-based change visionary

(Re)Evolutionary Philanthropy
     Mobilizing philanthropic leadership and resource distribution for planetary benefit

Enlivening the Cosmic Imagination
     Understanding the place of the human being in the cosmic unfolding

Navigating the Rapids
     Understanding and engaging transitional turbulence en route to enduring flourishing

Changing the Narrative Around Change Itself
     Approaching change as a formal discipline unto itself

    ICAST Cohorts and Grids

    Central to ICAST’s action plan is the establishment of clusters of individuals, called cohorts, around each of the pillars and then to form clusters of cohorts to form grids.

    Each cohort will sustain dialogue and advance creativity/consciousness-based initiatives  on a campus and within a community. Cohorts will ideally comprise faculty, students, administrators, staff and community members from diverse fields.

    When a nucleus of cohorts is established, which initially might involve even just a handful of pillars, the cohorts can interact with one another as part of an ICAST local grid.

    In turn, local grids—those that take hold within a given campus/community—will interact with one another as part of larger networks and thus comprise national and international grids.

    The importance of including participants from outside the academy at all levels—cohorts, local grids and national/global grids—cannot be overstated. This will ensure that the boundaries that often separate higher education from the world at large remain porous from the outset. From social activists, governmental leaders and religious/spiritual figures to corporate practitioners, entertainment/media/arts/sports visionaries and individuals who may be unhoused, incarcerated or otherwise marginalized; ICAST recognizes the inherent wisdom in people from all walks of life and welcomes their contributions to educational and societal transformation.

      PILLARS WITH COMMENTARY

      Following are the 20 ICAST pillars of thinking and action with corresponding commentary. The pillars can be thought of spokes on a wheel, all of which connect–via creativity and contemplative/spiritual practice – to the hub of consciousness. The aim is to form working groups, or cohorts, around each pillar. With the establishment within a given institution or community of a core nucleus of cohorts, thus a grid (see further commentary), the ICAST wheel of transformation will begin to turn.  When local grids interact with national/international grids, the impact will escalate exponentially. 

        1. Primacy of Consciousness: The Postmaterialist Turn

        The array of crises in the world must are manifestations of an underlying spiritual crisis. Humanity has become disconnected from its soul, which makes disconnect between individuals, cultures, environment and cosmos inevitable. A post-materialist understanding of consciousness and operationalization of its expanded epistemological scope in the world’s educational systems is key to the healing process.

        Materialism views consciousness as either reducible to, or an emergent property of a neurobiological substrate, leaving little room for notions such as soul, nonlocal consciousness (including collective consciousness) and the inextricable link between individual and cosmos—all of which are central tenets of age-old worldviews and supported by leading edge scientific findings. Confined by materialism’s limited epistemic scope, conventional education is thus riddled by science/spirituality polarization—with the first privileged, the second categorically excluded, with the arts confined to the academic margins.

        The post-materialist perspective situates consciousness as primary in the broader scheme of creation, which promotes spirituality/art/science synthesis amid its expanded epistemological range.

        The arts, with improvised music a central catalyst, are uniquely equipped to bridge  spiritual and scientific domains and usher in a post-materialist paradigm and a new era of planetary flourishing.

        Wide-ranging individual and societal benefits come into view that define this educational/societal transformation.

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        Individual and Societal Benefits

        Diverse epistemologies–or diverse ways of knowing and being–are a defining feature of post-materialist consciousness-driven (or noetic, or integral) education. Improvisation along the creativity line and meditation along the consciousness line are epistemic anchors that support a wide range of overlying modalities, including expanded approaches to conventional pedagogy.  A broader range of Individual  and societal development is thus possible

        Individual growth indicators range from cognitive sharpening (heightened mental clarity and capacities for focus, critical thinking and drawing connections across domains), improved mental and emotional health (well being, freedom from anxiety), creativity (improvisatory spontaneity, inventiveness, adaptability, and listening and interactive capacities), enhanced interpersonal interactions and self-actualization (sense of meaning, purpose, career path, life goals) to higher stage spiritual/consciousness development (enduring transcendent experience; transformed perception of subjective/objective realities, including subtle dimensions and corresponding energies and intelligences; and heightened oneness between self, soul, humanity, environment and cosmos).

        Key to societal growth is enlivenment of collective consciousness, as measured by improvement along all parameters of social well-being (reduction in crime, violence, illness, pollution, poverty, etc.). An emergent body of findings support not only the post-materialist understanding of collective consciousness as an overarching, intersubjective field to which all of humanity, life and creation may be connected, but also interventions–such as large group meditation gatherings–that enliven the harmonizing impact of the intersubjective field. Ramifications extend to collective creative activity in the arts, as in improvised music, where group transcendence enhances individual transcendence and transformative experience.

        In short:

        Collective consciousness that is riddled by division, fear, conflict and greed will fuel these tendencies in socio-ecological spheres of activity. Collective consciousness in which interconnectedness, joy, mystical unity, love and co-evolutionary altruism prevail will fuel growth of these qualities in society.

        Human beings have within their infinite reservoir of creativity and consciousness/spiritual potential  the capacity to enliven the overarching (or underlying) field of collective consciousness. As described more fully in Pillar 5, this is where collective spiritual and creative practice come into play.revail will promote these attributes in all dimensions of life.

        While this thinking challenges prevailing materialist assumptions in the academy and beyond, a growing body of scientific research supports both the personal and collective benefits of meditation and consciousness-based modalities.

        Scientific research  supports the post-materialist paradigm

        Research on the benefits of individual meditation practice can be traced back to at least the 1970s. This includes not only neurobiological changes in the brain during meditation that are associated with a range of creativity/consciousness-related benefits, but also changes in the brain over time–and thus examples of neuroplasticity–with regular practice. While a new dimension, research into higher stage consciousness development has begun to appear that further supports the post-materialist transformative vision.

        While meditation per se does not require embrace of post-materialist views of consciousness to reap or understand many of its benefits, the more far reaching dimensions of the ICAST noetic/integral paradigm are based in principles that challenge academic thinking and thus call for corresponding empirical support. Here a body of findings often referred to as psi are significant in filling this void.  Although often marginalized in the academic sciences, research into nonlocal, discarnate (consciousness that survives bodily death) and intersubjective dimensions of consciousness is steadily growing and supports the post-materialist turn.  Duke University, Princeton University, the University of Virginia Division of Perceptual Studies, Maimanaides Hospital, Institute for Noetic Sciences, International Consciousness Studies Laboratory and Maharishi International University are among the sites where this research has been conducted.  Society for Scientific Exploration, Science and Medical Network, and the Association for Post-Materialist Science are among the professional organizations that have emerged to promote this kind of open and rigorous inquiry into consciousness.

        Many colleagues involved in this work believe that it is only a matter of time before materialism collapses.

        Nonduality and the “I” of ICAST

        Just as materialism takes different forms (i.e. reductionism, emergentism), the same holds for post-materialist views of consciousness. Panpsychism, the view that all phenomena exhibit some degree of consciousness or mind-like qualities, has become increasingly attractive in recent years and is coherent, generally speaking, with ICAST’s core primacy of consciousness principle. Nondualism, however, represents a more complete positioning of consciousness as primary and core to all of creation.

        As expressed in the Vedantic tradition, individual consciousness (self) is to universal consciousness (Self/Atma) as the wave is to the ocean. There is ultimately no division, and the purpose of human evolution–which is where iCAST’s educational vision unites with the world’s wisdom traditions–is to realize this oneness between the personal self and the cosmic Self that is the source of all Being. The individual “I” is a manifestation of the cosmic “I”. Hence the deeper significance of the I of ICAST and its vision of human transformation.

        Important sources of inspiration and quidance

        ICAST draws from a range of sources, as indicated in the statement from above on the website:Integral Theory unites with Advaita Vedanta, Afrofuturism, Noetic Sciences and a range of other knowledge systems where ancient wisdom merges with contemporary insights.

        First is Integral Theory. While the term ‘integral’ has a long history, the philosopher Ken Wilber has articulated an IT model that is both massive in the range of perspectives–philosophical, spiritual, psychological, aesthetic, cultural, etc.–that it interweaves, but also its applicability to virtually all areas of human endeavor.  ICAST’s spirituality/arts/science foundations correlate directly with IT’s first-second-third person realities and related epistemologies.

        When it comes to ICAST’s post-materialist model of consciousness and the inextricable relationship between individual and cosmos, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Apaurasheya Bhasha, or commentary on Rig Veda offers a particularly complete account. Indeed, given ICAST’s core premise that “all roads lead to consciousness, with creativity and the arts as primary gateway,” the Apaurasheya Bhasha might be viewed as the most foundational to the initiative.  

        Central is Maharishi’s highly intricate depiction of the shared inner mechanics that underlie individual and cosmic creativity and consciousness. The self-referral dynamics by which Brahman, the source of all Being, reverberates within itself and generates the primordial frequencies that are the basic building blocks of the infinitely diverse universe govern all phases of personal, collective and universal existence. At the heart of these dynamics is the interplay of rishi, devata and chandas, or subject, process and object dimensions, which are the basis for what integral theorists call first-second-third person realities. What are commonly understood as spirituality, art and science—which comprise the heart of ICAST’s educational vision—are manifestations of primordial, transcendent impulses that interact in the most infinitesimally small instants of time and space as well as the most expansive eons of time.

        Of particular relevance to arts-driven, creativity/consciousness based transformation, especially with music at its core, is the Apaurasheya Bhasha’s elucidation of the primordial roots of both sound/structure and process. The structural idea of musical sound as the most direct manifestation of primordial frequency, or fluctuation in an eternal realm of silent, unmanifest consciousness (Brahman), thus imbuing music with transformative impact is, while globally resonant, especially vivid in Indian philosophy. The Time Theory of Hindustani music, for example, is predicated on the direct correlation between the intervallic relationship between the notes of the raga and the daily cycle. Performance of morning, afternoon and evening ragas at their respective times of day optimize the transformative impact of the music.

        Moreover, a primordial process dimension can also be inferred in the Apaurasheya Bhasha’s account of lila, or cosmic play of creation that works in tandem with the primordial structural/vibrational principle. Key here is that lila is an improvisatory phenomenon, a point that is supported by common descriptions of cosmic creativity as spontaneous and almost frivolous in nature. Tagore, for example, compares the creative excursions of the cosmic source to the innocent and carefree play of the child.

        It logically follows, then, that just as individual consciousness is a manifestation of universal consciousness, then individual creativity is similarly a manifestation of the improvisatory creativity of the cosmos.  Human beings are co-evolutionary participants in the cosmic improvisatory unfolding..

        Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has also delineated atop this framework an array of meditation practices (beginning and advanced) and other developmental/healing modalities, a system of consciousness-based education (K-12 through university level, including doctoral studies) and societal interventions based on enlivenment of collective consciousness.

        See Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Celebrating Perfection in Education, 1997, Maharishi Vedic University Press, Seelisberg, Switzerland.

        Ed Sarath’s work in applying Integral Theory to music unites the above sources. Both Improvisation, Creativity and Consciousness: Jazz as Integral Template for Music, Education and Society and Black Music Matters take the further step in viewing jazz and its relationship with Vedanta as a template for musical, educational and societal evolution. See https://edsarath.com for links to his music, writings and responses to reviewers to gain insights into common materialist-based patterns of resistance to integral principles and approaches.

        This invites connections to, and possibly expanded interpretations of Afrofuturism. Important sources here include: Afrofuturism 2.0, particularly its essays dealing with consciousness/spirituality;  phycisist Stephan Alexander’s work at the intersection of  Quantum mechanics, jazz and Vedanta (see Fear of a Black Universe and the Jazz of Physics;Robert Blauval’s and Thomas Brophy’s work in astroarcheology, see African Genesis; and Edward Bynum’s Our Black Subconscious: The African Origins of Mysticism and Psychology.

        ICAST’s connection with Noetic Sciences is largely inspired by the important work done at Institute for Noetic Sciences, founded by Edgar Mitchell to promote inquiry into the farther reaches of consciousness and human creative and spiritual potential Isee http://noetic.org.)

        Futher reading:

        Transcendent Mind. Imants Baruss, Julia Mossbridge (American Psychological Association).

        Jenny Wade, 1996, Changes of Mind (Albany: State University of New York Press).

        Charles Alexander and Ellen Langer, eds., 1990, Higher Stages of Human Development. (New York: Oxford University Press).

        Dean Radin. 1997. The Conscious Universe. San Francisco: Harper Collins.

        ________Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experience in a Quantum Reality

        ________ Real Magic:Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe

        University of Virginia Division of Perceptual Studies.     https://med.virginia.edu/perceptual-studies/

        See https://noetic.org/science/publications/ for further readings on post-materialist consciousness exploration.

        Stephan Schwartz, leading consciousness researcher and https://stephanaschwartz.com

        Tony Nader, Phd  Consciousness Is All There Is (in press)

        Related Project:

        Consortium for Consciousness Studies in Higher Education (CCSHE)

         

        2 Noetic Science Gateways

        The term “noetic” refers to deep, soul-based experience and knowing. Whereas materialism is averse to the very existence of soul, noetic science is predicated on systemic inquiry into this innermost dimension of human consciousness and thus the human being and its place in the cosmic wholeness.

        An important step in opening up conventional educational inquiry to the noetic realm is to identify existing sites in the academic sciences that might serve as preliminary gateways. Transpersonal psychology is a primary example. While transpersonal work is marginalized in conventional academe, the field has a long history and body of research outside the mainstream. It is thus (at least in principle) a small step for colleagues interested in this area to join together, connect with noetic/integral practitioners in other domains,  and forge openings to the broader ICAST vision. This very process can also take place in other scientific disciplines–including quantum physics, neuroscience, philosophy-of-mind, archeoastronomy and philosophy/history of science–and further promote a robust series of noetic science gateways.

        In short, noetic science pillars serve as a kind of entryway from conventional science to ICAST’s integral, creativity/consciousness-based approach (spirituality/art/science synthesis).  Upholding the same gateway function in the academic arts–deeply constrained by unexamined materialist assumptions and practices–is Noetic Arts Advocacy.

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        Jazz’s robust creativity/consciousness template exemplifies the capacities of the arts to render disciplines gateways to more expansive and interconnected, soul-based (hence noetic) realms of understanding. Following are important examples in the sciences.  

        Transpersonal psychology is typically defined as the branch of psychology where study of cognitive functioning opens up to include spiritual experience and related phenomena. The work of Ken Wilber, Abraham Maslow, C.G. Jung and others has been influential to the formation of the discipline, with important studies and research done at California Institute for Integral Studies https://www.ciis.edu/ and Sofia University’s Institute for Transpersonal Psychology https://catalog.sofia.edu/

        Next is quantum mechanics within the physics domain, where an array of conundrums at the subatomic scale—including indeterminacy, inseparability of observed and observed, nonlocality and space-time fluidity—issue fundamental challenges to the  materialist paradigm.

         Third is neuroscience, which—while generating large volumes of research that show correlations between subjective experience and neurobiological activity—remains increasingly perplexed in its quest to explain how this could give rise to consciousness; hence the so-called “hard problem.” This in turn engenders receptivity to postmaterialist alternatives, including the understanding of consciousness as primary.  A less familiar body of research into the neurobiological correlates to higher stage consciousness experience and development provides further support in a post-materialist direction by uniting epistemological, phenomenological and ontological criteria. Here an expanded neuroscience program might opensup to a fourth, and closely related science domain; philosophy-of-mind. While typically constrained by academic materialist tendencies and a decidedly Western philosophical orientation, the combination of quantum paradoxes, the above-noted hard problem and the diversity (ethnological and epistemological) imperative will likely catalyze philosophical openings in a post-material direction.

         Finally, there is astronomy/astrophysics, particularly the branch called  archeoastrology. The core connection here involves research into ancient archeological sites that indicate certain cultures, dating back millennia, had highly developed understanding of planetary motions and correlations with overarching weather and climatic cycles. Close linkages between consciousness and cosmology that is central to the nondual, postmaterialist premise of consciousness as primary have been inferred in this much of this research. The case for the African origins of human civilization, with powerful analysis that supports the foundational influence of Black wisdom in Egyptian, Greco-Roman and other centers of human flourishing and knowledge, has been important in the emergence of astroarcheology. See Robert Bauval, Thomas Brophy; Black Genesis: The Prehistoric Roots of Ancient Egypt (Bear and Co/Rochester, VT; 2011) and Edward Bynum, Our Black Subconsciousness: The African Origins of  Mysticism and Psychology (Inner Traditions, Rochester VT; 2021)

         

         

         

         

         

        3Noetic Arts Advocacy

        Recent years have seen increased attention devoted to the importance of the arts in a 21st century education, even if actual implementation has been notably elusive. Unfortunately, the very materialist-driven epistemic crises that besets the sciences has also taken hold in much of academic arts practice. As notably dramatic in music studies, the creative foundations of the art form–and presumably the arts as a whole–have been significantly compromised in favor of interpretive engagement: Many colleagues outside of music are surprised to learn that interpretive performance and studies of the European canon is the dominant mode of engagement in music schools  (even with token modifications of that model in recent years). Arguments, therefore, that practitioners in the sciences and humanities can grow creatively from engagement with music and other performing arts are thus based on the erroneous assumption that such creative foundations are actually in place.

        Indeed, arts advocacy that fails to address the internal contradiction/epistemic crisis in music only perpetuates the overarching materialist backdrop that pervades the academy and conditions by which the arts became marginalized in the first place,

        ICAST rectifies the problem through several lines of transformation. First involves restoring creativity to its central status, beginning with music, with improvisation positioned centrally. Here it is important to emphasize that improvisation, once dominant in the European classical tradition, has also been central in cultures across the globe and is key to contemporary musical navigation and understanding. Improvisation also provides a powerful link to the soul, which leads to a second ICAST intervention–the centering of the improvisation/meditation relationship. Improvisation is the primary epistemology along the creativity line, meditation the primary epistemology along the consciousness line. A  robust circuitry is thus established through which creativity and consciousness can flow throughout the entire system. Conventional modes of engagement are not jettisoned but reintegrated within an epistemically broadened, contemporaneous framework. As this new paradigm takes hold in music, it invites entirely new kinds of collaborations across the arts, galvanizing dance, theatre, painting, multimedia performance, film and more into a unified, arts-based transformative voice that can in turn impact the entire academy.  

        In short: There will still be a place for symphony orchestras, string quartets, conventional dance and theatre productions and visual art exhibits in the emergent paradigm. However, when the arts are reframed around creativity/consciousness underpinnings, this can then be transmitted across the educational spectrum. 

        Just as noetic science gateways help galvanize areas within the sciences into a unified voice for creativity/consciousness-based change, noetic arts advocacy accomplishes the same thing in the arts. 

        A key step is to identify where within the arts noetic principles most robustly exist. African American musical practice and aesthetics thus provide the basis for the next ICAST pillar.  

        4Black Music Matters

        Among the ironies  of the recent wave of Black Lives Matter discourse is the extent to which it stops short of recognizing the importance of Black music in the racial justice imperative. Indeed, Black music has been at the heart of the civil rights movement since its inception. The fact that these patterns of evasion are as dramatic within music studies progressivism as overarching anti-racism conversations underscores the depth of racist entrenchment. When, however, we flip the activist switch from ethnology to epistemology, powerful principles emerge that fundamentally rewrite the narrative.

        Central is the fact that Black music, and particularly jazz within the Black music pantheon, is among the most epistemologically expansive and integrative knowledge systems in all of the academy.

        We gained a preview of this point above in the twin epistemic pillars of improvisation and meditation.  Atop these anchors, a vast epistemological circuitry can be built that spawns ramifications for not only music and the arts, but expanded approaches to the humanities and sciences as well. Jazz’s long legacy of improvisers/contemplatives thus needs to be recognized as not only a historical curiosity, but a powerful and highly instructive example of how creative vitality (improvisation) organically opens up to consciousness/spiritual vitality, thus yielding a potent site for educational/societal revolution. In this context, jazz’s connection with Vedanta looms large, providing a basis for understanding the primordial, cosmic roots of improvisatory and meditation practices and thus the transformative impact of collective approaches within each realm.

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        At the heart of the Black Music Matters pillar is the jazz/Vedanta nexus. Within jazz’s long legacy of improvisers/contemplatives, Alice Coltrane—Swami Turiyasanghitanda—is a primary embodiment of this particular creativity/consciousness synergy.

        In celebrating this connection, ICAST neither aims to privilege jazz among the world’s musical traditions nor Vedanta among the world’s spiritual traditions. Rather, the aim is  to identify within this particular form of creativity/consciousness nexus principles that are core to the broader ICAST vision. Every artistic genre and contemplative lineage has important contributions to make, with pivotal principles at times more evident in some sites than others. In jazz’s relationship with Vedanta, we gain a basis for taking our understanding of improvisation and meditation to the cosmic level.

        Here we return to the nonduality thesis mentioned earlier (See Pillar #1). If human consciousness is to universal consciousness as the wave is to the ocean (there is ultimately no separation), then the same holds for human creativity and its improvisatory foundations. Human beings are co-evolutionary participants in the cosmic improvisatory unfolding (see Ed Sarath, Improvisation, Creativity and Consciousness).  The Vedantic principle of lila, or play of creation, enables elaboration on this point. 

        In the same way, the pure consciousness experience that is central to Vedantic meditation practice (and other systems) represents not only deep personal connection with the soul, but in fact can be understood as alignment between individual consciousness and the cosmic source of all Being. 

        If, then, it was only natural for jazz musicians to  gravitate toward nondual traditions and related practices, particularly fruitful insights are gained from the idiom’s encounter with Vedanta. These, in turn, do not overshadow or diminish in importance the excursions of jazz musicians into other spiritual lineages; if anything, it provides a basis for further celebration thereof.   

        Just as jazz provides a musical reminder to practitioners in the European classical tradition of the improvisatory roots of that great lineage, the jazz/Vedanta connection provides an even more far-reaching reminder of the primordial origins of the creativity/consciousness relationship.   

        Also noteworthy is that Vedanta has been seen as a lens through which practitioners in diverse spiritual traditions have found inspiration and guidance for deepening their connections. Phillip Goldberg’s book, American Veda, for example reminds us of the profound influence Vedanta had on America’s founding fathers as well the transcendentalist movement. Rather than replacing their Christian (in most cases) roots, the effect was to help deepen those roots and reveal them as key to a universal awareness.

        Further principles

         The following principles give further shape to the significance of the jazz/Vedanta nexus:

         Nonduality The term advaita translates as “not two”: Reality is neither divisible into subjective and objective or individual and universal dimensions. All of existence is unified, with an eternal field of consciousness as its source. When performers, listeners and environment merge into a unified wholeness in peak jazz (and other kinds of collective performance), they contact this eternal field. The same holds in large group spiritual practice, with meditation possibly an intensified collective consciousness vehicle.

        Vedanta is particularly explicit on how the pure consciousness experience invoked in meditation, where awareness is aware of nothing but awareness itself, is where self-referral individual consciousness aligns with the self-referral consciousness of cosmic intelligence itself. This underlies the ICAST notion of meditation as a primordial epistemology along the consciousness line.  

        The Vedantic notion of lila, or cosmic play of creation, lays groundwork for a parallel ICAST notion of improvisation as a primordial epistemology along the creativity line.  If, in other words, human consciousness is inextricably linked to the consciousness at the core of cosmic existence, it logically follows that human creativity is inextricably linked to the creativity of the cosmos and that human beings, via their creativity/consciousness, are dynamic participants in cosmic evolution. It is but a small step to infer in the lila principle that this creativity is improvisatory in nature, and therefore that human beings are co-evolutionary participants in the cosmic improvisatory unfolding.

         Here a yet more precise account is possible whereby lila is viewed through both structural and processual lenses, with music a direct embodiment of both. Take, for example, the central idea of Brahman—the cosmic source of existence—reverberating within itself (process) and generating primordial frequencies (structures) that are the building blocks of all manifest creation, with musical sounds the most direct manifestation of transcendent cosmic creativity. This is the basis for Time Theory in Indian music, predicated on the alignment of the intervallic structure of ragas with the prominent frequencies in the daily cycle; performance of morning ragas in the morning, for example, optimally enlivens the transformative impact of the particular raga. While parallels with the idea of music as cosmic in origin exist across cultures, where Vedanta may be instructive—and even this eludes commentary on Time Theory—is that raga performance is improvisatory. 

         What about Indian music?

        The question thus arises—why not position Indian music as primary exemplar for the creativity/consciousness (humanity/cosmos) relationship?

         Indeed, ICAST celebrates the Indian tradition as among the most robust manifestations of arts-driven nonduality to be found. Jazz, nonetheless serves as primary (not to be conflated with sole) vehicle for this principle for two central reasons.

         First has to do with jazz’s Western location and the influence of the Western educational paradigm across the globe. This is in no way to defend the Western model, particularly given its science-spirituality divide, but simply to acknowledge a self-evident reality: If global educational systems are to change, this needs to take hold in sites within Western colleges and universities. Jazz and a Black aesthetics, while marginalized therein, at least has a foothold. Recall two core ICAST change principles: If education is to invoke the epistemological expansion, this needs to be begin in existing sites within the academy that exemplify epistemic scope, depth and integrative capacities. Jazz, given its creativity/consciousness underpinnings, is unique in this way.

         A second reason has to do with jazz’s syncretic aesthetic, which is where Afrological traditions may differ from Indological lineages (this is a topic for further discussion). The story of jazz within its relatively short history is a story of cross-cultural synthesis. Indeed, jazz’s interface with Indian music (as well as spirituality) is an important part of this story, with deep structural features of the latter (raga, tala cycles) serving as inspiration for identifying parallels in jazz’s rhythmic (swing, Afro-latin time feels) and modal/tonal pitch dimensions. Still, jazz may well be unmatched in terms of global infusion and unifying capacities. The result is not only the furthering of a transcultural evolutionary thrust, but as noted earlier, jazz-inspired deepening of the various musical tributaries that flow from, and back into the world’s musical ocean. 

         And where one finds a transcultural aesthetic in the arts, transdisciplinary pedagogical principles that connect even the most disparate educational domains are never far off.

         Diagnostic function

         The jazz/Vedanta nexus also upholds an all-important diagnostic function in the educational/societal transformation imperative. Here we return to the twin epistemic pillars—improvisation and meditation—and their primordial roots. The disconnect from the meditation/consciousness roots of the Western intellectual tradition that underpins   overall education comprises a central epistemic meta-crises that threatens not only education but the survival of humanity. The disconnect in music studies form the improvisatory roots of Western musical practice is an arts-based subset that cannot be underestimated in its impact not only across the arts but all of education. Because jazz is, at once, a site in which both meditation and improvisation epistemologies uniquely intersect, yet the art form has been marginalized—directly reflecting racist denigration of Black cultural/global achievement—racial justice discourse takes on significantly new dimensions. What is typically confined to ethnological injustice, as pathological as it may be, is now more aptly understood as ethno/epistemological injustice.

         Language and labelling as academic constructions

        A further obstacle to centering the Jazz-Vedanta nexus has to do with unexamined patterns in language and labeling. Due to epistemic meta-crises, the labelling of disciplines reifies surface boundaries and obscures underlying capacities, via epistemic scope, for connections. Hence, erroneous reading of the foregrounding of rich ethno-epistemic sites as privileging self-confining destinations as opposed to self-transcending gateways to wholeness that celebrate all pathways to such. Every artistic genre and cultural region has imipoertant things to offer the unification of the knowledge base. The identification of certain areas as particularly endowed with capacities to unite in no way comprises privileging. 

         The foundational positioning of Black music in American music studies is thus key to the ICAST revolution. Parallels to the butterfly effect in complex systems circles may be partially instructive in this regard. A butterfly flapping its wings in Des Moines sets in motion tiny squalls that gradually become larger and larger forms of turbulence that culminate in major weather events in Tokyo. However, Black music is no tiny squall—it is already a major global weather event, one whose turbulence results in cultural unification and transformation of historical significance.  

        An important source

         ICAST’s reference to Vedanta is significantly informed, directly and indirectly, by a number of sources. Of central importance is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Apaurashaya Bhasha, commentary on Rig Veda. 

         See Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Celebrating Perfection in Education, 1997, Maharishi Vedic University Press, Seelisberg, Switzerland

        Here we find elaborate commentary on Vedantic wisdom and its mapping of the sequential unfolding of the infinite diversity of cosmic wholeness from unified foundations. Concepts such as higher stages of consciousness development, nonduality between individual consciousness and cosmic intelligence, interplay of rishi, devata and chandas, primordial nature of sound as cosmic frequency, collective consciousness and its transformative impact and other central ICAST principles are clearly laid out.   

         Further reading:

        Floyd, Samuel A. 1995. The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States. New York: Oxford University Press.

        Southern, Eileen, The Music of Black Americans: A History.

        Sarath,Ed Black Music Matters, 2028(Rowman and Littlefield)

        ____,  Improvisation, Creativity and Consciousness, 2012 (SUNY/Albany)

        ____Music Studies and its Moment of Truth, 2023) (Routledge)

        Joachim Berendt, Nada Brahma: The World is Sound

        Proclamations about the transformative capacities of the arts that fail to acknowledge the epistemological crisis in music are yet another example of empty progressivist rhetoric that only reifies the prevailing paradigm. Indeed, such rhetoric further centers the science/spirituality divide by which the arts are marginalized in the first place.

        Related Projects:

        Alliance for the Transformation of Musical Academe (ATMA)

        International Society for Improvised Music (ISIM)

        :

        5Collective Consciousness

        If consciousness is the next frontier for education and society, then collective consciousness may be an important new “frontier within that frontier.” Reminiscent of C.G. Jung’s notion of “collective unconscious,” ICAST defines collective consciousness as an an overarching, intersubjective field to which all of humanity, life and creation are connected. Two manifestations of collective consciousness are of particular interest to ICAST. One involves the transformative impact of group improvisatory creativity where, as jazz musicians commonly report, performers, listeners and environment merge into a unified wholeness. Second involves the idea that collective consciousness can be enlivened through large group meditation and other practices to yield transformative effects on society and the environment. Yet again, emergent, creativity-based principles from the arts both parallel, and also help foreground, emergent spiritual/healing principles that may open up entirely new approaches to an array of challenges facing our world.

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        Meditators commonly report deeper experiences when meditating in groups. Improvisers commonly report connecting so deeply with other improvisers that they feel like they are reading each others’ minds and also connecting with listeners such that the audience is part of the ensemble. The Global Consciousness Project of the Institute for the Noetic Sciences has compiled research that repeatedly shows instances of mass collective attention to an event registering with surges of coherence on Random Number Generators set up to monitor such possibilities. see https://noosphere.princeton.edu. Investigators at Maharishi International University have produced research that suggests large meditation gatherings have the capacity to generate a harmonizing influence that results in decreased accidents, crime and illness (see Orme Johnson et al below).

        Creativity/arts-based  approaches: Collective improvisation  across fields can have a transformative impact on performers and listeners alike. In music, an additional component involves the sound/healing relationship–an idea with a long history. Notions such as music of the spheres and the impact of pitch structures on human experience and behavior can be traced back milennia across the world. The Time Theory of Indian music, for example, is predicated on resonance between the intervallic structure of ragas and frequency of the daily cycle (performance of morning ragas in the am is thought to enliven this relationship and generate harmonizing effect). This impact is magnified in collective performance environments.

        Intention-baesd initiatives involve participants gathering around a particular aim, such as addressing weather or climate patterns, or distance healing.

        Meditative/transcendence-based approaches:  Here practitioners gather in large groups not with a specific transformative impact in mind but rather to invoke deep meditative experience and allow the personal self to dissolve into the transcendent ocean of collective consciousness. This enlivens the harmonizing impact inherent in the unbounded field of universal consciousness to which all life and creation are connected.

        Further reading:

        Global Consciousness Initiative https://www.gci.earth/contact

        Orme-Johnson, D. W., Cavanaugh, K. L., Dillbeck, M. C., & Goodman, R. S. (2022). Field effects of consciousness: A seventeen-year study of the effects of group practice of Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs on reducing national stress in the United States. World Journal of Social Science, 9(2), 1–38. https://doi.org/10.5430/wjss.v9n2p1

        Lynne Mason, Robert P. Patterson, and Dean I. Radin, 2007, “Exploratory Study: The Random Number Generator and Group  Meditation,” Journal of Scientific Exploration 21:295–317,

        Dean Radin, 2007. “A Brief History of the Potential Future.” In Mind Before Matter: Visions of a New Science of Consciousness, edited by Trish Pfeiffer and John E. Mack. Winchester, UK: O Books/John Hunt.

         McTaggart, Lynne M. 2002. The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe. New York: HarperCollins. Also see her book, The Intention Experiment.

         See https://noetic.org/science/publications/

        6Transdisciplinarity, Critical Thinking, Rigor

        The multifaceted nature of today’s challenges requires capacities to move beyond disciplinary boundaries  and invoke awareness of the  transcendent source where all disciplines unite. The improvisation/meditation connection facilitates this access, leading to the emergence of new paradigms for critical thinking and rigor. Just as jazz musicians transcend language-bound  genre categories (including “jazz”), today’s educational systems need to cultivate capacities to transcend language-bound divisions between knowledge areas. This in no way is to suggest compromised expertise within a given discipline; rather, the opposite holds. The extent to which one transcends (and yet includes) the horizons of a discipline directly determines the scope of understanding of, and capacities to critically examine, the field (or musical genre). Transdisciplinary awareness, which from a noetic standpoint situates cognitive analysis atop deep trans-cognitive grounding, is thus also key to diagnosing the highly intersectionalized nature of contemorary challenges. From this standpoint, conventional notions of transdisciplinarity and intersectionality are typically confined to surface-bound, horizontal understanding, with limited access to the transcendent ground that enables genuine navigation across, and beyond, disciplinary boundaries. 

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        The importance of transcending disciplinary boundaries as essential for solving today’s challenges is nothing new in academic reform conversation. However, the creativity/consciousness paradigm significantly expands how transdisciplinarity is understood and operationalized. The experience of pure consciousness takes the concept from an intellectual construct to direct, noetic experience, which lays new groundwork for critically examining the prevailing educational paradigm (and alternatives thereto) and rigor. Awareness of nothing but awareness itself—where profound mind-body stillness coexists with the most exquisitely radiant wakefulness—grounds education is a realm transcendent of disciplinary differentiation. Improvisation-based creativity and creative awareness, in turn, promotes navigation of the primordial interstices from which all knowledge originates and the subtle strata at which all disciplines first begin to differentiate. Transdisciplinary awareness, then, is not oblivious to disciplinary differentiation but, in fact, enables heightened conception of such through access to, at once, the transcendent depths beneath surface disciplinary waves and the broader spectrum of disciplinary manifestation.

        Important by-products of noetic transdisciplinarity involve heightened critical inquiry capacities and levels of rigor. When awareness swings between transcendent silence and dynamic surface engagement, understanding of both how disciplines intersect and interact with one another expands along with heightened attention to localized detail; hence, entirely new parameters for rigor (to re-invoke a former educational buzzword invoked by conventionalists even as they would cling to epistemically narrow, fragmented and surface-bound practices which conflate rigor with rigor mortis).

        The same transdisciplinary awareness is key to capacities to step back and critically interrogate both a given field and the overarching educational paradigm. While—similar to prevailing assumptions about rigor—cultivation of critical thinking capacities is often deemed an unquestioned hallmark of educational achievement, a creativity/consciousness lens reveals that the conventional model decimates critical thinking, not only within but across disciplines. Among the biggest obstacles to reform that moves beyond token modifications is the paradigm-obliviousness of participants in reform discourse.

        A jazz-inspired axiom helps sum up key principles: The extent to which one is able to transcend the boundaries of a discipline (or musical genre) directly determines the extent of one’s grasp (rigor) of that domain and capacities to critically interrogate it. 

        Further reading:

        Nicolescou, Transdisciplinary Manifesto

        Ed Sarath, Improvisation, Creativity and Consciousness

        Charles Alexander, Ellen Langer, eds  Higher Stages of Human Development

         

        7Redefining Mental health

        Mental health is an area of growing academic concern. Rare, however, are connections drawn between the epistemically narrow and fragmented scope of higher education’s curricula and culture and mental/emotional duress. An educational paradigm, such as that predicated on science/spirituality polarization, that neglects the interior dimensions of the human being poses grave challenges to student/faculty well being. These challenges are exacerbated by socio-ecological circumstances, including technological driven disconnect of human beings from one another and the environment. Arts driven movement toward spirituality/art/science synthesis, with a jazz/Black aesthetic at the forefront, opens up a range of interventions and understanding in response to the mental health crisis.

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         REpistemologically narrow, fragmented and surface-bound knowledge systems, such as those which dominate, undermine mental health. Ethno-epistemically broad, integrative (inner-outer development, transdisciplinary growth) and contoured knowledge systems promote mental health, as measured by well-being, resilience, self-awareness, interpersonal development, leadership capacities, spiritual development. The ICAST protocol measures mental health not as absence of depression, anxiety and other debilitating afflictions, but through psycho/emotional/spiritual flourishing.

        Improvisation, a central facet of creativity across fields, is not only intrinsic to connecting deep with the soul level, particularly when working in tandem–as jazz reminds us–with meditation. Improvisation is also inherent in the relationship of the human being with the cosmic wholeness. Systemic denial of these primordial dimensions of human nature and reality in educational systems undermine mental health.  Restructuring education around these principles is key to individual and collective flourishing.  

        Readings:

        Toby Zausner, The Creative Trance (Cambridge University Press, 2022)

        Molly Beauregard, Tuning the Student Mind: Explorations in Consciousness-driven Education. (SUNY, 2020)

        Ed Sarath, Improvisation, Creativity and Consciousness: Jazz as Integral Template for Music, Education and Society (SUNY 2012)

        John Miller, Education for the Soul: Toward a Spiritual Curriculum (SUNY, 1999) 

         

        8Post-DEI Noetic Pluralism

        Claims of commitment to pluralism without diversifying approaches to knowledge exacerbate the racial justice crisis that DEI aims to solve. Jazz and a Black aesthetic, marginalized in academia despite their epistemic diversity, offer a lens for redefining pluralist narratives.

        Related Project:

        Alliance for the Transformation of Musical Academe (ATMA)

        Related Information:

        Post-DEI Pluralism Leadership Proposal – Music Studies Focus

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        Claims to welcome individuals from diverse backgrounds without foundational integration of their diverse ways of knowing and being are not only incomplete, they fuel racism. Ethno-epistemically broad, integrative (inner-outer development, transdisciplinary growth) and contoured knowledge systems are key to new pluralism paradigms. The marginalized place of jazz in music studies, and a Black aesthetic across the arts and humanities, is a primary example of how DEI is not only incomplete, but potentially harmful.  Indeed, whereas DEI took hold on the wings of a revived Black Lives Matter movement, the failure to take the next step of Black Music Matters (and Black Aesthetics Matter) may well represent the height of academic hubris—which can only be analyzed as the most egregious examples of racism in disguise.

        The way forward, however, is not to withdraw from the pluralism imperative, but rather to expand the conversation and commitment to action. ICAST thus strongly urges the identification of these patterns, not to dwell on them but to clearly say their names, in the context of fundamental revisioning of the diversity/racial justice/artistic justice/spiritual justice imperative. Replacing the DEI heading is a first step in this process. As a colleague at the University of Michigan courageously asserted—DEI needs to D.I.E.

        9Ecosustainability/flourishing

        ICAST promotes a jazz-inspired model of ‘improvisatory ecologies’ to address the climate emergency. It emphasizes enhanced adaptability, pattern recognition, and the transformation of unexpected challenges into growth opportunities. This approach includes collective art-making and spiritual practices to harness the creativity and consciousness inherent in the human psyche, at the nexus of soul and cosmos, for individual and collective healing.

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         Jazz-inspired improvisatory ecologies include heightened resilience, interactive capacities (with environment and others), creative problem-solving capacities, and awareness of localized relationships as embedded in overarching strata of macro-relationships (epistemological, ethnological). The jazz ecosystem encompasses the innermost strata of consciousness/soul, the most minute details of the creative process, and the furthest dimensions of the cosmic wholeness.

        Within this expanse, two important forms of noetic intervention come into focus. First involves deep levels of communion with the natural world and the subtle energies, or strata of spiritual intelligence, that the world’s wisdom traditions have long recognized as intrinsic to bio-physical reality, yet which dramatically elude the gaze of industrial society and its educational systems.

        An additional noetic intervention involves enlivenment of collective consciousness via large group meditation and focused intention programs. If, as one can reasonably infer from the combination of indigenous wisdom and leading-edge scientific inquiry into the nature of consciousness, mind and physical reality are aspects of an undivided wholeness, the possibility that consciousness-based environmental interventions—however challenging to both conventional and progressivist academic assumptions—is one that we ignore at our peril.

        Music improvisers attune to multiple levels of information—manifest, transcendent and all in-between—in their creative excursions and consciousnss/spirituality development; this same awareness needs to undergird academic (and other) ecosustainability programs, in so doing rendering them ecoflourishig programs.

         

        Further reading:

        Ed Sarath, Improvisation, Creativity and Consciousness

         

        10Eradicating Global Poverty

        The fact that an enormous percentage of the world’s population lives in significant degrees of poverty at a time of unprecedented global abundance illuminates the shocking ethical ramifications of the crisis.  To be sure, climate issues and political tensions, if not outright warfare, between rival factions play an important role  in perpetuating the glaring disparity between rich, middle income and extremely poor populations. However, an arts-driven, creativity/consciousness lens also sheds light on the interior dynamics that sustain this disparity. The widespread greed, apathy and ignorance of the massively inter-sectionalized nature of global poverty that fuel moment-to-moment thinking and behavior among those in privileged and power-laden sectors must come into focus in diagnosing the problem.  By the same lens,  expanded perspectives on human empowerment also come into view. ICAST advocates enlivenment of creative and spiritual dimensions in underserved communities as part of a broader healing program  that also includes socio-political-economic-ecological interventions. Within the arts, jazz’s juxtaposition of improvisatory creative turbulence and the contemplative silence that is also part of the jazz legacy help dislodge patterns of apathy and myopia and enliven awareness of a basic social justice axiom: Suffering anywhere, despite fleeting exceptions, will ultimately be the source of suffering everywhere. The jazz ecosystem, at its best, is predicated on celebration and distribution of contributions, and thus the flourishing, of all participants.        

        11Science, Technology and Artificial Intelligence

        Jazz musicians are among the most technically virtuosic across musical genres, at least in the West. However, increasing attention is paid to expression that comes from deep within the soul, and the need for virtuosity to serve that purpose, rather than technique for technique’s sake. Similarly, technological development in the sciences that is disconnected from consciousness/spiritual growth is a recipe for disaster for society. Artificial Intelligence is arguably among the most dramatic examples, with concerns–notably among AI designers–about the prospects for intelligent machines to take on a life of their own and threaten the very existence of the human society that gave rise to them in the first place.  ICAST advocates a spirituality/art/science approach to AI, where contemplatives and artists play an equally vital role alongside engineers and technologists in diagnosing and addressing the challenge.

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         ICAST brings a significantly expanded approach to the topic which situates AI inquiry within the biggest questions surrounding human nature and potential and the place of the human being in the cosmic wholeness. Can machine intelligence achieve the degree of self-awareness that is inherent in human consciousness, particularly when it comes to reflecting on one’s place in the cosmos? While machines can be taught to create, including types of improvisatory creativity, can they reflect on the meaning and purpose of that creativity? Can they contemplate an improvisatory aesthetics and distinguish it from, say, a compositional aesthetics? Can machine intelligence fathom the creativity-consciousness relationship, and discern between superficial creative expression and that which, as Alice Coltrane reminded us, “comes from the soul?” Might, in fact, the soul principle (and here is where the post-materialist consciousness turn may be pivotal) be among the most key distinguishing features between human and machine intelligence? Might another be the collective consciousness principle? Jazz and its improvisation/meditation nexus yet again brings arts-based insights into the mix that may be integral to dealing with both harnessing the benefits of AI and illuminating its challenges.  However this plays out, it is quite likely that humanity will need to do some significant improvising–Sarath’s “Planet Earth Takes a Solo”– as AI moves toward the emergence of a  race of self-organizing/self-replicative machines, with or without  nefariously programmed, destructive capacities.

        Readings:

        Marcus Anthony, Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Digitized World.

        Consciousness in Artificial Intelligence:  Insights from the Science of Consciousness.

         

        12Healing Religious, Scientific and Aesthetic Extremism

        While religious extremism is commonly recognized, scientific and aesthetic extremism often go unnoticed, despite their equally harmful impact.  ICAST’s spirituality/art/science paradigm emphasizes the interconnectedness and co-evolutionary relationship of these realms.

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        – Religious extremism both privileges one particular religious perspective over others and above the discoveries of science. This might be understood as subjective absolutism (as opposed to subject-process-object, or spirituality-art-science interaction. Scientific extremism, or scientism, privileges objective understanding at the expense of the spiritual/religious and artistic. Hence, materialist views of human consciousness. Both forms of extremism or fundamentalism are notably incomplete and unsustainable.

        The same holds for aesthetic extremism, which privileges a particular aesthetic account over others. The foregrounding of a Eurocanonic aesthetic in music studies is a primary example. As with religious and scientific fundamentalism, where the problem is not inherent in religion or science per se, the problem with academic aesthetic fundamentalism is not with European classical music per se.  

        Rather, the problem is of a knowledge system splitting away from its intrinsic relationship with the whole and not only viewing itself as superior to the other realms, but viewing them as a threat. 

          ICAST views all three forms of fundamentalism as manifestations of the academy’s epistemic crisis, with the science/spirituality divide at its core. Diagnosis of the problem is an important step toward spirituality/arts/science synthesis, where—in place of division and conflict—all domains, grounded in creativity/consciousness interiors—coexist and co-evolve.

        Jazz has not been immune from its own fundamentalist/extremist tendencies, where sharp boundaries are drawn between what does, and does not, constitute genuine jazz.  For example, bebop was revolutionary in its time (late 1940s and 1950s) and rejected by then-jazz purists, whereas now the genre is synonymous with the jazz mainstream.  Nonetheless, when one recognizes that jazz’s evolution from its inception has been driven by the interplay between, on one hand, embrace of new influences and expansion of its boundaries, and on the other hand continual return and rediscovery of the past; a template emerges that is applicable across fields.  Knowledge systems (including musical genres and subgenres) evolve in co-evolutionary relationship with one another and the broader knowledge base. Academics–driven by often-unexamined materialist ideology–who seek to distance science from spirituality actually impede this co-evolutionary relationship, and perpetuate dire challenges to education and society. 

        13Transcending Ideological/Political Divides

        Closely related is that the conventional academy overlooks and even exacerbates ideological and political divides, primarily through science/spirituality polarization. Creativity/consciousness-based education fosters soul-level awareness and improvisation-based epistemologies, bridging connections across political identities. ICAST programs prepare leaders to facilitate healing dialogues and actions.

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        Particularly noteworthy in this conversation is that, unlike topics such as ecosustainability, mental health and social justice (which from ICAST’s noetic perspective are in any case approached superficially), the topic of transcending political/ideological divides eludes any kind of formal attention or interventions.  As such, the academy is also oblivious to how its unexamined scientific extremism, particularly when fueled by its religious counterpart, fuels political/ideological tensions. 

         A direct result is the academic left’s inability to sustain informed and productive dialogue on consciousness and spirituality, dialogue that could contribute significantly to finding important common ground with a not-insignificant number of religious and societal conservatives. Without this common ground, conservative stereotypes about a “spiritually depraved left” fester, which in turn fuel liberal stereotypes about “right-wing fanaticism.” Against this backdrop, the topic of reproductive rights, whose divisive impact is rooted in contrasting spiritual assumptions, becomes even more of a wedge in the national psyche. Penetrating, post-materialist inquiry into the nature of consciousness, and thus the eternal connection between self, soul and cosmos that is at the basis of spiritual/religious traditions (and coherent with noetic science), could lay groundwork for entirely new discourse between liberal and conservative constituencies that defuse the highly charged politics surrounding the choice to terminate a pregnancy. This same common ground could also promote vastly more productive conversations on gun legislation, ecosustainability/flourishing, immigration and other flashpoint issues. 

        ICAST thus strongly advocates preparation of individuals to facilitate and lead unifying dialogue that crosses ideological/political boundaries as a high priority in the academic world. For this to happen, it is important to realize the obstacles inherent thereto in conventional higher education. Similar to DEI, ecosustainability, mental health, and arts advocacy; the conventional academic paradigm is grossly oblivious to the epistemic meta-crises at the heart of its very existence.  Indeed, the conventional academy has arguably not even reached the point of identifying  political/ideological tensions as an issue that it might have an obligation to address.

        A jazz-inspired noetic standpoint offers much in the way of guidance. Recalling creativity/consciousness-based capacities for critically interrogating language, new perspectives on highly charged and divisive terminology such as conservative and liberal, closely related to spirituality and science, come into focus. Conservative and liberal impulses originate deep in the structure of the cosmos itself, and thus coexist and coevolve at the innermost dimensions of the soul and overlying levels of individual and collective life. The same holds for spirituality/religion and science. Surface tensions are thus the product of disconnection from the soul level—among the seminal contributions of conventional education to the decline of human civilization—and can be healed through arts-driven spirituality/art/science synthesis.

        A backdrop of spiritually-robust conversation and experience could also transform exchanges around race, immigration and environmental issues that fuel, and are fueled, by current political/ideological divides.

        ICAST promotes programs to prepare individuals to convene dialogue that heals the divides so that individuals of contrasting orientations can work together for the betterment of society.

        14Peace Building

        Peace building is another topic of seminal importance to the world around us yet which is overlooked in academia. ICAST expanded approach combines traditional methods (diplomacy, negotiations, etc.) with arts/spirituality-based cultural exchange and collective consciousness-driven strategies to enhance global harmony.

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        While not as starkly absent as initiatives devoted to healing political/ideological tensions, peace building work is nonetheless notably scarce and underscores the academy and its disconnect from the world we live in. ICAST’s creativity/consciousness-based vision introduces new and expanded ways of understanding and addressing conflict. Collective consciousness interventions fundamentally transform the conversation, not in place of conventional approaches (diplomacy, cultural exchange, etc), and work in tandem with arts-driven collaboration across cultural boundaries. ICAST will convene transformative symposia/festivals around the arts/spirituality nexus that juxtapose collective meditation/spiritual practice, improvisation-based artistic interaction and noetic activist programs.

        15Public Education as Transformative Gateway

        K-12 educators and administrators play a vital role in transmitting creativity/consciousness-driven education principles to society. ICAST focuses on programs to revolutionize public education, with a central emphasis on jazz-inspired transformation of music teacher education programs.

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         K-12 teacher and administrator education and licensing programs are the conduit through which the assumptions and practices of the conventional paradigm are transmitted to society. That same public education conduit, however, can uphold a transformative function and transmit a creativity/consciousness vision and practices to the world. Schools of education, while often not enjoying the same status on college/university campuses as other disciplines (e.g. schools of engineering, medicine, law, business) are of enormous importance in the creativity/consciousness revolution. Within the arts, the transformation of K-12 music teacher education around noetic premises may be the most impactful site in all of education for the revolution. Jazz in particular offers a robust epistemological template that, were it to take hold in music teacher licensing programs, could powerfully radiate its transformative impact throughout education and society. Here the transformative chain principle unites with the transformative topography principle: It is not enough, for those so inclined, to argue for the importance of the arts in 21st century education. It is equally essential to identify sites with the arts that loom large on the horizon (thus topography) due to their transformative potential were change to take hold within the site.  K-12 music teacher education rooted in the expanded epistemological scope jazz foundations would offer it could launch a chain of transformation that extends far into education and society at large due to the sheer volumes of students music teachers would contact in their schools. 

         

        16Noetic Sport Leadership

        ICAST views athletes as profound artists who, like musicians, delve deep into their consciousness through improvisation and often engage in spiritual practices. Art and sports, often overlooked on campuses beyond entertainment, offer valuable wisdom for reshaping education and society.

        Related Project:

        Organization of Artists and Athletes for Spirituality in Education and Society (OAASES)

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        While the arts and athletics are securely positioned on college/university campuses, neither significantly inform the academic mission, let alone are recognized as transformative catalysts. The arts are recognized as a cultural enhancement, athletics is largely relegated to an entertainment/school spirit function. ICAST takes important further steps in recognizing the deeper contributions of the two domains. First involves recognizing the athlete as a profound artist and creative/spiritual visionary, thus conjoining two academic areas that do not commonly interact (beyond athletic bands in music schools). Artists/athletes invoke performance-driven transcendence as well as frequently engage in formal consciousness-based spiritual practices and have much to offer challenging conversations such as healing political/ideological divides, racial justice, peace building, mental health and educational reform.

        17(R)Evolutionary Philanthropy

        Mobilizing philanthropic leadership and resource distribution for planetary benefit is an essential aspect of educational/societal revolution. ICAST thus promotes programs to inspire among potential donors of means a sense of historically significant, transformative leadership potential. Central is the transformative continuum principle, where investment in creativity/consciousness-based innovation in the academy flows outward to society through a direct pipeline. Think, for example, of the impact that might extend from the establishment of an ICAST center on a campus, which in turn enacts paradigmatically new interventions that are embraced in the training of aspiring public school teachers and administrators. 

        18Enlivening the Cosmic Imagination

        At a moment when cultivation of the imagination has never been more urgently needed, conventional education often annihilates this basic facet of human nature and potential. ICAST promotes exploration of phenomena and capacities at the outer edges of the imagination in order to cultivate wonder and awe, nurture openness to new possibilities and plant possible seeds for expanded understanding, and direct experience, of the deeper dimensions of reality.  What is the purpose of human existence? What happens after death? What is the place of the human being in the cosmic wholeness? Is there intelligent life in the universe beyond Earth?  The recent wave of attention to Unidentified Aerial Phenomena is a fertile gateway to this kind of inquiry, which ICAST approaches in terms of thought experiments.   

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        In its commitment to grappling with the biggest questions surrounding the nature of the human being and its place in the cosmic wholeness, ICAST promotes foregrounding of yet another academically-elusive area—that involving the prospects of extra-terrestrial intelligence and potential contact therewith. Triggered by increased attention among governmental, military, religious, corporate and other leaders into Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena, inquiry that for decades was quite robust in popular culture has now begun to take hold in more mainstream circles. The importance of consciousness-based UAP inquiry, however, remains elusive. The late senator Harry Reid, speaking from a post-materialist vantage point, emphasized this point: “the UAP phenomenon cannot be seriously investigated separate from the topic of consciousness and its farther reaches.” Here an important parallel between academic consciousness studies and academic UAP studies, both approached from either proclaimed or default materialist vantage points, may be noted: Neuroscience is privileged in the former, astronomy and astrophysics in the latter. If there is any validity to the technological capacities—which appear to defy known laws of physics—being observed by top military personnel, the possibility of advanced consciousness development, including mind-matter interaction, needs to have a place in the inquiry.

        While remaining agnostic on the extraterrestrial origins of UAP, ICAST foregrounds the possibility as a kind of thought experiment that catalyzes far-reaching reflection. If humans are not alone among intelligent life forms, how does this impact how we understand our cosmic status? What might be the impact of contact with extraterrestrial species? What would that contact look like? Might there be value in preparing for such a moment, not so much from a practical standpoint but in light of the questions it raises?

        UAP are yet another catalyst for what philosopher Sean Esbjörn-Hargens calls “Enlivening the Cosmic Imagination”—a central facet of noetic education. 

        Jazz’s broad epistemic template catalyzes wide-ranging “swinging” from the farthest edges of the human and cosmic imagination to the most detailed intricacies of creativity and craft, in so doing dislodging academic aversion to play, insight and innovative approaches to the world’s problems and essential avenues for growth. 

         Readings:

        Sean Esbjörn-Hargens, “Enlivening the Cosmic Imagination,” plus numerous other writing and videos available on line. 

        Avi Loeb,  Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth

         James T. Lacatsky, Colin Kelleher, James Knapp, Skinwalkers at the Pentagon

        Diana Walsh Pasulka, American Cosmic: UFOS, Religion, Technology

         

         

        19Navigating the Rapids

        Spiritual traditions have long predicted historical transitions with turbulence that usher in new paradigms of human societal development. Indicators in economics, ecology, health, race, and ideology suggest an impending period of change. While academia focuses on enrollment, ICAST prioritizes proactive transformation, enhancing creativity, consciousness, and resilience for innovation and new interventions. From this standpoint, Afrofuturism can be seen as more than a future vision of Black flourishing, but as a source of wisdom–bridging ancient and the future–for global flourishing.  The question will be what the pathway to any such future might look like. 

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        ICAST sustains an optimistic view for the future of humanity and the prospects for unprecedented levels of planetary flourishing—as measured by peace, the end of widespread poverty amid an age of global prosperity, ecological rejuvenation, racial/ethnological justice, creativity, spiritual growth, among other indicators. However, what the pathway from the current state of world affairs, which—while not without instances of great beauty, altruism and other positive attributes—is deeply riddled with crises and what the emergent vision might look like remains unclear. ICAST thus recognizes the idea found in wisdom traditions across the globe of inevitable periods of turbulence—which may involve widespread suffering and socio-economic collapse—that accompany evolutionary shifts, which ultimately are shifts in global consciousness.

        Two important principles might be noted that carry strong ramifications for creativity/consciousness-based educational reform.

        First involves the capacity for hope, an essential facet of well-being and thus creative interventions, that is possible when periods of turbulence as planetary healing cycles. By contrast, nihilism and despair, which decimate creativity and well-being, are inevitable outgrowths of materialist ideology.

        Second is a principle that is an even more powerful source of hope, optimism and creativity: This entails the capacity in human consciousness, due to its collective/intersubjective nature, and also its inextricable link to cosmic intelligence, to mitigate, or significantly neutralize, turbulence and suffering during global healing cycles. Collective meditation/spiritual practice, working in tandem with collective improvisatory (and other forms of) art making will thus be key to any such effect.

        It is of utmost importance for educational systems to inform society about the overarching dynamics of change, the healing function of turbulent cycles, and the capacity for enlivened individual and collective consciousness to mollify corresponding suffering; in essence, to transmit the message that humanity has a choice in what the future holds.

        From this standpoint, ICAST’s foregrounding of Black music and aesthetics as a template for education and society can be situated within the context of growing interest in Afrofuturism. 

         

        20Changing the Narrative Around Change Itself

        Academia often limits change to superficial modifications. ICAST reorients focus to examine change itself rigorously, distinguishing between superficial and paradigmatic shifts, exemplified by the spirituality/science divide.

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        If the world is to invoke the transformation to creativity/consciousness-driven planetary flourishing, not only is it necessary to deepen the diagnostic interrogation of the conventional educational paradigm and expand future visioning, but entirely conversation needs to transpire around the phenomenon of change itself. Change needs to be approached as a topic of study that warrants levels of critical analysis, rigor and wide-ranging, transdisciplinary interrogation that are as robust as found in any academic discipline. Given the chronic aversion to even moderate types of reform that have long plagued the academy, particular attention needs to be devoted to distinctions between superficial and paradigmatic change, with consciousness and its far-reaching spiritual/mystical implications serving as a primary example catalyst for the latter inquiry.

        What ICAST Will Do

        Create teams for each of the pillars on college/university campuses. These teams will highlight how noetic approaches surpass prevailing methods and develop proposals for curriculum and research enhancements.

        Establish an ICAST Facilitator Training Program to prepare  individuals to lead ICAST activities on campus and in their communities.

        Form a global network of individuals, institutions and organizations that supports the ICAST leadership vision and serves as a unified voice for significant and transformative change.

        Organize symposia/festivals uniting practitioners from diverse fields to foster idea sharing, collaboration, and inspire change activism. Participants will include government, corporate, spiritual/religious, and societal leaders, as well as professionals from arts, athletics, and various activist groups (environmental, social justice, etc.), alongside educators, to broaden dialogue and action.

        Foster collaboration between mainstream and consciousness-driven institutions for joint programs and research.

        The University of Michigan Program in Creativity and Consciousness Studies will serve as the initial hub that oversees the ICAST Network.

        Join the ICAST Revolution

        Please contact us:

        Apaurasheya Bhasha

        Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Apaurusheya Bhashya, commentary on Rig Veda, offers an extraordinary account of how the vast diversity of creation sequentially unfolds from the self-referral dynamics of the eternal, silent—yet infinitely dynamic—cosmic source reverberating within itself. Inherent in this cosmic play of creation, or lila, is the interplay of subject, process and object, or rishi, devata and chandas dimensions (the basis for Integral Theory’s first-second-third person realities) in every instant of space, time and experience. Two important principles emerge that are key to music’s transformative potential. From a structural standpoint, the primordial vibrations or frequencies that comprise the basic building blocks of creation manifest in musical sounds. From a process standpoint, the improvisatory core of musical creativity is a direct manifestation of cosmic improvisatory creativity, thus supporting the idea of improvisation as a primordial process.
        (See Pillar #1 commentary—under read more).

        Afrofuturism

        Important sources here include: Afrofuturism 2.0, particularly its essays dealing with consciousness/spirituality; phycisist Stephan Alexander’s work at the intersection of Quantum mechanics, jazz and Vedanta (see ee Fear of a Black Universe and the Jazz of Physics and Fear of a Black Universe;Robert Blauval’s and Thomas Brophy’s work in astroarcheology, see African Genesis; and Edward Bynum’s Our Black Subconscious: The African Origins of Mysticism and Psychology.

        See further commentary under Pillar #1 below.

        Noetic Sciences

        ICAST’s connection with Noetic Sciences is largely inspired by the important work done at Institute for Noetic Sciences, founded by Edgar Mitchell to promote inquiry into the farther reaches of consciousness and human creative and spiritual potential Isee http://noetic.org.)

        See further commentary under Pillar #1 below.

        Integral Theory

        While the term ‘integral’ has a long history, the philosopher Ken Wilber has articulated an IT model that is both massive in the range of perspectives–philosophical, spiritual, psychological, aesthetic, cultural, etc.–that it interweaves, but also its applicability to virtually all areas of human endeavor.  ICAST’s spirituality/arts/science foundations correlate directly with IT’s first-second-third person realities and related epistemologies.

        See further commentary under Pillar #1 below.