Jean Gebser (1905-1973) was a German poet, philosopher, and phenomenologist of consciousness. He is best known for his magisterial opus, The Ever-Present Origin (Ursprung und Gegenwart, 1949-1953), in which he articulates the structures and mutations of consciousness underpinning the pivotal shifts in human civilisation. Gebser’s key insight was that as consciousness mutates toward its innate integrality, it drastically restructures human ontology and with it civilisation as a whole. Five hundred years before Christ, the fundamental mode of reality-perception mutated from mythos to logos through the agency of figures such as Socrates, Siddhartha, and Lao Tzu. For Gebser, we are on the cusp of a new mutation, presaged by figures such as Rainer Maria Rilke, who in Gebser’s view passed through ‘things’ into the transparent lucidity ‘behind’ things, thus breaking through to a new, aperspectival perception of reality.
The emphasis on diaphany (transparency) arises for Gebser from the perception that the nature of origin (Ursprung) is neither a primordial light nor a primordial darkness but a Diaphainon—that which ‘renders darkness as well as brightness transparent or diaphanous’.  Diaphany, for Gebser, is a matrix for the rational structures of consciousness (wakeful logos and light) as well as the pre-rational structures of consciousness (myth, dream, darkness). Like the Upanishadic concept of Turiya (the ‘fourth’ consciousness that lies at the root of all sleeping, dreaming, and waking) diaphany enables a deep openness to the archaic and nocturnal modes of being—the underworld and the unconscious—as equally as it does the light of day. In a letter to Georg Feuerstein, Gebser writes:
I have never brought the ‘dark’ quality of the archaic consciousness into connection with a darkness of Origin. The archaic consciousness is only dark insofar as it ‘lies’ before the sleep-consciousness; Origin itself is transparent, unbound to darkness or brightness, which are simply attributes of manifestation. 
The word diaphany, like the word phenomenology, is based on the Greek verb phainomai (φαινομαι, ‘to appear, shine’). Whereas phenomenology is the study of pure appearances as they manifest to consciousness, diaphany is concerned with that which appears or shines through phenomena (dia, ‘through’, + phainomai). Gebser refers to it variously as the Durchscheinende (the ‘shining-through’), as durchsichtig (‘transparent’, ‘see-through’, ‘invisible’), and as hindurchscheint (transluminated). Rather than delineating a ‘world-view’ (Weltanschauung) diaphany is, more specifically, a ‘view through the world’ (Welt-durch-anschauung). 
Now, the view through the world reveals the roots of the world. It is not simply the ability to see through material things as if they were made of glass. Rather, it is the ability to ‘render present everything “behind” and “before” the world’, and through this, ‘to render present our own origin’.  What shines through (dia, durch) is no less than origin itself—the primordial leap (Ur-Sprung) made present through diaphanous perception. Significantly, such a mode of perception does not neglect the phenomenal world. It fathoms it. As Paul Klee remarks: ‘Nature is not at the surface but in the depths. Colours are an expression of this depth at the surface. They surge up from the roots of the world’. 
In a similar vein, this study seeks to explore the idea of diaphany not by examining Gebser’s philosophical articulation of it—its surface—but by looking at the vital experiences that underpinned it—its depths. Rather than a purely conceptual approach, which risks mere abstraction, I have chosen to explore the principle of diaphany through Gebser’s life experiences, through his poetic perceptions, and in particular, through his relationship to the work of Rainer Maria Rilke. To do this, there is perhaps no better starting point than the lightning-like flash of inspiration that, according to Gebser himself, seeded his entire life’s work.