I am looking at Ken Wilber’s Integral Buddhism and notice that he says “one with” rather than speaking about the one.
“One with” implies someone who is one with a larger whole. That’s a bit misleading.
He could have talked about the One temporarily taking itself to be a separate being and then noticing itself as the One again.
Of course, the experience of being a separate being one with the larger whole can be a phase of this remembering, but it’s one of many phases so why focusing on that one?
Little of what KW writes seems unintentional, so I have to assume this wording is there for a reason. It could be to use words closer to people’s experience so they can connect with it more easily. Or it could be to avoid readers assuming they get it in a deeper sense when they get it at an intellectual level. Or it could be that he wants to write authentically and that “one with” is the phase he is in. I am not sure.
Note: I love KW’s integral model and maps and what he has contributed to our view on spirituality and science. I also have some minor concerns about some aspects of his writing (poor understanding of some of the theories he writes about, hangups about the “green” level, straw man arguments used against some teachers etc.) and the integral community (seems a bit arrogant, defensive, and having adopted unfortunate sides of KW’s personality).
I discovered No Boundaries by Ken Wilber when I was 17 or 18 and loved it. He described exactly what was revealed to me in the initial opening or awakening. He felt like someone who understood – at least at an intellectual level which was something.
I have since then devoured most of his books, and love them and what he has contributed to the world.
And yet, there is another side to it. It’s perhaps not as significant but still important to mention. When I got to see more of him and his community through online interactions, some of what I encountered was a turnoff for me: Arrogance. Reactivity. Unneccesarily idealizing second-tier. Unneccesarily villifying the Green level.
Also, when I read what he wrote about topics I am familiar with, I would sometimes notice significant inaccuracies and even misrepresentations. Some of it was probably from carelessness. Some from a very human inability to be thoroughly familiar with everything he writes about. And some of it was certainly a straw man argumentation, whether intentional or unintentional.
This has led to a certain disenchantement with Ken Wilber as a person, which is healthy. And I still respect and admire most of his writing and find it very useful. The caveat is that I now know very well that his descriptions of the different approaches and traditions not neccesarily are accurate, and I need to look into it for myself if I wish to have a more accurate picture. And that’s how to do it anyway.
Rise and fall of Ken Wilber is a short and good article about Ken Wilber and the mix of respect, admiration, and disenchantment many have experienced.
At some point, we realize that thoughts are…. thoughts. They contain no final or absolute truth. They are tools. They are here to help us orient and function in the world.
As we mature in that realization, we learn to function in the embrace of knowing that thoughts are thoughts while also using them as guides.
One way that works pretty well is to…..
Use consensus reality thoughts as general guide in everyday life, unless there are good reasons not to. This is especially helpful when we interact with people and in our work…!
Use maps that fit with our deeper experience of reality, perhaps similar to what is found in some spiritual traditions.
Use overarching maps of maps found in, for instance, integral models such as the AQAL model of Ken Wilber.
Use kindess as a guide. Use big picture views and long term perspectives as a guide.
Know that our experience, our choice of views, and the views themselves are inherently biased. They are the product of the whole history and evolution of the universe up to this point. They each have innumerable causes stretching back to the beginning of the universe.
Use the maps, views, and orientations with some fluidity, receptivity, and humility. Knowing that with more experience and maturity, we’ll find other ones that make more sense to us.
And there is always further to go. What I outlined here is pretty basic and a first step.
Through some of the subquestions, The Work helps us explore how our beliefs and perceptions are formed and maintained by culture and community and more.
For instance, asking the question when did I first have that thought? tends to bring up the whole initial context, how it came from family, society and more, and how it continues to be maintained by those around us and our culture. Question no. 4, who would I be without the thought? and the turnarounds help us see that having that belief, that identity, and that way of filtering the world is not inevitable. Other people and cultures may indeed see the world quite differently. Their experiences and interpretations may be very different from what I initially took for granted, and I too glimpse this now.
The Work also helps us work with the he/she/it, you and I dimensions. The initial statement is about Other, a he, she or it. When we read our inquiry to the one it is about, for instance our partner, the you dimension comes in. And the I dimension is there throughout.
Here are some of the ways The Work works with the shadow…
It brings it up and out by encouraging us to find a stressful statement. Whenever there is a stressful thought, aka any belief, there is also a shadow inherent in it.
Often, a part of us see that belief as unacceptable, even if it is there, so we squash it and try to not make it visible to others or even ourselves. In this case, we may partly be aware of our shadow, and uncomfortable with it.
Other times, we may be completely identified with the initial statement and corresponding identity, so don’t even question it. In this case, it is usually a blind shadow, and we see it only out there in the wider world.
It works with the shadow in its many forms, as a shadow of a belief, an identity, and a group identity.
We work with the shadow of a belief through the turnarounds, which help us see the grain of truth in its reversals. The shadow of a belief, a statement taken as absolutely true, is exactly there, in the grain of truth of its reversals and also the limited truth of the initial statement.
Any belief creates a corresponding identity, at the very least an identity as someone who has that belief, filters the world that particular way, and behaves in relation to that identity (whether these behaviors are aligned with the identity or not.) When I explore what comes up through question no. 3, what happens when I believe that thought?, I explore this identity and its consequences. Question no. 4 and the turnarounds helps me explore what happens when this identity is not blindly identified with anymore, and I allow myself to move more freely among the different reversals of that identity. These reversals are the former shadow of the initial identity, and this is a way to begin to make more friends with it, bring it more actively into my daily life, see what it asks of me, and harvest its gifts.
And from the shadows of the belief and its corresponding identity, group shadows form. Again, through questions no. 3, 4 and the turnarounds, we get to see and explore this group identity, its consequences, its shadow/reversals, and what happens when there is a release from blindly identifying with it.
Through taking one or more of the turnarounds into daily life, we get to explore it more actively there as well, with the insights inquiry gave us.
We get find the truth in the reversals/shadow of the initial belief, live from a space holding the limited truth in all of them, and find a fluidity among them in daily life.
We get to find in ourselves the the reversals/shadow of the initial identity, explore how it is to admit to and live from those reversal identities, and finding a fluidity among them in daily life. What is different when I live from an identity that previously was not acceptable? What gifts does it offer? How it is to find more fluidity among them in daily life?
And we get to explore the corresponding group shadows as well. Which groups in my life have these shadows, and how are they expressed? What happens if I deliberately move outside of the group norms and acknowledge the grain of truth in the reversals of the belief, and maybe shift into the reversals identities? Is is accepted or not? Does it help shift the group into a wider embrace? If not, maybe I could leave the group?
The impulse to explore this in a little more detail (not that I haven’t many times before) came when I read some discussion about The Work in the context of the Ken Wilber type integral framework. Sometimes, we can be so intent on finding how things does not align with a particular framework that we miss how it does. (Not that it has to, or even should.)
Apparently, working with and seeing through the myth of the given goes beyond the simple version of it: recognizing appearances as just appearances, filtered in numerous ways, conditioned by infinite causes. It also includes a specific way to analyze why it appears as it does through bringing in the intersubjective, and the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st person perspectives.
I guess we have do it one that one specific way for it to count 🙂
So does The Work do it in that one particular way? Let’s see…
Intersubjective. Well, The Work is intersubjective in one way (I know this one doesn’t count), in that it is often done with a partner, and also shared with others. Also, it is intersubjective in that many of the subquestions (under question no. 3) specifically helps us look at how our beliefs are created in community, and appears real because they are shared by community. Questions no. 4 and the turnarounds helps us see how they are not absolutes, and that different communities indeed see and filter things differently.
3rd, 2nd and 1st person perspectives. As with the 3-2-1 process, the initial statement and subquestions to question no. 3 is an exploration of the 3rd person perspective (he/she/it). The second person perspective (you) comes in mostly when we work directly with another, reading our inquiries on statements on them while they listen, and we then talk about it afterwards. And the first person (I) comes in throughout.
The filter of context. For me, and also others it seems, an analysis of the role of context follows from some of the subquestions for question no. 3, as outlined under the first point. For instance, when we look at the question “when did you first have that thought” it is often clear how it came through culture, family, religion, or some other influence.
This isn’t to say that The Work completely addresses the Myth of the Given, nor that it has to. Also, maybe some additional subquestions, and different configurations of doing it, would make it more aligned? (One question could be “where did the belief come from”, although the answer to that one usually comes through the question “when did you first have that belief”.)
And even if The Work already addresses the Myth of the Given, through many of its subquestions and the turnarounds, why make it explicit? Why not let people discover it for themselves? If it is made explicit, it can too easily just be another myth, another belief, another “should”, another way to blind ourselves.
I also see that the Myth of the Given seemed so obvious to me initially, that we filter the world in innumerable ways, and that these filters are created by infinite causes. But it is apparently not that simple. I still don’t quite get how KW and others use it…
Belief:The Work ignores intersubjectivity.I can turn this around right away.
The Work considers intersubjectivity.I do the Work with my partner.I listen to her Judge your Neighbor worksheet on me and facilitate her doing the Work on me while I listen with an open heart.She does the same thing for me.I couldnâ€™t ask for a better mirror and if that isnâ€™t intersubjectivity what is? The Work can be done with family, friends, colleagues, enemies, anybody.I learn an enormous amount when I facilitate another â€“ about them and me.
I ignore intersubjectivity.When I defend myself against criticism as a knee jerk reaction.As Katie often says, Defense is the first act of War.When I believe my thoughts about others without enquiry.When I do not question my thoughts about me (my multiple selves â€“ parent, child, adult).
Turnarounds to â€œThe Work does not take into consideration the evolution of consciousnessâ€:
The Work does take into consideration the evolution of consciousness.The Work questions the lies/pathologies that surface at every structure stage of consciousness.In the process, the untrue beliefs are left behind and I am freed to evolve or not.As Katie says, there are only 3 kinds of business; my business, your business and Godâ€™s business.Eros is Godâ€™s business.
I do not take into consideration the evolution of othersâ€™ consciousness.I believe that others canâ€™t evolve, that they are blocked or stuck believing their myths.I believe this about my partner, my friends and work colleagues.I tend to believe the worst about them.And yes, I believe that of some of the Greens in this forum!Sorry guys, my bad.
I do not take into consideration the evolution of my consciousness.I often consider my problem to be hopeless.My understanding wonâ€™t get better.My fear wonâ€™t get better.My relationship wonâ€™t get better.
Turnarounds for â€œThe Work is limited by the Myth of the Givenâ€.
The Work in not limited by the Myth of the Given.The Work (4 questions) investigates any myth (beliefs) that I take as given (true).For example I believe the myth that my father is dead when his genes are alive in me, his memory is alive in me, his image is alive in me.By investigating every story, the Work leaves me as what I am (truth) in the moment.As Katie says, the Work takes nothing away and gives nothing.Itâ€™s only 4 questions.
I limit myself by the Myth (lies) that I take to be Given.There is no question in my mind that I was suffering from the myths that I believed.The energy that I use in holding on to beliefs that conflict with reality limits my creativity and action.
I believe the myth of the other/(s) to be given.I project my thoughts (myths) on to others and think that my image of them is real (given).Who is an Other without my story?
One thing I notice among some in the integral world, including from Wilber himself sometimes, are quick judgments of what others are doing based on surface characteristics.
Sometimes, it seems that folks are looking for the official aqal lingo and if they don’t find it, then it can’t be aqal. Or they may look for something to be explicitly expressed, and if it isn’t, at least not where they are looking, then it is assumed that the author don’t understand it in the first place.
Again, this is something we all do, but to me, this is especially obvious in the integral world.
For instance, at the end of “Integral Spirituality”, Ken Wilber lists a number of popular teachers and authors, and apparently automatically gives them the stamp of being blind to the “myth of the given”.
I may be wrong, but for the ones I am more familiar with, they certainly do not seem to be in the grips of the myth of the given. If anything, they offer a practical path out of it. For instance, by doing The Work, we come to see any story as just a story, nothing more. And the same is the case for Hameed Ali (Almaas, Diamond Approach). Even as he uses certain descriptive terms to point to certain experiences, he is obviously clear on experiences as influenced by culture, biology, states, development and much more, and that there is nothing absolute in any of it.
Another example may be this blog, which I am sure does not appear very aqal to most people. After all, it is almost exclusively upper left quadrant focused, and does hardly ever use aqal terminology. But by looking at the content rather than surface markers, you’d find an acknowledgment of the equal importance and contribution of each quadrant, and of the importance of evolution/development and how the world is filtered differently through a combination of lines centered at different phases of their development.
And that is the case with a great deal of other writing that does not use explicit aqal terminology.
A not very coherent, stream-of-consciousness type post:
Although I greatly appreciate the work of Ken Wilber and find it very helpful, I am also disenchanted with many of the attitudes found in the KW flavored integral world, often modeled by him…
For instance, I found this on an aqally flavored blog…
I don’t really care much for politics as it has developed into being not so much about creating a better future for nations and the world, but about self-serving narcissistic pursuits by people who are generally of a far lower level of consciousness than that which is needed for REAL progress.
Hmm…. and that statement is not self-serving, narcissistic and at a lower level of consciousness, not to say arrogant? It is a great example of how, no matter what else we describe, we always also describe ourselves at that very moment.
Here is someone who has read Ken Wilber, and probably gotten a dose of him through Integral Naked, and then relatively mindlessly absorbs it… including the more questionable parts. In this case, isn’t it narcissism to put yourself above politics, as if you are too good and to evolved for it?
KW himself of course does encourage being active in the political life, but his attitudes certainly promote these type of outcomes.
And these include his, to me, strange fascination with the evil green meme. (I understand the reasoning of wanting to nudge people beyond it, but the way it comes out seems to have more to do with his personal issues than choosing a smart and effective strategy.) How he is using models and theories not very well grounded in research as if they are. His labeling of other’s approaches as in the grips of the “myth of the given” when they really don’t seem to be. His weirdly macho attitudes. The way he likes to exaggerate and over-hype different things. (Including the importance of certain models, like his own, and certain practices, like the Big Mind Process.) And much more.
Any of these are part of a fluid response to the world and situations, but here they seem relatively stuck and a fixed pattern. And since he doesn’t seem to quite own up to it, and there may be a taboo against bringing it up to him and within the integral community, these patterns spread and are adopted by many of his followers and the integral community.
Whatever these things say about him, they certainly say something about me and my own hangups, and I can see that. And I can be wrong about much or all of it about him as well.
Also, although the aqal model is easily understood in its basic form (I used a close version of it for myself before reading about his version of it (my version: inner/outer, in a holarchy and an evolution/development context)), I admittedly don’t understand a lot of it… including what I mentioned above: his way of taking on the green meme, his use of the Myth of the Given, and so on.
Even if there is something in what I see as slightly off, I see that these kind of things happen in all groups, communities and traditions, and that is not a reason to throw a great baby out with the bath water.
Our hangups, wounds, knots, blind spots, all of these are an intrinsic part of any human endeavor. In a sense, they are as important as anything else happening. They nudge us to bring more of ourselves and our interactions into awareness.
It is a while since I read it now, but what I got from it was a clearer sense of how consciousness and energy interacts and support each other at each level of our being, and in the awakening as well.
If we see ourselves as body (physical, chi), mind (emotions, thoughts), soul (alive presence, luminosity), and spirit (awake emptiness and form, Big Mind, Brahman, Tao), then we can find a pairing of consciousness and energy running through all these levels.
The diksha, and similar energy transfers in the shaktipat family such as Ilahinoor and what happens in Waking Down, is working at awakening from the energy side, functioning as a catalyst for changes on the energetic side, which in turn invites corresponding changes on the consciousness side.
These changes seem to happen at all levels. At our mind level, there is less being caught up in knots. At the soul level, there is an immediate experience and perception of the alive presence filtered in different ways, including the fertile darkness, luminous blackness, and as the alive and infinitely loving and intelligent presence in the heart area – the indwelling god. And at the Spirit level, there is the growing noticing of all as awake emptiness and form, absent of any separate self.
Changes at the energy side supports changes at the consciousness side, and the other way around.
This also reminds me of the slightly expanded integral practice grid, where we have our levels of being on one dimension, and self/other on the second. Some of the practices we do on our own, we put our own work into it, such as yoga, meditation, inquiry and physical exercise. And others are given to us from somebody else, such as massage, Breema, and the various forms of energy transfers mentioned above.
Together, there is our own work, and the gifts of others. Which there always is, of course, only more noticed this way.
WH’s speedlinking for today has a link to a post on why so many focus on refuting Wilber (although the post itself seems to have vanished.)
When I saw that brief description of the post, what immediately came to mind is KW’s personality. His writings reflects a personality that invites, if not begs, people to tear him (and his theories) down a few notches. Whenever a particular identity and image is held onto and presented as strongly as in KW’s case (of being macho, smart and hip), it invites others to punch holes in it and tear it town. It is quite beautiful in a way, although can get ugly as well: if he doesn’t do it himself, others will do it for him, reminding him of his own task.
I am not saying that he is not macho, smart and hip. He is very much all of those, and genuinely so. There is just a very strong air of it being a particular image as well, and one that he spends a great deal of energy building up and presenting. And that draws some people to tear it down as flies are drawn to honey.
There are of course other aspects to all of this as well: inaccuracies in how he presents the views of others (it seems that he sometimes almost deliberately misrepresents the views of others), the way he puts down people criticizing or questioning his theories and models (sometimes harshly and with little compassion), his status as one of the most brilliant thinkers of our times (which in itself is reason enough for some to focus on punching some holes there), how he has a God-like status among some (again, a good reason for some to bring him down a few notches), and probably genuine holes in the theories and models themselves.
So in a way, it may all be part of a natural compensating process. He strongly holds onto a certain image so others want to deflate it, showing that it is only an image. He misrepresents certain views of others, so others naturally react. He puts others down, and this attitude is then mirrored back at him. Some of his followers are a little too enamored by him, so certain folks want to show that he is not quite the god some make him into.
It is all a natural, inevitable, process. One that is beautiful in the way everything is a perfect mirror, inviting us all to see in ourselves what we would rather not see. And one that also can get quite ugly through our resistance to this process.
If I hold onto a certain image, others will try to deflate it. This is an invitation to myself to see how I am holding onto the image, and let go of it. If I resist, it gets ugly and everything only intensifies.
There is a reason this happens with Ken Wilber, and not people like Dalai Lama, or Douglas Harding, or Adyashanti. And it goes beyond just his role as innovator and theory builder. In their cases, there is no resistance, so no need to punch holes in their image or theories, and no need to pull them down a few notches. In KW’s case, there is resistance, and this invites attacks.
To me, it is not so difficult to image someone developing the exact same theories and models as KW, but with no identification with a particular identity, and no resistance. In this case, there will still be questions and criticism of his work, but it will (mostly) happen in a far more uneventful and less dramatic way. And probably with more of a sense of partnership and collaboration, at least from his side, than of advesarial positions.
That is not to say that it would be better that way. When we are attached to a particular identity, then drama is good. It helps us see our identifications. And it even helps develop the theories, although sometimes in less comfortable ways.
I was just reminded of how Ken Wilber’s old model of the levels of development reflects these shifts of filters.
The conventional level these days is where the field is filtered into a strong sense of I and Other, and the I is placed on only a relatively small part of our individual self.
Then, the I is placed on more of our whole individual self (whole body/mind, centaur.)
Then, a sense of I is also out there, in the form of nature mysticism. There is a sense of I, yet also of an aliveness and intelligence out there.
Then, a sense of all as God. I am still here, and everything is also God (deity mysticism).
And finally, the field awakening to itself as awake emptiness and form, centerless and selfless, even as it is functionally connected with an individual.
It is all part of the field awakening to itself as a field, and filtering itself slightly differently at different phases of the process. At the same time, there is a corresponding reorganization and development of the individual, as these changing filters are taken into account and reflected in the life of the individual.
Summary of the shifts
Throughout the whole process, the field is already and always a field of awake emptiness and form, with no center, no separate I, yet also functionally connected with a particular human self.
After the typical childhood development, there is a strong sense of I here and Other out there, this sense of I is placed on this individual, and any immediate sense of awakeness and consciousness is placed on this I here (it takes a great deal of energy and resistance to filter out the sense of awakeness, which is already alive throughout the whole field, and place it on this I).
From here on, the sense of a separate I is reduced at each shift, and the sense of an “I” out there increases – in the form of a sense of aliveness, intelligence, love and consciousness out there… in nature, and then in all of Existence.
Finally, the whole sense of I and Other falls away entirely, revealing the field as everywhere awake emptiness and form, without any center, without any separate I anywhere.
The field of awake emptiness and form, of the seeing and seen, is already and always absent of an I, there is just a sense of I there sometimes, usually placed on this human self, and it takes a lot of work and energy to uphold this sense of I and its associated identities.
So whenever there is a distraction from this process of manufacturing and maintaining the sense of I, or there is not enough energy available to engage in it, then the field can sometimes pop into awareness of itself as a field.
It can happen in nature, during rituals, dance, drumming or chanting, through drugs, sex, and rock’n roll, through prayer and meditation, through physical efforts such as the athlete’s high, and also through physical, emotional or mental fatigue and illness.
And most of the time when it happens, we enjoy it and may even seek it again, while also not quite recognize it for what it is. It seems too unlikely that there is not really any I here, but when it slips in, it is certainly enjoyable – a relief from the usual drama and struggle that a sense of I brings with it.
For me, it happened last summer when I had heat exhaustion. My human self did not do very well at all, yet the field of awake emptiness and form did as well as always, and recognized and rested in itself, released from identification with the human self. The same tends to happen whenever I am physically sick, although not quite as dramatically as then.
It is as if the field says well, enough of that, I’ll stop pretending to be limited to this human self for now and can always come back to it later when it is doing a little better. There is a safety valve there, when it gets too intense.
During the three days and nights that I was unconscious, there actually was quite a bit of conscious activity going on in me — half of which was quite familiar, and half of which was just plain weird. On the one hand, there was ever-present Big Mind and an awareness of one’s True Nature. On the other hand, I kept dreaming that I was in this really strange room of blue and pink pastels done up in a rather wretched aesthetic.
Of course, it helps to have a solid meditation practice and a familiarity with the terrain of Big Mind, as Ken Wilber certainly has. It creates grooves and habits which makes it easier for the whole field to fall into, and recognize and rest in, itself as a field.
Btw: it is interesting how his personality was still in the picture in his description, with its identification as someone who has a particular sense of aesthetics, and someone for whom that particular sense of aesthetics is important. I don’t know how much that happened at the time, and how much is added afterwards for effect.
I am with Ken Wilber at his office, and he mentions that he has seen my blog and is going to write some responses to what I have written. He informs me, in a genuinely friendly way, that there is much he does not quite agree with. I can see clearly how what I have written is from confusion and lack of maturity, and how it may appear from his vantage point.
After a while, he detects some emotional patterns in me and breaks off from his writing to help me work through it. He asks me to look at things I have never looked at before, and in ways I have not even heard about, and even less considered or worked with.
He is coming from a whole other level or refinement, insight and maturity than what I am even aware of is possible.
Eventually, it is time for me to leave and he shows me out the door. It is up a steep staircase, and just an opening in the ceiling. He shows me how to get out the door, which requires much acrobatics and strengths, and has to be done in several phases. I follow after him, with much difficulty and work, but I do get out eventually.
Well, this is a wiser part of me showing that I need to deflate my inflation through seeing myself more accurately (just as what I wrote an entry about a couple of days ago.)
The whole dream was a very humbling experience, but it also felt good because I know it is true. I need to be cut down to size. I need to see myself more accurately, be more transparent with myself and others, more honest, more genuinely humble through more accurately seeing myself.
As I wrote up the dream, I also realized that my exit points to the possibility of this. The exit was at the top of a long and steep staircase, as an opening in the ceiling, and I could get through it with effort, stepwise, and guided by someone who has gone before me and intimately knows the path, having explored back and forth several times.
An awakening to selflessness is a shift in context from a sense of I to realized selflessness. The content can stay the same, and the context shifts.
This is similar to what Ken Wilber says on p. 115 in Integral Spirituality:
Enlightenment is becoming one with all states and all stages at any given time.
Context and content
The Ground of it all, of the seeing and the seen, context and content, emptiness and form, is inherently absent of any I, and this is what awakens to its own nature.
(Even the temporary sense of an I is inherently absent of any I. It may appear very real and substantial as long as it is there, but even in the midst of all that – and the drama that goes with it, it is inherently absent of any I.)
And the content includes the current unfolding of this universe and this particular human self. In other words, it includes the current evolutionary stage of the Universe and the human species, and the current developmental stage of this human self, just as KW points out in that quote.
Any expression is relative truth
Any expression of this is naturally in the realm of relative truths, and there is nothing absolute in any of the many ways to talk about or communicate this.
Words split the world, and what they point to is effortlessly beyond and includes all polarities.
Any map is different from the actual terrain. Even in its reflection of the terrain, it highlights some features and deemphasize and leave out other.
One with? Sort of.
So when Ken Wilber talks about this, that too is a relative – and incomplete, truth. Sometimes, there is more detail and accuracy in the way he talks about Big Mind awakening to itself. Other times, such as here, it is more casual and more inaccuracies creep in.
He says one with, but this indicates that there is something that is one with something else.
Here, Ground awakens to its own nature, absent of I anywhere. It is not one, not two, not not one, not not two. It is all of those and none of those. It is actually much simpler and more ordinary than what any words can reflect.
For practical purposes, speaking casually about it, one with is perfectly fine. At the same time, it does not quite capture it.
One with, not yet Ground awakening
It can even give a false impression of Ground awakening when there is none.
At some point, the center of gravity, our identity, shifts from a part of the seen (our human self) to the seeing itself. And there may then be the realization that the seen and the seeing are not so different from each other, not really two.
There is an intuition that they are aspects of a whole, expressions of the same Ground. And there is a sense of no separation, of being one with everything. But there is still a sense of I here, placed in the seeing.
This may appear to be close to Ground awakening, but it is not Ground awakening.
It is really as far from Ground awakening as an identification with the seen is from an identification with the seeing. Each of these three shifts are clear, unmistaken, and significant.
Ground awakening, simpler and more ordinary than words can capture
In Ground awakening, all of this – the seen and the seeing, emptiness and form, is revealed to be inherently absent of any I. There is not one, not two, not both, not neither.
Just what is, absent of any I. Simpler, and really more ordinary, than what any words or models can capture.
In slowly reading Integral Spirituality by Ken Wilber, I see that 99% of what he writes about goes straight in. It rings true, which just means that it fits nicely into my experiences and conscious worldview. It fits with how this personality is organized right now.
The one percent
And then there is that one percent where the question comes up: Is this true? It isn’t, of course, in any absolute sense. But is is true in a relative way, as a useful model that fits available information? That is where the mind goes, as it does when beliefs does not fit what the world comes up with. We are drawn to it, trying to make some sense of it. Trying to find a resolution. At least if it is important enough.
One of these is the question of seeing zone #2 stages/structures in meditation or contemplation.
Zone #1 and #2: immediate awareness and stages of development
Zone #1 is whatever is alive in immediate awareness. It is what we explore through techniques such as mediation, self-inquiry, contemplation and so on. Zone #2 is the structures and stages of development, along any line of development, and these are commonly explored through studies of a number of people over time, first by finding the stages/phases of development within a certain line, then the sequence among them.
KW says that nobody has ever seen any stages in mediation or contemplation. It is true, in that these are theoretical constructs. (Which means that they can appear as a thought in mediation or contemplation, but that is a little different!)
At the same time, it may not be the whole picture.
The ways zone #2 shows up in meditation, self-inquiry and contemplation
For instance, through mediation or forms of self-inquiry, the widening circles of care, concern and compassion show up quite clearly. They are hard to avoid, as they permeate my whole human self – from view to emotions to interests to behaviors, and they are highlighted by whatever ethical guidelines my tradition has set up. These guidelines tend to be world-centric, so anything in me at ego- or ethno-centric levels will be highlighted and stick out as a sore thumb.
I find that for myself, these questions naturally come up in mediation and self-inquiry: Do I act in ways that only take myself, my human self, into consideration? Only my group? The whole of humanity, the earth, future generations?
These are questions that – I will guess – a majority of spiritual practitioners and teachers will be very much interested in. How do I show up now, in terms of my circle of care, concern and compassion? How wide are the circles, in my view, my emotions, my behavior?
Also, I may find that there are shifts over time. I may have acted mostly from the egocentric phase earlier, and am now on ethnocentric, with some worldcentric. And this will show up. I will notice the change.
The way it looks for me is that the zone #1 techniques may very well yield zone #2 insights and realizations. Although in doing so, these zone #1 techniques use a zone #2 methodology, so in a way – they become zone #2 techniques.
So it means that it is true, mostly, that zone #1 investigations do not see zone #2 levels. Yet what we see as zone #1 techniques can also be used as zone #2 techniques. They can, in a rough way, discover some of the zone #2 characteristics – some of the broad stages and how there is a shift from one to another over time.
Teachers discovering zone #2 in working with students
The same is most likely true for spiritual teachers. If they didn’t notice some of these stages of development in themselves, they will see them in their students.
They are bound to notice the changes among students, and in students over time. In the stream of students passing before them, year after year.
Some may move through these faster, other more slowly, and other again maybe not at all. But move through them they do, and it will show up in their worldview, their interests, how they experience their world, who and what they have compassion for, and how they live their lives.
A rough map with zone #1 techniques
So it seems that a rough map of stages of development is very much possible in the context of meditation, self-inquiry and contemplation.
At the very least, the widening circles of care, concern and compassion will be relatively obvious, going from the small circle of myself, to the wider circle of my group, to the even wider circle of all humanity, all life, future generations, the whole of existence, and reflected in any aspect of my life and experience.
Other lines of development may also be relatively obvious, at least in a general way: for instance the spiritual live of development, and maybe also the emotional and interpersonal, depending on what the specific tradition emphasizes. And different spiritual traditions do of course include different stages of development, at least in one or a few lines.
Detailed explorations with zone #2 methodologies
KWs point may be that zone #2 methodologies, as developed in modern psychology, is needed for a more detailed exploration and mapping of zone #2, and that is of course right.
But it does not mean that zone #1 and its techniques is blind to it, oblivious to the relatively obvious changes and maturing in at least some lines of development.
Integral Spirituality, Ken Wilber’s latest book, landed in my mailbox on Friday, and I have enjoyed reading the first couple of chapters and browsing later chapters as well. As always from KW, it is very well written, simple, clear, to the point, with just enough to chew on to keep my interest for a while.
I am moderately familiar with the AQAL model and the modern/postmodern/premodern dynamics he writes about, from his earlier books.
Many contemporary approaches: missing exterior views on interior territories
It seems that this time, what will give me something to chew on is how the postmodern insights are left out of many contemporary approaches to spirituality, and especially zones #2 and #4, exterior views on interior territories, such as models of individual psychological/spiritual development, and an understanding of the many filters of experience, interpretation and expression.
Development and cultural filters
On the one hand, both seem to be a given in today’s world.
We know that humans develop, that we do so in many areas (lines), that this development goes through predictable stages, and that there are that there are many overlapping/complementary models of this development.
And we know that our experiences (in any quadrant) and the way we interpret, talk about and model our experiences are filtered through – among other things – our biology as human beings, our level of individual development, and our culture, traditions and worldviews.
At the same time, these two are indeed left out of many of the approaches to spirituality today, amazingly enough. And that is exactly what KW points out, if I understand it correctly.
Need to acknowledge to be taken seriously
For any contemporary approach to spirituality to be taken seriously by those familiar with post-modern insights, and just about anyone with a college degree or less are, they need to take these two into account.
At the very least, they need to show that they know about, acknowledge and are compatible with insights from studies of human development and filtering of experiences, interpretations and expressions of these. And even better: explicitly show how these fit into the (rest) of their approach.
Ten books and the myth of the given
I enjoyed reading his integral review of ten different books and movies in appendix iii, and find that what he says about these are similar to my initial impressions of them, although with more detail and precision.
For most (all?) of these, he points out that they reflects a lack of understanding of the myth of the given, or, as I read it, zones #2 and #4 are left out.
I am not sure if I understand the myth of the given completely, although it seems to refer to an impression that whatever arises in our experience, how it is interpreted, and how we finally express it, somehow reflects some absolute and universal truth, not filtered through innumerable filters including our culture and, in this context, our spiritual tradition.
Don’t understand, or just leave out?
In today’s world, that seems an impossibly naive view, and it is difficult for me to imagine that the writers of these books are not aware of it. Their main crime may be one of omission, rather than ignorance.
And as KW points out, only a small adjustment is needed for these approaches to align themselves consciously with the basic contemporary insights from zones #2 and #4. It doesn’t take much.
Some are more limited in focus
It also strikes me that some of the books and approaches he mentions have a more narrow focus, they do not attempt to be comprehensive in the AQAL way.
This may be the case for Loving What Is by Byron Katie, which outlines what BK calls The Work, one of my favorite ways to work with projections and the shadow.
The Work aims at unraveling beliefs, working with projections, integrating the shadow, revealing the Ground under and within all of the possible relative truths.
It is not a worldview. It is not a framework for anything besides a specific practice of examining beliefs. It is not comprehensive in an AQAL way, and does not aspire to be so either.
To the contrary, it aims at unravelling attachments to any particular relative truth, and allow us to see that any belief, any idea, any model, any framework, is only a relative truth. Useful, practical, invaluable for functioning in the world of phenomena, yet still only relative truths.
So to say that it accepts the myth of the given seems a little weird to me right now, although that may change as I digest it some more. The Work really does not accept anything as given. It doesn’t accept any experience, interpretation, or wording as more than a relative truth. They are stories, and each of the turnarounds of these stories also have some relative truth to them.
It is obviously correct to say that The Work leaves out zones #2 and #4, yet it also seems to miss the point to some extent. The Work is a very specific approach to working with projections and beliefs. It is targeted specifically at zone #1. That’s it.
What seems true is that The Work – along with many other approaches – may be even more useful if it is integrally informed, if it explicitly acknowledges the AQAL model and where it fits in. It will make it more easily accepted by those already aware of either the AQAL model, or the current insights into zones #2 and #4. It will remain the same tool, yet reach a wider audience.
The myth of the given, relative truths and postmodern insights
I am also not sure if the myth of the given is really believed in, in the way and to the extent he presents it as. In most – or at least the seasoned and mature, spiritual traditions, it is a given that any experience, interpretation, and expression is in the realm of the relative, it is relative truth.
Any experience, any interpretation of this experience, and any expression of this interpretation is by necessity only a relative truth. There is nothing absolute or final in it. It can be helpful, it can be an invaluable pointer, but still only a relative truth.
There may not be an explicit acknowledgement or awareness of the specific filters, such as culture and the levels of human development. The postmodern contributions are partly in describing more in detail the specific filters and their effects on experience, interpretation and expression.
But there is at least an explicit acknowledgment that whatever is perceived or spoken is not any final, or absolute, or absolutely universal, truth.
My own naive assumptions
As I write this, I see that I need to work more with KW’s writings.
Also, I see that assuming that most folks today are aware of (a) the levels and lines of human development, and (b) our many filters of experience, interpretation and expression, is a little naive.
I grew up in Norway, where most people indeed seem to understand this, at least the people I know. I went to the university, where these are seen as a given. And even now, I am almost exclusively exposed to and know people for whom these are a given.
Yet, I know that most people in the world have not gone to a university. Most people are not very much interested in these things (they have more urgent issues to take care of). Many people are at developmental levels where such a fluidity is still in the future.
And there may even be people writing and teaching about these things who are not much aware of it. That is a little harder for me to swallow, although I certainly have seen some examples of it.
Please post comments
If anyone happens to stray into this blog and is more familiar with KW’s work than I am, or have any insights on any of this, please comment here. I hope to gain some more clarity on it after a while.
The world is my mirror. At my human level, everything I see out there – any quality I see in any human, animal, plant, fictional character, dreams, landscape, universe – is also in here. And as Big Mind, everything is I as soon as it arises.
I project out our insights, clarity, brilliance, compassion, awakening and so on onto the teacher, and can familiarize myself with them there. As with any other quality, it is often easier to first see them out there.
And since no person is going to live up to my idealized stories about them, they are bound to do something to shatter my illusion. Again, whatever I see in them reflects something in myself. They help me see my own shadow side.
So as with anything else, I become familiar with myself through the other, and am invited to see in myself what I see in the other.
It the teacher mirrors a conscious and healthy approach to his or her own shadow, then the process can be gradual and less painful. But if not, or if the teacher consciously sometimes use a strategy to ruffle feathers (as seems to be the case may be with Ken Wilber here) it may be a shock to his or her followers.
This is where we get to see (a) if what the teacher manifest – typically something that goes against norms – is something we are familiar with in ourselves and have found some peace with, and if not, then (b) if we recognize the signs of a shadow projection (“that is not me!”) and know how to work with it.
We went to the final deeksha weekend of our seven-month deeksha process (monthly gatherings), and it was quite amazing – as it usually seems to be.
Integral view on subtle energies
A couple of days ago, I also read the draft of the chapter on subtle energies from Ken Wilber’s upcoming book Integral Spirituality. He clarifies many things there that I have either picked up other places and/or had a sense of from own experience. Mainly that there is an energy component to each level from matter through to the causal, F1 through F9 in Wilber’s model.
At each level, there is an energy and a consciousness element or aspect, and they are mutually supportive and changes in one influences the other.
Through various forms of energy work – such as Indian and Chinese yoga and similar practices, we can change our consciousness at various levels. And through changing our consciousness – through for instance meditation and inquiry, their energetic components change at various levels.
Deeksha and energies
So with transmissions such as deeksha, it seems quite clear – as the people transmitting it say themselves – that the transmission work through the energy components at the various levels. It helps reorganize and restructure the energy field, possibly at levels F1 through F9, and this in turn impacts both our biological organization (at F1) and our consciousness. (It also seems that it functions as a seed, planted from even one deeksha and then unfolding on its own over time – according to the needs and circumstances of the person.)
This makes good sense when looking at the various typical effects of the deeksha transmission.
The general and typical (?) process seems to be…
Growing sense of declutching (release from old stressful patterns)
Deepening sense of intimacy with and no separation from the world
Awakening to and as the witness. Shifting the sense of I from our human self to pure awareness, in which the world of phenomena arises including our human self. A sense of just watching our human self functioning as before, but not seeing any of it as personal or I.
Shifting into a deepening nondual realization. Realizing that nothing has an inherent I in it, not our human self, not any other phenomena, and not even the Witness or the seer. This is an awakening to/as ground, appearing as all the forms in the world. Everything is revealed as God, as consciousness, as emptiness dancing.
I received my first deeksha in the Bay area in June of last year, and experienced not much while receiving – but then empty light dropping into my body. The following day, I was absorbed into the Witness (F9). I found myself as pure awareness in which the whole world of form arouse – my human self and everything else. There was no identification with my human self, but still an identification as the seer of it all. This lasted for several days.
Some weeks later, it slipped into an early nondual realization. There was no I anywhere, not even as the witness or seer – just the ground in all its myriad forms, just emptiness dancing. And it was completely simple and ordinary. Nothing to write home about. It is an early nondual realization as it did not go through the sleep cycle.
This lasted for some weeks, and then shifted back to a vague/transparent sense of self. There is probably (obviously) more work to do there before the nondual realization can be more stable.
Throughout this process, there has also been periods of declutching, and also periods where quite a lot of previously unprocessed material has come up – in the form of illness (fatigue), vivid dreams, old stressful patterns and so on. It has been a good lesson in see, feel, and allow it to come and go on its own without getting too caught up in it, although that has happened as well.
The week after the initial deeksha, there were quite strong muscle contractions in the head and neck area. Each time I received distance deekshas in the following weeks (once a week), the same tension and pain came up, and then dissipated after the deeksha.
Initially, the deeksha energy seemed centered in and around the head. After some weeks, it droppen into the body. Also, at the beginning there was a sense of it coming from the “outside”. Then, again after some weeks, there was a sense of it just coming from space – from every point of space, pouring out from the ground everywhere – including within and from every cell in the body.
These are all relatively typical effects of the deeksha, although somewhat at the dramatic end of the spectrum.
Transmissions and integral practice
Here are some of the typical categories for an integral practice…
Physical (diet, activity)
Energy work (yoga, tai chi, chi gong, sat nam rasayan, etc.)
Engagement in the world (paid work, social & ecological engagement)
One that I sense may become more important and common in the future, obviously biased by my own experiences, is transmission – for instance in the form of Waking Down and deekshas.
Everything else on the list tends to be self-power type activities, and a more integral practice would also include other-power type activities, for instance in the energy realm through Waking Down and deekshas.
I started reading the draft of the subtle energy chapter in Ken Wilber’s book on integral spirituality.
Not having read the whole thing yet, I am sure this will be clarified for me. But for now, I cannot help but seeing a relationship between a particular form of healing (energy healing, spiritual healing), and the energy component of the causal level.
In my teens, and during my initial awakening, I discovered that “I” could catalyze healing – by allowing space for healing and also to connect with the “ground”, or rather the level closest to it, what I later learned is called the causal level. And this seems very similar to what they do in Sat Nam Sarayan, which I recently discovered.
If there is a direct connection to the nondual level, to the ground, then nothing happens. What happens happens, and there is not really any change. But if there is an intention and a connection with the causal level, then healing can take place. The same is of course the case with the energy component at any other level, but the causal seems to be the one I most easily go to when allowing for healing – for myself or others.
There is an intention for healing there (relative), within the context of allowing what needs to happen to happen (absolute). There is my wish for a particular outcome, within the realization of how narrow my perspective is and that something else may be more appropriate. There is the prayer for healing, yet always followed by “Your will be done” – no matter what that may look like. There is intention and space. Direction and allowing. Seeking and humility. The relative and absolute.
I picked up the (now) ancient Spectrum of Consciousness by Ken Wilber at the library, and read through the chapter on projections. It had several good reminders there, especially as his examples are a little different that what comes most readily to mind for me in regards to projections.
I have interest in and curiosity about the world, forget about and stop noticing this curiosity, and experience it now as the world’s interest in me. So when I feel self-conscious, or experience other’s attention on me as comfortable, I can take that as a reminder to reconnect with my own interest and curiosity of the world.
A desire to do or engage in something comes up in me, I disconnect from this desire, and experience it as pressure from the outside world. Again, this experience of pressure is a reminder to find my own desire to engage and act.
I have anger about the world, disown it, and experience it as the world’s hostility towards myself, which in turn can lead to a range of responses including hopelessness, depression, fatigue and so on. When I connect with this energy in myself, I can find that it may not take the form of anger but of a directed and engaged energy – allowing me to engage in the world in a more active and engaged way.
I disown my own (limited although real) ability to control the world, and experience all control in the world – and myself as a leaf in the storm, helpless, weak, out of control. When I reconnect with my own ability to control, there is more of a balance – more of an active and dynamic engagement.
And so on… All useful reminders.
It may look as if we are turning the tables in the I-World relationship, but all that is needed is to reconnect with what is already there in us – the curiosity, interest, desire, engagement, anger, control and so on.
And this is of course all at the level of our human self, where there is indeed an inner and an outer. Here, a more active engagement with the process of integrating and living the projected quality seems needed. At the level of the Witness, we can just notice the same quality in the inner and outer world. And as Big Mind, the qualities are just happening – there is no inside or outside.
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