Not much, as it is inherently integral: It encompasses the unfolding of the world of form in all its expressions and in all four quadrants.
Yet, the aqal model can be a very helpful framework in organizing and presenting all this material, using holarchies, the four quadrants, and the stages and lines of development.
And also, it is a reminder to include the Ground, the emptiness that goes with the form, the nature of Big Mind and not just its expressions, unfolding and evolution as form. This emptiness, stainless, absent of any characteristics, that is right here as that which the world of form arises within and as.
The four quadrants and evolution/development is inherent in the Universe Story, so just about anyone telling or using the story will cover these (with an emphasis on parts of it depending on topic and interest). Some, such as Michael Dowd, use the aqal model explicitly in their telling of the Universe Story.
What is often left out is the Ground or Big Mind. It may be implicit in the telling of it, but often not explicitly acknowledged, and there is even less of an invitation for the audience or participants to taste it for themselves, through for instance the Big Mind process.
Brief integral outline
So here is a recipe for making it a little more integral:
AQAL framework Use the aqal model as a framework in the presentation of the material
Big Mind process Use the Big Mind process to allow the audience or participants a taste of Big Mind, of Ground, of emptiness dancing. The BM process can also be used to explore the world of form, including impermanence, evolution, Earth as a living system, the difference in operating from an identification with a human self and as Big Mind – the possibilities are endless.
At the end of chapter four in Integral Spirituality, Ken Wilber mentions how the different aspects of the aqal model comes together in the context of spirituality.
What type of spirituality do we talk about? Well, it depends on the whole aqal set-up:
Which body? Gross, subtle or causal? Or nondual?
Which level of development? Or rather, which psychograph? What combination of lines at different levels of development?
Which four meanings of the word spiritual? High up each line, a separate line, a state, or an attitude?
Which quadrant: 1st, 2nd or 3rd person view?
If we put it all together, we arrive at 4 x 6 x 4 x 3 which gives us 300+ grid squares. Although here, we used only six stages of spiritual development, and did not look at the infinite possible psychographs that fills out the picture. If that is included, we arrive at infinite grid squares.
To make it simpler, and more practical, it seems that body and stages (4 x 6) is a good way to start, and this can be further refined with meanings and quadrants and a more refined psychograph.
Real life examples
I made up some combinations to see if I could find real life examples of each:
Gross physical (nature mysticism) + orange (science, rational) So here we have (a) a sense of the sacred in physical nature, combined with (b) a modern, science-informed outlook. The Universe Story seems to fit, as well as Carl Sagan.
Nondual + amber (absolutist, ethno-centric) Here we have a nondual realization within an amber context. A realized teacher who thinks or her traditions is the only valid path may be one example here. A nationalistic, fascist, racist realized Japanese Zen master is another.
Subtle + 2nd tier Deity mysticism combined with second tier (integral) view. This could be an experience of bliss, luminosity as impersonal, everywhere and always, something to tap into at any time.
Gross + magical Nature mysticism combined with a magical outlook. Australian aboriginals may be one example, and other shamanic traditions may also fit (although it is difficult for me to generalize here, I am sure there are many exceptions.)
In thinking about ways to present the aqal model here in our green tinted community, I have found some nice and fuzzy (nonthreathening) language.
So instead of levels and stages of development, we can say widening circles and turns of the spiral. Each widening circle is more inclusive and embraces more. And level five is then the fifth turn of the spiral.
And in talking about the different turns of the spiral, we can emphasize the gifts of each. The gifts of red, amber, orange, green and so on, and how we each can – and do – access and use the gifts of each, at least those within our current embrace. It is similar to having access to many paint buckets, using the different colors according to what the situation seems to call for.
Instead of being hierarchical and threatening, it becomes fun, embracing, spirally and colorful (!)
There is much about Ken Wilber’s framework, or rather its content the way he presents it, that is sometimes fuzzy for me.
WC Lattice: Stages and states
One is the Wilber-Coombs lattice, with the stages vertical and states horizontal.
It is simple enough, and fits my own experience and what I see in other’s life as well. We all develop along the many lines and levels, and at any point have access to a range of states – including waking, dream and sleep, or nature mysticism, deity mysticism, causal (witness) and nondual. It is simple, common sense, nothing too controversial.
Stages and self-line
It seems that the confusion for me comes in because I have used a similar framework on my own, long before hearing about the WC Lattice, and it is relatively similar although also not the same. This one is the relationship between the stages of human development and the sense of self, or the self-line of development.
So the stages are still along one axis, but the sense of self is on the other.
Our human self develops along its lines and their levels.
And our sense of self develops from identification with the seen (our human self, gross physical, and individual soul, subtle) to the seeing itself (witness, causal), to realizing the absence of I in both seen and seeing. These are not merely states, but a relatively stable center of gravity. There is a stable experience of I as human self, as soul, as witness or absent.
And these two forms of development are relatively, although not completely, independent of each other.
My human self continues to develop, independent on where my sense of I is centered.
My sense of self can be in my physical human self, and this human self can continue to develop in all its lines of cognitive, relational, ethics and so on. And there can be realized selflessness, and my human self will still continue to develop along any and all of these lines. And anything in between, and any other combination, is also possible.
Resolution: state vs. stage along horizontal
So in the WC lattice, they have states along the horizontal axis, and in the model I made for myself, the self-line is along the horizontal axis.
Yet, the content of the two are in a way the same. It is gross physical, subtle soul, causal witness, and nondual in both cases.
In one, it is a temporary state, a glimpse, a peek (!) experience as they say. In the other, it is a more stable center of gravity, it is the stages of the sense of self, the self line.
The two versions of the horizontal lines are the same in content, different in that one is a state and the other a stage, and – in a way, we can say that one leads to the other.
The states leads to stages.
I am plunged repeatedly into the subtle state, and my sense of I gradually shifts into it. I am plunged repeatedly into the witness state, and my sense of I gradually shifts into that. I am plunged repeatedly into nondual states, and the center of gravity shifts into that.
When my sense of I shifts into the subtle state, I experience myself as soul, as energy, as bliss, as fullness. And this is a relatively stable experience. It is where I am most, if not almost all, of the time.
When my sense of I shifts into the causal witness, I find myself as seeing itself, and this is where I find myself most or almost all of the time.
When my sense of I falls away completely, the center of gravity is in the nondual, and that is where it is most or all of the time.
The WC lattice is in a way a cleaner model. It has stages along one axis and states along the other, and that is it.
The model I made up for myself a long time ago is not quite as clean. It has stages along one axis, and stages within one particular line along the other.
Yet, this horizontal line has the same referents: gross physical, subtle soul, causal witness and nondual. In one, as states, and in the other as where my sense of I is centered.
The aqal model is often presented as only of interest to second tier folks, or maybe even only understandable by second tier folks.
That does not seem to fit my experience. To me, the aqal model is mainly just a practical tool, a way to make sure the four quadrants and the various lines and levels of development is taken into consideration.
If the person is strongly attached to an ideology which excludes either of the quadrants or any acknowledgment of human development, they may reject it. But this seems unusual.
Otherwise, if the four quadrants and development is not a foreign idea or experience, there is an opening there. It can fit into their existing framework.
And if there is also some curiosity about the world, or just an interest in practical tools, then there is more than an opening: there may be an active and alive interest in it.
So is an integral framework such as the aqal model only of interest to the supposedly very few at the second tier? Not likely. It seems that anybody with a somewhat open mind, a curiosity about the world, or an interest in maps and tools that work, would at least be receptive and maybe even actively interested in learning about and applying it.
I suspect that the strong passion for it may come more typically at second tier, but that does not mean that there is not a much wider audience for it than this.
What do other people think? Based on your experience, not extracted from any models.
This is written from the perspective of the aqal model as quadrants and lines/levels, and otherwise relatively content-free.
For those at orange who feel that “spiritual” levels are too far fetched and not supported by personal experience or science, they can of course leave that out. For those at green who do not like the language of levels, they can use words such as widening circles or turns around the spiral to refer to the same. For those at amber (previously blue) who see the bible as an authority, they can keep that – and just be sure to include all four quadrants and the lines and levels, either interpreting the spiritual levels/lines within their Christian context or choosing to leave them out.
The opportunities are endless. Does it mean that the aqal model is watered down? Not necessarily. It just means that the basic framework of quadrants and levels is made available to more people, wherever they are at otherwise.
Those who see themselves at second tier can still use it that way of course, and refine it according to where they are at.
Nothing is lost, much is gained.
And this seems to be a more genuinely second tier approach. To me, any attempt to preserve the “purity” of the model by excluding folks from it – through using a particular language or insisting on the one right content, smacks of absolutism. While a more pragmatic approach, making the basic model available to as many as possible, seems more second tier. And, as mentioned, those at second tier can still refine the model to their liking.
It may be messy, yes. And people may use it in ways you don’t like. But that’s life. And it will happen anyway.
The aqal framework is in many ways as basic a tool as language, and holding it back or trying to preserve its purity is as futile as trying to preserve the purity of language. It evolves, lives its own life, is used by people for their own purposes different from yours, is mangled and goes in directions you don’t like. That’s how it is.
And this is of course from the green gifts: egalitarian, wanting to share, make something available to as many as possible. With the understanding that people will make it their own, reflecting exactly where they are at in terms of the quadrants and levels.
A couple of things that came up in a conversation today:
Levels as widening circles and turns around the spiral
The language of levels and tiers, as we know, puts off some people. Mainly those at green level. It just sounds too hierarchical and elitist for those at green.
Another way to word it is to talk about widening and more inclusive circles.
As we move along the developmental spirals, that is what happens: our view becomes more inclusive and comprehensive, the circles embrace more.
Using this language, the first turn around the spiral is the infrared and level one, the sixth turnis green and the sixth level, and so on.
This is one way to rephrase it when talking with greens without sacrificing accuracy, and more importantly, without turning them off simply due to language. (And this, turning greens off simply due to choice of language, is what KW sometimes choose to do – maybe to get their attention, or for some other reason. In any case, it is difficult for me to understand why, and to see that it has any beneficial outcomes.)
Second and first tiers: practical or right?
And here is one way to talk about the first and second tiers, very general and rough:
At first tier, the first bundle of turns around the spiral, it is about being right. My views are right, and you need to change. Which we all know is, yes, hopeless!
At second tier, the second bundle of turns around the spiral, it is about being practical.
There is an appreciation for the other turns of the spiral, an ability to access and make use of the gifts of the first tier turns, and an ability and willingness to meet people where they are at.
In short, it is a more practical approach.
Second tier as more pragmatic
And that is how the second tier tends to come up for me, the second set of turns: It is just about being more pragmatic, informed by a more integral view such as that of quadrants and levels of development.
Many places have their integral pods and networks, and we have had some too – one study group that went for a while, and one I organized last year on integral practice.
Now, it seems that the time is ripe for something else to get going.
Some ideas for local activities
A brief, general menu of possibilities…
Catalyst group Forming a core catalyst and support group for whatever network may emerge.
Outreach Presentations, workshops, articles in local publications, website, email group, group blog, consulting with organizations or individuals who want to operate from a more integrally informed view.
Mapping Developing an AQAL map of our local community: Where do existing approaches fit into the aqal map? How can they reorganize to reflect a more conscious aqal approach?
What does it take to reflect a more integrally informed view?
In general, and as KW points out, each of the organizations and individuals will have to let go of their claim to absolute truth.
Some of the possible questions that come up:
What are some of the ways their organization, their insights, their existing maps and views, can be reorganized to reflect a more integrally informed framework? What would need to change? What can stay the same? Where in the aqal map do they land? Which areas are left out? How can they work with others to create a more comprehensive approach? What are their unique contributions?
Examples of realigned organizations
And then some (very rough and preliminary) examples of how this may look. This is of course going to be terribly generalized. (And will bring up some projections and food for inquiry later on…!)
These organizations are all led by friends or acquaintances of mine who I have the greatest respect and appreciation for. But that does not mean that their frameworks are somehow final, complete, without room for improvement, and not available to an integral overhaul 🙂
Prototista is a quite remarkable community school for complexity theories, run by one person. It is based on solid and leading-edge science, although tends to leave out the left hand quadrant entirely, as well as the developmental dimension.
They do have somewhat of a practical application focus, so including the left hand of the quadrant, and an understanding of human development, would – most likely – make their approach more effective. Of course, many students there do that on their own, fitting the valuable contributions from Prototista into a more comprehensive framework.
:: Eugene Permaculture Guild
Well, Eugene Permaculture Guild is the premiere local example of the green value meme, although many of the individuals there are probably at wider and more inclusive turns of the spiral.
In general, they do cover all the quadrants pretty well. What they lack is an understanding of human development, and a willingness to meet and work with people where they are at.
As is typical for any first tier level, they want everybody else to be where they themselves are, they want others to “get it”. (Hopeless! as Byron Katie would say.)
And as is typical for the green level in particular, they appreciate some forms of diversity – such as ethnic, age and so on, but do not appreciate the diversity of the spiral of development. They do not appreciate orange much, and even less amber, and see second tier folks as elitist or naive kooks.
To reflect a more integral approach, they could include this understanding of the lines and levels of human development, and how it plays out in community and approaches to sustainability.
Most importantly, it would help them meet people where they are at, using their language, addressing their values and goals, not needing or wanting them to change their basic values and worldview, just aligning and partnering around the shared interests of creating a more livable and life-supporting community.
It would help them be more effective in what they are doing. It would very much be a practical approach. It would help them avoid the usual burn-out from the old us versus them mentality and wanting them to be like us. And it would be more fun.
Permatopia is a comprehensive map to a more sustainable society, and another green level approach.
It is almost entirely right hand quadrant, which is OK as long as it is combined with more left hand understandings.
Maybe more seriously, it leaves out an understanding of human development. And this means that it is almost entirely uninteresting to anyone but other greens.
Amber and orange says, nice but why should we care? Or, get away from me with that crazy hippie talk!
Second tier says, you are onto something very important, but you are leaving too much out to get me on board. The approach is not comprehensive and inclusive enough, and the way you do it alienates too many people. I’ll put in my energy somewhere else. :: PROUT
There is a PROUT educational center here. It is a beautiful theory, obviously well-meaning, and it is integral in that it does cover all the quadrants and even an understanding of human development.
Its main weakness is that it seems highly prescriptive, from the overall framework and down into a good deal of detail. There is a particular way of doing it. It is content full where the aqal framework is content-free, allowing for anything to be plugged into it. So it tends to appear somewhat unrealistic, idealistic, utopian, rigid, a pipe dream.
In it’s utopian idealism it appeals to some Green meme folks, but that is about it. It is difficult to see folks from amber and orange, at least in this culture, embrace it, and second tier folks may tend to see it as too idealistic and inflexible. One solution is of course to loosen up the content part, and allow other approaches which still fit within the general intention of PROUT.
:: Center for Sacred Sciences
CSS is under guidance of Joel who clearly lives from a Ground awakening and realized selflessness, and speaks beautifully about this, weaving together quotes and views from a wide range of spiritual traditions. There are also several others who have realized selflessness under his guidance, and who now function as occasional assistant teachers.
As inclusive their approach is in terms of drawing from a range of traditions, they also leave much out compared to an aqal perspective. They mostly focus on the upper left quadrant, although sometimes bring in quantum physics and the like from the right hand quadrants. And they do not address zone #2 views on the upper left quadrants. For instance, they altogether leave out the understandings of human development from western psychology.
Still, their main weakness may be in another area: Being somewhat stuck in the absolute. The focus is almost exclusively on realized selflessness, largely ignoring the human self and its health, maturity, and continued development before andafter realized selflessness.
As far as I understand, KW talks about how an awakening, here realized selflessness, can cement the human self wherever it may be. And this is exactly my main concern with CSS. Their exclusive focus on realized selflessness leaves out attention to the health and development of the human self, and this can to some extent fix the human self where it is at.
Within the context of realized selflessness, there is an invitation to a continued and deepening healing, maturing and development of the human self. Many of the II associates understand and emphasise this, including Saniel Bonder and Genpo Roshi. Joel does not.
Of course, from the view of the absolute, he is right. Everything is Spirit. Everything is emptiness dancing, including what from a relative view is seen as an unhealthy or healthy, immature or mature human self – less or further along in its many lines of development.
Yet, it is also onesided. Existence has two faces: emptiness and form, ground and phenomena, Self and self. Or we can say the context of a sense of I or realized selflessness, and the content of this human self and the rest of the world of form.
And this content, this world of form, continues to unfold in always new ways. As this universe and planet, it continues to evolve. As this human self, it continues to develop.
If we emphasize only one, we leave out at least half of the story. In a way, we make God into far less than it is. We miss out on the invitation of consciously participating in the evolution of the world of form, within and as Ground.
:: Co-Intelligence Institute
CII does a wonderful job in gathering information about and promoting various approaches to collective intelligence, something which is sorely needed in our society, and maybe especially in our political system. I am not sure exactly where on the Spiral Dynamics spiral they are located, but most likely somewhere between green and second tier, with a nostalgia for green.
In terms of the quadrants, they seem to do a pretty good job covering all of them. The widening circles of development seem to be mostly left out or in the background, probably because it clashes with the green aversion to anything that tastes of hierarchy and attachment to the egalitarian.
Maybe more seriously, green idealism here seem to abandon the effective pragmatism of orange and is not yet at the more inclusive and deep pragmatism of second tier.
Orange knows how to get things done, yet ignores much in the process – and that is picked up by Green. Second tier also knows how to get things done, and now with a pragmatism that draw on tools and insights from any first tier levels, including the willingness and ability to meet people where they are at. At second tier, the idealism of green no longer gets in the way of getting things done.
The problems outlined in the previous post can more simply be seen as a confusion of quadrants.
Left quadrants and past lives: what does it mean?
In a therapeutic setting, it is most useful to ask how do stories of past lives reflect what is alive right now?What is the meaning of these stories? This is the left quadrants, and in this case mainly the upper left.
Right hand quadrants and past lives: is it true?
From the right hand quadrants, we ask is it true? Is there rebirth? Is this story a story of a past life? This is the appropriate question for research.
Confusing the two
So it seems that the client in the story from Norway confused the two. She wanted to apply a right hand quadrant question in a left hand quadrant situation. It may even be that her therapist confused the two. If he was clear on this himself, he would probably made sure the client was able to differentiate as well, even before going into this.
It is understandable that the questions from the quadrants are confused at times, but it comes from – and leads to even more – confusion.