An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

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Peter CollinsPeter Collins is from Ireland. He retired recently from lecturing in Economics at the Dublin Institute of Technology. Over the past 50 years he has become increasingly convinced that a truly seismic shift in understanding with respect to Mathematics and its related sciences is now urgently required in our culture. In this context, these present articles convey a brief summary of some of his recent findings with respect to the utterly unexpected nature of the number system.


Part Two - Directions and Mirror Structures

Peter Collins

The discussion now turns to elaboration of the mirror structures, which serve as a necessary preparation for the directions to properly unfold at the higher spiritual stages. A mapping of the 12 major levels - with particular emphasis on higher and radial stages - is then provided so as to better illustrate the manner in which directions and mirror structures are related throughout development.

Mirror (Reverse) Structures

A key requirement for the successful unfolding of the directions of experience is that considerable mirror (reverse) activity occurs that can properly counterbalance unfolding of the directly revealed structures of development.

The conventional structures are generally defined with respect to dualistic phenomenal understanding.[1] However it is the very nature of personality that certain conscious capacities then unfold (which exclude equal development with respect to opposite characteristics). For example in Jungian terms if one is a thinking type, feeling will tend to remain as an inferior function entering awareness in an indirect unconscious manner through projection. So clearly personality integration requires that appropriate balance be maintained as between all of the fundamental polarities.

Basically mirror structures arise as follows.

Phenomena in experience must be first posited in a dualistic manner. As we have seen however, this always entails the use of an arbitrary polar reference frame (where the opposite frame is equally valid but initially not properly recognised).

This then creates an imbalance with the holistic unconscious (which inherently combines both poles). So dualistic understanding by its very nature is always unbalanced and associated with a degree of repression (of the unrecognised conscious pole). Clearly when unchecked, such dualistic understanding tends to rigidity (which limits possibilities for flexible interaction as between opposite poles). One's arbitrary dualistic preferences then tend to be dictated by personality traits. So for example - in Jungian terms - an extravert (E) will tend to be oriented more to the exterior (rather then the interior) direction. The sense oriented person (S) will to be better attuned to understanding individual data (rather than collective structure). The thinking type (T) will be better attuned to dealing with impersonal systems rather than personal relationships.

The integral approach will of course suggest that dynamic balance should be maintained as between quadrants (representing opposite polarities of experience).

However in practice this is not truly possible without substantial development in counterbalancing negative (mirror) structures.

Though these mirror structures necessarily unfold to some limited degree up to and including the middle levels, their substantial development takes place with the higher more advanced spiritual stages (H1, H2 and H3 in my account).

Once again the dualistic expression of phenomenal structures always implies a direct positing in experience (where they are made conscious). [2]

This then creates a clash with the holistic unconscious (which implicitly combines both positive and negative poles). Therefore the smooth transition to unconscious (nondual) experience requires that positive structures be dynamically negated in experience. More correctly it entails that the rigid identification arising from dualistic positing (which in turn breeds possessive attachment) be negated.[3] This dynamic negation of structures - which serves as the direct route to unconscious experience - results therefore in the development of mirror (reverse) structures.

Once again in direct terms, we differentiate in experience through the conscious dualistic positing of phenomena; however in direct terms we integrate through the unconscious (holistic) recognition of such phenomena as interdependent.

Therefore inclusion of mirror structures is vital for any truly integral approach to development. Because mirror structures do not properly unfold at the lower and middle stages of development there is very little recognition of their role in conventional psychology.

So we have to go to the spiritual traditions to discover their true nature. St John of the Cross is perhaps the supreme exponent in Western Christianity of such mirror structures through his strong emphasis on the via negativa. Indeed one could criticise his approach due to his comparative neglect of the development of the standard variety (associated with dualistic understanding). However St. John does indeed provide from a mystical perspective a very valuable mapping of the key mirror structures of development.

The earliest to unfold are - what St. John refers to as - the active nights of sense and spirit. These are best associated with the transition from the (highest) middle level of the centaur to lower H1 (psychic realm).

For one destined to develop to higher levels, a severe existential crisis can occur at this time. One may be on the threshold of a new life with limitless possibilities beckoning, only to suffer from a great loss of interest with respect to conventional pursuits. In other words, attachment to such dualistic phenomena is severely eroded. Initially this is associated with great pain and loss. However gradually it leads to a significant reorientation and deeper quest for true spiritual meaning.

So the active night of sense to which St. John refers, relates to the dynamic negation of affective sense phenomena (and concrete empirical data) of a linear dualistic nature. The active night of spirit then relates to more deep-rooted conceptual and volitional patterns of linear behaviour.

So mirror structure development is initially associated with considerable mental anguish (due to the erosion of attachment to associated phenomena). However though remaining hidden for a while, this enables a deeper spiritual meaning to incubate in the holistic unconscious (as spiritual darkness). Then when this developing Spirit is eventually made conscious as illumination, it leads to a radical transformation in the very manner in which phenomena are experienced. In other words, because excessive attachment to one arbitrary pole has been significantly eroded, the opposite pole can now equally be revealed in the new conscious light. This then enables true bi-directional understanding to unfold.

For example, one formerly may have looked on the world during the middle stages as largely “out there” independent of self. However one now directly participates as a co-creator of nature due to continual interaction as between the world and self (i.e. exterior and interior poles). So this interaction is both fed by the spiritual light already attained and in turn serves to deepen that light.

So, as a result of the active night of sense, a refined supersensory form of appreciation becomes possible at H1. [4]

However, now a more indirect type of attachment tends to surface with respect to subtle level appreciation. This represents holistic attachment to phenomena (as mediators of spiritual light). In other words though motivation is authentic, one can suffer from spiritual sweet tooth in the desire for continuing consolation (admittedly of a refined nature).

So this in turn leads to the need for more purgation through the fresh development of mirror structures appropriate to the new higher level. St John refers to this as the passive night of sense, where indirect attachment to supersensory phenomena now undergoes considerable erosion, which understandably tends to be more deep-rooted than the earlier phase.

This in turn is followed by a deeper form of spiritual illumination (referred to by Evelyn Underhill as the Illumination of Self). From an intellectual perspective this new phase greatly supports more refined spiritual affective awareness and holistic conceptual understanding of a bi-directional kind (i.e. suprarational).

However once again indirect attachment for example to holistic concepts - which is ultimately of a volitional nature - leads to the need for an even more deep-rooted form of purgation with respect to suprarational understanding and deep volitional attachment which St. John refers to as the passive night of spirit.

And as the subtle and causal levels are not clearly distinguished in Christian terms, the passive night of spirit would equally include ever more refined mirror structure development of an imaginary kind.

For example the causal level is characterised by a great deal of imaginary structure activity where phenomena both of a high spiritual and low instinctive nature temporarily surface in experience. So the passive night of “imaginary” sense would relate to mirror structure development with respect to indirectly inspired unconscious projections of sense (e.g. deep erotic impulses). [5] The passive night of “imaginary” spirit would relate to mirror structure development with respect to indirectly inspired archetypal spiritual insights (that still breed secondary intellectual attachment).

So once again the mirror structures serve as the essential interface as between the experience of the dualistic conscious and inherently nondual unconscious. Only when all attachment of a direct or indirect kind has been sufficiently eroded can the pure union of conscious and unconscious (as form and emptiness) be eventually attained.

Mirror structures and the Directions of Development

The mirror structures thus serve as the necessary requirement for the directions to properly unfold in experience.

Once again the conventional understanding associated with the middle levels is linear (one-directional). With such understanding mirror structures are formally reduced to their standard counterparts (though implicitly they still necessarily operate to some degree). For example in the actual experience of formal operational understanding (formop), the continual interaction of the (interior) self and the (exterior) self is required. However no explanation is given of the nature of this interaction, which requires the assistance of mirror structures. In other words with formop, interior and exterior are understood in abstraction from each other with the (interior) mental constructs assumed to correspond with (exterior) reality in a somewhat neutral manner.

However H1 (psychic/subtle) is explicitly two-directional in conscious terms. This requires radical mirror structure development with respect to opposite polarities (as consciously understood). Thus for example conscious dualistic understanding with respect to the exterior aspect - or rather what is initially understood as exterior - must be dynamically negated; likewise conscious dualistic understanding with respect to the interior aspect must be negated in experience. These constitute the purgations or nights of the mystical literature. Then when understanding with respect to both poles is suitably refined, they can now properly interact with each other in bi-directional fashion (where polar opposites are understood in a merely relative manner).

H2 is explicitly four directional (i.e. bi-directional with respect to both real (conscious) and imaginary (unconscious) understanding. Indeed such integral bi-directional understanding is required to properly interpret in dynamic fashion the relationship between the four quadrants. Therefore to support this bi-directional understanding, substantial mirror development in terms of imaginary phenomena (i.e. projections that arise as the indirect expression of the unconscious) must also take place with respect to all polar aspects.

H3 is explicitly eight directional i.e. bi-directional in terms of the real, imaginary and two complex directions that now arise in experience. Though bi-directional activity does indeed take place at H2 with respect to both real (conscious) and imaginary (unconscious) experience, it still remains to a degree sequentially separated in time. However as pure spiritual union is approximated at H3, the simultaneous dynamic interplay of both real and imaginary directions increasingly occurs. This entails in turn that attachment to all psychophysical phenomena, that are immediately both real (conscious) and imaginary (unconscious), be largely eroded. This enables the ceaseless dynamic interplay of transparent phenomena of form that no longer appear to arise in experience, thereby culminating in the pure awareness of emptiness.

H3 in turn is supported by mirror structure development of the most refined kind pertaining directly to remaining possessive attachment of a directly volitional nature.

Because the higher levels are dynamically complementary with the lower (and the lower with the higher) we can directly configure the nature of the lower from knowledge of corresponding higher stages.

Thus in earliest development both standard (conscious) and mirror (unconscious) structures co-exist but in a largely undifferentiated fashion that thereby lacks integration. So the task of the early stages is to gradually grow in proper development of conscious (differentiated) structures. However this equally entails the gradual erosion of their confused mirror (integral) counterparts. Therefore by the middle stages when specialised development of merely conscious activity reaches its zenith, explicit recognition of mirror structures largely ceases. In other words with typical development - certainly in Western society - conscious life becomes largely separated from the holistic unconscious.

Therefore though the desire for integration still very much exists, typically it is viewed in a very reduced manner (e.g. successful involvement with respect to an increasing range of activities). [6] So the higher stages require considerable immersion in mirror structure development for true integral holistic appreciation to emerge. This generally entails substantial death in terms of normal worldly aspirations and pursuits. [7]

Thus, I would be highly sceptical with respect to any integral system that acts as a spiritual top-up to enhance conventional achievement. At best such a system offers but a reduced integral approach. Ultimately the integral approach should greatly enhance fruitful involvement in the world (with radial development) but not however in a manner that is dictated by worldly notions of success.


Conventional intellectual interpretation of development is largely based on linear understanding where relationships are translated in unambiguous asymmetrical manner. Such interpretation indeed typifies Ken Wilber's treatment.

However true integral interpretation of reality (that can maintain dynamic consistency) requires bi-directional appreciation of all developmental concepts. With respect to such bi-directional interpretation, there are three major levels requiring ever more refined paradoxical appreciation. I refer to these approaches as Integral 1, Integral 2 and Integral 3, which relate to the cognitive understanding associated with H1 (subtle), H2 (causal) and H3 (nondual) levels respectively.

Remarkably, the precise scientific structure required to configure all these integral approaches is based on very simple holistic mathematical notions (relating to the circular interpretation of number). With Integral 1, understanding is bi-directional in real (conscious) terms. With Integral 2 it is bi-directional in both real (conscious) and imaginary (unconscious) terms. With Integral 3 understanding is in addition bi-directional in complex (both real and imaginary) terms. In other words appreciation reaches the stage where smooth dynamic interaction as between both conscious and unconscious manifestations of form becomes simultaneous. Such a complex stage with respect to form then coincides with an utterly simple spiritual state with respect to emptiness as pure contemplative awareness.

Radial interpretation represents the most comprehensive perspective where both the differentiated and integral aspects of reality creatively interact. It requires the consistent interplay of both linear and circular (bi-directional) modes of interpretation with again 3 major stages, the intellectual interpretation of which becomes ever more intricate.

Bi-directional appreciation - which directly pertains to integration - requires the radical development of mirror understanding. Here rigid dualistic activity is slowly eroded (negated) though spiritual growth of the unconscious. For every refined dualistic structure at the higher levels (that is posited) there is likewise a corresponding mirror structure (where it is dynamically negated). [8] Pure contemplative awareness - which directly represents true integral appreciation of reality - requires that all standard dualistic be dynamically balanced with their mirror structure equivalents.


I will now briefly outline the manner in which directions and mirror structures unfold throughout the 12 major levels of development.

Lower Levels

L3 (Archaic)

With the commencement of human existence, the three key sets of polarities are greatly entangled with each other. In diagonal terms, form cannot be meaningfully separated from emptiness (nor emptiness from form). The baby foetus thus cannot yet clearly separate existence from non-existence. In vertical terms the whole cannot be separated from the part (nor the part from the whole). Again the foetus has little sense of a separate individual existence (as distinct from global collective identity). In horizontal terms interior cannot be separated from interior (nor interior from exterior). Even less can a foetus distinguish objective (impersonal) from subjective (personal) reality.

Thus, because differentiation (and thereby meaningful integration) has not yet taken place, all directions are bi-directionally confused with each other. This entails equally that mirror structures (whereby dualistic understanding is negated) cannot be distinguished from standard activity (where it is posited).

The first task in development is to obtain adequate separation with respect to the diagonal polarities. This is eventually achieved through successful differentiation of a stable body self. Therefore confused bi-directional understanding in terms of diagonal polarities now ceases. This in turn requires the repression of mirror structure activity in this regard as the means of differentiating the standard structures of the bodyself.

L2 (Magical)

At the commencement of this level, confused bi-directional activity still largely operates with respect to both vertical (whole and part) and horizontal (exterior and interior) polarities. However with successful differentiation of the emotional self, such bi-directional activity now largely ceases in terms of vertical polarities. In other words the infant is now gradually able to distinguish an individual self that is separate from the mother (and by extension the world). This differentiation once again in turn requires the repression of mirror structure activity. So it has to be clearly understood that successful differentiation - though very necessary in early development - is always bought at a price. This relates to inevitable repression of mirror structure activity as the conscious dualistic mind gradually becomes more separated from the (holistic) unconscious.

L3 (Mythic)

Again at the commencement of this level, confused bi-directional activity is still very pronounced with respect to the horizontal polarities (interior and exterior). Once more however, through successful differentiation of the mental self, such bi-directional activity largely ceases with the infant gradually able to abstract an objective world as distinct from the subjective self (though the process is not completed at this stage). Thus understanding is now increasingly linear with the successful differentiation of standard structures coinciding with significant repression of complementary mirror structure activity.

Middle levels

Though bi-directional activity (of both a confused and mature nature) never fully ceases as the differentiation of standard (dualistic) structures undergoes specialisation, the middle levels are now associated with the significant development of (merely) linear type understanding.

M1 i.e. L0 (Concrete Rational)

Specialised growth of linear structures now takes place in terms of concrete empirical type relationships (based on the logical ordering of superficial perceptions in experience). However mythic resonances remain at a more general level where bi-directional confusion with respect to the horizontal polarities of interior and exterior still exists. Mirror structure activity however now largely ceases in terms of concrete experience.

M2 i.e. L0,H0 (Formal Rational)

Specialised development of linear structures now occurs additionally with respect to more universal understood formal relationships (based on the logical ordering of general concepts in experience). This is the most purely linear (one-directional) stage in development. Bi-directional activity has now been successfully in terms of all three sets of polarities (though implicitly it must still remain to some degree). With the full specialisation of differentiated activity now established, mirror structures in formal terms disappear (though again implicitly they must remain to some extent).

Of course the considerable price that is paid for the successful differentiation of conscious structures is that contact with the holistic unconscious is greatly impeded. The desire for integration still necessarily remains. However typically at the middle levels, such integration will be interpreted in a very reduced manner (as successful involvement with respect to a multiple set of differentiated activities). This explains why I have been so consistently critical of Ken Wilber's integral approach. For all his marvellous achievements (which I readily admit), his intellectual interpretation is largely based on the reduced linear approach of the middle levels in the affirmation of unambiguous asymmetrical distinctions with respect to development relationships. A true integral approach, that is intellectually consistent in dynamic terms, requires the closing of the circle to clearly demonstrate how all these relationships - which seem unambiguous in an arbitrary local setting – are in fact truly paradoxical in a global context. This requires using the mature bi-directional understanding associated with the higher levels.

M3 i.e. H0 (Vision-logic)

This represents the highest of the middle levels (which serves as the ground floor of the higher levels). Therefore through the ample spiritual intuition that is generated at this level, vision-logic already literally participates in the spiritual vision that is characteristic of the higher stages (which indeed is very evident in all of Ken Wilber's writings).

However in formal terms - and this is very important to understand - it still typically interprets relationships in a linear asymmetrical manner.

In other words though vision-logic understanding can be highly suggestive of a global model of reality (especially for one viewing development through this level) when studied more closely it is quite inconsistent from a true holistic perspective. Though the ultimate nondual vision may be repeatedly affirmed, its actual manner of interpreting relationships is still very dualistic. It other words its characteristic (dualistic) method of translation is strictly inconsistent with the nondual vision it seeks to portray. Thus vision-logic simply is not adequate for the consistent intellectual interpretation of a true integral approach.

Higher Levels

Because of their intrinsic importance for the integral approach we will deal with the higher levels in more detail The higher levels are complementary with the corresponding lower levels. So bi-directional relationships, which were confused at the earlier levels now gradually unfold in a mature manner. Likewise (confused) mirror structures, which were repressed at the earlier levels, are likewise now developed in a mature integral manner.

H1 (Psychic/subtle)

The transition between H0 (vision-logic) and H1 (psychic/subtle) is marked by the first radical exposure to mature mirror structure activity (which itself largely derives from rapidly developing nondual awareness at an unconscious level of personality). As mirror structures relate to the dynamic negation of structures, they must be first properly posited (differentiated) before such activity can take place. The experience associated with the development of mirror structures is very disconcerting as it entails a psychological movement back in space and time. So rather than adding to one's existing accomplishments (which requires forward movement), one experiences substantial undoing of what has already been phenomenally attained.

This first exposure to mirror structure activity is associated generally with a significant existential crisis. Using the terminology of St. John of the Cross - who offers the deepest insight into its nature - we have here the active night of sense.

In other words the sense phenomena associated with conscious (linear) activities are considerable eroded at this time. Though this coincides with the authentic deepening of holistic spiritual awareness at an unconscious level, initially it remains hidden beneath the pain experienced at the phenomenal surface of life.

With sufficient consolidation of mirror structure awareness (which depends on individual development), considerable illumination occurs leading to the natural world becoming bathed in a new spiritual light. This then leads to the maturing of initial bi-directional understanding that is however still largely confined to concrete phenomena (of a supersensory nature). It enables growing participation in nature (as co-creator), which in turn greatly enhances intuitive vision.

However as the spiritual light deepens one becomes more sensitive to secondary attachment (i.e. to symbols as mediators of spiritual light). This then leads to the further need for mirror structure activity at a more unconscious level of personality referred to by St. John as the passive night of sense.

This period would also coincide with a renewed active night with respect to spirit. In other words deeper conceptual understanding and volitional attachment, associated with (conscious) linear understanding, would now undergo considerable erosion. Again when this period of mirror structure activity runs its course it is followed by a more intense spiritual illumination (referred to by Underhill as the Illumination of Self). So the Sprit that has been deepening in the unconscious (where it remains hidden as darkness) is transferred to the conscious phenomenal realms as light, leading to considerable transformation in the nature of structural forms.

So we now have the unfolding of a more substantial type of bi-directional appreciation in affective and cognitive terms. From an intellectual perspective this is associated with enhanced holistic capacity, where all relationships can be inherently understood in paradoxical fashion (through relationship to the spiritual vision already attained). Indeed it is such understanding that constitutes - what I refer to as - the Integral 1 approach (which is the minimum required for successful integral translation of development). However once again secondary attachment (now to deeper concepts and archetypes as mediators of spiritual light) gradually takes place. This leads to the need for a more severe form of purgation (mirror structure activity), which St. John refers to as the passive night of spirit. So the goal here, insofar as is humanly sustainable, is to remove all conscious attachment (of either a direct or indirect kind). It is generally the most difficult period in the spiritual life that entails a prolonged agonising psychological death with respect to phenomenal experience. Despite appearances however it is equally deeply contemplative (though remaining hidden in the unconscious as profound darkness).

H2 (Causal)

Though conscious and unconscious are necessarily related, the main focus at H1 is with respect to the spiritual transformation of conscious activity. However this leads to significant temporary repression of the unconscious, which can cause severe psychological problems e.g. depression during the most intense “dark night” period.

Indeed H1 is often associated with an undue emphasis on transcendence (as opposed to immanence). Thus for true spiritual health to be established the focus must now significantly switch to the immanent natural direction. This enables the repressed unconscious to freely express itself through projections, which initially attach themselves to conscious symbols (that have not yet been fully eroded). It can lead to a restoration for a while of apparent normality where one resumes conscious involvement in life. However because of the depth of spiritual awareness that has already taken place, one becomes extremely sensitive to any possessive identification with unconscious projections (which quickly become embedded with conscious phenomena). So this leads to the need for a new round of mirror structure development - this time largely in relation to imaginary phenomena - that arise as projections of the unconscious. Thus the first kind of this mirror structure activity relates to both an active night of imaginary sense and spirit i.e. where all projections associated with linear activity undergo considerable erosion.

This then leads to the dawning of true causal illumination (referred to in beautiful poetic terms by St. John as “Spiritual Betrothal”).

Because experience is confined so much to the deep unconscious (now undergoing direct purification) the spiritual light associated with it - though profound - appears very dim. However this dim light is ideal in terms of facilitating deep holistic awareness of a direct intuitive kind where one can more easily see into the universal nature of creation.

Though there is now much overlapping of sub-levels we can in general terms identify a concrete (extra supersensory) phase than now occurs. For example at an intellectual level this could facilitate enhanced holistic scientific awareness of the nature of reality in terms of general physical relationships without yet being clearly revealing the mathematical structure entailed. In other words there is still some overlap as between affective and cognitive functions (so that they are not yet fully distinguished from each other).

However to properly understand this level it is vital to appreciate that it works in both a “high” spiritual and “low” physical manner. In other words as integration grows, higher and lower and lower and higher stages more closely interact. Thus the “high” spiritual stage, with its enhanced level of spiritual awareness, becomes the very means of bringing involuntary “low” physical instincts to light (where they are slowly dissolved in the contemplative gaze).

So mirror structure imaginary activity now works at both high and low levels. At the “high” level, one gradually learns to undo refined attachment to causal symbols as mediators of spiritual light. At the corresponding “low” level, one equally learns to become detached from primitive instinctual projections (e.g. of an erotic nature).

At the more advanced stage of the causal level, emotional and intellectual activity becomes abstracted to a very significant degree. (So once again, before one can fully integrate opposite polarities, they must be first fully differentiated from each other!) This more easily facilitates high-level global intellectual inquiry of the most universal kind where the fundamental structure of reality is revealed. Likewise, it enables one to more easily sustain low-level exposure to the most primitive instinctive impulses of the unconscious.

So the bi-directional interpretation of H2 relating to real and imaginary aspects of phenomena constitutes what I refer to as the Integral 2 approach. Here the true holistic mathematical nature of the four quadrants can be revealed (which underlies all phenomenal relationships).

H3 (Nondual)

From one perspective H2 (causal) represents a substantial deepening in pure contemplative awareness that remains largely confined to the unconscious regions of personality. Equally from a related perspective, it represents a specialised training in the erosion of short-lived imaginary phenomena (that are temporarily projected in an involuntary manner from the unconscious).

However both real (conscious) and imaginary (unconscious) aspects are themselves interdependent. Therefore the full attainment of spiritual emptiness entails the ability to negate in simultaneous manner both real and imaginary phenomena (as soon as they arise in experience). In direct terms, such complex phenomena that are equally both real (conscious) and imaginary (unconscious) relate - from one valid perspective - to the most basic psychophysical instincts of the body. So we have gone full circle from earliest development, which commenced with the differentiation of the bodyself. Now at this latest stage we have the corresponding full integration of the bodyself. Here the involuntary nature of psychophysical instincts is largely dissolved through mirror structure activity that is complex in nature (relating equally to both conscious and unconscious aspects of experience). Thus at H3, the physical body can become extremely sensitive to any psychological disturbance. (This often results in temporary illness, requiring - for restoration of health - that both aspects be experienced as inseparable).

The key problems remaining at this stage are the deepest existential fears with respect to both body and Spirit. These relate to the “lower” fear of losing one's physical body on the one hand and the “higher” fear of losing total commitment to Spirit. Indeed I have suggested on other occasions that, quite possibly, a severe bodily crisis (where one's life is directly threatened) may be necessary before the required equilibrium of mind and body can be achieved, enabling full spiritual union.

The stage is equally associated with the premature desire for physical union (through primitive erotic desire) and the equally premature desire for spiritual union (through refined attachment to remaining insights).

So what is required is substantial death of the old self where the personality goes into a deep - through largely peaceful spiritual sleep - with remaining attachment to phenomena of a voluntary or involuntary nature largely reduced.

This enables one to sleep walk or perhaps more accurately sleepwake through one's activities i.e. where one can attend to customary tasks and duties with the very minimum of conscious effort.

If one accepts that the transcendent is often initially stronger in development, this will require the complementary immanent direction to be brought into balance prior to union. Thus the last remaining projections to be successfully eroded will relate to the most primitive psychophysical impulses of the bodyself. Though St. John does not name such mirror structure as such he certainly refers to it in “The Spiritual Canticle” making it clear that the final barrier before union can be obtained relates once more to the senses. So this passive night of “complex” sense relates to the significant moderation of involuntary phenomena emitted from the deep unconscious that also entails an exterior sense source as instigator (i.e. where physical and psychological aspects are simultaneously involved). However because of substantial peaceful death to all dualistic phenomena (both real and imaginary) this stage is powerfully suited for the most profound degree of universal holistic awareness. Due to the additional complex polarities, this is now eight-directional i.e. bi-directional in real and imaginary terms separately and also bi-directional in real and imaginary terms (considered as simultaneous).

The most abstract expression of this vision is purely mathematical and serves the basis for the scientific version of the holistic Theory of Everything, where all the structures (and indeed states) of development - at every level of reality - are seen to be directly encoded in a holistic mathematical manner with respect to three fundamental sets of polarities. This can be given an equivalent interpretation as the holistic binary system, which can be potentially used to successfully encode all transformation processes (in development). This is what I refer to as the Integral 3 approach.

Radial Levels

The radial levels entail the mature incorporation of circular bi-directional with linear understanding (which can now be restored in a relative unattached manner). During the development of the higher stages, rigid attachment to phenomena (though of an increasingly refined nature) remains the key barrier to progress. Therefore the full restoration of linear type understanding can only take place when such attachment has been dissolved to a sufficient extent.

In general terms there are two types of advanced radial development. The more common relates to - what is often referred to - as active mysticism. Here considerable development of the middle level structures takes place without perhaps the same degree of contemplative awareness in terms of the higher levels.

A less common form relates to the more passive brand of contemplative mysticism. Here specialised development of the higher levels takes place without however the same degree of grounding in active linear activity. The most remarkable - yet least common - type entails fairly equal specialised development with respect to both middle level linear and higher (and lower) contemplative development enabling the most creative and committed involvement in a wide variety of affairs (that are all expressive of an essential grounding in Spirit).

In this account, I am attempting to provide a more limited radial model through interpretation especially of the bi-directional structures, which are directly relevant for an overall integral approach to development. A fuller radial model would allow for a much more extensive approach with holistic and analytic notions interpenetrating consistently with respect to a wide range of disciplines.

Radial 1 (Spiritual Reawakening)

The sequence of unfolding of radial stages depends on whether we are dealing with the active or contemplative varieties. In the active case, where a strong grounding in linear type activity is already evident, the remaining task would be to strengthen the contemplative dimension. This would initially largely relate to a more enhanced version of H1 (psychic/subtle type awareness) before moving on to H2 (causal) and H3 (nondual) levels. Realistically however enhanced development of H2 would remain more limited with the attainment of the most advanced contemplative states of H3 quite unlikely.

In the passive case where contemplative development is already especially strong, the main task would be to strengthen the active dimensions through a greater grounding in linear activity. This would initially relate to a new enhanced differentiation of the bodyself (which is now understood in a true universal fashion). In intellectual terms this stage is ideal for the objective formulation of an overall integral model that is properly consistent in dynamic terms. However it is not yet adequate for the more detailed comprehensive application of such a model to various fields (which would represent a Radial 2 interpretation). In this context my own model is designed as a preliminary Radial 1 interpretation. Once again from the contemplative perspective - where initial grounding in the middle levels is somewhat weaker - radial development is not likely to progress on to the most comprehensive stage (R3)

In the most balanced - and potentially most creative - type of radial development, substantial grounding in both the active middle and contemplative higher levels can take place. In this case a much fuller type of radial development occurs which simultaneously moves from the middle to the higher (and lower) and - in reverse fashion from the higher (and lower) - to the middle levels.

This offers the opportunity - where conditions are appropriate - for the most fruitful active expression of the mystical life exemplified by the great spiritual leaders of the various religious traditions.

However it is best to avoid an unduly idealistic interpretation, as we are providing here a template of development that can be approximated in various ways (though never fully attained). So with even the greatest exponents of radial development many limitations and shortcomings will remain in evidence.

In the context in which I am writing (contemplative to active) we will now examine the implications of Radial 1 development for directions and mirror structures.

The unfolding of the various directions at the higher levels enables the elimination of any remaining (rigid) dualistic identification with phenomena. (Once again however this is a goal that can be approximated without ever being fully attained. So the precise degree of erosion of attachment required before moving on to true radial development will depend on individual circumstances!) Thus, firstly with respect to the real (conscious) aspect, one clearly realises that there are two equally valid opposite dualistic interpretations for any event (which can only then be reconciled through pure nondual intuitive awareness). Then with relation to imaginary (unconscious) understanding i.e. that indirectly expresses itself in a conscious manner, the same bi-directional realisation unfolds. Finally in relation to the most instinctive psychophysical interactions once again appropriate bi-directional realisation occurs thus dissolving their involuntary nature.

In each case the bi-directional understanding is made possible through preceding mirror structure development, which negates attachment to rigidly posited dualistic phenomena (whether conscious, unconscious or directly psychophysical in nature).

However with undue attachment in all these respects sufficiently dissolved, then the separation of directions (and standard and mirror structures) can once more take place.

Those who are fully engaged at the radial levels must necessarily operate from a deep level of sustained contemplative awareness. However equally they must be engaged with dualistic activity to a considerable extent (necessitating the adoption of arbitrary stances in any given context). For example consider here someone dedicated to combating injustice, which potentially entails a great number of issues. However in practical terms very limited choices may have to be made with respect to which issues to adopt. So let us say for example that one decides to devote considerable time and energy into fighting for the rights of migrant workers. So one thereby necessarily takes an arbitrary decision to focus especially on one area (thus neglecting other equally important forms of injustice). Then the effective pursuit of such migrant working rights would in turn entail a number of arbitrary political choices. In other words practical effectiveness in dealing with any social issue entails a considerable amount of dualistic effort and is always limited in what can be achieved. However the very essence of the radial stages is that such involvement is only pursued as the best expression available of a contemplative vision that is holistic and universal. In other words one remains only attached to such involvement insofar as it serves as an adequate expression of the contemplative vision (through which it is inspired). In this way dualistic activity never become an end in itself. Therefore when the need to withdraw is appropriate one can more easily do so through exercising required mirror structure activity. Sp paradoxically the freer one is in contemplative terms i.e. with very little dualistic attachment remaining, the more one can effectively engage in dualistic affairs (as the active expression of the contemplative vision).

However there are good reasons for believing that many highly developed contemplatives will never reach the stage of full active involvement.

The very driver of spiritual development often comes from an unusual sensitivity to dualistic attachment. This can then require perhaps an extreme degree of contemplative awareness for the personality to become sufficiently free to function in a harmonious manner. However like a physical infection that is always lying dormant in the system, even relatively limited subsequent engagement in active affairs can renew this sensitivity to attachment. So for such contemplatives, the emphasis is always likely to be on continual mirror structure development (that limits subsequent conscious involvement).

Radial 2 (Mature Vision)

Again coming from the contemplative perspective, the second stage would relate to an enhanced rebirth (radial) of the affective self where now emotion is felt in a truly universal manner (for all creation) though expressed in active terms in a necessarily more limited fashion. So this entails the unfolding of universal compassion, which is then expressed in contingent local circumstances (though at this stage the local expression may not yet be a fully adequate expression of the holistic concern experienced).

In intellectual terms this stage is related to the more detailed separation (and subsequent re-integration) of the whole and part aspects of reality.

Therefore with respect to the model of development I am portraying, a Radial 2 interpretation would allow for much more extensive analysis of its implications in terms of various disciples with such investigation then seamlessly re-integrated (in a holistic consistent manner). Needless to say I would not consider my model to be at that stage. Rather I am still offering a more general scientific model of overall development (which is designed however to be properly consistent in integral terms).

With regard to directions at this stage, substantial ability to separate will once again develop though this time in the more refined manner, where two opposite directions are clearly seen for any relationship. As this realisation is also true of the higher levels, I will attempt to clarify the precise difference that is involved.

For example at the H2 level where one develops in bi-directional appreciation of the imaginary polarities, one can intuitively see wholes reflected through parts (and in reverse fashion parts reflected through wholes). However because the main concern at this stage is indirect identification with the phenomena through which both aspects are mediated, one tends to concentrate more on the simultaneous consideration of both frames of reference, which highlights the paradox inherent in such interpretation. This thereby helps to lessen dualistic attachment, enabling the reconciliation of the paradox involved through direct nondual realisation.

However once sufficient immunity has been built up with respect to possessive attachment, one becomes free again to separate polarities in a more flexible refined dualistic manner. Therefore at the R2 stage a significant increase occurs with respect to intuitively inspired analytical ability, where the implications of a contemplative vision can be applied in a more detailed manner to reality (i.e. where the whole is seen in each part); equally these detailed aspects of reality can now be re-integrated consistently within a holistic vision (where the parts are seen in the whole).

Therefore considerable temporary separation of the vertical whole and part (and part and whole) directions is now possible. So rather than the deep intensification of intuitive awareness at an unconscious level, such intuition becomes increasingly expressed extensively in a conscious fashion, greatly inspiring creative phenomenal involvement with reality.

Also, mirror and standard structure activity with respect to these polarities can also be temporarily separated in experience.

For example let us imagine a truly radial person that is intensively involved in changing society. So each day is likely to entail considerable immersion in dualistic activities of various kinds (requiring the use of the standard structures). However free time when available is then likely to be given over to intense activity with respect to corresponding mirror structures quickly leading to restoration of a deep contemplative state. So whereas at higher levels, structures and mirror structures are gradually brought into simultaneous opposition, at the radial level they can again be separated when necessary enabling sustained involvement in active affairs.

Radial 3 (Creative Transformation)

This entails the most comprehensive experience possible where deep contemplative vision and the most committed form of active involvement are entailed. It offers therefore the best perspective in terms of judging all the lesser forms of both contemplation and activity that characterise earlier levels.

Coming from the contemplative direction, this final stage would entail the mature incorporation with Spirit of the horizontal polarities (interior and exterior) enabling the most flexible committed involvement with respect to both personal relationships and more impersonal type responsibilities.

So it expresses the fullest development possible of the volitional, affective and cognitive aspects. The volitional can be associated directly with the diagonal polarities.

So Radial 1 represents above all else a consolidation in commitment to the divine will so that one only acts as inspired by that purpose.

The affective can be associated then directly with the vertical polarities.

Radial 2 represents, in addition, consolidation especially in terms of the affective aspect in the exercise of a universal form of compassion that is felt in general for all mankind (though necessarily expressed actively in a more limited local manner). Also - as we have seen - in cognitive terms it is especially associated with intuitively inspired intellectual activity (of an extensive kind).

Finally the cognitive can be directly associated with the horizontal polarities.

Radial 3 then finally enables consolidation with respect to the mental aspect in a universal form of wisdom that can shine through one's activities and judgments.

As true wisdom is inseparable from true compassion with both of these in turn inseparable from true charity, the realisation of any one aspect (in its fullness) requires the realisation of all in the same fullness.

So with respect to directions, both interior and exterior aspects can now be separated in a fully mature manner (as the active expression of universal contemplative awareness). Once again, though dualistic involvement is now restored with respect to these polarities, it is a refined relative bi-directional manner, where one can switch flexibly as between opposite relative positions when the need arises.

This likewise entails that standard and mirror structure activity can be separated at will.

We can perhaps deal briefly with the onward development of Radial 3 (the most comprehensive expression of life). By its nature, it generally cannot unfold to its fullest extent without considerable previous development, entailing that its key exponents will have already reached middle or late middle age. Depending on individual circumstances (especially physical health) this can leave perhaps a short time (maybe one or two decades) where the life can be lived to the fullest degree (in an active sense). So the advanced stages of Radial 3 often entail - due to advancing age and physical ailments - a return to the more deeply contemplative expression of this life. We saw this recently in the final years of Pope John Paul 2, who I would see - despite several criticisms of his approach - as a true exponent of the stage. This again entails substantial renewal of mirror structure activity but now with respect to both the physiological and psychological aspects of experience. In other words one has to now learn to cope with the diminishments of old age (and perhaps for the first time the gradual removal of basic physical capacities).

From one valid perspective every life is destined to end in tragic failure i.e. physical death. However through the pure contemplative vision ultimately it can become a glorious tragedy that finally unveils what alone is always truly present i.e. eternal life.


1. Actual experience entails the interactions of structures and states (and states and structures). Though in explicit terms, I am placing more emphasis on structures, using holistic mathematical terminology, states can be expressed indirectly as structures in imaginary terms. In other words real states can be interpreted as imaginary structures; likewise real structures can likewise be interpreted as imaginary states. Thus the interaction as between structures and states (and states and structures) reflects the similar interaction of conscious and unconscious (and unconscious and conscious) in experience.

2. Real (conscious) experience always entails the direct positing of phenomena in experience where opposite poles such as exterior and interior thereby becomes separated in experience. In this sense conscious interpretation is linear (one-directional) being based on just one polar frame of reference.

By contrast imaginary (unconscious) experience - that is indirectly manifested immaturely in consciousness through projection - entails the corresponding dynamic negation of (posited) phenomena where opposite polarities such as interior and exterior are thereby united in spiritual terms. In this sense unconscious interpretation is two-dimensional. However the indirect manifestation of unconscious meaning in experience necessarily entails the reduced linear (i.e. one-dimensional) expression of the unconscious (that is based on the negative direction and two-dimensional). Thus we have here - in a very precise manner - the holistic interpretation of the imaginary number i (the square root of – 1). So the imaginary - as opposed to the real - aspect of experience, relates, in psychological terms, to unconscious meaning that is indirectly expressed in conscious terms.

3. Generally speaking, for true integration in experience, mirror structure activity needs to be especially pronounced with respect to the dominant structures of personality. So for example if one - say - is strongly developed in intellectual (cognitive) terms, but much more weakly developed in an emotional (affective) manner, this would entail that considerable emphasis be placed on mirror structure activity with respect to the cognitive function. However the correct stance with respect to the affective would be to then largely to seek to develop standard structures (at the varying levels). Therefore overall integration of the personality - which requires an appropriate degree of balance as between cognitive, affective and volitional functions - can be attained even where these functions initially are not equally developed. However this requires - especially at the higher levels of development - the skilful management of both standard and mirror structure activity (with emphasis on standard for weaker and mirror activity for stronger functions respectively.

4. I include the psychic with the subtle realms (as H1 in my terminology) because they have the same underlying holistic mathematical structure. However if we were to define sub-levels (associated with each level), then the psychic would correspond with the more concrete stage based on the supersensory recognition of phenomena. Not surprisingly therefore it is often associated with nature mysticism (though it can also include other important cognitive and volitional changes).

So using Evelyn Underhill's well-known terminology, the psychic would refer to the first of her mystical stages “The Awakening of the Self”(where standard concrete structures of a intuitively rich bi-directional nature are formed).

Then the second of her stages “The Purification of the Self” relates to mirror structure activity with respect to the previously formed standard structures.

Her third stage “ Then Illumination of the Self” would then refer to the subtle realm proper where deeper bi-directional understanding of standard structures (with respect to deeper archetypal forms) is formed.

Her fourth stage “The Dark Night of the Soul” then again relates to substantial mirror activity with respect to the standard structures of the previous stage.

Interestingly this is followed in her account by “The Unitive Life” which is the last of her recognised stages (corresponding closely to what - I refer to as - the radial levels).

So H2 and H3 (both with respect to standard and mirror structure activity) are largely missing from her account.

This reveals an interesting limitation with Christian mysticism in that it fails to adequately distinguish the causal from the subtle level and likewise fails to recognise the pure nondual state. One reason for this relates to the traditional greater emphasis on form in Western mysticism, which makes it reluctant to fully embrace the purely empty type of spiritual experience that is more characteristic of the Eastern traditions. Likewise traditionally an unduly negative emphasis has been placed on the body leading to a significant inability to openly discuss important psychosexual dynamics at the higher (and complementary lower) stages.

However in general I would see Western traditions as coping better with the radial levels (certainly with respect to their active expression). I find that Eastern traditions - even when recognising radial levels - do so in a somewhat passive manner (where they are still too closely identified with mere contemplation).

5. St. John of the Cross deals with this in a poetic manner in his “Spiritual Canticle”. For example we have in Stanza 18:

“You girls of Judea,
While among flowers and roses
The amber spreads its perfume
Stay away there on the outskirts,
Do not as much seek to touch our thresholds”

St. John is here dealing with causal level or more properly H3 type experience (though not in a formalised intellectual manner). Now what is well emphasised in Christian mysticism is the dynamic interaction as between “higher” and “lower” aspects of personality. In other words such a treatment is consistent with the increasing interaction of extremes (high and low) as a prelude to full integration (as spiritual union). Also he associates the higher spiritual aspect with the cognitive and the lower physical with the sensory function. So union of the body and spirit therefore requires dissolving attachment to either higher or lower phenomena.

However one aspect that I would find unbalanced still remains in St. John's approach. In keeping with the tradition, the body (sensory) is considered inferior to mind (rational). So St. John would interpret the process of achieving union as the use of the refined “superior” higher cognitive aspect (inspired directly by Spirit) to finally obtain complete control over the body (the “lower” sensory aspect). However this leads to an unduly transcendent interpretation of union. More correctly - in the healthier recognition of the body - neither higher now lower can be ranked in hierarchical dualistic terms. So ultimately both mind and body are brought into union through free immersion in Spirit (where higher and lower lose any absolute meaning). So St. John's interpretation would be associated with a remaining degree of repression of the body (which would subsequently hinder committed worldly involvement). Indeed this is borne out by St. John's career, which entailed - perhaps avoidable - severe clashes with religious authority. This then led to a harsh imprisonment and subsequent ill-health, so that he died at a comparatively early age. I would see that St. John unconsciously demanded such bodily suffering so as to remain true to his deeply integral view of spiritual commitment. And this undue negation of the body remains implicit in his very treatment of spiritual union.

So in the stanza, “the girls of Judea “ refer to erotic projections (from the lower levels) which then serve to conflict with higher level spiritual awareness (that would be projected in a smoother refined phenomenal manner). So the second two lines refer to this (desired for) higher-level activity. Then the last two lines represent a plea to keep the lower projections so much under control that they are immediately dissolved (as soon as they arise in experience). However the emphasis – as we have seen - is somewhat unbalanced for it is the very desire for higher spiritual awareness (that is considered “good”) that leads to the complementary projection of erotic fantasy (from the denied body that is considered “bad). In other words freedom from “lower” physical projection requires corresponding freedom from the “higher” spiritual; likewise freedom from the “higher” spiritual requires freedom from the “lower” physical. In other words attachment of either kind is only finally dissolved through the free awareness of Spirit.

6. I am afraid that this reduced emphasis is becoming increasingly evident in the way that the Integral Institute is being run, which seems to me little different from the manner in which ambitious management and business schools everywhere attempt to make their reputation. Indeed Ken himself - in his desire to sell the “integral approach” (or more correctly his particular version of the integral approach) - is now in many ways treating it pretty much like a standard graduate course with a list of compulsory and optional credits that can be readily chosen from his “integral” menu. Of course in reduced integral terms, there may well be some merit in adopting this line. However if “the integral approach” is continually adapted to meet the expectations of those, whose views have been largely formed through the - not so integral - attitudes of the market system, then the whole enterprise is likely to be quickly debased. There is a uniquely personal dimension to authentic spiritual progress that cannot be successfully marketed. The clear realisation of this may indeed be a necessary first step in the following of a genuine integral path.

7. Once again I would see mystical development - where substantial exposure to the higher levels is required - as a special vocation that is often dictated by personality characteristics. Everyone (who is normal) desires integration and fulfilment. However the mystical personality discovers - often very early in life - that such fulfilment cannot be attained through success with respect to conventional pursuits. So therefore a unique path has to be traversed - often entailing considerable pain and sacrifice - in the quest for that desired integration.

Now it is true that in retrospect one can often find in one's own personal journey distinct parallels with certain others who have traversed the same general territory. However to a considerable extent, one must learn to discover alone a unique route through this territory. Therefore there are considerable limitations to the extent to which any integral approach can be marketed successfully to others except in a very reduced manner. So, if such an approach is devised to largely fit in with conventional expectations and pursuits as - I have suggested - a spiritual top-up to enhance existing involvement with reality, it may indeed have mass appeal. However by the same token, we are then in danger of debasing the very notion of true integration.

8. Obvious parallels can be drawn here with the sub-atomic nature of matter where particles are counterbalanced by corresponding anti- particles with enormous spiritual energy arising from fusion. In corresponding “higher” spiritual terms all phenomenal structures are counterbalanced by anti-structures (i.e. mirror structures) with a similar potential for the creation of enormous amounts of spiritual energy through their successful fusion. And as we have seen, we have in physics also the counterpart to imaginary structures through the fleeting existence of virtual particles.


Mike Murphy, George Leonard and Ken Wilber: Integral Transformative Practice: Part 3: Putting the Multiple Lines of Development into Play: Integral Naked Site

Kavanaugh, K.  Rodriguez, O.:. The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, 1979, ICS Publications

Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: The Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness: Oneworld Publications Ltd; 1993.

Jung. C.G. Psychological Types (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol 6); Princeton University Pr; (1976)

Weigel, George, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II; Perennial Updated Edition (April 2005)

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