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Mark EdwardsMark Edwards has an M.Psych in Developmental Psychology and a PhD in organisation theory from the University of Western Australia. He now works at Jönköping University in Sweden where he teaches and researches in the area of sustainability and ethics. Before becoming an academic he worked with people with disabilities for twenty years. He is the author of Organizational Transformation for Sustainability: An Integral Metatheory (Routledge, 2009) .

Continued from Part 1

An Alternative View
on States

Part 2
Traditional and Modern Models
of the Sleep States

Mark Edwards

[Ramana] often cited man's continued existence during deep, dreamless sleep as a proof that he existed independent of the ego and the body-sense ... Such examples sometimes gave rise to the mistaken idea that the states of Realization or abidance in the Self which [Ramana] prescribed was a state of nescience like physical sleep and therefore he guarded against this also.
(Osbourne, 1977)
Waking, dream and sleep are mere phases of the mind, not of the Self.
(Ramana Maharshi, cited in Osbourne, 1977)
Ramana said that anything that is not present in the deep sleep state is not real. What he meant by this is that the only thing present in that state is the Self.
(Wilber, 2003a)

Where are we up to?

In Part 1 of this essay on "An Alternative View on States" I put forward my presumptuous proposition that Ken is flouting the Pre-Trans Fallacy (PTF) tenet of integral theory in stating that the natural states of dreaming and deep sleep are transpersonal states. I presented many quotes in the first part of the essay that give a good representation of Ken's position. Here is another one just to refresh your memory. Ken's model makes it clear that he thinks infants have full access to the transpersonal stages via the states of sleep.

The infant also has access to what I refer to as the three major states of consciousness: gross (waking), subtle (dreaming and deeper psychic), and causal (deep sleep, pure Witness, primordial Self). The early self (prenatal, perinatal, neonatal, infancy, and early childhood) has various types of access to all of those spiritual states (because it wakes, dreams, and sleeps). (1999c)

From such propositions several implications for Ken's theory of states follow. One is that neonates, infants and children of all ages will have access to the transpersonal realms via sleep. If infants can access the transpersonal in sleep then, of course, everyone else can as well. If that's the case we are all spending large chunks of our lives immersed the transpersonal states. The capacity to remain aware and "watch" the contents of your dreams, i.e. lucid dreaming, would naturally then be a royal road, a fast track spiritual practice into the transpersonal. These are only some of the questionable propositions that are explicitly made in Wilber's theory of states. He offers several supporting arguments for his model and these include:

  1. logical arguments based on Integral theory itself
  2. studies on childhood spirituality
  3. the authority of the Vedanta and Buddhist traditions
  4. the idea of the "ever present" and pre-existing nature of states
  5. the evidence from dream and deep sleep studies
  6. the evidence from studies of highly advanced meditators

The first two – integral theory arguments and the theory and research on childhood spirituality – were considered in Part 1. I argued that neither of them offer any convincing arguments or hard evidence that the sleep states have anything necessarily to do with the transpersonal. Let's now have a look at the rest of Wilber's supporting arguments.

iii) The Vedanta and Buddhist traditions

Before looking at the some traditional views on states I need to put in a cautionary word. Almost all pre-modern, traditional transpersonal models of spirituality had very little or no understanding of childhood development, psychopathology or the developmental stages that lead up the personal egoic identity. As such, they are often unaware of any PTF considerations. Hence, when we interpret any traditional models of the transpersonal we need to be very aware that serious category errors are common in the traditional views of sleep, dreams, ASCs psychotic states, mental illnesses and the infant/child state.

There are many areas where the PTF-2 worldview is commonly seen in traditional religions from across the world. These include the association and identification of many preverbal forms of existence, states and experiences with the transpersonal realms. Examples of these PTF-2 associations include, (i) dreams as the communication of God's messages, (ii) sexual union with priestly castes as union with God (e.g. as in sacred prostitution), (iii) intoxication as a flight into the divine realms (e.g. the Bacchus cult), (iv) children and infants as nearer to God (e.g. "for such is the kingdom of heaven", (v) the myths of a paradise on earth before humanity become collectively self-aware (e.g. the Eden myth), and (vi) those with intellectual or psychiatric disability, psychosis or brain injury as being nearer to God (e.g. the Forest Gump myth of pre-modern America). In all these and many other instances the pre-verbal, pre-egoic, pre-rational prepersonal worldviews is confused with and often seen as giving direct access to, the trans-verbal, trans-egoic, trans-rational, transpersonal world of the Spirit. Virtually all pre-modern theories of spiritualty, existence, creation, life, death, natural events, the weather, historical event, collective evolution and the natural world have PTF elements in their theoretical make-up. While the great philosophies of Vedanta and Vajrayana do not acquiesce to many of the blatant PTF understandings they do often lapse into a rather tangled mixture of PTF interpretations and valid transpersonal insight.

It is with some prudence then that traditional views on states and stages that may include pre-personal components should be taken over into the integral view. At the very least we need to run them through a PTF filter to realign the pre-bits with the earlier forms of development and the trans-bits with the later forms of development. Wilber has performed this re-alignment and re-interpretive process on many theories and worldviews views, particularly those of the Jungian, new age/new paradigm, new mythology, and plural-spiritualist varieties. He has not, it seems to me, been as diligent with reviewing the Vedantic and Vajrayana traditions in their treatment of states. By his admission he has adopted many aspects of these models without modification.

Forgive me for repeating myself, but the staggering brilliance of [the Vedanta/Vajrayana] scheme continues to just floor me. There are no other models even remotely like it in its explanatory capacities, and I have incorporated those aspects, virtually unchanged, in my own model of Integral Psychology. (Excerpt G, ¶ 187)

As he admits here, Ken's theory of states owes a great deal to the philosophies of Vedanta and Vajrayana Buddhism. Ken freely acknowledges and is enthusiastic about the knowledge that these models contain and rightly so. These traditions include some of the greatest philosophical and spiritual achievements in history. However, they are particularly weak on the question of normative development. In other words, they are wonderful at documenting and understanding the personal to transpersonal leg of development but not so hot on the pre-personal to personal leg which is the bit that so many of us travel. Under my reinterpretation of the natural states, this pre-personal to personal leg is also the one that includes those involutionary stages of development that are accessed in the dream and deep sleep states. Hence my wariness in accepting the traditional models view of these states. Both Vedanta Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism have developed models of the sleeping and dreaming states which they tie into their philosophies of spirituality. In the following I will focus on the Vedanta system as that's the one I have most familiarity with and is the one that Wilber seems to refer to most often.

Vedantism is a very sophisticated branch of Hinduism that is regarded by its adherents as culmination of the ancient Vedic teachings as exemplified in the Upanishad scriptures. Advaitic Vedanta, or Nondual Vedanta, is probably the most important and widely know school of Vedantism. It is both a philosophy and a practice as the same time. It's logic is uncompromising and confronts any student who studies it with the issue of committing oneself to spiritual practice. In a very real sense the purpose of Advaita is exactly that – to lead one to take up the great task of developing true insight into one's experience of life. The central tenets of Vedanta are, i) Brahman (the unqualifiable Pure Being) is the only reality and therefore Nondual, ii) the world of self and appearances is false, and, iii) the self (and the world) is no other than Brahman or the Self. The thoroughly paradoxical nature of these tenets sets up a philosophical and psychological dissonance that can only be resolved in self-realisation. The pre-eminent philosopher of Advaitic Vedanta is Shankara, a 9th century mystic philosopher who set out its basic elements. Part of his philosophy is also concerned with the actual details of spiritual practice and guidance through the guru-student relationship. Consequently, spiritual instruction and the interpretation of authentic teachings (such as the Upanishads) have been core activities for every Advaitic philosopher and teacher since Shankara.

It is because of their value in the context of spiritual instruction instructions that the discussion of the natural states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep are so common in Advaitic philosophy. In Eastern philosophy, discussions of the three states of normative human existence fulfil the same philosophical niche as the "Cogito ergo sum" dictum of Descartes in the West. And, because there are three states of common experience which are incontrovertibly different from each other, they provide a deeper and, in many ways, richer metaphorical basis for the discussion of basic ontological and epistemological issues. Take the following quote from Shankara's "Drik Drisya Viveka" (An inquiry into the nature of the "Seer" and the "Seen") for example (1974, p. 276),

Dream perceptions and the individual who perceives them are illusory, because they exist only during the period of the dream experience. We affirm their illusory nature, because on waking up from dream no one sees the dream, no one sees the dream objects. The dreaming self experiences the dream world as real, while the empirical self experiences the empirical world as real but, when the [true Self]is realised, knows it to be unreal.

And again from the Vivekachudamani,

With the emergence of the mind everything arises and with its submergence everything ceases. In the dream state, in which there are no objects, the mind creates the dream world of enjoyers and others by its own powers. Similarly, all that it perceives in the waking state is its own display.

In these quotes we see Shankara utilising the natural transition between the waking and dream states as a way of pointing to the possibility of further transitions and awakenings. The close linkage in the East between philosophy and spiritual instruction and "pointing out exercises" is nowhere better illustrated than in the area of the natural states of human consciousness. This is the great importance that the natural states of dreaming, deep sleep and waking states have in the Advaitic system. They offer concrete and incontrovertible evidence of how we can be deceived and they also provide metaphors, hints and visions of how we might one day "wake up". explaining and understanding covering the myth that our waking state is the ultimate truth. It is within this pointing out and instructional context that the Advaitic model of states is developed and this is the main way in which Wilber uses his theory of states. Some of his most profound and insightful writing comes out of his consideration of the relationship between states, and the great Witness to all That. It is not my intention to be critical or fault-finding in any way with this important use of the discussion of states in integral theory or in any other of the traditional models of Non-dual spirituality. However, there is another purpose to which Wilber puts his state theory to work. That is to provide support for the argument that anyone can have access to the transpersonal states at any stage of development. It is with this application of the states model that I have problems and it is in this context that the PTF-2 confusions typically reside.

As Wilber himself has pointed out, his theory of states draws heavily from that of the traditional Vedantic model. The basic connection between the two sleeping states of dreaming and deep sleep and the two transpersonal realms of the subtle and the causal is taken directly from the Vedantic approach.

according to Vedanta, the causal body is experienced in deep dreamless sleep, the subtle body is experienced in the dream state, and the gross body in the waking state. (Wilber 2000, Intro to Vol 4)

This Vedantic approach is adopted for Wilber's own purposes of permitting access to anyone, at any stage of life from birth to maturity, to the full range of transpersonal experiences. But in taking on the traditional Advaitic model, Wilber has also taken on some of the inherent PTF-2 problems in that pre-modern model. I have said that Nondual traditional models of spirituality sometimes fall prey to the PTF monster (for, in terms of the havoc its caused in both the theory and practice of spirituality, it is indeed a monster). And Advaitic philosophy has not been immune from susceptibility. The reason is very simple. Take the following key doctrine of Vedantic philosophy for example:

Duality is of the nature of illusion (maya) and only nonduality is the Supreme Truth.

Such doctrines immediately lead to the invalid conclusion that any state that is undifferentiated or that does not project duality onto the world is nondual. But this is not true. The nescient state of deep sleep is an undifferentiated state of complete immersion where no self-other, subject-object distinction exists. But this is also the undifferentiated immersion of the pleroma or at least the self-without-other state of the archaic uroboros. Duality only arises with the emergence of the early mind, linguistic identity and the membership self. So we have the nonduality of the very primordial developmental stages and experiential states being associated with the very advanced developmental stages and experiential states. This is evidenced in many passages in Advaitic texts where the state of deep sleep is recognised as a state of avidya or not-knowing and yet is also seen to be a nondual state of bliss or ultimate being.

"In [deep sleep] all perceptions cease and the mind in its subtle seed-like form experiences supreme bliss" (Shankara, 1974, p. 221)

The state of bliss is often associated with the state of deep sleep in the ancient Vedantic sources. Shankara goes even further in the following quote from the Vivekachudamani (The Crest Jewel of Discrimination) to say that the fifth sheath or stage of identity – the sheath of Bliss – is experienced in deep sleep.

[The sheath of Bliss] is experienced effortlessly by all to some extent in deep sleep, ( Shankara, 1974, p. 230)

In the ancient Vedantic texts the deep sleep state is identifies with the sound "M" of the great Word AUM. Thus it is regarded as the place where everything dissolves and to which everything returns and therefore from which everything arises. Of course, depending on one's point of view this nescient state can be the final point where all things return to the Nondual (the romantic PTF-2 view) or the final point where all things return to their most undifferentiated primordial base (the integral theory or full-spectrum developmental view). It's clear that the Vedanta is proclaiming deep sleep to be of the PTF-2 view because it is identified with the causal state of the transpersonal and is called "Prajna" or the first cause (in Buddhism this word also means highest Wisdom). Hence, Shankara's following point:

When all thoughts cease and the determinative intellect, too, lapses into its causal condition, the state of deep-sleep appears. The personality appropriating these two, i.e., the causal-body and the deep-sleep state is described as 'PRAJNA'. Shankara Panchikaranam - A small treatise on Vedanta (Note: Shankara's disciple Suresvara remarks that "One should look upon this PRAJNA as one identical with the Great Cause of the universe, ISHVARA".)

The pre-trans confusion is very evident in this following passage from the Mandukya Upanishad. The unknowing state of deep sleep is equated with the Unknowing of oneness, silent consciousness omnipotence and omniscience. In fact, deep sleep is a state of unknowing that precedes rational and egoic knowing and not one that transcend it. The PTF-2 inclinations of many commentators from Shankara in the 8th century to Aurobindo in the 20th can be traced back to the influence of such passages.

Brahman is all and Atman is Brahman. Atman the Self has four conditions ... The third condition is the sleeping life of silent consciousness when a person has no desires and beholds no dreams. That condition of deep sleep is one of oneness, a mass of silent consciousness made of peace and enjoying peace. This silent consciousness is all powerful, all-knowing, the inner ruler, the source of all, the beginning and the end of all beings. (Mandukya Upanishad, verses 2, 5 & 6)

The Vedanta view is that in the state of deep sleep the self experiences the causal realm of transpersonal identity. It is not the completely transcendent-immanent state of the Turiya but is the state of identity that comes from this final home of Atman. Aurobindo called the sleep state the "superconscient" or "all-possessing consciousness". He clearly takes up and builds upon the PTF-2 lead provided in the Mandukya and other Upanishad scriptures. Here is Aurobindo's commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad verses just quoted:

[There are the] three strata of the conscient self, the waking, the dream and the sleep selves of Man, - in other words, the superficial existence, the subconscient or subliminal and the superconscient, which to us seems the inconscient because its state of consciousness is the reverse of ours: for ours is limited and based on division and multiplicity, but this is "that which becomes a unity"; ours is dispersed in knowledge, but in this other self conscious knowledge is self-collected and concentrated; ours is balanced between dual experiences, but this is all delight, it is that which in the very heart of our being fronts everything with a pure all-possessing consciousness and enjoys the delight of existence. Therefore, although its seat is that stratum of consciousness which to us is a deep sleep, - for the mind there cannot maintain its accustomed functioning and becomes inconscient, - yet its name is He who knows, the Wise One, prajna. "This," says the Mandukya Upanishad, "is omniscient, omnipotent, the inner control, the womb of all and that from which creatures are born and into which they depart." (Aurobindo, 2003)

Aurobindo, using the traditional name of "prajna" for the deep sleep state, calls it the state of "all delight", "He who knows", and "the Wise One". All these are examples of PTF-2 connections between the deep sleep state and the very highest causal state of transpersonal experience. As I have said previously the pre-trans category errors run through all traditional religions and it is no surprise to find them through the great Asian religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. It has only been over the last 100 years with the commencement of western research into childhood development that the basis for uncovering the various PTF confusions has been made available. Wilber's genius in describing some of the intricacies of these confusions (see, in particular, his essay on the topic in, "Eye to Eye", Wilber, 1999) has provided a powerful tool for critically reviewing the models on spirituality that have been handed down to us.

Ramana Maharshi on the dreaming and deep sleep states

Wilber rightly regards Ramana Maharshi to be one of the great spiritual sages of history. He refers to his writings quite frequently and quotes him specifically with regard to the states of sleep and how they relate to the transpersonal realms. But Raman's writings on these matters are not at all straightforward and he at times follows closely the traditional Advaitic predilection of associating sleep with the transpersonal and at other times warns against doing so.

This ambiguity is reflected in the apparent disagreement between the Ramana and Wilber quotes presented at the opening of Part 2. Ramana says that all the natural states of waking dreaming and deep sleep are "phases of the mind, not of the Self". This seems to directly contradict Wilber's interpretation of Ramana's view on states. Wilber says that Ramana thought that the only thing left in the deep sleep state was the Self, the "I-I" of self-realisation. But Ramana is saying that the sleep states cannot simply be equated with the transpersonal and that they are states of "nescience" or ignorance rather than transpersonal insight. Arthur Osbourne, one of the pre-eminent students and interpreters of Ramana's writing says that Ramana "guarded against" the idea that the transpersonal states of realisation were "like" states of sleep.

In fact, Ramana specifically says that our real Self is realised and experience in a condition that is beyond (but which also forms the base of) the three natural states. In particular I draw your attention in the following quote to his definitive statement that the home of the Self (the Turiya) lies beyond the deep sleep state.

There is no difference between the dream and the waking state except that the dream is short and the waking long. Both are the result of the mind. Our real state is beyond the waking, dream and sleep states, called turiya. Ramana Maharshi: The three states: waking, dream and sleep (The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi)

This view does not sit easily with Wilber's statement that,

the formless sleep state ... sometimes it's called consciousness without an object, pure formless awareness, it's the capital "S" Self. (2003a)

But Ken's view is also more complex (as always) than all this suggests. He also understands that there is the capital "S" Self that is the highest stage of development and there is the Self that lies beyond even that in the Nondual. So I am not wanting to show here that Ken's understanding of Ramana's view is deficient with regard to the transpersonal. Wilber is one of the very best interpreters of Ramana's words and it is not my intention to suggest otherwise. What I do want to point out is that Ramana's understanding of the sleep states is more complex than Ken acknowledges. Ramana's whole focus in referring to the sleep and dreaming states was to use them as "pointing out" exercises. He always mentioned these states in the context of leading the seeker into questioning their mundane interpretation of selfhood in the waking state. His purpose was never to show that there is some theoretical connection between the sleep states and the transpersonal realms. For Ramana the real game was to challenge the seeker to question for themselves their own assumptions about who they were and he would use whatever means were available. Within this focus on actual practice in some passages Ramana seems to follow the traditional Advaitic PTF#2 model as follows:

As all living beings desire to be happy always, without misery, as in the case of everyone there is observed supreme love for one's self, and as happiness alone is the cause for love, in order to gain that happiness which is one's nature and which is experienced in the state of deep sleep where there is no mind, one should know one's self. For that, the path of knowledge, the inquiry of the form "Who am I?", is the principal means. (All quotes are from, "The Three States of Consciousness - As taught by Sri Ramana Maharshi, Ed. David Godman)

In this quote Ramana equates deep sleep with the state of supreme love and happiness. However, in general, unlike most of the Advaitic writings on sleep states, Ramana is wary about connecting sleep states with the transpersonal. But then Ramana was not a traditionalist in the sense of conforming to the exact beliefs of traditional Vedanta. His whole approach to teaching was very revolutionary and it seems that he may have assimilated some modern views on consciousness with the more traditional Vedantic models. There are many other passages where the deep sleep state is linked with primal ignorance or nescience (All quotes are from, "The Three States of Consciousness - As taught by Sri Ramana Maharshi", Ed. David Godman)

in deep sleep the gross and subtle bodies of all the individual souls are included in the cosmic maya which is nescience, of the nature of sheer darkness

Ramana points here to the idea that the waking and dream sleep mediums are absorbed in "maya" or illusion and nescience or ignorance with is a state of "sheer darkness". Nothing very transpersonal about that. But could this "sheer darkness" also be the complete absence of duality that is the hallmark of the causal state. Well, according to the following, no it couldn't.

... physical existence and perception depend upon the light of the mind which is reflected from the Self. Just as cinema pictures can be made visible by a reflected light, and only in darkness, so also the world pictures are perceptible only by the light of the Self reflected in the darkness of Avidya (ignorance). The world can be seen neither in the utter darkness of ignorance, as in deep sleep, nor in the utter light of the Self, as in Self-realisation or Samadhi.

Ramana specifically recognises here that from the point of view of the "world" there is a seeming equivalence of the "utter darkness" of the deep sleep state of ignorance and the "utter light" of the realised Self. He is, in fact, recognising the alluring dangers of the pre/trans category error. Ramana, of course, always pointed out that the three states of waking, dreaming and sleeping are all illusory and all finally to be dropped away in the realisation of that which forms the basis for all of them. The following all confirm that Ramana saw all states as illusory relative to the turiya. (All quotes from "Three States of Consciousness As taught by Sri Ramana Maharshi" Edited by David Godman)

The three states come and go, but you are always there.

Actually the idea of the Self being the witness is only in the mind; it is not the absolute truth of the Self. Witnessing is relative to objects witnessed. Both the witness and his object are mental creations.

There is only one state, that of consciousness or awareness or existence. The three states of waking, dream and deep sleep cannot be real. They simply come and go.

In many passages Wilber also holds completely to these views but when he begins to actually describe the dreaming and deep sleep states he introduces the PTF-2. At this point Wilber's view that deep sleep is the home of the capital "S" Self becomes irreconcilable with Ramana's views.

At the beginning of this second part of the essay I quoted a comment from Arthur Osbourne (1977, p.25) where he says that Ramana "guarded against the idea" that "the state of realisation or abidance in the Self" was "a state of nescience like physical sleep". This comes before a very interesting exchange between Ramana and a devotee on just this issue and I quote this section here (1977, p.25) (B stands for "Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi" and D stands for "devotee").

B: Waking, dream and sleep are mere phase of the mind, not of the Self. The Self is the Witness of these three states. Your true nature exists in sleep.

D: But we are advised not to fall asleep in meditation.

B: It is a stupor which you must guard against. That sleep which alternates with waking is not the true sleep. That waking which alternates with sleep is not the true waking. Are you awake now? No. What you have to do is wake up to your true state. You should neither fall into false sleep nor remain falsely awake.

So Ramana clearly says here that the there is the deep sleep of "stupor" that is "false" and is a "mere phase of the mind" and there is a sleep in which our "true nature exists". These two types of sleep are not the same. In fact one needs to be guarded against as being equated with the other. Once again we see Ramana recognising the trap of the Pre/Trans confusion and warning to be on guard against it. Osbourne's comment on this exchange is completely on the mark and, considering his incomparable knowledge of the teachings of Ramana, should be taken as the most accurate representation of Ramana's views on this matter. Osbourne says,

In fact, one name for the true state of realised being is the Fourth State existing eternally behind the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. It is compared with the state of deep sleep since, like this it is formless and non-dual; however, as the above quotation shows, it is far from being the same. In the Fourth State the ego emerges in Consciousness, as in sleep it does in unconsciousness. (Osbourne, 1977, p.25)

The ego is in "unconsciousness" in deep sleep while the ego is in "Consciousness" in the fourth state (Turiya). They are not equivalent but rather are exactly opposite each other in the relative plane of developmental stages ands states. Ramana was, then, very aware of the apparent similarity (from the point of view of the egoic waking state) of deep sleep and the causal/turiya realms (leaving aside for a moment the differences between the causal and the fourth state). Taking all this into account the following diagram is my take on what Ramana is trying to communicate here.

When Ramana says that deep sleep is not the "true sleep" he means that the deep sleep state is not an evolutionary accessing of the causal unity of the transpersonal. Rather, it is the involutionary accessing of the nescient state of prepersonal depth. Deep sleep is not an admission into the realm of mystical oneness it's an immersion into the great slumbering realm of pre-awareness that covers most of the developmental history of the Kosmos. The deep sleep we enter every night is like, or analogous to, the transpersonal causal state simply because we experience it as undifferentiated. But PTF-2 warns us immediately don't equate the two on that basis otherwise we run the risk of elevating the undifferentiated pre- to the undifferentiated trans-. And, in stating that all of us, even infants "from birth", experience the transpersonal in deep sleep, Ken is doing exactly that; he's elevating the pre- to the trans-, and he needs to more carefully consider Ramana's very insightful comments on this issue.

iv) The "ever present" and pre-existing nature of states

Ken says in several passages that the natural states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep are "ever present" and pre-existing. Consequently, he concludes that this means that "everyone has access to them" even when they haven't reached the developmental stage to permanently identify with those levels of being and knowing. Here are some examples of his views on this.

The point is that these [natural states] can be experienced because they are given potentials that are ever-present; however, as these states are converted to permanent traits or stages, they are filled in by realities in all four quadrants. Point 14 in "On the Nature of a Post-Metaphysical Spirituality - Response to Habermas and Weis"

He is trying to point out here that states are always present in that everyone from birth onwards experiences all the natural states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep at some point everyday (or so). Apart from extremely rare cases there is no need to be trained or educated in how to access these three states. The states are experienced without development needing to occur.

the states and their bodies/realms are given to a human from birth (and are fully present), but the levels or stages undergo development (and are not all present at birth). (Excerpt G, ¶179)

Wilber is saying here that the potentials of development exist at all times but it is only through the developmental journey of the self-system (the individual identity structure) that the substance of these potentials is filled out. This is all very straightforward. My problems with Wilber's view on this however, is the unnecessary linking of the experience of sleep with transpersonal potentials. In an earlier section I touched on the need to be clear about whether we were considering the absolute truth that each entity is "always already" a full expression of Nonduality or the relative truth that each entity has the potential to realise its Nondual nature. The Mahayana principle brings these truths together and retains them both in a way that can be experienced only through development. In this sense, the "always already" truth is held in the practice of our seeking, developing, and evolving-involving in the real world of relativity. The statement that all states and all bodies and realms are always "fully present" is a statement of absolute truth. But on the relative plane that statement cannot be used to argue that everyone actually experiences that "full presence" from birth without seeking or developing. Ken's proposition that the states are always present and therefore everyone has complete access to the transpersonal every time they sleep is a logical error that falsely blends absolute and relative truths. It leads directly to him making rather extraordinary statements such as the following:

at virtually any stage of development, a person can have a peak experience of the gross, subtle, or causal realms (because everybody wakes, dreams, and sleeps) (emphasis added) Note 4, "On the Nature of a Post-Metaphysical Spirituality Response to Habermas and Weis"

Let me put this another way. I have no problem with the idea that states and realms are always present as a statement of absolute truth, but I have real difficulty accepting this as an argument and/or evidence that everyone experiences the transpersonal in sleep. Ken doesn't use this "always present" concept to say that some mental-egoic state is the home of the capital "S" self. But in terms of absolute truth, any state, including the mental-egoic, is as much a true home to the capital "S" Self as any other.

Here's another simple and very succinct way of putting this. Ken says that everyone has access to the transpersonal realms "because everybody wakes, dreams, and sleeps". But dreaming and deep sleep are intrinsically pre-personal states, so how does he make them transpersonal? By evoking the "always present" principle. What I am saying is that the "always present" statement of absolute truth doesn't convert the relative truth of the pre-personal state (dreaming and deep sleep) into the relative truth of the trans-personal state (the subtle and causal). You can make absolute truth statements about anything on the relative plane but that doesn't change, in any way, their relative truth status. The real reason Ken relies on the "always present" argument is because there is no evidence in the relative world to support the proposition that sleep states access the transpersonal. So let's have a brief look at the research on dreaming and deep sleep.

v) The evidence from dream and deep sleep studies

Let me state from the outset of this section that I believe that almost all of the research on sleep provides evidence that supports my contention that sleeping involves involutionary states that access pre-personal aspects of development. So, before looking at a little of the scientific research on sleep I want to formalise my view that sleep is intrinsically prepersonal and that it's content is made up of pre-personal occasions or holons. My reason for saying this is simple – it's because the most common states will be the most fundamental, i.e. the pre-personal.

Everyone dreams and sleeps, therefore, these states are involutionary pre-personal states. Everyone's sense of identity will "include" the fundamental developmental structures that provide the foundations for later development – a body identity, an proto-emotional identity, a proto-social identity, a physiological/instinct identity. Therefore, everyone carries these identities around with them in some concrete and accessible fashion. The same goes with the sleep states. Everyone sleeps everyday (or so). Therefore these are fundamental and primordial aspects of life that are concerned with our involutional accessing of the very early, pre-personal stages of development. (Under the same logics of the span-depth law, if deep sleep was actually a transpersonal state then very few people would ever enter deep sleep. This obviously is not the case, therefore sleeping is not a transpersonal state.).

The span-depth law says that for any healthy holarchy the higher up the scale of basic structure development we go the fewer holons we find. The transcend-and-include law says roughly that all basic structures are included in higher ones. Putting these laws together gives us the corollary that the most common states will be those that are related to the most fundamental structures of consciousness. For example, almost everyone has some form of somatic-affect identity that they carry around with them but relatively few have an integrated-pluralistic sense of identity. This means that the structures that support a somatic-affect sense of self will be more fundamental (and therefore lower on the developmental holarchy) than the structures that support an integrated-pluralistic sense of identity. By exactly the same logic, when we say that everyone dreams and sleeps we are also saying that these are very fundamental and primordial states of identity. For any population of "holons" the span-depth law will mean that the frequency of a developmental holon will be directly related to its depth. Those holons that are "available to everyone", i.e. the most frequent will be the shallowest and most fundamental. This is show graphically in Figure 12.

I would like to point out that Figure 12 also makes reference to the fact that animals dream and sleep and that this is a powerful and very obvious indicator that these states are part of our developmental history. Dreaming is very much a part of mammalian psychology and surely Wilber would not suggest that the transpersonal is available to all mammals simply because they experience the waking dreaming and deep sleep states. All mammals and all birds sleep. Homo sapiens are animals as much as any other creature on the planet and our need for sleep and for dreaming is part of the evolutionary history that we share all high life forms.

There are a great many theories of sleep and, for the purposes of the present discussion these can be categorised into those that focus on the exterior behavioural and social explanations and those that focus on the interior consciousness and cultural explanations. Examples of the former are the medical model, the cognitive model, activation-synthesis model, evolutioanry and functional models. Examples of the later include the Freudian and Jungian methods and the more current lucid dreaming models. Let's take the exterior models first very briefly.

The medical, functional and evolutionary models all study sleep and dreaming states in terms of their measurable objective data and then go on to suggest benefits and adaptive advantages that might arise through this rather strange but ubiquitous (among many animal species) behaviour. The basic objective structure of sleep has been very extensively researched and is well understood (I won't reference any of this here as it's all pretty much basic stuff that I'm summarising here). The following table outlines the basic pattern of sleep.

Table 2: The conventional medical model for the stages of sleep

Type of Sleep State/ Stage Behaviour EEG pattern Subjective experience Physiological function and duration
Waking Waking active, eyes open, responsive desynchronous rapid and active beta waves, alpha waves when relaxed waking consciousness normative life activity and goals 16hrs/day
Waking/ Relaxing Sleep preparation greatly reduced activity, eyes close rolling eye movement alpha waves appear move into theta waves cognitive rumination, physical relaxation calming process before sleep onset (sleep proper), 10-15 mins
NonREM transitional sleep stages Stage 1 – transitional stage relaxed, slow regular breathing, slow rolling eye movement theta waves Stage 1 brain actively - wavy lines of regular small undulations suggesting very relaxed state hynogogic experiences, easily roused 5-10mins usually
  Stage 2 relaxed body, brain activity can respond to external stimuli – noise, light, etc. theta waves with brief bursts of brain activity (spindles & K complex) no dreams, easily roused 4hrs/night
NonREM slow wave sleep stages Stage 3 very relaxed, slow regular heart and breathing rate less than 50% of sleep shows delta waves no dreams difficult to rouse growth hormone secreted, muscle healing, 30 min/nt
  Stage 4 very relaxed, slow regular heart and breathing rate more than 50% sleep shows delta waves no dreams difficult to rouse, sleep walking occurs physiological repair, increase growth hormone, 1.5 hrs/night
REM sleep occurs 30 mins after falling asleep rapid eye twitching, extreme loss of body tone, muscle paralysis desynchronous alpha and beta sawtooth waves, (similar to waking state) dreams, self involvement with dream content increased blood flow to brain

The conventional medical model for the sleep stages has found, within each cycle of sleep a progressive deepening of the sleep experience. This is evidenced in all the various sources of data that researchers have developed and includes brain activity, subjective experience, and physiological data. It is interesting to note that the physiological changes of deep sleep are associated with several fundamental aspects of development such as organ growth, muscle development, accelerated body growth, hormonal secretion, blood cells and body tissues rebuilding and repair (especially the skin) and the restoration of physical energy levels. All these changes are obviously also associated with early childhood development. All this supports my contention that sleep is an involutionary process that aids and rejuvenates the very fundamental stages of development. The famous graph of the average nocturnal sleep cycle also supports my involutionary view of sleep. I refer back to Figure 9 which presents this classic depiction of the sleep cycle pattern as an involutionary process. The sleep cycle pattern is precisely the pattern that would be expected of an involutionary process. Interestingly, this cycle also closely resembles that of the recovery of an individual from a involutionary/regressive mental health disorder (very often during adolescence or early adulthood). The sharp dive into very fundamental stages of identity followed by cycles of gradual recovery into more adaptive stages with relapses into further involutionary/regressive episodes all suggest this involutionary pattern. The findings and explanatory framework of the medical model is also confirmed by evolutionary psychology and comparative psychology.

Apart from the basic physiological benefits that flow from the sleep stages there are also many cognitive benefits. It is very well documented that dream sleep is an essential requirement for basic mental health. The sleep deprivation experiments of the 1970's found that extreme psychological distress is caused by the deprivation of REM state of dreaming sleep. Prisoners are routinely tortured by such techniques and during the Stalinist period, particularly after World War 2, many prisoners were driven to suicide and psychosis through the impact, at least in part, of sleep deprivation. Animals also respond to sleep deprivation in the same way. There is very strong evidence that sleep in general, and dreaming sleep in particular, are essential factors in the sustenance of our rational-egoic sense of identity, our emotional-affect sense of balance and control and our somatic and physiological health. All these are involutionary aspects of health. The integrative dynamic inherent in the transcend-and-include configuration of developmental stages means that involutionary process such as dreaming and sleeping are essential for maintaining a stable and healthy sense of personal identity.

The brain structures associated with sleep in an organic sense lie deep within the structure of the organ. The brainstem, the portion of the brain just above the spinal cord, is critical in REM sleep control, while the forebrain, which lies just in front of the brainstem, is particularly important in NREM sleep control. The neurons most critical to NREM sleep control are in the basal forebrain, the region of the brain lying in front of the hypothalamus. The anatomy of brain structures involved in instigating and controlling the sleep process also suggests that relatively primitive functions are being carried out in the sleeping states. The activation-synthesis theory of sleep is, in many ways, the behaviourist approach to understanding dreams. This model is based on explaining dreams via the activation of the reticular formation/brainstem and the input from the cortex in "interpreting" and synthesising that neural activation through dreams. This theory believes dreaming functions as a cleansing process for the immense input and stimulation that the brain receives during the day. In this rather unimaginative approach dreams are considered to be, what Phillips Adams rather disdainfully calls, the "bowel actions of the mind".

Apart from physiological and emotional health sleep is associated with some basic cognitive functions. For example there is growing evidence that sleep serves to consolidate memories and life experiences. Dreams also serve to heal psychological trauma and dissipate the emotional fallout from unpleasant experiences. As such dreams serve as a type of integrative defragging software that cleans, reorders and stores the affective content of experiences. It seems that dreaming sleep fulfils a function for the rational-egoic self which is analogous to that which deep sleep provides for the somatic-physiological self. this is function of repairing, reordering, integration and assimilation.

So these are the findings of the exterior theories and models of sleep. All of them see sleep as a healing integrative process for body and mind. Obviously, such research does not usually take a transpersonal approach to anything let alone sleep, but all of the findings of the conventional models are completely consistent with the view that sleep as an involutionary process and there is nothing in them that suggests that a transpersonal approach is required to explain this standard sleep data that is so consistent across such a overwhelming proportion of our species. (I will deal with the topic of experienced meditators and brain waves in a following section.)

The interior theories of sleep largely focus on the dreaming aspects for natural reasons. Dreams are subjectively accessible and therefore amenable to dialogic techniques and interpretive models and techniques. These theories can be divided into the Freudian pre-personal model and the Jungian transpersonal model. I won't go into any detail on these other than to make the following points. Freud's whole model of dreams sees dreams as indicators of early developmental dynamics or of the affective residue and overflow of the dreamers "day". He said famously that "wish-fulfilment is the meaning of each and every dream." Freud found that dreams share many of the qualities of infantile worldviews and thinking patterns. For example, his concepts of "displacement", where one element stands for another element, and "condensation", where, two or more elements are fused into one relate closely with the rather magical and associative thinking that children display in early infancy.

Jung's theory provides two powerful ways of understanding the dreaming process. First, that dreams are the products of a "collective unconscious." This collective unconscious contains the inherited experiential record of the human species in the form of "archetypes," which are best understood as highly energized patterns or concepts that must be expressed through the personality. Wilber has argued Jung's theory is highly susceptible to the pre-trans category error because it holds a romantic view of growth from the paradise of the child to the duality of the adult then to return via individuation to the original state of unity that was prefigured in childhood. Because Jung often translates pre-normative development and trans-normative he subsequently elevates pre-archetypes to trans-archetypes. This process is particularly true of his theory of dreams.

Second, Jung argued that the archetypes of the collective unconscious express themselves through a set of inherited symbols that also appear in myths, religious ceremonies, and other waking practices. The interpretation of these symbols aids the interpretation of dreams. But Wilber has shown that phylogenetic development also follow a pre-, normative, trans- pattern. Hence, inherited symbols will also folloew such a pattern. Jung's model will consequently again elevate symbols concerning pre- stages of phylogenetic development to trans-stages.

One of the major problems with Jung's approach, and any other transpersonal approach to dreams, is the unfortunate mundanity that dominates the content of almost all dreams. The continuity between dream content and waking life is one of the most striking findings from the most comprehensive content studies of dreams done by Calvin S. Hall, and G. William Domhoff. For example, people dream most often about the individuals and interests that preoccupy them in waking life. (As Domhoff says, "The results are so consistent for these kinds of continuities that Hall adopted the term "continuity hypothesis" to contrast his findings with Jung's "compensation hypothesis.") Archetypes and mythologies play very little part in the need to interpret these dreams. They are often repetitive and concerned solely with the working out of the emotional load of the day. Domhoff says that there is "considerable evidence that adults ... are consistent in what they dream about over months, years, or decades." The Jungian focus on transpersonal interpretations does not seem to be supported by such very stable and largely mundane content that dreams almost always contain.

As Wilber himself has argued, the Jungian approach to dreams is clearly one that runs the risk of raising PTF-2 criticisms. There is no question that Jung's work on dreams and collective symbology is of the greatest importance. I regard him to be, in many ways, one of the most important theorists of the UL quadrant for collective holons. However, while the therapeutic and transformative importance of Jungian dream analysis may be very substantial for ripe individuals I feel that the Jungian method cannot be used as a way of interpreting dream content via transpersonal symbology. It is simply too full of PTF-2 confusion to allow that. What I feel it could really do well, if it cleaned up its PTF-2 predilections, would be to interpret dream contact via pre-personal symbology and myths; in much the same way that Wilber reinterpreted the transpersonal aspects of the Genesis myth into pre-personal phylogenetic development.

In summary, I feel that the various exterior and interior theories of sleep support a model that sees the deep sleep and dreaming states as prepersonal processes. This does not mean that they should be undervalued or see as only physiological functions. It does mean that dreaming and sleeping are demythologised as mysterious states that access the transpersonal realms. But then I would say that this is a good thing. Such a demythologising might make us more aware of the need to develop and grow as best we can in our waking lives where it actually counts.

vi) Studies of highly advanced meditators

Some sages and adepts who realise their transpersonal nature in a stable and prolonged fashion report that they remain aware even in the dreaming and deep sleep states. These reports form one of the strongest arguments for the integrative nature of transpersonal stages of being and knowing. In Boomeritis Ken says that, "we have compelling EEG studies of long-term meditators who remain conscious during all sleep states, including deep dreamless sleep." Such research confirms that when the transpersonal is established as part of one's natural identity it includes previous levels of being such as the somatic, affective and cognitive stages. It shows that the transpersonal, as a stable identity, is not about the dissociation of the self from more fundamental levels of being. The higher includes and integrates the lower. I agree fully, therefore, with the following quote from Wilber on this process.

Evidence suggests that, under conditions generally of prolonged contemplative practice, a person can convert these temporary [transpersonal] states into permanent traits or structures, which means that they have access to these great realms on a more-or-less continuous and conscious basis (Shankara, 1970; Aurobindo, 1990; Walsh, 1999). In the case of the subtle realm, for example, this means that a person will generally begin to lucid dream (which is analogous to savikalpa samadhi--or stable meditation on subtle forms) (LaBerge, 1985); and with reference to the causal, when a person stably reaches that wave, he or she will remain tacitly conscious even during deep dreamless sleep (a condition known as permanent turiya, constant consciousness, subject permanence, or unbroken witnessing, which is analogous to nirvikalpa samadhi, or stable meditation as the formless) (Alexander and Langer, 1990). (Wilber 2003, ¶ 50)

But of course all this is true only for highly developed contemplatives and saints and sages and is not the experience of "everyone". That such adepts experience the Witnessing condition of the causal in deep sleep is no evidence that deep sleep is a causal state for everyone. Because the higher includes the lower we would expect adepts to be able to Witness in all states, including the involutionary states of sleep. The fact that they experience the Witness in dreams and in deep sleep means that their Self is integrating and including those involutionary forms of identity. This evidence confirms the wonderful healing and therapeutic nature of development in that the growth to the new identity then requires an embracing of all junior levels and it brings awareness to all previous developmental identities. However, Ken seems to think that the states of dreaming and deep sleep must be transpersonal just because they can be entered with full awareness as the following indicates.

[The psychic, subtle, causal states] are all variations on the natural states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep--which seems to be why a person at virtually any stage of development can experience any of these nonordinary states (because everybody, even an infant, wakes, dreams, and sleeps). ... Of course, for most people, the dream and deep sleep states are experienced as being less real than the waking state; but with prolonged meditative practice, it is said that these states can be entered with full awareness and an expansion of consciousness, whereupon they yield their higher secrets (Deutsche, 1969; Gyatso, 1986; Walsh, 1999).

Ken is saying here that the true nature of the sleeping states is transpersonal and that "their higher secrets" can only be yielded up when they are experienced by realised adepts. But entering into a lower or junior level of identity with transpersonal awareness does not make that junior level transpersonal. As rational egoic selves, for example, we often bring full awareness to our junior selves, as, for example, in being fully aware of our physical, somatic, sexual, emotional and belongingness/membership identities. But this does not change their essential developmental nature. It does mean that they contribute fully to the integrated stability of the rational-egoic self but it does not mean that the body self or the membership self suddenly become rational-egoic. Bringing awareness to the involutionary states is an integrative and healing function of development not a transformative evolutionary process. Ken seems to be relying too heavily on the traditional PTF-2 views of seers such as Shankara. For example Shankara writes that,

[The sheath of Bliss] is experienced effortlessly by all to some extent in deep sleep, but sadhus who have practices discrimination experience the bliss of it perpetually without effort and in its fullness in the deep sleep sate. However, even this sheath cannot be the Supreme Self, since it is subject to change and possesses attribute. Vivekachudamani 230

Even Shankara adds the caveat here "to some extent" indicating that the experience of "all" of the causal in deep sleep is not quite what it is for the "sadhu". Ramana, who, as we saw, is quite aware of the PTF problem in equating deep sleep with the causal, never spoke of the states in this way. He always used the discussion of awareness in sleep as a way of confirming the validity of the integrated nature of Self realisation. He never uses the states model as a way of arguing that the sleep states are transpersonal in themselves or that entering them with awareness can initiate transformation or realisation.

Waking, dream and [deep] sleep are mere phases of the mind, not of the Self. The Self is the witness of these states ... Though present in sleep, the self is then not perceived. It cannot be known in sleep straightaway. It must first be realised in the waking state for it is our true nature underlying all three states. Effort must be made in the waking state and the Self realised here and now. It will then be understood to be the continuous Self uninterrupted by the alteration of waking dream and deep sleep. (Osbourne, 1977, p.25)

My view on lucid dreaming as a transpersonal practice is, therefore, rather different to ken's. For me lucid dreaming is primarily an integrative healing practice rather than a transformative one. Many studies on lucid dreaming say that the skill can be acquired after "a one-hour individual session, which consisted of lucid dreaming exercises". This suggest to me that whatever the individuals were experiencing in their dreams it wasn't a transpersonal one. The contemplative disciplines are notoriously arduous and prolonged paths of transformation and a one-hour training session won't do the trick usually. Report of spontaneous lucidity in dreams are also very common. Survey studies have shown that the majority of college students report having experienced at least one lucid dream and that about 20 percent report lucid dreams once a month or more (Snyder & Gackenbach, 1988). In the same way that pointing out exercises can give a rational sense of the Witnessing state, lucid dreaming might give a flavour of the transitory nature of the rational egoic self. But this is hardly a transpersonal state or state of any variety. So, I am yet to be convinced that lucid dreaming by itself will promote transformation to the transpersonal.

Ken often makes the point that there are "compelling EEG studies of long-term meditators who remain conscious during all sleep states, including deep dreamless sleep".  I have no problem with accepting such views.  However, I do contest the assumption that because both deep sleep and advanced meditative states both show delta waves in their EEG patterns they must then be accessing the same transpersonal state.  Brain wave measurement via an EEG is a very imprecise and rough one indicator of internal state of consciousness.  For example, there are many different states that are associated with the same brain waves.  It is true that during meditation brain waves alter but that happens with many other waking states e.g. day dreaming.  Here are some states associated with different brain waves.     

  • Beta: 13-30 cycles per second - awaking awareness, extroversion, concentration, logical thinking - active conversation. A debater would be in high beta. A person making a speech, or a teacher, or a talk show host would all be in beta when they are engaged in their work.
  • Alpha: 7-13 cycles per second - relaxation times, non-arousal, meditation, hypnosis
  • Theta: 4-7 cycles per second - day dreaming, dreaming, creativity, meditation, driving a car (A person who is driving on a freeway, and discovers that they can't recall the last five miles, is often in a theta state - induced by the process of freeway driving. This can also occur in the shower or tub or even while shaving or brushing your hair. It is a state where tasks become so automatic that you can mentally disengage from them. The ideation that can take place during the theta state is often free flow and occurs without censorship or guilt. It is typically a very positive mental state. )
  • Delta: 1.5-4 or less cycles per second - deep dreamless sleep, trance, deep hypnosis, coma, some very advanced meditators.

It is this delta wave finding in advanced meditators that is the real issue.  While brain waves look similar between deep sleep and advanced meditative states there are other very different aspects to their brain activity which may indicate that subjective states of deep sleepers and meditators might be very different.  Very advanced meditators have increased activity in the left prefrontal lobes.  This is not seen in deep sleep.  Apart from this consideration, there are other states that exhibit delta waves other than deep sleep and deep meditation.  Should we regard these other conditions, for example, deep hypnosis and trance and some comatose states as states of the causal/transpersonal?  I don't think that there is any justification for doing so.  Brain activity is a rough objective measure of neurological behaviour and we all know that the same behaviour can be carried out while the internal state of the subject can be very different.  Correlation in behaviour, or brain waves, is no precise indicator of internal state.  If we fall into the trap of equating brain waves with internal states we will simply confirm those sceptics who argue that meditation is "nothing but" type of a type of self-induced trance rather than any state of heightened awareness. 

The Wilber-Combs Grid

The Wilber-Combs grid is a way of categorising the experience and interpretation of transitory states of consciousness. It crosses several levels of development with the three great realms (Ken says states in the following but he means realms) of the gross/psychic, the subtle and the causal. This is explained by Wilber as follows (Except G ¶, 112)

"If for arguments sake, we say that there are 10 waves/ stages /chakras /structures /memes/ sheaths/ levels of consciousness, and 3 great states of consciousness (gross/ psychic, subtle, causal), then we would have a grid or lattice of 30 different types of altered states or peak experiences. You could have a purple experience of psychic-nature mysticism, a green experience of nature mysticism, a turquoise experience of nature mysticism, and so on. You could also have a red experience of subtle-deity mysticism, a blue experience of deity mysticism, a yellow experience of deity mysticism, and so forth. All in all, some 30 very different, but very real, types of altered states and spiritual experiences.

"Of course, you can also add the various types of non-natural or induced states, and this would fill out the lattice even more. Fleshing out that lattice is a very important part of the ongoing development of a truly integral psychology. But, as I suggested, the main themes are already present using natural states and stages, so if you generally understand why there are, say, at least 30 major types of altered states, then you have the central points.

Now this is fine but the problem here is that Ken uses the very messy breakdown of gross/psychic, subtle, causal when we should be using integral theory basis structures on both axes of the grid. As I believe I have shown Ken equates waking dreaming and deep sleep with the gross, subtle and causal realms respectively so this immediately injects the problematic PTF-2 into the grid. The gross subtle causal model is also the old traditional Vedantic model and there is simply no reason to use it now that we have the much better defined levels of integral theory. These levels should be used on both axes. Also the definitional problems, with the terms gross, psychic and subtle are notoriously confusing, as Ken has noted several times. So instead of having a magic, mythic, or rule mind or role mind interpretation of a gross subtle of causal states, why not just have a magic, mythic, or rule mind or role mind interpretation of a pre-personal, personal or transpersonal state. My suggestion for a detailed taxonomy of states would be based on the following grid structure.

Centre of gravity
of Self System
Pre-Personal state Personal state Transpersonal state
Archaic ###########    
Magic ###########    
Mythic ###########    
Rational   ###########  
Pluralist   ###########  
Integrativev   ###########  
Psychic     ###########
Subtle     ###########
Causal     ###########

This grid could be greatly expanded by crossing the nine (or more if necessary) levels shown here with the same nine states. Notice that for the junior levels the personal and transpersonal states will be interpreted as transcendent and mysterious conditions that come from the exterior, i.e. above, beyond or other worldly; for the personal levels the pre-personal and transpersonal states can be interpreted as coming from any direction (hence the PTF); and for the senior levels the junior states can be interpreted as coming from below, within or this worldly. The corresponding pathologies of these levels will then reflect these interpretive slants, i.e. the vengeful transcendent god of the junior levels, the evil immanence of the body, sense and the lower world, and either or both for the poor old ego who cops it from both ends.


The foregoing has been my attempt to see how Wilber's theory of states might be improved to conform with the rest of the Integral theory model and in particular with its PTF theorem. Wilber has brilliantly outlined the pre-personal, personal, to transpersonal nature of developmental transformation. This model now needs to used as a filter for reviewing the wonderful traditional models of the Vedanta and Vajrayana so that a consistent integral theory of states can be further developed. I propose that the involutionary nature of the sleep states be fully and completely recognised and integrated with the states theory. Such a view will open up a new understanding of the crucial nature of involutionary processes for the maintenance of the self system. t might also relieve us of the age-old futile burden of trying to find the transpersonal in the beautiful, simple darkness of deep sleep and the entrancing illusions of our nightly fantasies rather than in the dreams for the future that we bring into the cold, hard light of each good day.

Read also Part 1


Aurobindo Evolution Part 2: The Inconscient In volume 16, "The Supramental Manifestation and Other Writings" – Pondicherry:

Osbourne, A. (1977) The teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in his own words. Tiruvannamalai, South India: Sri Ramanasramam.

Shankara (1974) Drik Drisya Viveka. (Ramana Maharshi trans.). In The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, Ed. A. Osbourne, 270 – 276. Tiruvannamalai, South India: Sri Ramanashramam.

Snyder, T. J. & Gackenbach, J. (1988). Individual differences associated with lucid dreaming. In J. Gackenbach & S. LaBerge (Eds.), Conscious mind, sleeping brain: Perspectives on lucid dreaming (pp. 221-259). New York: Plenum.

Wilber, K. (1999a) The collected works of Ken Wilber: Volume one. Boston: Shambhala.

Wilber, K. (1999b) The collected works of Ken Wilber: Volume four. Boston: Shambhala.

Wilber, K. (1999c) The collected works of Ken Wilber: Volume three. Boston: Shambhala.

Wilber, K. (2000a) The collected works of Ken Wilber: Volume six. Boston: Shambhala.

Wilber, K. (2000b) The collected works of Ken Wilber: Volume eight. Boston: Shambhala

Wilber, K. (2002a) Sidebar G: States and stages - Part I. The relation of states of consciousness and stages of consciousness: No model is complete without both. Retrieved 24/10/03 from http://

Wilber, K. (2002b) Sidebar G: states and stages - Part II. States and stages in development. Retrieved 24/10/03 from http://

Wilber, K. (2003a) Kosmic consciousness: Disc four - states of consciousness. Boulder, Co: Sounds True.

Wilber, K. (2003b) On the nature of a post-metaphysical spirituality - Response to Habermas and Weis. Retrieved 24/10/03 from http://

Wilber, K. (2003c) The Kosmos trilogy, volume 2 - Excerpt G: Toward a comprehensive theory of subtle energies. Retrieved 24/10/03 from http://

Wilber, K. (2003d) The Kosmos trilogy, volume 2 – Excerpt D: The Look of a Feeling: The Importance of Post/Structuralism. Retrieved 24/10/03 from http://

Wilber, K. (2003e) The Kosmos trilogy, volume 2 – Excerpt A: An integral age at the leading edge. Retrieved 24/10/03 from http://

Wilber, K. (2003f) On critics, integral institute, my recent writing, and other matters of little consequence: A shambhala interview with ken wilber. Retrieved 24/10/03 from http://

Wilber, K. (2003g) Waves, Streams, States, and Self--A Summary of My Psychological Model (Or, Outline of An Integral Psychology). Retrieved 24/10/03 from http://

Wilber, K. (2003h) Sidebar D: Childhood Spirituality Retrieved 24/10/03 from http://

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