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

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L. Ron Gardner is a mystic-philosopher and devotes his life to living and communicating the Truth. In addition to elaborating on his own Dharma, he enjoys analyzing other ones and presenting his unique and penetrating insights in a clear and engaging manner. Prior to launching his writing career at the age of sixty, he was self-employed in various capacities, including astrologer-counselor, computer consultant, and sportsbetting arbitrager. He has a B.A in sociology from the University of California, San Diego, and studied Marxism under the iconic Herbert Marcuse at UCSD. He is an unabashed Ron Paul Revolution fan and quasi-Objectivist/libertarian, and delights in intellectually carving up statists and “integral” globalists. See:
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the author
and do not necessarily reflect those of Integral World (FV).

Beyond Ken Wilber's Integral Psychology

L. Ron Gardner

[This is an excerpt from my book Electrical Christianity: A Revolutionary Guide to Jesus' Teachings and Spiritual Enlightenment. More articles are available at my blog:]

What's your vision of psychology and how it relates to spirituality?

Mainstream psychology has badly missed the boat by not utilizing astrology as a tool for soul-understanding, or psyche-ology.

My “vision” of psychology (the study of the soul, or psyche) is an integral one, but it differs markedly from New Age thinker Ken Wilber's. Whereas Wilber, in his book Integral Psychology, attempts to integrate various schools of psychology into various matrices and an overarching hierarchical schema, my “integral” approach will be to consider the psyche (or soul) in the contexts of the three primary planes of existence—spiritual, physical, and psychical (or mental).

Because I haven't devoted myself to formulating or constructing a comprehensive, in-depth “Integral Psychology” per se, my “vision” will not be totally clear or intricately organized. In fact, it would probably take my writing a book on the subject for me to fully develop it. Nonetheless, I believe my embryonic “vision” will provide positive direction and useful insights for anyone interested in the field of integral psychology.

Electrical Christianity: A Revolutionary Guide to Jesus' Teachings and Spiritual Enlightenment

I'm going to call my “vision” Integral Psyche-ology, because I believe that integral psychology is about the holistic study of the psyche, the living soul. And because the dynamic nature of the soul is spirit, living energy, I maintain that any “integral” study of the psyche must account for its correlative spirit-energy. Moreover, because the human soul—at least in a given lifetime—is encased within a physical body, any integral, or holistic, consideration of the psyche must also be psycho-somatic in nature: that is, incorporate the corporeal into the study. And, of course, any consideration of the soul must also attempt to decipher it psychically: that is, to analyze its root psychical “structure,” which is composed of myriad mental-emotional seed tendencies.

Now, let's start our consideration of Integral Psyche-ology with the psychical deciphering of the soul itself. An individual's “soul-matrix” (the composite of psychical seed tendencies that “sprouts” as his mind and emotions) is located in his Sacred (or Mystical) Heart-center, just to the right of the center of his chest. Hindu yogis call this Heart-center the Hridayam, and it is distinct from the anahata heart chakra in the sushumna, the central nadi, or subtle-body nerve channel. I'm not going to waste my time trying to prove this is true. You can only prove it to yourself, yogically. But it is my experience and that of many revered sages, including, most notably, Ramana Maharshi, India's greatest guru in the twentieth century.

When one's psychical seed-tendencies, which the Hindu yogis call samskaras, “sprout,” instantaneously rising up from the Hridayam (the Heart, or Soul, “center”) to one's brain via Amrita Nadi (the non-physical yogic channel connecting the soul and the brain), then the psychical seed-tendencies crystallize as impulses, desires, and thoughts. Embodied consciousness, the individual soul, is located in the Heart-center, and the brain is the organ or mechanism through which this consciousness functions as mind.

I second Plato's tripartite vision of the soul (cognitive, conative, and affective), and the psychical seed-tendencies reflect various admixtures of these three soul “elements.” The seed-tendencies “hook up” in manifold concatenations in the soul, and the resulting psychical formations translate into identifiable impulses, desires, and thoughts via the brain. I don't want to get sidetracked into a lengthy, technical elaboration on the complex “seed-to-thought” (or soul-to-brain) mechanism, so I'll move on to the “deciphering” of one's soul, the process of psychological self-understanding.

Psychological Self-understanding and Holistic Healing

Ken Wilber acknowledges the enneagram (a ninefold typology of personality types), but not astrology, as a means to psychological self-understanding. Unbeknownst to Wilber, the enneagram is derived from astrology, which subsumes and transcends it as a system of human classification and understanding. The nine enneagram types mirror the “qualities,” “traits,” or “energies” of the first nine astrological planets—Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Pluto is missing because the enneagram originated prior to the discovery of Pluto in 1930. Consequently, even on a superficial level, the enneagram is an incomplete tool for self- and other-understanding. But because Wilber is partially buried in the very zeitgeist “flatland” he heavily criticizes, he buys into the conventionally acceptable enneagram while rejecting the far more complete occult oversystem of astrology, from which it derives.

Wilber rejects astrology because various studies have found it an ineffective predictive tool. But the findings of these studies are not surprising, because the “stars” only impel, they do not compel. Person-centered astrology, which holistically oriented astrologers practice, is not about fortune telling; it is about deciphering psychical tendencies. And because these tendencies are contextual—existing within a particular human being who is a product of unique heredity and social conditioning—an astrologer can only be effective when he considers a chart integrally: that is, relative to a whole person. Such an “integral” consideration elevates astrology from a “horizontal” (conventional or flat) typology to a “vertical,” or multi-level, tool of self- and other- understanding. Moreover, it enables a psychologist to apply it to almost any field of psychology, such as humanistic, cognitive, sociocultural, psychodynamic, and learning.

Astrology is a nonpareil tool for deciphering the soul-matrix, the blueprint or map of an individual's karma, or inborn seed-tendencies, which manifest as his personality and life-energies. A competent professional astrologer can teach a client far more about himself—his personal strengths and weaknesses and areas of harmony and disharmony—than any conventional psychologist. Even the Myers-Briggs personality types, which Ken Wilber acknowledges in his Integral Psychology, can be subsumed under astrology. The four fundamental personality types in Myers-Briggs—feeling, sensation, intuition, thinking—correlate almost exactly with the four astrological elemental types—water, earth, fire, and air.

For example, if an individual has the majority of his astrological planets in Cancer, a water sign, his primary mode of interfacing with the world will be via the function of feeling. As a long-time professional astrologer, I could write volumes about astrology and its relation with psychology, but, again, I don't want to go off on a long tangent. So, all I will say here is that mainstream psychology has badly missed the boat by not utilizing astrology as a tool for soul-understanding, or psyche-ology; and to my mind, any practice of psychology that doesn't include astrology cannot be considered “integral.”

Astrology doesn't just provide insight into one's mind and personality; it's also a source of information about one's body and physical constitution. But an even better tool for “reading” the human body is iridology (or iridiagnosis), analysis of the physical vehicle via examination of the iris, which reflects the inborn strengths and weaknesses and current condition of one's body—organs, glands, nervous system, et al. Because a human being is a body-mind complex, a person's body and mind are inextricably linked. Consequently, when an iridologist examines an individual's iris, he sees not only his body, but to an extent his mind, reflected particularly in his inborn constitution and the current condition of his brain and nervous system. For example, if the iridologist notes heavy “pressure” on a particular region of the brain, indicated by markings in the iris, he'll know that the person has an ego problem and functions under extreme stress.

Iridology is by no means the only modality for “reading” the constitution and current condition of the body (and its relation to the mind), but to my knowledge, it is the best. An integral holistic healer, which is what a general psychologist (or “soul doctor”) should be, could also incorporate other tried-and-true tools of diagnosis, such as Indian Ayurveda, into his repertoire, and thus be able to obtain an even more complete picture of a client's psycho-physical state. And if a consideration of astrological transits (the current position of the planets relative to one's natal chart) were added to the mix, then the healer would have an integral picture of the client's body-mind condition and could recommend an appropriate holistic regimen to rejuvenate and balance his organism. Such a regimen would likely incorporate diet, herbs, and bodywork (including “gross-body” practices such as massage and chiropractic, and “subtle-body” ones such as acupuncture and jin shin jyutsu).

The Soul as Energy

Now that we've considered the soul from a psycho-physical perspective, we'll look at it from an energetic one. The common occult term for “soul-matrix” is “astral body,” and the astral body (the repository of one's psychical seed-tendencies) has an energetic correlate or dimension called the etheric body, which permeates the physical body and, as an aura, extends, or emanates, beyond it. When a psychic “reads” a person's aura, she, in effect, is reading his soul.

The soul is consciousness, and consciousness is energy. Therefore, the freer a man's consciousness is, the more radiant is his aura. The ordinary man's soul, or consciousness, due to his incessant grasping (or clinging and craving), is in a chronic state of contraction; thus his aura, or etheric body, is less than pristine and shining.

If psychology is to be truly integral, or “soul-full,” it must account for the existence of, and correlation between, a man's astral and etheric bodies. Moreover, it must also explain this correlation in a relational context—the interdynamics involved when the astral and etheric bodies of one individual interact with those of another. And only astrology, via its “map” or “blueprint” of a person's astral body (or psychical matrix), provides graphic insight into the intrinsic chemistry and energy involved when the soul (or consciousness “structure”) and spirit (energy emanating from the soul) of one person interact with those of another. Hence, until and unless psychology embraces astrology, it will remain in the dark when it comes to understanding the “chemistry” and “superphysics” involved in interpersonal relationships.

But it isn't enough for psychology to understand intra-and interpersonal astral-etheric dynamics; for it to be truly integral, its practitioners must also be able to teach people the Way to free their souls—and the Way to this salvation is the Eucharist, the practice of Holy Communion, or Plugged-in Presence. This practice pulls down Spirit Power, which irradiates one's psyche, thereby allowing one's soul to “expand” (or de-contract) and thereby shine through and beyond its physical encasing, the body. This pulled-down Spirit Power, or Saving Grace from above, is a man's only true salvation. And an integral psychologist, or holistic “soul doctor,” will prescribe this “medicine,” and no other, to free the souls of his patients from their root suffering, the self (or soul)-contraction.

So an integral psychologist could teach Holy Communion to a Christian and the same practice to an atheist, but just call it Plugged-in Presence.

Yes. And once the atheist awakened pulled-down Power, the living Spirit, he would no longer be an atheist.

You say freedom cannot be attained—that it is always already the case. But you also say that that one's soul must be divinized by the Spirit before one can awaken and be free. This seems like a contradiction.

Your True Nature, or Christ Self, is always already free, so in that sense this freedom cannot be attained—but you cannot realize this Self-freedom until you crack open the Heart-knot tying off, or “imprisoning,” your inner Splendor. And only Grace, the Holy Spirit, can untie the Heart-knot and set you unconditionally free, as the splendorous Self.

Even in religions like original Buddhism, where the Holy Spirit isn't explicitly mentioned, its action is implicit. For instance, in the Pali Canon, the standard scriptures of the Theravada tradition, the Buddha equates the attainment of Nirvana with what he terms the “Heart-release.” For any kind of knot to “release” there must be action—and the only action that can open the Heart is that of the Spirit. In fact, if you read Theravada Buddhist scriptures, you will repeatedly see the Buddha referred to as “the Blessed One.” Well, if he is the “Blessed One,” what has “Blessed,” or is “Blessing,” him? The Same Holy Spirit that Blessed Jesus and which Blesses all other great mystics. And when Mahayana Buddhism developed from Theravada Buddhism, the Holy Spirit (or Ghost), which the Mahayanists term the Sambhogakaya, became part of the Buddhist Triple Body (Trikaya), which mirrors the Christian Trinity.

Radical Psycho-Spirituality versus Holy Communion

Why don't you teach radical understanding instead of Eucharistic spirituality?

For two reasons: First, only rare individuals are capable of practicing it. Second, why dispense with the wonderful mystical teachings of Christianity, which emphasize Grace and devotion? Most people want a spiritual practice that includes the warmth and affection of a personal relationship with the Deity, and mystical Christianity provides this. Even though I teach gnostic Electrical Christianity, I do so as a supplement to devotional communion. All are free to practice pure gnostic connectedness, but most prefer devotionally worshipping the Spirit and receiving its Blessing Power. And so that is what I emphasize in my teaching.

I like the idea of being able to turn my atheist friends on to Plugged-in Presence and Ohm's Law and my Christian friends on to Eucharistic spirituality.

That's the right attitude, one that enables a disciple to convert most anyone to the practice of Divine Communion. Open-minded Christians will love learning a method to commune with the Holy Spirit; Buddhists will dig Plugged-in Presence because it's really mindfulness on 'roids, mindfulness elevated to Mind-full-ness; and guys into science will be intrigued with the idea of applying Ohm's Law to “expand” their consciousness.

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