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INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
is 34 and lives in Odessa, Ukraine. He's got two high degrees in mathematics and psychology from Odessa State University where he has learned and worked. He's currently employed in high technologies and communications. For over the last 20 years he has studied and practiced mysticism. For a certain period of time he has traveled in India, Nepal, Tibet where he studied Buddhism and Advaita-Vedanta. He is founder and co-editor of the portal www.integralportal.ru
Union of Integral and Transpersonal:
On Some Aspects of the Complete
and the Possibility of
Convergence of the Two Approaches
Grounds of the integral worldview
for transpersonal psychologists and practitioners
For the XVII world transpersonal congress
“Revolution of Consciousness”
- The Spectrum of Consciousness and Subject of Integral Approach
- On Consciousness Mapping
- Two Steps on the Way from Transpersonality to Integrality
- Honoring All Truths
- Step 1: Contribution of Postmodernism to Consciousness Studies
- Step 2: What is Integralism after all
- Components of Integral Model of Consciousness
- On Science and Methodology
- Concluding remarks
Even today an overwhelming number of psychologists do not have a clear idea about what is embraced by the Integral approach (IA) and how it is different from different schools of psychology and philosophy. The most common and extremely limited understanding is that integrality just collects different approaches and descriptive models of human being and combines them into a single integral system. Meanwhile, the integral worldview is based on radically different subject of consideration. In this article I will briefly demonstrate what exactly and how does Wilber combine and how it can be useful for transpersonal studies that are sorely in need of change of existing paradigm and full-fledged model of consciousness. A special attention will be given to the following issues: foundations of integral worldview, key role of postmodernism discoveries for the studies of consciousness, and substantiating the model of consciousness.
The Spectrum of Consciousness and Subject of Integral Approach (IA)
Throughout their history philosophy and psychology described a wide spectrum of states and levels of consciousness. Theories and methods of psychology are addressed to different levels of this spectrum, each level of which is associated with particular experiences and specific self-identification. In order to demonstrate subjects, goals and relations of transpersonal and integral approaches let us address to “spectrum of Consciousness”.
The Wilber's model of “spectrum of Consciousness” that he suggested in 1977 is underlain by a conception of human personality as multilevel manifestation or expression of single Consciousness. This is a multidimensional approach to the individual: each level of spectrum corresponds to a particular, familiar feeling of individual self-identity stretching from cosmic Consciousness through a number of steps or zones to extremely limited feeling of self-identity connected with ego-consciousness.
Among numerous levels we can chose five main ones that are essential to elucidate our subject. Resting upon those we will see the main landmarks of development and goals facing the schools of psychology.
1. Level of Shadow
Under influence of different conditions a human being can repress different aspects of himself and disidentify with those limiting the realm of identification only to parts of “ego” that can be named “persona”. This is the level of shadow: identification with depleted and distorted self-image, the rest of psychic tendencies – too painful or undesirable – are repressed as shadow content.
Therapy of this level consists in getting into contact with shadow and restoring the rejected elements, which broadens the scope of human self-identification. This way the gap between persona and shadow is eliminated and you get an accurate and satisfactory self-image.
2. Level of Ego
On this level a human is not identified with his organism. Due to different reasons he rather identifies himself only with the picture of his organism. Hi is identified with his “ego” or self-image. This way the whole organism becomes split up into bodiless soul and body, the very person self-identifies with psyche and believes that he exists not as a body, but in a body.
Therapy of this level widens the human self-identification to all the aspects of the whole organism. Here you need not so much to restore the image of the whole organism as to be this whole organism.
3. Existential level
Here a human self-identifies solely with his whole psychophysical organism existing in space and time; this is the first level where a distinguished boundary is set between self and something else, between organism and environment.
Here therapy solves the problems of inclination for death, meaning of being and gives rise to broadening the identity beyond one's own body-mind, initially towards the social humanism.
4. Transpersonal zones
These zones correspond to the super individual sphere of spectrum where a person does not realize its identity to All yet, its self-identification is not longer limited to the scope of organism, but is moving towards the spiritual and transcendental dimensions of being. The accent lies in obliteration of dualistic opposition of persona, “ego” and body, due to which the base of neuroses of existential and egoistic levels is being destroyed.
Sometimes transpersonal layer is experienced as a super individual Witness capable to notice the stream of what is happening without interference. The Witness is just watching the flow of events in an impartial way. When a person realizes that his mind and body can be taken objectively he also spontaneously realizes that they cannot correspond to a really subjective self. Therapy of this zone is addressed to strengthening the state of Witness, which is the foundation of all initial spiritual practices.
5. Level of Spirit
Here we approach the integral understanding. The point is that the spectrum of consciousness does not end with the transpersonal zones. The most important proposition of perennial psychology is that our consciousness in its deepest nature is identical with absolute or utmost reality of the Universe that can be just called Spirit or Big Mind. Accordingly to the universal tradition Spirit is everything that exists; it is everlasting and endless; nothing exists beyond it. On this level we all are identical with the Spirit, or, to be more precise, we are the Spirit.
Eternal psychology does not consider this level anomalous or even just “altered” state of consciousness; most likely this is the only real and natural state of consciousness regarding all others as illusive. In other words, our deepest and only Consciousness is identical with Absolute Reality of the Universe. This is the level of Big Mind, Kosmic Consciousness, and Supreme self-identity of human being.
The difference between “minor” mysticism and “true” mysticism simultaneously is the difference between transpersonal Witness and integral All-inclusiveness. Transpersonal Witness is the “position” of witnessing the reality. In the state of transpersonal Witness the subtle forms of the primary dualism, i.e. the opposition of the Witness and the witnessed, are retained. And only after these last traces of dualism completely have been overcome a human awakens to one Spirit, because at this moment the Witness and the witnessed become one and the same.
This is the main difference between “minor” mystical state of transpersonal self and true mystical state that is actually Consciousness. In the former a human being can witness the reality while in the latter he himself is the reality. The former invariably keeps some subtle form of primary dualism while the latter does not have it. A person reaches the very depths of his being and eventually he finds what is seen as impersonal “experience by the Universe of itself”.
Therapeutic goal of this level is to eliminate the last dualism. The disappearance of dualism of subject and object at the same time is the disappearance of dualism of the past and the future, life and death, so that a human being awakens like from a dream to the spaceless and timeless world of Kosmic Consciousness. Therapy (or rather practices) of this level are the non-dual practices of all schools of mysticism.
On Consciousness Mapping
The levels of spectrum reflect the spheres of self-identification narrowing from the Universe to its particular aspects – soul, organism, ego, persona. Each main level of spectrum is characterized by its self-identification, the method of cognition, dualism or dualistic system, type of unconscious processes and so on. Each level in this spectrum has a psychological model addressed to it. The last non-dual level is not an exception.
Integral approach is a model of exactly this level where Consciousness is impersonal and non-dual and combines the whole world of Form and Emptiness. As spiritual traditions maintain, since different levels of consciousness are an outcome of dualism they can exist only illusively, while Spirit remains as the reality of each level. The sequence of oppositions (organism and environment, life and death, psyche and body, persona and shadow) unfolds the levels of Spectrum of Consciousness all the way to Spirit that is both the highest level and the foundation of all sequence. At this level there is no longer any difference between Consciousness and Spirit, and exactly this invariable, impersonal and absolute Consciousness is the core of study of Integral approach.
In the middle of the 16th century Copernicus published his main work “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies” that overthrew the established views about the universe. In his book it was asserted that the Earth could not be the center of the universe, it only could be one of the planets, revolving on their orbits. At the end of the 20th century Ken Wilber suggested a model, according to which human consciousness is not the center of an experience; it is only one fourth of the whole kosmic experience, being inherent in Spirit every moment. Now egocentrism of the individual consciousness has to give up its central place to the real center of experience – non-dual ground of being, Kosmic Consciousness, divine subject. Neither individual consciousness nor phenomenological state become the object for study of the integral approach, the experience of the very Spirit does that, but the way it can be seen from the human perspective.
As different directions of psychology the Integral psychology studies consciousness and its manifestations. However, the meaning that is attached to the term Consciousness is radically different here. According to Wilber, Consciousness (with uppercase letter) is everything that is, including individual consciousness (with lowercase letter), matter, cultural and social systems. It is all the interior and exterior, individual and collective in gross, subtle and causal worlds. Consciousness is the whole Kosmos, the world of Emptiness and Form, the Universe. You cannot find a separate phenomenon named “Consciousness” in any scope of experience. Consciousness more likely is spread to all four quadrants in all different levels and dimensions. Any kosmic event is regarded by IA as a phenomenon in Big Mind, in all-embracing Spirit that simultaneously has personal and impersonal aspects. The experience of an event by human reflects only one of many aspects of any phenomenon happening in Kosmos (Wilber's word).
Thereby, the question of creating the integral map doesn't come to the question of mapping the human psyche; it applies to all being, to the whole Kosmos. Such approach is justified, because the absolute experience of reaching the consciousness in all spiritual traditions shows the ability of an individual to reach a non-dual state, from height of which nothing is different from Consciousness. In other words, the question of studying Consciousness comes to the fact how we experience Consciousness in states and stages that are lower than non-dual state, in which there is no difference between emptiness and form, between exterior and interior, between subject and object. Before any attempts to describe it, Wilber reached this “state” too, as it was also reached by thousands of other enlightened people at all times. So the Integral theory is based on the real experience provable by spiritual practice.
Integral map of Being and Consciousness is a comprehensive model of the structure of any kosmic event, what is in many aspects different from the subject of most transpersonal studies, for which mapping the consciousness is generally description of different types of peak experiences.
Vast majority of theories of consciousness in the first place implies that it is characteristic only for the 1st person and in the second place that it is only connected with intellectual activity in gross world. Therefore, these theories face very serious problems regarding phenomena that don not go into these narrow concepts. Transpersonal psychology studies the states of consciousness that is extended beyond ego. As opposed to these approaches, where the very formulation about broadening of consciousness implicitly implies that we consider something less as norm, integrality extremely extends the notion of Consciousness both horizontally (quadrants, interior and material aspects) and vertically (gross, subtle and causal states and all existing stages) and regards Consciousness as fundamental unit.
Two Steps on the Way from Transpersonality to Integrality
So integral understanding of Consciousness comes from non-dual level, when not just gross, subtle and even causal spheres are witnessed, but when the gap is overcome and duality between subject and object is eliminated. Integral understanding of Consciousness appeared from the enlightened consciousness of a mystic, for whom any phenomenon appears like the one having simultaneously exterior and interior, individual and collective dimensions (all four quadrants or perspectives), which obviously goes beyond any psychology at all.
The most important component of the integral map is the quadrants implying that any kosmic event or reason has inner and outer aspect, and individual and collective dimension. Each quadrant corresponds to a part of the reality irreducible to another quadrant. AQAL insists that any event has four quadrants that are fundamental perspectives underlying any worldview. These quadrants form subjective, objective, intersubjective and interobjective realms of existence.
Every moment and every event tetra-arise simultaneously in all quadrants together with subject and object, being implanted in cultural and social systems. All four appear at the same time and they are inseparably connected. Quadrants always arise simultaneously, they are tetra-harmonized, they tetra-interact, tetra-evolve at any level, whether it is an individual, society, Consciousness or present moment. None of the quadrants is ontologically more weighty or considerable. Also no quadrant is inside or within other quadrant – they are not reduced to one another, which is a major statement of AQAL that is able to reconcile the endlessly fighting camps. At the same time neither people nor objects, nor relations in the world are the first and foremost: they are just different perspectives or dimensions of AQAL matrix.
The Wilber's Integral psychology is the probable view on the phenomenon of the individual consciousness (or psychology) from integral approach point of view (studying “Consciousness”) that leaves the true intentionality to Spirit and sees consciousness as integrated derivative of language, culture and history and as one coordinated with other three quadrants. Thereby, integral psychology along with phenomenology uses structuralism as major research instrument.
Being multidimensional, “all quadrants, all levels” approach stopped to be just a psychology, so it never managed to become the fifth power despite the separate attempts to name it this way. On the contrary, integral psychology is the imprescriptible property of Cosmology, and its practice is the movement of the very Kosmos. Integral statement is that, since “all quadrants, all levels” model corresponds to the reality more, the evolution of other powers of psychology into conscious “all quadrants, all levels” openness has the imprescriptible value from the future's perspective.
An extraordinary peculiarity of psychology is that its true subject is indefinable, but every time it is re-definable. Every researcher sees psychology exactly as deeply as he sees himself. Psychotherapist can integrate the dualism only to the level that he has already overcome and see the phenomena of consciousness that he reached himself. As a rule, having reached their limits on one or another level of understanding, psychotherapists of different schools take up a defensive position and criticize everything that is above setting up only the truths of their level for the whole. The difficulty is that it is impossible to understand the next level – you can only transform to it.
Definitions and maps of consciousness usually reflect only the developmental level of the very authors, their significant, but partial perspective, and from this viewpoint you can trace back the history of development of psychology and evolution of its subject as the history of development of consciousness of the very researchers. At different times the subject of psychology was physiological acts, behavior, personality, individual and collective unconscious, morals, meanings, values, transpersonal phenomena. The subject of psychology appears as evolution of various perspectives on one's own Self.
For many years transpersonal psychology was avant-garde of consciousness studies openly resisting the rude positivism. Today it is in the same situation unto the integral psychology as the humanistic and existential ones are unto it. Humanists just do not have such extensive transpersonal experience. For many of them this part of reality does not exist. Transpersonalists do not have non-dual experience and there are no such psychedelics that let you experience it. So it turns out that the perspective of Integral approach is obscure.
If we consider transpersonality and integrality just as patterns, then fear and misunderstanding in the face of integrality is the fear of life in the face of death. Transpersonality as a pattern is about freedom, creativity and omnipotence of individual. He is transpierced by the great search for big identity. Integrality is about complete liberation, death and finding yourself as Spirit. This is already not just a death of individual Ego in the face of transpersonal being, but much more intensive fear towards the dissolution in the emptiness of impersonal infinity. This defines the known tension in the relations of two approaches.
In this connection the understanding of deep differences of transpersonality and integrality lies through the relation to the subject. Transpersonality studies peak experiences of subject, integrality – impersonal kosmic phenomena. Transpersonal approach is a level of Soul and Witness, and defining Consciousness from this height (or perspective) always implies primary nature of subject. Only here it is real, and true phenomena are unfolding in its consciousness. In integral approach the subject to a certain extent is illusive and it is only one of the aspects of impersonal experience. Integral level suggests the definition of Consciousness without subject as a kingpin, which by the way completely coordinates with the philosophy of Buddhism, ontology of which is the ontology of essenceless process. (To be more precise the subject is One Self, Atman-Brahman, Absolute Subjectivity, which will be described at greater length below)
As far back as in Nagarjuna times madhyamika indicated that neither the objects of visible world nor the subject itself has the self-being, they are empty from self-being, they don't exist substantively. Neither individual consciousness nor any of the phenomena of the world of forms have true existence. Everything that is realized by individual consciousness exists just nominally. We do not live in the world, but experience the world. And the very experience arises and is reflected simultaneously in all quadrants and all spheres.
At the same time integral psychology in a sense is a process of narrowing of integral approach to examine the individual consciousness, because only upper left intentional quadrant can be experienced by human being consciously. In addition to the basic elements of AQAL-matrix (levels, lines and states) typical for all four quadrants integral psychology adds Self as the centre of integration and equilibrium of all elements of psyche. However, integral logic of both models remains the same. Integral psychological model can be briefly summarized in the following way: experiences that we have are experienced by structures, with which self is identified on different levels of development and in different states. The very structures are constantly evolving manifesting themselves simultaneously in all four quadrants.
One of the ways towards understanding this concept and overall the basics of integral vision can lie through conceptual understanding of the problems of philosophy of consciousness and postmodernist discoveries in the second half of XX century. Without this understanding the Wilber's model of Consciousness can result in an appreciable resistance. That is why below we will go through two steps, two stages in the worldview that transpersonalists can do in order to get to the integral era. The first step will open the deep insights of postmodernism, will emphasize our cultural community and will find that any development has a historic and collective nature. On the second step we will see how integral method works and what exactly the integral connecting link is for uncoordinated truths.
Honoring All Truths
Speaking about mystical experiences it is of no small importance to keep the understanding of difference between gnosis (direct comprehension) and episteme (conventional knowledge). In this regard in Buddhism there is a doctrine of two truths (absolute and relative) that is strictly followed by all mystics. Non-dual understanding, when subject dissolves in suchness of emptiness and there is nothing left outside of one Consciousness, realization of voidness of both objects and subjects from self-being is the absolute truth. At the same time every its expression in the world requires adherence to the relative reliability – validity of any concepts having a claim on truth. Wilber always gave paramount attention to this major factor.
Integral approach absorbed all achievements of pre-modernity, modernity and post-modernity the way that all their requirements to the true knowledge amazingly combine with each other, are fulfilled and surpassed. From pre-modernity Wilber took the idea of holarchy of being and knowledge, states of consciousness and wide spiritual experience of the individual sphere. Modernity brought in the differentiation of value spheres, understanding of fundamental differences of subjective and objective and their irreducibility to one another. Revolution of post-modernity added a particular importance that, unfortunately, is not being fully realized and went by most of psychologists and spiritual practitioners. This blind spot moves phenomenological studies further and further from being accepted them by serious academic circles and impedes the development of the very disciplines. Unfortunately, neither in Russia nor in the West transpersonal theory is the exception.
In order to simplify the problem of understanding the discoveries of postmodernism for consciousness studies let's start from very brief historical excursus.
The epoch of modernism was preceded by the period of realism that reached its peak in the time of Renaissance. The peculiarity of realism and most of supporting it philosophies was the fact that reality was taken as something existing “somewhere there” that was revealed by means of mind, feelings, intuition and logic. Realism tended to reflect the reality as it was “in fact”. Everybody sought the very Truth, but not the best its approximation. Truth was looked for where its absoluteness could be proven. Before Kant it was assumed that there was some exterior world that people could describe. Rationalists like Descartes and Leibniz believed that rational fundamentals of science were eternal, indisputable and independent of individual and culture. Kant demonstrated that these hypotheses were extremely naïve.
Kant overthrew this idea and showed that we never can prove the existence of the world outside of human perception and interpretation. We can see only what our feelings and mind allow us, which can considerably differ from what everything is “in fact”. In the end, all people undergo biological conditionality and environmental effects in the broad sense of these words. Modernism as a school rejected indisputable and absolute values of realism and suggested its own unique truth – truth and power of subjective experience. Modernism firmly believed that truth was something subjective within subject that could touch the deep experience and there find the truth, the good and the beautiful, the power and insightfulness of which could easily destroy generally accepted concepts of realism about how everything has to be “in fact”. The focus was shifted inwards: from the state “somewhere there” in the world into subjective experience. Modernism put subjectivism in the centre of its values.
However, like realism modernism conceded that subjectivity was absolute and real. Thinkers of the epoch of postmodernism took the following logical step arriving at a conclusion that there is no truth “somewhere there”, and there is no truth inside – truth is formed and imposed by culture. There is no unique truth that could be known to all of us – objective or subjective. Friedrich Nietzsche deservedly is considered the first postmodern philosopher, because he was the first to explain that there were no facts, but only interpretations. In general modernism maintains that there are no intercultural absolute truths.
For radical postmodernism any truth, beauty and morality (outside of biological/physical truths) is a concept, something made-up; it is imposed by culture, limited by psychology, formed by sex, managed by economy, distorted by language, deformed by politics, attributed to patriarchy and it is always completely relative. Only somebody naive or those who long for dominance and exploitation believe in any cultural (or inherent) truth, beauty or morality, or any hierarchy. If to say a postmodernist that there is something better than something else then this will be interpreted as your unconscious assumption of existence of truth “somewhere there” free of your own prejudices, which, as already stated, is unfeasible problem. Therefore, any kind of opinion (good/bad, better/worse) and any ranking are considered as the peak of crass ignorance, oppression, imperialism and intrusion of somebody else's truths.
But overall postmodern tendency made a major contribution having shown that all the criteria of rating at least partially are based on cultural conditionality. Postmodernism fairly pointed out that absolute standards in left-hand quadrants (subjective and cultural) are impossible. These standards themselves are non-permanent; they develop and change together with everything else in the Universe.
Step 1: Contribution of Postmodernism to Consciousness Studies
Every year we hear that West science approaches the unprecedented change of paradigm. Probably this is the case, but the approaches to consciousness that are brought up for discussion are completely monologic, which means they do not realize the nature and importance of cultural past and concede individual consciousness existing a priori out of touch with phenomena under study. They refer to quantum physics and theory of relativity, cybernetics, system theory, chaos/complexity theory, holographic theory, Jung's and Whitehead's theory of process, etc., each of which is also monologic in their own way.
Generally convergence of positions of systematic theorists and researchers of consciousness is a positive phenomenon: at the minimum two quadrants out of four gradually reveal the necessity for each other and the possibility of the inner dialogue. Unfortunately, such new paradigm again is underlain purely by systematic approaches (like Akashi fields of Ervin Laszlo or David Bohm's theory), which is a variety of absolutism of materialistic science (and again it brings consciousness to matter-energy-information) and incomprehension of the fact that chains like “matter-energy-information” cannot correspond to evolutionary hierarchy in any way.
However, realization and absorption of postmodernism truths and establishing relations with the researchers of structuralism of development can contribute to the true progress on the way of psychology and philosophy to the new paradigm (rather then systems theories).
The major discovery of postmodern West includes the following. What was taken as obvious consciousness reflecting the world in general like a mirror in fact is implanted in the web of non-evident intersubjective structures (including linguistic, ethic, cultural, aesthetic and syntactic ones). As subjective as objective worlds appear to a considerable degree due to differentiating forces of these structures that themselves do not act as objects or phenomena of direct recognition, but rather form the background context, in which subjects and objects arise.
Usually Wilber cites card game as an example, one of them is poker. Each card conforms to the specific set of rules, but the real rules of the game cannot be found in any of the cards. So a simple description of each card will never reveal the rules, to which they conform, and you will never find “intercard patterns” that manage them. Here phenomenology aborts, and only some form of structuralism can help.
Here we mean “structuralism” in the broadest meaning that included semiology (Saussure), semiotics (Peirce), structuralism proper (Levi-Strauss, Barthes, Lacan), structuralism of development (Piaget, Baldwin, Kohlberg, Loevindger), neo-structuralism (Foucault) and post-structuralism (Derrida, Lyotard). Despite their numerous differences all of them took part in the movement from philosophy of subject that monologically evaluates the pre-given world to dialogic study of intersubjective structures that provide with the very possibility of differentiation and existence of both subjects and objects.
Most of the progressive-minded theorists of the West psychology, including Freud, Jung, Adler, James, Watson, Wundt, considered that the one being tested describes true phenomena of consciousness and they assumed as a basis these phenomenological descriptions. None of them ever cast serious doubt on the basic adequacy of phenomenology. All of them opened new cards in the phenomenological game, but no one noticed the non-phenomenological rules of the game.
Introduction to postmodernism begins from understanding that interpretation is intrinsically inherent in the fabric of the universe. Primordially the reality is not completely given, but in many important respects it is constructed as interpretation. Charles Peirce discredited William James by one phrase: “Perception is semiotics”. Inability to see that perception is always already interpretation is a common error of naïve empiricism (and modernism) of all forms.
As pointed out by Ferdinand de Saussure, it is the correlation between all the separate elements that stabilizes the meaning. Therefore the starting point of structuralism is that the meaningless element becomes meaningful only in the whole structure. Any meaning is formed for us by a wide net of background contexts, which consciously we know very little about. It is not that we form the meaning – the meaning forms us. We are a part of this vast cultural environment and often we have no idea where it all comes from within us. The very semantics of the word “consciousness” (con-sciousness) indicates the social nature of this phenomenon.
Postmodern cultural approaches show that individual consciousness cannot appear and exist separately. All subjective events are always collective events as well. There is no private language or autonomous consciousness. “Man will be erased like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea”, - wrote Foucault.
Conscious subject tends to imagine that he can simply introspect his own awareness and this way cognize and understand himself. But only modern sciences made it obvious that things are totally different. According to their conclusion subjectiveness is completely blind to the fact that virtually everything that appears in its awareness is the result of vast intersubjective nets that cannot be seen.
A simple example can be given by means of Spiral dynamics. You can listen to somebody, for instance, who comes from the rational level (orange height) and it becomes obvious that this person does not come to these ideas himself: practically everything that he says is completely predictable. He has never heard the name of Claire Graves or Jean Piaget, but we still hear one predictable phrase after another. He has no idea that he is just a herald of this structure – impersonal structure, about existence of which he does not even know. It seems it is not him who speaks, but the very orange structure speaks through him. The worse is that he can introspect as deep as he wants but still without realizing this. It is not him who speaks, he is spoken through.
Endless debate was always going on between different variations of atomism and systems thinking in the world of natural sciences. The analogous situation is between subjectivists and intersubjectivists in liberal arts. Subjectivists included all the approaches to liberal arts that depended on introspection, subjectivity, awareness and interior world, the most famous of which is phenomenology, and Edmund Husserl was its most brilliant defender. But subjectivists cannot build a model of consciousness adequate enough – by mapping broadcasts only it is impossible to determine how a TV set works. You have to add knowledge about TV set inner organization.
Second camp of intersubjectivists was united by understanding that by the time an object arises in consciousness it has been already formed by the vast net of impersonal systems and structures, the leading ones of which are linguistic systems, cultural backgrounds and structures of consciousness, and none of which can be seen by introspection. Phenomena that bring realization are not something given, on the contrary – those are results or products of constructions of wide cultural tendencies. As Dilthey said: “Not through introspection but only through history do we come to know ourselves”.
Subjectivists are modernists in all senses: they sincerely believe in introspection, empiricism, subjectivity – in everything that started being marked by such terms as “philosophy of consciousness”, “myth of the given”, “philosophy of subject” and “reflection paradigm”. Philosophy of consciousness is the assumption that there is consciousness and reliable phenomena are presented in it. The myth of the given assumes the existence of the world that is waiting to be discovered. Those are deeply mistaken ideas reflecting the ignorance as for how strongly perception is influenced by the rest three quadrants, particularly the lower left – cultural. The more sophisticated philosophies and methodologies regard the act of perception of itself as the act of co-creation.
Intersubjectivists became postmodernists first by means of structuralism, semiotics and linguistics, and then by means of post-structuralism, neo-structuralism, deconstruction and genealogy. By their slogans “death of the subject” and “what comes after the subject?” postmodernists indicated that inherently subject corresponded to the determinate and conditioned by culture and history structures, to go beyond of which is not real (since that is actually the core of the subject), and it is impossible to see them through contemplation. An eye cannot see itself.
It became obvious: the vast nets of cultural systems – from linguistic structures to value systems – manage the consciousness of individual. You can contemplate and meditate about anything you want, but you will never see them, and they themselves will not disappear anywhere. You can experience the deep states of samadhi and at the same time remain on the prerational, egocentric level of development inheriting all characteristics (desires, needs, values, identity) of this level, and then this structure will speak through you while you think that you are free.
Michel Foulcault convincingly showed that any form of philosophy of consciousness is a form of powerful oppression, as a result of which there are cruelties showed in the guise of what are things “in fact”. Subjectivism became the synonym of imperialism and violence that imposes and controls the dominant forms of discourse and official world-view. Even though meditation can free from ego, it will not free you from culture, whose prejudices remain as hidden foundation without ever coming out to the light of consciousness.
That is exactly why any reliable model of consciousness does not have to rest first of all upon phenomenal states and peak experiences, all of which are structurally conditioned by the contents, but on relatively invariant and established structures of consciousness that are the framework of these contents. From the second half of XX century (especially after the revolution in France in May 1968 that resulted in resignation of Charles de Gaulle) isolated phenomenological and empirical studies just cannot be accepted by academic science, because they push through unrealizable cultural backgrounds and contexts as given, which is inadmissible.
So monologic subjectivism (knowing broadcasts) requires the addition by philosophy and methodology of intersubjectiveness (knowing structure of TV set), by realization of the fact that it is impossible to understand either big or individual consciousness only through self-analysis or analysis of outer world and without considering historical aspects and cultural relations. Otherwise, any phenomenological studies will still have the regressive nature of metaphysics, new mythology and it will be considerably ignored by the progressive society.
Unfortunately, up to this day most of transpersonal psychologists remain in captivity of this system of monologic consciousness continuing to broaden phenomenology in the sphere of altered states (you give 10 new TV channels every month!). In other words, no LSD, holotropic breathwork, hypnosis, shamanic experience, rituals, tantra, rites of transition, yoga, contact improvisation or intensive work with body can reveal moral, cultural, linguistic and syntactic structures (tuners, decoders, microcircuits), through which subjective experience occurs. These generating patterns are invisible for phenomenological methodology.
Misunderstanding of this mechanism technically makes it impossible to realize and study how temporary altered states of consciousness can be modified into settled stages and favour the development. Although Grof agrees with Wilber that the experience of peak states results in but does not guarantee the development, nothing is going on in that direction. For this at the minimum it has to be acknowledged that subject partially is the product of intersubjective structures and to get involved methodologies different from phenomenology in order to work with them. This is one of the issues that considerably hamper the development of transpersonal approach.
This explains, in particular, convergence of subjectivists and systematic theorists, since both camps share monologic paradigm of the myth of the given and both of them are marginalized by postmodern academic discourse dominating in West society. System theory does not meet the case of postmodernism as well. And if structuralism of development is a ring-buoy and complementary methodology for subjectivists, then autopoiesis is a ring-buoy for system theory. Systemness of Ervin Laszlo (for example, physical webs forming the Internet) first has to be added by social autopoiesis of Niklas Luhma (developers of web sites and software for Internet), but phenomenology of consciousness. Autopoiesis and structuralism explain self-creation of both biological organisms and individual consciousness respectively and eliminate the myth of the given in subjective and objective sciences.
The conclusions of both approaches are amazingly similar. Just like living organism shows itself as autopoietic self-organizing biological net in the upper right quadrant, the same way consciousness shows itself as autopoietic communicative net in upper left quadrant. According to Humberto Maturana's concept, perception, and in more general sense - cognition, does not present the exterior reality, but rather forms it through the process of circular organization of nervous system. Living system does not just determine structural changes, it also determines what exterior facts exactly initiate them. That is how living system creates the world. Process of life is the process of creating cognition. Cognition is not a presentation of independently existing world, but rather continuous creation of it. Structural changes in the system are actually the acts of cognition. Behaviour non-connected with creative choice is not the act of cognition and does not lead to the change of structure. This wonderful conclusion is quite appropriate as in the question of correlation of states as in the structures of consciousness.
Meanwhile, if to think over postmodernism by itself is deeply transpersonal (though still in a hidden way), because it takes out the understanding of subject beyond the usual limits of ego. Deconstruction of Derrida shows that linguistic rationality is intrinsically contradictory, neo-structuralism of Foucault regards any meaning as the structures of power, communicative pragmatics of Habermas takes out the humanism beyond the autonomous ego. All three broadest movements of postmodernism make the transition from rational-egoistic world-view to multidimensional, systematic, socially implanted mind. In that sense the union of transpersonality and postmodernism can become the way of pushing forward the transpersonal discoveries into the wide academic world. Transpersonalists can grant postmodernists the meaning, and the latter, in their turn, – the social resource for development (including the financial one).
Step 2: What is Integralism after all?
Now we can laconically summarize the truths of pre-modernity, modernity and post-modernity with regard to consciousness and to make the final step towards the integral theory of consciousness.
From the wisdom of great traditions we took the hierarchy idea of levels of being and cognition (be it ten sephiroth of Kabbalah, eight vijayan of Yogacharya, seven chakras, or levels of Aurobindo mind) from matter to body, to mind, to soul and spirit as Great Nest of Being that represents the general map of higher capacities of human being on the way to Spirit.
Critical Kant's philosophy replaced the ontological objects by the structures of subject. This practically means that we do not perceive the objects in a pre-given way: on the contrary, the structures of cognizing subject (body, mind, feelings) provide the cognized object with different characteristics that are further taken as the ones of object, but in fact not being the ones. Reality is not just perceived, but it is constructed by subject – at least, partly. The levels of being and cognition had to be comprehended now not as independently existing structures, but partly as structures of cognizing subject – in other words, as structures of human consciousness.
Kant abolished the idea of the world existing independently from understanding him consciousness having had pushed forward in his turn the requirement to give more valid data. Verification methods of existence of consciousness structures could no longer include a mere reference to the traditions, and that is why they mostly were rejected. Meanwhile, modernity still was sure that reality in all its senses was given (though being subjective) to human, and that means that epistemology lies in creating the precise map or presenting the pre-given territory (reflexive paradigm or mirror of nature).
From modernity we also got to know that each quadrant evolves, and so any integral psychology has to trace how this development shows up in structures.
The most important guess forming the foundation of post-modernity movements is that interpretation is inherent in the universe. Each of us is built into certain contexts (cultural, linguistic, aesthetic and so on) mostly invisible for us, and coming from those we interpret our experience. Against a background of modernity that means that the structures of consciousness, through which a subject perceives the world, are culturally and historically determinated. The need for intersubjective substantiation was added to the requirements of verification, which immediately rejected the isolated introspection and phenomenology as reliable methodologies.
The perpetual discoveries of the epoch of postmodernism – world is partly construction and interpretation, all meanings and senses depend on the context, the contexts are infinite – are the truths that have to involve any comprehensive outlook.
Along with intersubjective truths post-modernity also brought in the symmetric interobjective understanding of system theories that with all their diversity underline the fact that each organism is inseparably interconnected with its environment in the dynamic nets of relationships and ecosystems.
- Post-post-modernity / Integral Era
So, pre-modernity pointed out the hierarchy of levels of development. Modernity said that there are no objects in isolation from consciousness that can understand them. Post-modernity added that there are no objects outside the engendering them social systems and subjects outside the engendering them cultures.
Now we are moving forward to the next step, but backwards to modernism (where subjectivity is absolute) or more backwards to realism (reality is absolute); we are moving forward through deep truths of postmodernism (reality is relative), out of its inner contradictions, cynicism, irony and extreme uncertainty.
There is one more important truth typical for late constructive post-modernism: we tend unconsciously to mark out and value things that seem to be more complex. According to constructive post-modernism a rock is less complex than bacterium that is less complex than mollusc that is less complex than a human being – in other words, there are natural (but imposed by culture) hierarchies of complexity. And this conclusion takes out postmodernism from hopelessness of universal relativity. Hence, constructive postmodernism is the gate into integral vision.
Integralism goes further and says that some things are more correct, true or more beautiful than others. Again it ranks, criticizes and imposes a certain hierarchy on things, but doing so it no longer resorts to absolute/unconscious criterion. It is important to note that hierarchy data are free from ranking judgments, i.e. we cannot let us anymore unconsciously evaluate the greater complexity without being aware of it.
For this we need to learn how to differentiate properly. They are hierarchical judgements connected with ranking of values. The point is that both hierarchies and ranking of values are inevitable, and so let us do this consciously, honestly and openly and give up this hypocritical position like you “refrain from judgements”, which by itself is an enormous judgement.
We already discovered a lot of different transpersonal practices. And this is great. But the growth is possible only where there is a correct interpretation. Not “everybody has its own truth” (modernism) and “no one truth exists” (postmodernism). Integralism brings forward the truth of natural evolving hierarchies or holarchies. (For example, the ability to show more concern and participation or to take into account more perspectives is, of course, better.) Since some people do not like the notion of hierarchy, we talk about them as holarchies, because it underlines their naturalness (as being evolutionally dynamically established ones) and principle of “transcendence and inclusion”.
Evolutionary unfolding of growing integrity and depth gives us the major key to an understanding of how all outlooks can enter big picture, but in so doing some of them turn out to be better than others, because they have considerable depth and wholeness. Integral approach lines up according to the principle of natural hierarchy and it is capable to include down to the limit invariants and dynamic stages of evolutionary growth corresponding to “one theory” of an incredible range. And exactly because “matter – energy – data” is not a natural hierarchy (that appeared evolutionally) or holarchy, it can by no means be the foundation of evolutional theory of consciousness. This sequence is appropriate in different context and just not in evolutional one.
Transformation always means the hierarchical growth towards more complexity. But if you initially reject holarchy, then you do not have any guidelines, any method to find your direction, your way to authenticity and transformation, and in return you have to be satisfied with justification and horizontal transmission. Both personal and spiritual developments are happening exactly step-by-step, and some people are more developed than others. Incapability to acknowledge that can lead to such problems as fear to draw distinctions, lack of critical thinking (with which New Age is greatly contaminated) and narcissism.
Initially put to use by Christian mystic St. Dionycii the notion of “hierarchy” meant “guidance by spiritual principles” (hiero – sacred, arch – guiding). When spiritual management started to mean management of Catholic Church, the spiritual principle was interpreted as despotism. Nonetheless, in the sense that it is used in Eternal Philosophy, evolutional theory and system theories it just means increasing of wholeness and integrative capacity. What is a whole on one stage becomes only a part of a larger whole on the next stage; it is surpassed and included in an integrated scope of community and love.
Evolutional spirituality of Integral age does not have its one hero, like Kant or Nietzsche. First voiced by Jakob Bohme in the beginning of 17th century this idea did not stop developing for the last 400 years actively being enriched by revelations of the greatest geniuses of humanity. From Jakob Bohme to Ken Wilber we see a great number of its defenders both in East and West. This is Leibniz who suggested the first contours of evolution conception of biological species; Kant, who grounded the idea of formation of material world “by means of natural evolution into more perfect form”; Johann Fitche, who suggested that subjective mind is also a developing expression of transcendental Consciousness; Friedrich Schelling, who first suggested the vision of kosmic evolution, in which God transpierces all levels of being; Ralph Emerson, who united the notions of karma and evolution.
This is also Williams James, Rudolph Steiner, Alfred whitehead, Alice Bailey – a constantly growing number of scientists and visionaries supported the theory of spiritual evolution basing on completely different education and scientific disciplines. Probably the most thoroughly and deeply this incipient, teleological view was expressed by Sri Aurobindo, Henri Bergson and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
Today evolutionary holarchy – a holistic study of development and self-organization of spheres inside spheres – again became the dominant subject in many disciplines even it is given different names. From Rupert Sheldrake and his “hierarchy of morphogenetic fields” to “hierarchies of emerging qualities” of Karl Raimund Popper; from autopoietic systems of Francisco Varela to “hierarchy of communicative competence” of Jürgen Habermas – one way or another everything indicates the comeback of Great Chain of Being. As assured by Hegel centuries ago: “We can reduce everything to one principle of development; if this becomes clear the rest will harmonize with each other”.
Therefore, the most important ingredient of integral world-view became not just hierarchies, but naturally evolving (self-organizing) hierarchies. For model of consciousness this transforms into an understanding that structures of consciousness,
- through which we interact with reality and which were pointed out by Kant,
- that are formed by culture, as underlined by Nietzsche,
- hierarchiness of which was pointed out by the great wisdom traditions,
are not formed once and for all. Most of post-metaphysical levels of being and cognition need to be presented as forms that had been developing in the course of time, evolution and history. These levels are the result of more than 14 billion years of evolution: matter came into existence with Big Bang, sensations – with first forms of life, stimulus and instincts – with first reptiles, emotions – with first mammals, symbols – with first primates, notions – with first human beings.
Charles Pierce believed that laws of nature (including levels of consciousness) are natural habits, or cosmic habits, or, in Rupert Sheldrake terms, morphogenetic habits. When they first emergently appeared the form that they took was relatively open and creative. However, once some reaction starts repeating over and over, being supported collectively, it fixes as settled habit that becomes more and more difficult to change and it reoccurs on the stages of the further development.
Ultimately, what pre-modernity took as ontologically given structures of being and consciousness opens up as cosmic habits established in the course of evolutionary development. When enough number of people reaches a particular level, then it becomes a cosmic pattern for future development. Therefore, it becomes something that can be considered as settled level.
Today we can put together all the best from pre-modernity, modernity, post-modernity, add integral truths to this and pass on to consideration of aspects of integral psychological model.
Components of Integral Model of Consciousness
So, we do not live in a pre-given world, but in the world space that is formed from the observed by us phenomena from a position, from which we maintain this observation. We literally see the manifestations of the world through a set of lenses (or structures) without even suspecting that we carry them. In the process of development we change lenses for new ones and see the events more and more accurate, detailed and sophisticated.
As I already noted, Integral understanding of Consciousness can be expressed with a formula
Consciousness = Emptiness (Absolute) + Form (Relative),
which means that integral model AQAL itself is an attempt of mapping the world of forms. In case with individual consciousness this formula can look as following
Unique Self = One True Self (Absolute) + Perspective (Relative),
where One True Self is absolute subjectivity, I-amness, Buddha's mind, natural state, primordial nature of mind, in which enlightened nature of human consciousness starts and ends, and it is one for all our Selves,
Perspective is those numerous lenses, through which one Self within us looks at the world, this is the “look through” the prism of structures, states, lines, quadrants and types,
and Unique Self is true Self gazing at the world through a perspective that is filled with body-mind-soul and as a result of this it is absolutely unique. That is actually individual consciousness that awakens towards its utmost enlightened uniqueness, when it recognizes its true face and reveals its ability to take all the perspectives that emerged by present moment in history.
Integral approach replaces all the acts of perception with perspectives and redefines the sphere of manifestation as a sphere of perspectives, because no perception can happen before having taken a particular perspective. In other words, we will see nothing until a certain lens is chosen (quadrant, structure, line, …) First of all, world consists of perspectives than anything else. Four quadrants (or 1st, 2nd, 3rd person views) are four fundamental, primordial, cosmic perspectives. Each level of development (on any scale) is that perspective. And the development of the Unique Self can be defined as the ability to contain more perspectives.
In particular, the truth suggested by postmodernists can be reformulated as all perceptions are actually perspectives that are implanted in bodies and cultures, and not only in economic and social systems (which was pointed out by modernists from Marks to system theory).
True Self manifests in many of its perspectives that are actually sentient beings. My individual self is a sum of all those perspectives that I can accept. Each sentient being has a unique and particular perception and perspective on what is going on and everything that is arising. Therefore, Integral psychology is one of the ways to describe the possible perspectives that are taken by One absolute Self in the process of creative unfolding of the world of relative forms.
Common tendency of modeling can look in the following way: System – Structures – States, where self or I-system appears as system; perspectives that it takes on different levels of development are settled levels (or structures) of Consciousness; and states are its final phenomenal experiences excellently described by phenomenology. In general this scheme expresses the understanding that only One True Self is a real subject of awareness. The rest is just a perspective, filter or lens and can be represented as any kind of structures and patterns of their organization, through which true Self gets the experience. One Self observes the world of forms through many Selves that are just perspectives.
It is not difficult to notice that with such approach strivings of each person have two roots: potential of Spirit as the ability for creation and transcendence, and deep patterns of cosmic habits that are formed by previous periods of development.
So, the following components can be pointed out in the complete integral model: self, quadrants, lines, levels, states/spheres and types that are not just a theoretical constructor, but the aspects of our own experience, contours of individual consciousness.
Nothing exists outside Consciousness. But for individual Selves most of this reality remains unrealizable and is a potential for development. Nonetheless, consciousness of individual Selves can develop to transcendental Consciousness of true Self and this way to cognize the reality directly. Sentient beings experience the reality not “by means of” realizable and non-realizable structures that appear in all four quadrants and in different states, but they are these structures (of body and consciousness), perspectives in the eyes of Spirit.
In integral approach the natural states of Consciousness (wakening, dreaming and deep sleep) are not those states that can be experienced by a human being. Those are the states of the vast Consciousness. Each of natural states contains a certain number of structures (stages or levels) that emerge in the course of evolution and with which individual self can identify.
Individuals experience and interpret any usual or peak experiences depending on the level (or structure), till which self developed. What is experienced by an individual are different phenomenal states that occur in the network of the main structures of each natural state. In other words, phenomenal states appear solely within structures of consciousness. In so doing neither states of Consciousness nor structures of Consciousness are experienced by people directly. And what is more and extremely important is that all states, all lines and all structures are strictly fixated in four quadrants (intentional, behavioral, cultural and social). Those are structures that are the basis for experiencing the phenomenal states. The very structures unfold stage-by-stage without being noticed phenomenologically, because to a certain extent they are the subject of our experiences and the source of interpretation (but only One Self always remains the true subject).
Another very important peculiarity of levels is that they appear simultaneously in all four quadrants. This means, for example, that magical level of consciousness, tribal culture, foraging method of production and new brain cortex appeared approximately at the same time as one level. Similarly, formal logic, rational culture, industrial societies and corresponding changes in the morphology of brain also form one common level. In a truly integral understanding there are no levels (or structures) separately emerging for consciousness, body, culture or social systems. All of them tetra-emerge in AQAL space.
Then three great spheres of being (gross, subtle and causal) correspond to three main states of Consciousness – waking, dreaming and formless sleep. Most of people consciously experience only the waking state. Other states are experienced less consciously or even unconsciously. This means that usually people has conscious access only to gross material reality, which is characterized by the term of “ignorance”, since such an individual does not experience higher spheres and states. Nonetheless, if individual continues his development, his individual consciousness actualizes more and more subtle structures that little by little let him start experiencing the states of dreaming and even formless sleep absolutely consciously.
There is not just a spectrum of consciousness, but also a spectrum of matter-energy corresponding to it. Each natural state is supported by a separate energetic body. This is a tangible energetic component, concrete conductor that nourishes and supports the state. Those bodies are also called the worlds, dimensions, realms or spheres, and they can be experienced relatively independent on any level of development. Here it is important that as correlates of states these bodies are not the bodies only of human, but they more correspond to Buddhist spheres of nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya and dharmakaya, consisting of gross, subtle and subtlest energy. These are the bodies of the very Consciousness and Wilber often uses the terms body, realm and sphere as synonyms.
In addition to that Wilber also uses the term “body” to denote individual gross, subtle and causal bodies that support the corresponding minds. In this case he usually addresses to “body/mind” of each sphere. Since each of us has access to three main states of consciousness – waking, dreaming and formless sleep, each of us then also has three bodies that are called gross, subtle and causal bodies. Like Vedanta and Vadjrayana, but as a hypothesis, IA concedes the possibility of separation of the subtle body/mind and the gross body/mind, as well as the possibility of consciousness beyond the physical body and life after death, although never completely without any kind body.
It is worth being advised that usual four-quadrants AQAL diagram reflects only the world of waking, gross body (without subtle and causal) in upper right quadrant and the levels of Ego development (without soul and witness) in upper left quadrant. However, this is just a simplified generalization of full model that includes all three spheres/states.
As a firm hypothesis theory concedes that each state/sphere has corresponding space of unfolding, its own quadrants, lines, stages of development and even selves. Gross, subtle and causal spheres develop relatively independent. (You certainly noticed that some people, passing through all stages of their ego-development, show as wiser, unattaching and more accepting than others.) This means, for example, that one can follow the development of different types of cognition in different spheres throughout human life. It is also worth noting that gross, subtle and causal spheres do not form holarchies and are not the levels of reality of the Great Chain of Being, like body, mind, soul and spirit.
Neither states of consciousness nor phenomenal states demonstrate the development, self shows the development gradually mastering structures (or perspectives) by means of transcendence and inclusion. Self is I-system of individual, the centre of identification and gravity of different levels, lines and states. One of the main features of self is in its ability to identify with basic structures or levels of Consciousness. Every time when this happens a specific type of self-identity that includes certain needs and drives is being generated. This way self appears as functional system that includes such abilities as identification, will, defensive mechanisms, regulation of tensions and ability for integration.
The point is that integral model considers individual self as sum total of several selves (developmental lines of self) in gross, subtle and causal spheres/states that develop relatively independent and even parallel.
- ego (frontal self) is a self that emerges when Consciousness identifies with the waking state and includes all stages that direct consciousness toward gross sphere;
- soul (deep self) is a self that emerges when Consciousness identifies with dreaming state and includes the stream of self-consciousness that adapts consciousness to different aspects of subtle sphere;
- witness is a “self” connected with causal level that orients and integrates Consciousness in causal sphere (ability for witnessing), and it also integrates other selves, lines and levels.
Therefore, combined development of self does not progress in a certain stage way, i.e. the general growth does not obey any sequence. At the same time, frontal self (ego) goes through all stages of development strictly in a certain order, as pointed out by all researches of ego development.
As opposed to other schools of psychology, both transpersonal and integral therapies simultaneously work with ego, soul and witness while they are unfolding. However, the specificity of integral approach to therapy is that the ego development cannot be neglected in favor of working with soul and spirit, because without a strong and developed foundation of ego higher spheres cannot become a stable and integrated realization. Otherwise, higher spheres are discovered only by peak experiences, temporary outbreaks or they even become dissociated turning into spiritual crises. In order to actualize these experiences in a constant, non-twisted way it is necessary to encourage frontal development of individual to post-conventional levels.
Here it is worth mentioning that the usual basic AQAL model generally applies solely to the aspects of ego-development and only in complete model you can see a separate development of gross body/mind, subtle body/mind and causal body/mind. (See illustration) This is particularly important for transpersonal school mostly working with subtle peak states. Integral approach also explains the characteristics of gross, subtle and causal spheres. In each of these realms there is its own map and logic (for example, there is no time and space in subtle sphere separately from our Self). But for the reason of arduous provability of the phenomena in subtle and causal realms IA presents them as hypothesizes that usually are not a part of the basic model.
Ultimately, the purpose of integral development is conscious mastering of all spheres, conversion of all temporary states into permanent structures, none of which can be omitted, otherwise by definition the development will not be integral.
On Science and Methodology
Although the complete model explains a wider range of phenomena, the basic one became more widespread. And it is not without reason. The specificity of Wilber's approach is that he gives extremely undivided attention to the question of reliability of any knowledge, to which the significant part of his works is devoted.
In each quadrant Wilber marks out certain criteria of truth (honesty, truthfulness, fairness and functional accuracy), and he also deduces the epistemological grounds of the true knowledge (injunction, experiment and evidence) that are general guides of any substantial science. Narrow and broad scientific approaches are defined in each quadrant as well (i.e. sensual, mental and spiritual science). They differ in types of data that are accepted by this science. Either those are only data of body and mind or those are also data of level of subtle soul sphere and spirit.
Wilber himself strictly follows these categories, due to which integral approach remains in contact simultaneously with the mainstream and the leading researchers of consciousness. That is exactly why the basic model of consciousness, including quadrants, levels, lines, states and types, is practically unexceptionable from the reliability point of view, as it is based on solely verified data in all quadrants. The great chain of being and knowledge also mainly refers to the development of consciousness in the waking state, because this is thoroughly provable model. And the complete integral model moves forward to the leading researches and hypothesizes, towards theory of subtle energies, chakras theory, reincarnation and so on, which is included into second and third volumes of trilogy “Kosmos”.
Methodology of the very integral studies includes two wide branches. The first one – tracing all four dimensions (intentional, behavioral, social and cultural) of any actual event in Consciousness and their correlations with each other, by no means reducing one to another. The second one – the inner transformation of the very researchers, as at some point there is always a necessity to reach the adequate level of the scientist development regarding the obtained data. Especially this refers to transpersonal spheres. So, “all quadrants, all levels” program gives credit for all spectrum of Consciousness – not only for “I” sphere, but also for “we” and “it” spheres, not only in gross realm, but also in subtle and causal ones – and eo ipso it brings together art, morality and science; self, ethics and environment; consciousness, culture and nature – that is what could not be achieved either by pre-modern spiritual traditions or by post-modern science.
In 1983 Wilber stopped posing as transpersonal psychologist or philosopher. One of the major reasons of this decision was the fact that most of transpersonalists were not in a hurry to study transpersonal stages of development and limited themselves to transpersonal states and experiences. This couldn't help disturbing Wilber as a spiritual practitioner and Wilber as evolutionist. 27 years later the situation radically changed. Mostly it was dictated by the fact that the researchers themselves had not overcome the border of transpersonal levels of development, i.e. in terms of Graves, Kegan or Cook-Greuter they did not reach 2nd and 3rd orders. Simply speaking, they remain on existential or centaur level. This also explains the resistance to discoveries of post-modernity and getting stuck in modernistic methodologies.
For transpersonal approach this is a serious problem to a certain degree dictated by easy access to psychedelics that sometimes let fast penetration into subtle spheres without a proper (postconventional, transpersonal) level of development, spiritual practice and corresponding outlook.
Meanwhile, integral approach points out two vectors of development – practicing the access to states and ego-development stage-by-stage. And one is only indirectly connected with another. Numerous data is a clearly evidence in favor of the fact that a person practically on any stage or level of development can have altered states or peak experiences, including spiritual experience. The reason why this is possible is that the main states of consciousness (waking, dreaming and deep sleep) are available to all people from birth. At the same time practicing of states does not lead to the development of stages.
Even peak states are ones of the deepest experiences that people have ever had they do not follow a precise consecutive or stage-by-stage unfolding. If to combine the idea of levels with states of consciousness and come to an understanding that a person can have a peak experience (right up to non-dual one) or altered state literally on any level or stage of development we will get a lattice of different types of spiritual and unusual experiences that is called a Wilber-Combs Lattice in integral theory. A major issue of correlation of states and stages is that any experienced peak state will be interpreted depending on the stage, on which you are at, i.e. according to the level of development.
There is no problem until you start ignoring the development of stages in favor of practicing the states (meditative, contemplative, altered – any). Everything continues to look quite integral and in the process all dimensions of being (body, mind, soul and spirit) and all quadrants can be taken into account, but this “integrality” turns out to be deceptive. Here it will be appropriate to separate the notions of integrativity, holisticness and integrality that often are used interchangeably. Integrative models try to put together the achievements of all existing schools of psychology along all spectrum and in all dimensions basing as wide as possible on eye of body, eye of mind and eye of spirit. Holistic schools combine the most effective practical approaches to the phenomenon of human being in all four quadrants.
However, despite the fact that integrality implies “transcendence and inclusion”, it has never been either the sum of knowledge or the sum methods. We can insist that uniting body, mind, soul and spirit and also heart and community we will get to some extent integral approach, because people on magic or mythic levels of development can believe this. A simple uniting of different components of human existence without simultaneous including of developmental levels will lead to a catastrophe and a deeply amoral result, although the person will consider himself as integral. It is enough to recollect that Nazi actively practiced mysticism, thoroughly chose occult symbols and studied previous lives, used crystals and experienced deep mystical states.
Practicing states and completely ignoring stages can be fraught with this (especially, in ethics, morality and interpersonal perspectives). This is one of the consequences of not understanding postmodernist and integral ideas, since
- attacking the idea about one truth this is postmodernism that lets revealing such systems of oppression and discrimination as racism, sexism, androcentrism and others;
- rejecting the importance of hierarchies that were brought forward by integralism results in inability to differentiate natural hierarchies and pathological hierarchies of supremacy.
Therefore, experiences by themselves do not carry sufficient reliable data in isolation from the analysis of the developmental level of individual. Peak experiences can be studied on any developmental level of both therapist and the one being tested, but transpersonal work does not depend on technique, but first of all on the depth of spiritual orientation of the very therapist. Moreover, there is a whole spectrum of states, the phenomenology of which considerably differs in real spiritual practice, even being induced by psychedelics or holotropic breathwork. In addition, the results of experiences, obtained under influence of psychoactive substances, are extremely difficult to be convincingly moved to the mainstream, because it will reject any spirituality like this having called it narcotic hallucinations which damages the whole discipline. (Good science is supposed to be verified by public experiment even in spiritual domain, otherwise we erase a border between science and ideology.)
The future of transpersonal approach depends on those people who become competent in spiritual spheres in practice. The whole class of phenomena cannot be adequately interpreted without a stable adaptation on transpersonal stages. Meditation or any other spiritual and peak experience does not exist in isolation from its interpretation that directly depends on the level of development. Facts do not carry the indicators of level, on which they could be regarded. When the level of cognizing person does not correspond to the level of meaning of cognized object that results in not just an actual mistake or logic contradiction, but in something much more serious: inadequate or depleted image of reality.
Presenting transpersonal enlightenments and altered states of consciousness as empirical scientific facts can also discredit all field, since they cannot be verified scientifically. It is necessary to give spiritual practices and to learn a verified contemplation that provides with a steady access to any subtle and causal states. Exactly mastering the structures that can consciously manifest states is the development in integral approach. That means that psychologists persistently have to practice, which luckily tends to happen for some years past.
The greatest merit of transpersonal psychology is that it was the first major school in modern psychology that took spirituality in all seriousness. And today transpersonal approach is still one-up: it can be the first to get the status of science that can rest upon all 3 eyes (body, mind and spirit) and possess the fullness of the approach to reality. However, in transpersonal world the postmodernist revolution has not happened yet and the immediate goal is that the whole discipline reaches the stage of development where intersubjectivity and its influence on individual consciousness will become a part of transpersonal worldview. Then transpersonal outlook will get a proper power and depth and legitimately will be able to use the integral model and its discoveries in all the fullness for its studies. To do more is impossible; to do less is already destructive.
Oleg.linetsky @ gmail.com