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

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Mike McDermott is an Australian working on land-related issues in the developing world. He is currently working in Vietnam. In the period 1976-85 he worked as an international adventure tour leader, and has now varying degrees of familiarity with some 80 countries in Asia, Europe, North and South America, Africa and the Pacific. During the period 1976-80 he conducted many overland trips between London and Kathmandu. The cultural, religious and historical interests found along the way stimulated his ideas below, which he further developed over subsequent years. In particular, in tracking some of the old Silk Roads and Spice Routes Mike was able to develop his understanding of commonalities between peoples as well as their distinctions, from the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh etc religions clustering at one end of the Asian Overland through the many varieties of Islam in the centre to the Judaic and Christian religions clustering at the other end. Mike is a member of the Integral Institute a PhD candidate, and is married with three children."


Part One

Mike McDermott

Being born is decidedly uncomfortable! I can claim this with some authority – both from having been a witness at the birth of my children, and having been born myself. Okay – I don't remember it, but I do remember a recurrent nightmare that I used to have when I was very young – over fifty years ago. A medical friend told me that it would have been an attempt to deal with my birth trauma: I think he could be right, and that he hit upon a fundamental aspect of the human condition.

The nightmare began with a tiny pinprick of light; it would slowly grow larger and larger before me, like a milky balloon and then, right up close, it would explode in my face! Then the process would repeat itself – then again, and again, and again . . . I would awake screaming in terror until my mother would come and comfort me. My first experience of the world outside my mother's womb – remembered in terror.

Now, we hear often of explosions taking us not into light, but into darkness: not into life, but into death. And those explosions have been prepared by and for us, by some of us who deem us so “other” as to warrant killing.

How did it come to this? What paths lead us from our mothers' wombs and breasts to desire such things? Clearly, there are as many answers to that as there are life stories of those of us who have tortured and killed from such motives. So, how are we to approach a question with so many answers?

Let's start with orienting generalisations that may assist us to work towards understanding any particular case, being ready to discard it as soon as it is seen not to apply. In doing so, it is useful to have to hand a conceptual framework which will allow us to perform not only the deductive process I want to start with, but also facilitate inductive, reductive, adductive, and all and any other 'ductives' which may help us to understand the spirit and terror: the spirit in error.

Where are we to look for that framework? Religions traditions will proffer some such: but the human spirit ranges far and wide in its explorations for the wonderful, beyond tradition to discovery and, as many such traditions tell us, there is a quest underlying that – a quest for growth: for growth towards godliness, towards the good. Perhaps from even before we are born, we try to construct an image of the world, to use in that quest, coming to terms with challenges as we go along. First with the most fundamental needs, and then with those we find to be the most significant for us. So when we engage “spirit” in this paper, we mean the “spirited” – not the stagnant, the unworldly or the complacent – and what part the opening of minds and hearts plays in that process of meeting challenges. . “Every intentional act is an expression of the internal state of meaning in the brain and body” (Freeman, p.153): this growth of meaning occurs with growth of spirit.

The developmental philosopher Ken Wilber has set out the main map we shall use for this journey: he suggests that we view the growth of spirit from four perspectives – the interior of the individual concerned, the exterior of that individual, and the external circumstances and cultural milieu the individual is in. He calls them the “four quadrants”:

  1. the upper left (ULQ) being the individual interior,
  2. the upper right (URQ) being the individual exterior,
  3. the lower right (URQ) being the social/environmental exterior, and
  4. the lower left (LLQ) being the social interior – the culture.

That individual's spiritual growth involves an ascending, non-linear, feedback loop - a spiralling, tangly, yet hierarchical form of growth - between those four foci of attention. Challenges can arise in any one of the four that are too great to deal with, causing anxiety and closure of the mind and heart against (with a longer-term addressing such as my nightmare), or too trivial, causing boredom and stagnation – and, again, closures. Like the child's fairytale of Goldilocks and the three bears, we are happiest with a challenge that is not too big, not too small, but just right. As Csikszenmihalyi has established from his researches – "the best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile" (Csikszentimihalyi, p.3). However, that emphasises only one type of change and learning - incremental, whereas there are other varieties – lurching (abrupt and spasmodic, like Gould's “punctuated equilibrium) and transformational (involving several levels and new paradigmatic structures) (Gunderson & Holling, p. 404).

Take, for example, a youngster who conceives the desire to play football (ULQ). He develops his skills and his body's physical capacities (URQ) on the local football field (LRQ) to the approval of his parents and peers (LLQ). As he improves over the years, he finds himself in harder and larger arenas to further hone his skills. Let's say he meets all the challenges the quadrants can throw at him: his enthusiasm for the sport and his mental attitude in general remains strong (ULQ); his skills and physical capacities rise to every challenge from incremental, lurching as transformational changes (URQ); he finds the competition and arenas to express those skills and capacities (LRQ); and he gains ever-growing approval from his cultural milieu to grow still further along the developmental spiral (LLQ): a happy outcome for the lad – his dreams come true.

Yet, that is just one thing that he does; he is more than just a footballer. He is a son, becomes a lover, eventually a father – he is multidimensional, multifaceted, irreducibly so many things as well as a footballer.

The quadrants map the ground that the spiral develops up from, but what about tracing the spiral itself? Wilber's first book was called “The Spectrum Of Consciousness.” This title contains a revealing insight. Science has found out for us that we live in a sea of vibrations of many different frequencies, and when some of those vibrations strike matter, the “eye” parts of the brain interpret the object as having a colour. Newton found that white light reflected through a prism breaks up into different colours – really, vibrations of light – enfolded within that white light. For his own (hermetic) reasons – see below - he broke that spectrum into seven colours – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. I am colour deficient, so I have difficulty in seeing all Newton's distinctions. Others, I presume (including other species), can find many more divisions – finding finer gradations within the spectrum, as well as “pre” the spectrum (infra-red) and “trans” the spectrum (ultra-violet). So we humans (at least) have two translations from that lower right quadrant (LRQ) phenomenon of vibrations of light – that of our brains' visual equipment, and that of our conceptual framework to address that input from our brains: both help determine what we see.

When we are looking at those vibrations of light, we are looking at something in the exterior environment – the LRQ, through our physical faculties – the URQ, to interpret it in our ULQs. When we are looking at our brains, we are looking at something from the 'exterior' of an individual – the URQ (that is, something from our footballer that can be touched, seen, observed, such as his skills, his skin, his blood in a drug test!). And when we look at our footballer's brain, we are looking at an example of the most complex object in the known universe. And that object provides clues as to our attempt here to understand “spiriterror.”

Newton broke light into a spectrum; others have broken the brain down into a kind of spectrum. The most generally known is that of Paul MacLean, who wrote of the Triune Brain – three main parts functioning as a single entity. While exciting new research with technologies such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) provides far more articulated maps, MacLean's “orienting generalisations” provide interesting parallels and insights from the URQ with observations made within religious traditions concerning the ULQ – our individual interiors.

“We” (ULQ) co-arise with this URQ object when we are born. We spend the rest of our lives coming to terms with how to manage it – with extremely varying degrees of success or failure. Learning to ride a bike, or to drive a car, is laughably simple in comparison to learning to manage the most complex instrument in the known universe. It contains within itself representations of all known levels of complexity. Look deeply enough and, as with anywhere, you will find the subatomic sea; enlarge your scale of view, and you will find atoms; still larger, molecules; still larger, living cells (note how each level has less representatives than the previous, enfolding the previous into a new whole); and, still larger, MacLean's generalised “spectrum”; the framework of the triune brain.

1. The Reptilian Brain (the R-complex)

This type of brain is the one that we share with all animals that have a spine. It is absolutely essential for our continued bodily functioning – breathing, sleeping, temperature regulation etc. We can see – generally, not necessarily specifically – how it influences our behaviour by observing the behaviour of animals without higher brains – crocodiles, lizards, and the reptile in the Garden of Eden story, the snake. As the joke goes, it is responsible for the “four Fs” of behaviour – fighting, feeding, fleeing and reproduction. MacLean notes that there is a strong territorial defence motives there as well – “this is MY space: get off it - Trespassers will be Eaten!” – and a compulsive need, for example, for ritualistic displays re pecking orders. It covets stability, continuity, “do not disturb”, and the closing of minds. “This works – do it, and naught else: do not get ideas above your station. Respect ME, grovel to ME, or else!”

2. The Paleo-Mammalian Brain

This type of brain – also known as the limbic system and the visceral brain - offers far greater freedom of action than the R-complex. For example, whereas the temperature regulation of cold-blooded reptiles involves moving into the sunlight etc, the mammalian brain provides automatic control of this and several other bodily requirements. Learning from experience is facilitated by the hippocampus, and a spectrum of emotions – attachment, anger etc - is opened up via the amygdala and associated systems. Choices of reaction beyond hard-wired instinctual and reflexive responses become possible. We can see (generally, not necessarily specifically) how it influences our behaviour by observing the behaviour of lower mammals – the nurturing of the young and so on. Importantly for this paper, the neuroscientist Freeman considers the limbic system to be “the principal director of action in space-time” (Freeman, p.36), and Panikkar claims that. “the destiny of Man lies in overcoming – not denying – the temporal strictures into which we have the danger to be drowned” (Panikkar, p. 7).

3. The Neo-Mammalian Brain

Also known as the neocortex, it reaches its apogee, via the primates, in man. It takes up about 85 percent of the brain's volume, and a huge proportion of the URQ growth process is concerned with it. As with there being less molecules than atoms, there are far less of this type of brain than there are paleo-mammalian or reptilian brains. In fact, there is only one creature that has frontal and temporal lobes – thought to provide the URQ means of self-awareness - homo sapiens (Freeman, p.11). Through its two hemispheres linked by the corpus callosum, the neocortex provides capacities for far greater freedom of action than even the paleo-mammalian brain. It facilitates language, logic, creativity, intuition, cooperation, imagination, abstracting spatial relationships, the expression of intelligence – a far wider range of insights and emotions than possible with only the other two brains. It allows a “high(er) fidelity” approximation to whatever it is “out there” for our “in heres”. Retaining our spectrum analogy, it allows not only finer articulations than red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet – but infra-red and ultra-violet articulations as well. Its responses are highly supple in comparison to the rigidity of the reptilian brain. We talk of people being “open-minded” when they are engaging this magnificent instrument of theirs in a situation.

Now, here is central point to this thesis: a closed mind is worse in terms of its survival value than a stupid one. A highly intelligent mind is quick on the uptake; a stupid mind is very slow on the uptake: but a closed mind allows no uptake at all – even if it is has the highest intelligence available to anyone on Earth. If it is a closed mind, it is worse than stupid. Most languages do not adequately articulate this vital distinction.

Which mind closes first? Not the reptilian – if that shuts down, we are dead. Not the paleo-mammalian – we become extremely angry, we remember, we plot: the neocortex closes down first, and becomes enslaved to the lower brains – the higher becomes enslaved to the lower, the growth of life to its shrinking retreat.

This process goes with the territory of having a triune brain. I notice it often in myself – and I bet that you can as well. Here's a simple test: who or what is asking you to open your heart and mind on an issue, and who or what is asking you to close it? What lies behind the pressing of our views to the extent of killing others? Where are your motives coming from? Where are they coming from in the person trying to persuade you? There are some things that I consider myself to be perfectly reasonable about, and other things I find myself unable to be “level-headed” about. At worst, it is as if I am possessed by a blackness of anger and hatred: “don't mess with me, buster! You'll find that means BIG trouble!” There I am, back to R-complex dominance. If it's coming from the R-zone, that does not mean that it is wrong! But is the reaction proportionate in the context? That R-complex would kill buster if it could with as little reflection as a crocodile has, but something higher tells me, gently, “no”- review: contemplate: meditate.

What closes our neocortexes down? Csikszentmihalyi has already told us: a challenge too great, generating fear and anxiety, shuts them down; a challenge too small, generating boredom and meaninglessness, shuts them down. Hypnotists manipulate the opening and closing of the levels of our minds, and they claim the hypnotic state to be more a prevailing than an exceptional state of mind. How much are we hypnotised into habits of hate by such closing-down environments of extreme anxiety and extreme boredom? How much discernment do we apply when admitting attitude-forming words and phrases, both in examining them for misplaced abstraction or concretedness, and the emotional resonances that accompany them? How open or closed should our minds be to such influences? For example, Aristotle noted that all enmity arises from the feeling of being slighted: does this confirm Freeman's observation of the centrality of the limbic system – in this context, to inflict terror and war, and not to love, your enemies? Another example: the thought that the lion shall lie down with the lamb occurs to neither lion nor lamb, both of which possess limbic systems. Yet we have found that felines will not consider another species to be prey if exposed to their company early enough. What is this process in our own minds that hardens like that predatory feline mindset? Are we necessarily its slaves? Or, if we recognise that the plasticity of the mind changes as we age in several areas, can we begin to better manage our minds?

Now, armed as we are with those URQ insights from MacLean, and Csikszentimihalyi's comments about how they are seeing from within the ULQ, let us now switch focus from the URQ to attempt to chart out a map of the individual interiors of humankind in general, and terrorists in particular. And we can also now armed ourselves with a definition of terrorism – the use of terror to establish both a retreat to their R-complexes by non-combatants, and a recognition therein of the dominance over the victims by the terrorist.

When we look at research on that ULQ, we find ourselves in a field inhabited by both spiritual and religious traditions, and by psychologists. We also find ourselves in fields replete with uncertainties, squabbles and histories of institutionalised terrorism. But we also find religious traditions replete with spirits delightful, which inspire within us feelings of communion and of grace. It is a field full of many flowers as well as horrors, tracing the opening of hearts and minds to the light – up to, and (it is claimed by several religious traditions and psychologists) beyond the spectrum charted thus far by MacLean, and where the whole is far more than the sum of its parts.

Amongst the best-known of those maps are those provided by Abraham Maslow, with his Pyramid of Needs – which can be seen to trace the satisfaction of the fundamental needs of each of the brains in turn, the “pyramid” shape reflecting the higher being built upon the lower, and being of lesser span than the lower. A complementary opposite image is supplied by Spiral Dynamics – a development of the work of a friend and colleague of Maslow's, Clare Graves, by Don Beck and Chris Cowan, which shows an ever-growing spiral of increasing openness to, and complexity of, understanding. There are many such maps charting their spectrums of consciousness, including that of Ken Wilber. They are not unanimous about where, for example, the exact division between the equivalents to “red” and “orange” should be, but they do agree that there are some things vibrating out there in the interiors of themselves and others that can be seen as a spectrum. Some appear to be more colour-deficient than others, but there are those whose spectrums are so wide and deep that they can say, along with Apollinaire:

We would show you kingdoms vast and strange
Where the wisdom in flowers reveals itself to those who pick it
There are new worlds, of colours rarely seen,
Which, we must say, are real.
Calligrammes, 1918

In Spiral Dynamics, these “colours rarely seen” are classified as the “second tier” and beyond – yellow, turquoise, coral . . . They are rarely seen because the patterns in the brains required to see the new worlds visible to the higher reaches are rare achievements in this day and age: we learn vastly different amounts, in different domains, about mastering our magnificently complex brains.

As Spiral Dynamics uses colours, but not in the order of the spectrum, I will not use its schemata. To preserve neutrality I will plant my own flower, and hope that it helps explain in this paper. However, as I mentioned above that this field also contains spiritual traditions, I shall include the God-concept that prevails at each level (from Rosada, 1998) to help identify the levels. Noting that “each and every level/stage has healthy and unhealthy manifestations, judged against the scale of the degree of integration that can be structurally achieved at that level” (Wilber 2002) and with acknowledgement that Ken Wilber (1995), Spiral Dynamics (SD) and Jenny Wade are my primary sources, I present here present a schemata I call the RHS spectrum of consciousness, as follows:


Closed, mechanistic instinct and reflex-driven, like our crocodile, lizard etc as described above. Focussed on basic survival needs. Similar to Wilber's Archaic-uroboric, SD's Beige and Wade's Reactive levels.

Wade – “Core Assumption: I am the world, so my needs are met as they arise. Transition Dilemma: I am not the world.”*

Rosado – God Concept: non-existent because at this stage “Abstractions do not exist” (Wade, p.74).


I have honoured the raven with the one reference to a particular animal because of its cultural associations with magic, and the sociability of the bird. This level's world is full of good and evil spirits that must be put on one's side for survival. One huddles together against that hostile word as well as the hostile “others” of the material world in family bonds, and is made to feel secure by traditional rituals. Wilber's Typhonic-magic, SD's Purple, Wade's Naďve.

Wade – “Core Assumption: The leader and I are one, therefore I am safe. Transition Dilemma: The leader and I are not one.”*

Rosado – God Concept: “A Patriarch, a Father, a Supreme Being to be obeyed and not questioned.”**


So-called because the old movie “King Rat” springs to mind. This level finds the first emergence of a sense of self beyond that embedded in tribal/extended family identity. Winners rule, losers serve or die. Life is about MY control and dominance, which I will gain through might, and through shrewdly getting away with all that I can – by playing below the rules; “a cauldron of strong, negative emotional forces such as shame, rage, hate, disgust, grief, but not guilt” (Graves). Wilber's magic-mythic. SD's Red, Wade's Egocentric.

Wade – “Core Assumption: If I can be tough enough, I will never die. Transition Dilemma: Death is inevitable.”*

Rosado – God Concept: “Supreme Commander of Heaven”**


“Herder” is meant as “one who joins a herd”, not “one who herds.” Thinking is marked by absolute dualisms – good, bad; black, white etc. “Such powerful dualism indicates that the limbic system, which was beginning to influence consciousness at the Egocentric stage, is largely dominating subjective experience. This evolutionarily ancient part of the brain cannot tolerate ambiguity . . .” (Wade, pp.117, 121-122). There is righteous order in conformity: be obedient to the Higher Authority. Wilber's Mythic level, SD's Blue, Wade's Conformist.

Wade – “Core assumption: The universe is fair, so I can ensure my security by being good. Transition Dilemma: Life is not fair.”*

Rosado – God Concept: “The Lawgiver and Judge; Exclusive, Transcendent, the Lord of the Vineyard.”**


The world is an arena to play in – to achieve material success and – why not? - flaunt it. Be recognised and admired by the recognised and admired. The winners can laugh, and the losers can please themselves. Resourceful, logical, analytical, empirical, positivist. Often sceptical, if not scornful, of Conformist religious beliefs. A recognition emerges of shades of grey as well as black vs white. Plays to win within the rules. Wilber's rational-egoic; SD's Orange; Wade's Achievement.

Wade – “Core Assumption: I can be master of my fate through my own initiative. Transition Dilemma: Some forces cannot be controlled.”*

Rosado – God Concept: “The Chief Executive, the Wonderful Counsellor, Personal Friend, Imminent.”**


Values the warm, caring aspects of self and others; live and let live, be kind and nice to all; against nasty hierarchies, and for egalitarianism. Wants to share, find love together. Conflates fairness and equality; may avoid conflict and confrontation; co-dependent rather than independent – “we can all grow together.” Wilber's early vision-logic; SD's Green; Wade's Affiliative.

Wade – “Core Assumption: Enough love will conquer any difficulty. Transitional Dilemma: Love cannot redeem every situation.”*

Rosado – God Concept: “The Compassionate One, God of the Oppressed, the Just One, inclusive.”**

* Wade, ibid, Table 13, p. 263.

** Rosada, 1998

I shall refer to the three sets of three in the RHS as “zones” – the R-zone, the H-zone, and the S-zone (the R-zone being the zone where MacLean's R-complex of the URQ is most dominant). We shall not explore my S-zone of Seer, Saint and Sage, for it goes well beyond the level at which we can expect to find terrorist consciousness – the focus of this paper - and according to SD only a tiny proportion are currently centred there– a paltry one percent of the population in the USA (Beck and Cowan). However, it is only in the S-zone that the fallacies of misplaced concretedness (the Aztec interpretation of 'open your heart to the sun', for example) and misplaced abstractions (racialism, for example), can be adequately identified and addressed (but the task is vital in this context, as both fallacies so often facilitate terrorism). Suffice to say that despite the highly significant differences in the above “first tier” mindsets, the R and H-zones share one thing in common: their perception of mutual exclusivity – even of their God-concepts. In the second tier, that perception dissolves, and the interplay, co-dependency and integration of not only the zones but the levels become progressively both more apparent and more real. They involve deeper and wider orders of integration of wise and compassionate action, subtler and finer vibrational harmonics of understanding, and of the opening of hearts, minds, and hands in the service of all life. This service is towards each and all becoming its uniquely finest expression of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Our lives become more beautiful, in beauty's “fundamental, ancient definition” (Tanase, in Siguan, p. 276) - “the right correspondence of parts and these with the whole.” In our metaphor of the field, we become a flower open to the sun. The S-zone in open-minded play in this second tier spans SD's Yellow, Turquoise, Coral . . . Wilber's Centaur/mid-to-late Vision Logic, Psychic, Subtle and Causal, and Wade's Authentic and Transcendent levels. It extends to trans-egoic levels, which are ultra-violet in our spectrum analogy, light re-integrating to white as well as articulated into its colours. And beyond the S-zone is the nondual. The nondual is supra-, not super-, conscious; duality is fundamental to consciousness as we know it. Just as the colour spectrum disappears to us beyond the ultra-violet, so consciousness is intra-dual and the spectrum of consciousness disappears beyond our perceptual capacity. Again, kindly note from MacLean the essentially closed nature of hearts and minds in the R-zone, and their progressive opening through the H and S zones. . Note again that “hierarchical cannot be reduced to linear” (Freeman, p. 135). That may be the way our minds are tempted to work in modelling, but it is not the way that things usually are: inappropriate conceptual frameworks kill from ignorance. From the spiritual traditions, Panikkar further notes that “ the nature of Reality is not Dialectical: neither reducible to logical dynamisms nor proceeding by synthesis of opposites” (Panikkar, p.10). No two-dimensional map is the time-space territory.

Wilber notes that things can go wrong at ALL of these levels – even his Psychic, Subtle and Causal levels (for example, extraordinary openness without “reality checks” can be as sterile as closure can be destructive). Things going wrong in such development can involve regression, arrest, repression, fixation, denial - defences of the 'self', whether that self is body-bound, or fused with a cause. A person centred at a high mindset can regress to a lower one in case of illness or stress – or confine that regression to kick in within a particular situation. Mind you, we sometimes regress just for “fun” – in watching team sports for example, for stimulation of R-complex reactions, but then we usually know not to take it seriously. But if we are lock ourselves within some levels, we do not know not to take it seriously: we will take it so seriously as to kill for it. Those levels are in the R-zone, and it is there that we must look for terrorists.

Part Two.

So far we have looked at the upper two quadrants – the individual interior (ULQ) and individual exterior (URQ). However, the individual has social and environmental roles, and it is in this all-quadrant relationship that the human spirit enters the world, just as our footballer entered the world of sport. Whereas the interior quadrants have nested hierarchies as referred to above and developed by philosophers through the ages from Plotinus to Aurobindo, a more accurate word than “hierarchy” (with its authoritarian resonances) to describe the process therein, and which enfolds the exterior quadrants, is “Panarchy” – “a nested set of adaptive cycles arranged as a dynamic hierarchy in space and time . . . the dynamic interplay between the processes and structures that sustain relationships on the one hand, and those that accumulate potential on the other” (Gunderson & Holling, p. 402). Similar to Wilber's “holarchy”, the perceptual lenses it provides may allow us to navigate uncertainty more successfully, but in so doing they remind us of the several dangers we would often rather not think about. The exterior social/environmental (LRQ) contains ways and means of inflicting death more terrifying than at any other time in history. Nuclear weapons with hugely excess capacity to destroy us all; conventional weaponry of awesome effectiveness; new diseases emerging from deforested etc areas; great new dangers as well as possibilities for good emerging from genetic engineering - such dangers as are sufficient to make those imagined or perceived by the Raven mindset to be trivial in comparison. As Wilber has pointed out, higher mindsets have devised weaponry for the hands of lower mindsets that could well destroy us all. Almost anything is now possible with the infrastructure we now have, or can create, in the LRQ – the Earth as a sub-humane battleground, the Earth as sans-humanity altogether, or the Earth as the New Jerusalem: where are we heading, and is it where we want?

There is much evidence to decide that question in the LRQ, including the disproportionate amounts spent on defence worldwide and other examples of arrest, fixation etc in the R-zone (compared to the amount required to meet the most basic survival needs of everyone on Earth). How much does that spending reflect any insight into the S-zone Buddhist prayer – “make me neither to poor, nor too rich”? Or even the H-zone's “win-win” insights?

But to more fully answer which direction we are heading in the twenty-first century – more into spirit, or more into error and terror - we must now turn to the final quadrant – the socio-cultural interior (LLQ). Over fifty years ago, the Jungian psychologist Erich Neumann wrote on the fracturing of the relationships between individuals and this quadrant as follows:

“When the individual falls away from the cultural fabric” (LLQ) "like this, he finds himself completely isolated in an egotistically inflated private world. The restlessness, the discontents, the excesses, the formlessness and meaninglessness of a purely egocentric life – are the unhappy results . . . Following the collapse of the archetypal canon, single archetypes then take possession of men and consume them like malevolent demons. Typical and symptomatic of this transitional phenomenon is the state of affairs in America, though the same holds good for practically the whole western hemisphere. Every conceivable sort of dominant rules the personality, which is a personality only in name. The grotesque fact that murderers, brigands, gangsters, thieves, forgers, tyrants, and swindlers, in a guise that deceives nobody, have seized control of collective life is characteristic of our time. Their unscrupulousness and double-dealing are recognised – and admired. Their ruthless energy they obtain at best from some stray archetypal content that has got them in its power. The dynamism of a possessed personality is accordingly very great, because, in its one-track primitivity, it suffers from none of the differentiations that make men human. Worship of the “beast” . . . prevails wherever one-sidedness, push, and moral blindness are applauded, i.e., wherever the aggravating complexities of civilized behaviour are swept away in favor of bestial rapacity. One has only to look at the educative ideals now current in the West.

“The possessed character of our financial and industrial magnates, for instance, is psychologically evident from the very fact that they are at the mercy of a suprapersonal factor – “work,” “power,” “money,” or whatever they like to call it – which, in the telling phrase, “consumes” them and leaves them little or no room as private persons. Coupled with a nihilistic attitude towards civilization and humanity there goes a puffing up of the ego-sphere which expresses itself with brutish egotism in a total disregard for the common good and in the attempt to lead an egocentric existence, where personal power, money, and “experiences” – unbelievably trivial, but plentiful – occupy every hour of the day.
Neumann, pp. 391-392.

Is it this kind of view of America that inspired the terrorists to attack America, and in particular, the WTC towers? Perhaps: but if so, isn't terrorism also an instance of “one-track primitivity, (suffering) from none of the differentiations that make men human”? Remember that “worship of the “beast” . . . prevails wherever one-sidedness, push, and moral blindness are applauded”, and the killing of those in the WTC is demonstrative of precisely that. We find terrorists in a battle inside the R-zone, whereas the task of the spiritual traditions is to awaken the combatants to the “kingdoms vast and strange”, the “new worlds, of colours rarely seen”, beyond those musty and murderous ones. What terror does, and is intended to do, is to drag us back to our R-zones, to be dealt with on the terms that the terrorist misunderstands as victory. And the spiritual traditions tell us: no, do not allow that to happen to you: the victory is in understanding, transcending and including.

The spiritual traditions I am referring to are usually, but not always, found within religious traditions. Religious traditions are in a different, overlapping set which, regrettably, include not only traditions of repression and control for the satisfaction of the R-zones of those controlling the traditions, but also the R-zone symptom of the demonisation of others outside the tradition that they control. To this day, those of us considering themselves superior to the “others” of us kill leaders who recognise our common humanity for reasons to do with their R-zone religious adherence. That is not “religion”, which means “binding together again”. The greatest fool can tear down the body of the greatest soul: but it is so hard to build a soul to greatness, and that task is that of spiritual traditions, which transcend – are not the sole property of – any religion on Earth.

This is a particularly important distinction to make in the context of this fracture between the ULQ and LLQ identified by Neumann. Whereas the separation of church and state has been a great success in promoting tolerance and in allowing the emergence of hunter mindsets from herder ones, the conflated separation of spirit from state – and commerce - has been calamitous (Neumann's point being only one of its many manifestations). The result has been not only the “rat-race”, but a more general ascendency of the R-zone in terms of wars, environmental degradation, hunter mindsets and inventions serving mainly R-zone ends, and so on. That is not to say that things were better before that separation: it is to say that development of the human spirit has been severely impaired by imperial claims on the human spirit by church, state and other LLQ manifestations in the past. Spirit transcends and includes them all, and their claims on spirit facilitate R-zone dominance and are counter-evolutionary. We need the R-zone, but we now need far more to survive and flourish, and the spiritual traditions can set us on the path.

I am most familiar with the spiritual traditions manifested through Christianity, and so shall direct most attention to them. What would Jesus say to the terrorist-to-be, who could see no more to America than the detestable picture painted by Neumann above? Perhaps He could point out that those attacked, and America itself, contain far more than that which the terrorists could see?

Well, Jesus has spoken on the subject: He said:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7,1-3).

“You have heard that it has been said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you . . . whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5, 38-39)

“But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of And in that same Sermon on the Mount, He told us the “Our Father”, which says to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. (Matthew 6, 9-13)

What! Turn the other cheek! Forgive!?! You must be joking! “Don't mess with me, buster!” My heart and mind closes to the subject, and there I am, back to my R-zone. Jesus, and similar teachers in other traditions, was attempting to nudge people out of their imprisonment within the R-zone - in Stuart Gordon's phrase “convictions make convicts” – trying to nudge us up an evolutionary notch or two along the RHS spectrum: “turn the other cheek: OK, I've done that once. Now twice, now three times . . . Look what's happening inside me! A black rage is rising – dragging me back to my R-zone! Can I control it? Should I? If not, why not? And if I cannot, what is to be done? How can I develop more options than simple knee-jerk reactions? Is it appropriate to hit back now? Or should I have done so the first time I was hit?”

And thusly we are on our way – beyond “one-track primitivity,” which “suffers from none of the differentiations that make men human”: beyond “worship of the 'beast', where the aggravating complexities of civilized behaviour are swept away”! “In order to forgive one needs a strength beyond the mechanical order of action and reaction, one needs the Holy Spirit.” (Panikkar, p.14). Our minds and our hearts can open to the journey through the H-zone and the S-zone: but to where - and how fast?

The spiritual traditions recognise that such demands are far from easy, and that not all dangers along the way are as “in your face” as a slap on the cheek! Prudentius (c. 410) in his poem the “Battle for the Soul" describes seven deadly sins leading to entrapment in the developmental dungeon of the R-zone, and seven “contrary virtues, as follows: from pride, towards humility; from envy, towards kindness; from gluttony, towards abstinence; from lust, towards chastity; from anger, towards patience; from avarice, towards liberality/charity; and from sloth, towards diligence.

How quaint, even childish, those virtues sound these days - how piously simplistic the recipe of Prudentius! And how full the world is of the vices, and how scarce and frail such unfashionably self-responsible virtues in the face of those robust vices! But, “unless you turn, and become as children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18,3). One does not turn from a rodent into a hunter without becoming a herder first. One cannot become a great footballer without learning the rules, and one does not get a great game of football without a referee to enforce the rules and send off the rodents. Instead, one gets a brawl, and rule by bullies, gangsters, and terrorism. If we are still in the thrall of the R-zone, we must go back to the fundamentals to ascend to the H-zone, and the spiritual traditions are the transmitters of those fundamentals.

If we can grow, through them, beyond the perpetual slavery of the R-zone's R-complex dominance, we can embark on that journey to such vast new worlds of perception and possibility. We can only do it nonlinearly, but we can do it. Csikszentmihalyi tells us how to set the speedometer: But to drive where? Again, spiritual traditions tell of this journey in so many ways, but essentially it is to go from R-zone dominance to H-zone dominance to S-zone dominance– a hierarchical journey which, like any such, cannot be reduced to the linear (Freeman, p.135).

As said in Apocrypha such as the Gospel of Thomas - “the kingdom of the Father is spread over the earth and men do not see it.” That is “where”. And what of those provocations that drag us back to the R-zone, such as the need for vengeance? That is God's: “to me belongeth vengeance” (Deuteronomy 32:35). It is not the task of terrorists, and not that of vigilantes.

Are you satisfied with that as an answer from the spiritual traditions? I am not, because it means that in order to comprehensively address terrorism, it means we have to break out of our comfort zones and engage with the “real world” - the various messes in any of the quadrants blocking the development of the other quadrants – and on scales from individual to worldwide! Due to the facilities now available in the LRQ such as aeroplanes etc, terrorists attacks can come from anywhere and anyone locked within their R-zones on a subject - and they number in the billions! Every day, tens of thousands of children die from readily preventable causes; every day, tens of millions of them have their future flowerings further stunted or crippled by readily preventable dietary deficiencies or environmental pollution; and every day hundreds of millions become less and less than they could be from loss of opportunities that could readily be made available to them but for the indifference and other pathologies so prevalent in the LLQs worldwide. We have all had some sort of birth trauma – but others go on to trauma after trauma after trauma – particularly those afflicted by war. What are they supposed to do? Leave us to sleep in comfort? They see that violence works – military conquest works! They don't have armies; their only access to violence is terrorism. Terrorism – “bad”: military action – “good”: pardon? They may not see things that way.

What are we, so much more blessed in our lives, supposed to do? The spiritual traditions are explicit: Jesus again:

“My kingdom is not of this world. To this end I was born, and for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”(John, 18.37)

But we cannot know that truth if our minds and hearts are closed, encased within the R-zone: our minds and hearts must be open to become “of the truth”. So the spirit of terror is in error: it is not through will crushing down our R-zones, but by the openness to development – the opening of hearts and minds – that truth can be found. The spirit of terror closes both, and the spirit of inquiry arises with the opening of both. As the Christmas carol puts it: “Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing!” What was that truth that Jesus referred to? He was referring to what was written in Psalm 82 – “Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High” - which means, all of those referred to in the psalm are sons or daughters of God, not only Jesus. And the psalm is referring to those who “defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82: 3-5).

But Jesus, along with other voices of the spiritual traditions, does not lock up Spirit in old books:

“Pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever. . . the Spirit of truth.”
(John 14.17)

That Spirit exists here, and now, in you and in me, and we have to find our answers NOW – not just from tradition, and certainly not from comfortable lies and excuses, but from discoveries made from the spirit of truth – the discoveries from science, but not just science - from observations from the world at whatever degree of certainty or uncertainty of knowledge, and through the growth AND THE SHRINKING of our own spirits – from seeing our hatreds as well as our loves, our descents into hell as well as our ascents into heaven. The search for truth can be very uncomfortable, particularly for our cherished notions based upon perceived R-zone requirements. We must learn to replace comfortable lies with truth, however uncomfortable it may be, to act with wisdom and compassion. Together then, we can find which terrible paths lead us from our mothers' wombs to desire inflicting terror on others, and how the milk of human kindness and love become curdled into such cruelty and hate, and which paths lead away from all of that.

Wilber said that Bodhisattvas must turn to politics: more – the public must become Bodhisattvas. At such a level, we find that, just as in the brain “No one neuron or part of the brain takes charge to control the other parts”, coordination becomes “invitational, not domineering” (Freeman, p.10). It recognises that “to achieve your ends it is in fact essential that you cease thinking in adversarial terms and move toward the concept of harmony, coordination and resonance” (Henderson) – towards spiritual beauty. “Assimilation (… achieving our desire to understand others and be understood…) is normal: when it fails, individuals may become rigid and demonstrate repetitious behaviours in abnormal states” (Freeman, pp.152 & 153) or, as in the case of terrorists, a retreat to sub-humane behaviour.

On the other hand, many focus upon high interior development, and become too engaged in the upper quadrants, with “contemplating their own navels”, to engage in addressing the dangerous, messy, flooded sewers of the lower quadrants. This is the quadrant fracture that Neumann identified over fifty years ago, with the precise results now manifesting more brutally than ever. Panikkar rightly claims that “no authentic spirituality defends escapism from the real world and no true sage encapsulates itself in its own selfishness or self-sufficiency... Contemplation is both theory and praxis, intellectual effort and active involvement… The true contemplative is a Man of action as much as thinking.” (Panikkar, pp.5 & 8). All of us have our own foci we can address – out own expertise in and between quadrants, in and between levels, our own ways and means of facilitating the action of the spirit of truth. Now we can see why, in the words of WB Yeats in his poem “The Second Coming” – “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with a passionate intensity”: because his “best” have their hearts and minds open to the spirit of truth, but lack the intensity to discriminate within the cauldron of conflict that is empirical verification what is truth from mere delightful theory, and the worst have a passionate intensity – “a cauldron of strong, negative emotional forces such as shame, rage, hate, disgust, grief” – dragging us all into a never-ending vortex of violence. Both extremes are errors of spirit: one of too little engagement, the other of too much. It is time for the “best” to re-engage with the LLQ – to add their hands as well as their hearts and minds to “defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked” – and show us all the kingdoms vast and strange, show the wisdom in the opening of flowers, and the paths to those new worlds rarely seen which, as Wilber notes, are in truth this world, rightly seen – eternally, now.


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