22 January 2019 Rufus Pollock
Just read Integral Spirituality which is excellent. I suspect the casual writing, poor editing and poor branding (name and cover) get in the way of Wilber’s monumental achievement. It is overbrimming with insight, rich in depth and packed with structural insights into the nature of knowing and being that kept having me repeatedly going “oh yes, now that makes sense.” Once you’ve got it you never go back. Below I summarize some of the main points.
AQAL (all quadrants, all lines) model with 4 quadrants and its lines of development within.
Interior | Exterior Singular I | It Plural We | Its
For me, distinguishing, say, the interiority of the contemplative / meditative vs the exteriority of say neuroscience was really useful. And simply, labelling all of this is very helpful (how many debates arise out of poor term definition):
He also has inside and outside on each of these to give 8 zones (I’m still working this one out fully).
Wilber-Coombs lattice. Another useful distinction of states vs stages. States = states of “consciousness/awareness” from egoic out to full non-duality whilst stages correspond to value paradigms. Seeing these as two independent, orthogonal axes of development was like “Oh yeah” and helps clear up a lot of confusion e.g. enlightenment being used for states but not stages (so it explains why you can have people who are very advanced in e.g. meditation but who are not advanced in stages). This allows Wilber to define “full” enlightenment as all states, all stages.
3S = stages, states, shadows
Distinction of shadows. A shadow is something like trauma, psychological dysfunction due to disidentification (suppression, repression, othering) of self with some part of oneself – the turning of an I into an it. Makes clear why you can have people advanced in contemplation who still have a lot of sh** to deal with.
Here’s the best summary I’ve found online:
Confusion of states with stages and unawareness of stage. Turning contemplative development into an ego trip and a justification for onanism: I get to do whatever I want, there are no rules (no “right actions”, no “right views”). It also gives rise to trivial pluralism / relativism.
His explanation of modernity and postmodernity was the first time i really got postmodernity and especially what was useful in it (intersubjectivity, understanding culture, the importance of perspectives) and what was flawed in it (“I’m the whole map” rather than just one quadrant; the performance paradox: there is no univeral truth except that there is no universal truth etc).
An explanation of the (missing) role of spirituality – crudely in transition to orange we dumped spirituality and because individual evolution goes through stages that is a real block to healthy reintroduction even at higher stages (e.g. reintroduction in green often turns into new-ageism)
That plural parallels singular rather than extending it. Put simply: societies are not the next level up from organisms (in the way organisms are the next level up from cells). So leviathan style metaphors are misleading. And “Gaia” style paradigms: atom => molecule => … => cell => organism => family => tribe => society are fundamentally flawed. Plurals parallels I but they are not extensions. Basic argument is that I items (e.g. atom, molecule, cell, organism) have a “dominant monad” – the thing moves together e.g. if i walk over there every cell in my body walks over there. This is not generally true of collections of organisms e.g. human societies.
He has the cultural trauma idea (western orange (i.e. enlightenment) repression of spirituality is due to incomplete trauma of religion – Voltaire’s “remember the millions”)
Asides/improvements (mainly of communication):
Personally it helps frame and extend my current focus on culture. I’m currently obsessed with culture. Culture is the study of collective being – the analogy of ontology for the group. I’ve been starting to get ontology for myself particularly in the gestalt moment of landmark, and, in that, realising that I’d been engaged in practical ontology via meditation and reflection for a long time and this was a major interest of mine (for a long time I’d sort of thought ontology was too grand for me – it was Heidegger and I’d never made it past p.35 of Sein und Zeit).
This then combined with my long-term interest in history, economics, politics etc which is all about group. In addition, i grokked that individual being is fundamentally intertwined with collective being i.e. culture.
Meanwhile my long-running interest and ambitions around social/political change had, for some time, been running up against the reality that we aren’t all perfect rational beings (“dad and his newspapers”, “X and the iraq war”, evidence from endless discussions with others, the news, open knowledge is not much without open minds etc). I’d already been grounding / getting major insights on that at the individual psychological level out of Buddhism (“non-attachment to views”) and modern cog-sci but I always felt there was something missing about the group (“GDP is not a just a view it is a co-created view of the group”).
And finally this linked up with my interest in group both for the practicality and richness of community and community living in my own life (it’s something about upbringing – look at my sister and me both living in community!) but also for its importance in group coordination to solve collective action problems and to ground awakening (“you need a sangha”, “the tiger that goes to the lowlands dies”, my own struggles to meditate on my own etc).
To summarize, all roads led to culture:
There is a danger here that culture is just a convenient totalising label – a nice name for my tendency to seek theories of everything. There is some truth to this and the integral theory is useful here too: I haven’t really distinguished culture from systems theory – for me its sort of been both (though with more of an emphasis on lived experience). The integral stuff suggests distinguishing these two is helpful: crudely economics is distinguished from culture and history informs both (and much, much more).
It might also help to set out some of the key questions i have and their priority.
More intellectually (i.e. of less immediate practical importance)
If you have questions, comments or feedback join our chat channel or follow us on social media