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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Helen DavisHelen Davis has spent 22 years as a university lecturer researching and teaching business management, organisational psychology and human resources management to line managers and HR personnel studying for their professional qualifications at Masters level. She has had her own business as a management and training consultant, and is also a qualified psychotherapy counsellor. She has an MBA and a Masters degree in Human Resource Strategies, but is now retired and lives in Hertfordshire, UK. She has had an interest in Integral studies since the 90s, and Kabbalah since the 80s.

Integral and Kabbalah

KABBALAH: bulletin 1

Helen Davis

KABBALAH: bulletin 1

Paul Foster Case
Painting: Paul Foster Case

A young friend who, as is the way nowadays, has had no education in spiritual or metaphysical matters, recently started to experience rather unpleasant psychic phenomena. Knowing that I have studied in this area, she asked me for advice. When I double checked this advice with my supervisor he also suggested, for various reasons, that I explain to my friend in as straightforward way as possible, why and how these sort of phenomena come about. As I was planning what to say, I wrote it down, complete with diagrams, and when I'd finished it occurred to me that I'd written my clearest introduction yet to a wisdom tradition.

As the following relates to levels of consciousness, it occurred to me that regular readers of this forum might be interested in comparing the following models with Integral's models of stages and states, especially given Wilber's interest in the 'perennial philosophy'

I have also invited non Integralists who are interested in finding out about wisdom traditions to visit this page.

Kabbalah is one of the ancient mystery traditions. There are several of these, essentially all saying the same thing, but the language and symbolism they use is adapted to the culture in which they've been developed.

A knowledge of a wisdom tradition helps people make sense of the world, and make better choices in their lives.

You are not asked to believe any of this blindly. There is no room for blind faith in the wisdom traditions. However you are asked to apply this model to what you see and hear going on around you, especially to those things which don't seem to fit into the currently prevailing materialist, physicalist world philosophy (i.e. only physical things exist) and make up your own mind.

To introduce you to Kabbalah, I am going to draw a picture of you. This is your body. The oval below represents the part of you that I can see, hear, touch, taste and smell (should I be so inclined!)

Diagram 1

But it's an incomplete picture, because you are not just a body, you're a mind as well.

Diagram 2

Your mind is your thoughts, your emotions, your attitudes, your values, your opinions, and so on.

As you can see, your body and mind overlap. Your brain is part of the overlap. Your brain is part of the mechanism,- the way-, in which your mind and body 'interface', that is, connect. (There are other ways also going on, to be discussed later.)

It is currently fashionable to believe the mind develops out of the brain, that is, out of the body.

In fact, it's the other way around. When you die, your body will fall away.

But you will find you still have a mind. If you don't already believe me, you will find out for yourself, sooner or later, hopefully later, that this is in fact true.

In addition, you are also so much more than a body and a mind. You are also a spirit.

Your spirit exists first, and brings your mind into being.

Diagram 4

In the diagram, your spirit does not overlap with your body, but DOES overlap with your mind. You soul is one of the connecting mechanisms between your mind and your spirit.

(Interestingly, another name for mind is “psyche” – from which we get words like “psychology”. But psyche was actually the ancient Greek word for 'soul'.)

And the picture of you is still not complete.

You are also Divine.

Diagram 5

As you can see, the Divine part of you overlaps with your spirit, but not your mind or your body. The Divine part of you brings your spirit into being.

We don't have a word in English for the main mechanism that connects your Divine part to your spirit, so I've used the kabbalistic word here: neshamah.

Now, running through the middle of all four parts of you is a line, like a ladder:

Diagram 6

This is the ladder of consciousness. Its importance is this. What you think of as 'you', that is, whenever you say or think 'I am', whenever you look at how your body is feeling, what emotions you're experiencing, what you're thinking about, etc. you are somewhere on that ladder.

Most people tend not to move very far up and down that ladder in one life time, if they move at all.

Most people alive at the moment are at a position on the ladder towards the bottom of their mind part. Rather rudely, tradition calls them 'vegetable people' or 'the masses':

Diagram 7

The main things that vegetable people want is a comfortable life: enough enjoyable food, a pleasant roof over their heads, their family around them, surrounded by people of the same ethnicity, maybe adequate, enjoyable sex, and a suitable 'comforter' when things get rough – TV, alcohol, drugs, religion – whatever does the trick. Not too much to ask, but the downside is that these people get washed around and pushed about like pebbles on a beach by waves.

A little 'higher' up the mind, you have animal people:

Diagram 8

Animal people want to have more of an impact in the world. They seek power and/or wealth and/or fame. They become politicians, entrepreneurs, TV and film celebrities, pop stars, captains of industry, commanders of armies, teachers, etc. The rewards can be great, but so are the risks.

Lastly, there are a third group, referred to as 'human people'. These people are at the point on the ladder where their spiritual part 'starts', or even higher,- so the middle of the mind or above. They are in touch with their souls.

Diagram 9

People who are in touch with their souls on a regular basis are good for the societies in which they live. They are able to see a bigger picture beyond individual wealth, worldly power and fame. They are able to build up good 'karma' for themselves – that is, good fortune for their futures, and work their way up the ladder of consciousness towards their original and true Self, their Divine Self, where TRUE power is, and where they will no longer need to submit themselves to the sufferings of living and learning on Earth.

When we die, we stay at approximately the same level of consciousness as when we were alive, that is, in the lower part of the mind (vegetable and animal people), or the upper part (human people.)

But we no longer have bodies, so where are we?

What happens is that when we're no longer attached to a body we 'transition', that is, we move our 'centre of gravity' from one dimension to another, a bit like changing channels on a TV.

To explain this further, we have to look at a model of the universe and its different dimensions.

In fact, a model of the universe looks just like the model of a human being. Just like every person consists of four parts or dimensions, the universe does as well, and these four parts/dimensions are traditionally referred to as the 'four worlds'.

A Model of the Universe:

Diagram 10

As you can see. The astral world/dimension corresponds to the mind in humans and, as stated already, most of us, i.e. vegetable and animal people, are 'stationed' in the lower halves of our minds. Remember though that 'human people' have made it up past the mid-point of their minds to the part which overlaps with their spiritual part.

When we die, we transition through to the same level in the astral world.

People who are managing to keep their level of awareness at or above the midpoint of their minds at the point when they die end up on the highest of the three astral planes which, overlapping with the spiritual world, contain four of the seven heavens. (Which of these they end up in depends on how high their level of consciousness had reached within their minds.) On this plane you find human saints and sages, as well as holy angels.

Diagram 11

However, animal and vegetable people can end up in the middle OR the lower astral plane, depending on how bogged down (with heavy emotions, thoughts and sin) or how light (with positive emotions and thoughts and compassion for themselves and others) their awareness is. (Sin here means 'missing the mark').

It's like, when you die, your new, astral body is simply composed of your emotions and thoughts. These make your new body light or heavy, depending on whether your thoughts and emotions are light or heavy. If your new body is light, you 'float up' within the two planes; and if heavy, you 'sink down'.

Heavy thoughts and emotions include hate, envy, jealousy, cruelty, resentment, bigotry, meanness, selfishness, self-pity, greed, self- aggrandisement, sloth, stubbornness, undiscriminating intolerance, and getting your own desires met at the expense of others' needs.

Light thoughts and emotions include compassion, love, courage, gratitude, optimism, sincerity, generosity, steadfastness, hope, patience, discriminating tolerance, kindness, joy, delight in creation, serenity and simplicity.

The middle astral plane is very like the physical earth. People build towns there (with their minds) and lead lives very much like on Earth, but without the suffering caused by having a physical body. There can however still be suffering caused by unpleasant thoughts and emotions. For some people this plane is paradise, and for others it is purgatory.

The inhabitants of this plane include 'lighter' vegetable and animal people, but interestingly also beings representing archetypes, such as the pagan gods and goddesses, plus other mythical beings, planetary spirits and elementals (nature spirits).

The lowest plane is a dark region, filled with people of the heaviest thoughts and emotions, and those who have done terrible things and feel no remorse (yet). This plane is dominated by demonic and chaotic powers and entities. The seven hells are on this plane.

However, nobody is destined to stay on any of the astral planes forever, whether the upper, middle or lower. In fact, most vegetable people very quickly reincarnate into another physical body, getting born again, often into the same country and/or ethnicity. The individual circumstances of that new life will be influenced by the amount of heaviness or lightness they are carrying.

Animal and human people often take longer to reincarnate and get more choice as to where and when it will happen, and what sort of life they will have. Both however are as constrained by the law of karma as vegetable people, because if they didn't reap what they sowed in their last life, they will have to in their next. (This is unavoidable, like water always finding its own level.)

Human people have the most choice of all. Despite earning good karma, they often choose difficult lives in which they have the opportunity to develop and progress up the ladder of consciousness more quickly. (So religions that believe that people with hard lives are paying the price for things done wrong in previous lives are only seeing half the picture.)

Some people, when they die, do not move very far away from the physical world (which, overlapping as the lower half of the astral world does with the physical world, they're still quite close to anyway.) People who have ended up in the upper plane can also visit the physical plane if they have good reason for doing so.

Sometimes people who are 'out of the body' (i.e. dead) keep close to earth or return to it to keep an eye on loved ones who are still alive. Sometimes people return because of unfinished business, sometimes it's because they got very attached to earthly things and miss them, and sometimes it's because people don't realise they have died, or do but don't know what to do next.

Incidentally, non-human beings (angels, demonics, nature spirits, etc.) also have ways of making their presence felt in the physical world, for various purposes. It is worth all of us remembering that the physical world is teeming with invisible people, entities and energies – some of them very interested in us, others completely oblivious. I don't wish to alarm anyone but in fact you are never truly absolutely alone...

Living people are usually quite unaware, mostly, of the presence of non-physical entities. It would be very distracting to what we are here to do as people with physical bodies if that wasn't the case. (For the same reason, we do not consciously remember, while alive, what happens to us in between earthly lives.) Nevertheless, some people have brains wired up in such a way that they do see or hear, feel, smell, taste or sense non- physical beings, (sometimes at will.) It is good for everyone who finds themselves in this situation to get support and guidance.

The work

You do not have to have psychic abilities to get into 'the work'. The work consists of intentionally moving your position on the ladder of consciousness constantly upwards.

It is not called 'the work' for nothing. Apart from an often brief honeymoon period, it is very hard going. But it puts you increasingly in charge of your own destiny, and you also start to have a positive influence on the destiny of others as well. Traditionally it is said that only 1 in 100 will show any interest at all in the work. Of those, 1 in a 100 will investigate further. Of those, only 1 in a 100 will continue in the work.

The first step in the work is to learn to consciously respond to events, especially to powerful emotions, rather than automatically (and usually predictably) reacting to them. You learn to put a split second (that's all it takes) between an occurrence and what happens next in which you reflect on optimal outcomes.

There are techniques for learning to do this, which will be considered in later 'bulletins'.

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