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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Dr. Joseph Dillard is a psychotherapist with over forty year's clinical experience treating individual, couple, and family issues. Dr. Dillard also has extensive experience with pain management and meditation training. The creator of Integral Deep Listening (IDL), Dr. Dillard is the author of over ten books on IDL, dreaming, nightmares, and meditation. He lives in Berlin, Germany. See: integraldeeplistening.com
and his YouTube channel
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And Phenomenologically-based Experiential Multi-Perspectivalisms
Bonnitta Roy is an award-winning author, philosopher and coach to individuals and groups. She teaches a masters course in consciousness studies and transpersonal psychology at the Graduate Institute of Meridian University. She is also the founder of the Alderlore Insight Center where she teaches insight practices to those who are developing meta-cognitive skills and breaking away from limiting patterns of thought. Her teaching highlights the embodied, affective and perceptual aspects of the core self, and the non-egoic potentials from which subtle sensing, intuition and insight emerge. Roy anchors both perception and the self in the participation of mind, body, and brain in a phenomenalistic and integral redefinition of both self and experience. The result is a call for sensory clarity, as generated by extreme meditative, sport, and musical direct perception, as a prerequisite to authentic human relating.
A phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalism (PEM) is an expansion of cognitive multi-perspectivalisms, such as Ken Wilber's Integral AQAL (all quadrants, levels, lines, states, and styles) to emphasize disidentification with the self, soul, and Self and the surfacing and tabling of all assumptions that filter and distort perceptual clarity. To Roy's useful and important formulations, PEMs add an emphasis on a collectively-oriented, experiential and multi-perspectival phenomenology that demonstrates the necessity of the cultivation of morality and empathy as objectively-determined assessments necessary for the emergence of an authentic, balanced, constantly expanding and thinning multi-perspectival and polycentric identity. Integral Deep Listening (IDL) is one possible variety of PEM. Various forms of self-disidentification, including hypnosis, channeling, shamanism, Tibetan deity yoga, and the classical Greek conception of possession by this or that Muse are examples of experiences that contain elements of a PEM. Most of these, however, are practiced without awareness of fundamental assumptions and how they filter and limit clarity of perception and are therefore not thoroughly phenomenological. That does not mean that they cannot be reconstituted in ways that emphasize more of the core qualities of PEMs.
Core Qualities of PEMs
Core qualities of phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalisms include 1) the surfacing of assumptions relevant to the attainment of clarity of perception; 2) the tabling, or temporary setting aside of those assumptions; 3) disidentification from both definitions and experiences that are self-based; 4) identification, to a lesser (light trance) or deeper (full trance or dissociation/possession) degree, with some subjective or objective “other;” 5) the structured questioning/interviewing of that other; 6) the eliciting of recommendations associated with ongoing life issues; 7) the operationalizing of one or more recommendation; 8) the empirical testing of the validity/usefulness of both recommendations and methodology.
What is a phenomenological approach?
When approached in an integral context, phenomenology is deep perceptual examination that is participatory, direct, and adequate (Roy, 2017). “Participatory” designates transactional, interdependent, and co-arising characteristics. Participatory perception is not an interaction between self and the other but among mutual selves and mutual others. Therefore, participatory perception is non-dual, due to its experiential mutuality. (PEMS recognize a continuum of participation based on the degree of objectification (disidentification) and identification.) “Direct,” means “non-mediated;” therefore, simple and clear. “Adequacy” is defined by the purpose or intention of the act of perception. Therefore, an adequate perception is one that has adaptive utility.
Phenomenology, while traditionally considered a form of introspection that minimizes both assumptions and expectations, can be applied to any object of awareness, not only to interior ones. In fact, phenomenology, when rightly approached, recognizes introspection as an a priori assumption to be minimized, stripped away, or laid aside, in favor of simple and clear observation. In Wilber's Integral Methodological Pluralism, which emphasizes nonexclusion, unfoldment, and enactment, and which is both paradigmatic and meta-paradigmatic, phenomenology is both the object, in zone #1, and the perceived or methodology, in zone #2. In zone #1, it involves the phenomena, injunctions, and perspectives associated with the inside view of a holon in the upper-left quadrant. Zone #1 is the sole zone to emphasize only first-person perspectives and methods (e.g., introspection, meditation). In zone #2, phenomenology involves the phenomena, injunctions, and perspectives associated with an outside view of a holon in the upper-left quadrant. Such holons include thoughts, feelings, and interior state experiences, such as dreaming, near-death, and mystical experiences.
As a methodology of research, IDL, as a form of integral phenomenology, rests on three of the four axes of validation delineated by Roy (2017): 1) adequate participation with the topic through direct, phenomenological inquiry, 2) an individual, collective, cultural or political transformative potential, and 3) purposeful action-inquiry toward the good. (p. 7) To the good, IDL adds the true and the beautiful, the other two elements in the Socratic Triune, and Justice, emphasized by Socrates' student, Plato. Each of these four counterbalance the other two axes of validation, adequate participation and transformative potential, disclosing important domains of value in their own right, and each representing broader constellations of related, supportive families of values. Roy believes her four axes of validation of an integral phenomenology meet the following criteria: they are best addressed through the four criteria of appeals to deepest spiritual intuitions, validated through scientific enquiry, are politically actionable, and aesthetically, generate harmony, balance, proportionality and other elements of beauty. Sam Harris has said,
What the whole world most needs at this moment is a means of convincing human beings to embrace the whole of the species as their moral community. For this we need to develop an utterly nonsectarian way of talking about the full spectrum of human experience and human aspiration.
A way of putting this in the language of Integral AQAL is to say that humanity needs to evolve from an ego-based, or psychologically geocentric, way of looking at each other, through an ethnocentric, or “in-group” form of collective favoritism, to worldcentrism. IDL expands worldcentrism to treat not only objective, but subjective others, with the respect, trustworthiness, reciprocity, and empathy that we desire for ourselves. This involves combining, drawing from, and integrating three forms of capital: financial, social, and intrasocial (Dillard, 2021).
PEM criteria of organic enquiry as a form of transpersonal research include focus on transformative validity, that is, the thesis as an “evocative vehicle of feeling as well as thinking” Roy, (p. 7). In IDL interviewing, we can experience this in the affective elements of becoming a hedgehog or spit just as much as through becoming an infinite plenum of love and gratitude. PEMs present diverse and intimate views of whatever topic is under phenomenal investigation. For example, a client may personify her depression as a puma. When asked how it deals with depression, the puma might say it lives in the present moment, not the past or the future. Such a view is diverse, in that it represents a perspective the subject herself does not take, and it is intimate in that it authentically expresses a perspective that is intrinsic to the subject. Those who hear or read an interview become engaged in a parallel process of transformative interpretation. For example, the interviewer is thereby put in touch with an inner resonance to the puma's emphasis on staying in the here-and-now.
What Roy calls the exploration of micro stages, states and the micro-genesis of experience through integral phenomenology (Roy, p. 8), IDL calls the exploration of intrasocial realities and their application to individual and collective problem solving through an experiential and thoroughly phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalism.
Roy's deeply sacred, desensionist approach to integral phenomenology minimizes the use of such terms as “spiritual,” “God,” “divine,” “soul,” and language associated with energy bodies, such as “etheric,” “subtle,” or “causal.” IDL does the same, based on the stripping away of associated assumptions as an aspect of its phenomenological method and the lack of reference to such language by most interviewed characters.
Roy on the nature of perception
Perception is a kind of “multi-layered ecology of participation, where figure and ground, agent and environment, content and context can filter themselves in or out.” Perception, according to Roy, can be differentiated from affect, cognitive assumptions (“tacit knowing”), and “virtual” perception. Regarding affect, Roy views “…perception as the out-pouring energy toward the object that is desired or loved; whereas affect (is) the flooding-in energy of relationship…” (p. 70) “Virtual perceptions” are simulated perceptions, including inner hearing, images, taste, smell and touch, whether experienced in memory, fantasy, dream, or an altered state of consciousness. They only are delusions if they are first assumed to be real and then discovered to not be what is assumed. However, as part of a phenomenological encounter, ontological status can be suspended as well, allowing the object of perception to define itself. “…correct perception as adequate participation; and perceptual errors as a consequence of lack of adequate participation. This solves the perennial parable of the snake that is mistaken for a rope.
Perception, as an ecology of overlay, can be construed as a continual dialing in and out of available features “afforded (offered or provided) by the world” until it satisfies the conditions for a needed or desired action. A convenient analogy would be tuning a radio to a station that satisfies a threshold of fidelity.
…perception, as direct participation is perfectly attuned to the world, because it is something that the world does, in mutual participation with us. Error, confusion, deception and bias all result from a lack of adequate participation. Fully realized, authentic participation results in the experience of enhanced, direct perception of the rich, abundant, vivid display of reality, and a keen insight into our place in this sacred world.” “According to (Gelukba Sautrantika, a Tibetan Buddhist scholastic tradition with a highly refined theory of epistemology), the possibility for non-dual knowing is given by the interpenetrating mutuality of thought, perception, and world, which leads to liberating insight.
Direct perception, in the purest sense, is perception absent the participation of imagination. We can also think of direct perception, as degrees of awareness of the role of the virtual and imaginary in our experience. The greater degree of awareness, the greater choice we have to intentionally add in or subtract out the components of experience that are extraneous to the objects of perception. The integration of awareness and intention, consciousness and choice, is spiritual wisdom.
Roy's Awakened Perception and PEMs display differences regarding how they approach truth claims. Because PEMs are polycentric, there is no ability to be perfectly attuned to the world, but only the ability to achieve approximations of same, based on areas of agreement and congruency among others, self, and one's life compass. Any perspective can achieve an experience of perfect attunement which is quite different from that of some other perspective. A galaxy may experience perfect attunement within the universe while within it suns are exploding and worlds with their life forms are vaporizing.
Polycentrism means embracing and respecting both contradictory and illusory perspectives. An exploding sun can as adequately participate in the universe as a galaxy. However, if perception itself is defined as non-illusory, non-imaginal, and non-dual, then, by definition, galaxies and suns are not going to be capable of awakened perception because they lack a degree of awareness sufficient to differentiate truth from reality. PEMs do not make this distinction. Instead, they take at face value the perspective and degree of awakened perception of both subjective and objective others. For example, when we identify with or become an exploding sun it is clear that we are not actually becoming one with this or that exploding sun in actuality; we are not experiencing what actual exploding suns experience. Instead, we are allowing our own conditioned understanding of what an exploding sun's reality is to reframe our perception, including our own perspective and adding its perspective to ours. In that sense, the reality of the exploding sun is transpersonal in relationship to our own, even if we are advanced meditators. This is because it includes our own awakened awareness and adds to it its variety or form of awakened awareness. Since this will differ if we are an exploding sun, a vaporized planet, or a galaxy, what we arrive at are three different experiences of awakened, transpersonal perception, any of which may or may not be non-dual.
Enhanced, direct perception involves, as Roy says, “fully realized, authentic participation.” However, if the participation of imagination is excluded, how is authentic or fully realized participation attained? If the non-dual includes the dual, then the non-dual does not exclude imagination. In the domain of morality, a non-dual definition of the Good is going to contain evil, not exclude, ignore, discount, or repress it. In addition to respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy, a non-dual definition of the Good will include disrespect, selfishness, deceit, and egocentrism. In fact, PEMs do not differentiate direct perception by Hitler surrogates and vomit from Bodhisattvas and prana. For PEMs, truth is not based on correspondence or coherence, but on pragmatism: when the recommendations made by vomit are empirically tested, what are the results? Does perception become more or less awakened? Do relationships become more or less mutually beneficial? Does inner peace increase or not? Is life more harmonious or more chaotic? Such outcomes can be operationally defined, and if they are, who is to say that the perspective of vomit is not as awakened as that of prana or a Bodhisattva?
While direct perception can be cultivated through mundane and secular trainings in sports, music, and other disciplines, it is most clearly and powerfully articulated and developed by Zen and Tibetan Gelukba. The common assumption is that it is the responsibility of the self to do the integration of perception by mind, brain, and body. Perception is participatory and represented by various intersections of virtual mind, body, and brain.
Let us say that you are an advanced meditator, experienced in both Zen and Tibetan Gelukba. Let us say, in addition, that you have had experienced extensive immersions in nature, devotional, formless, and non-dual forms of unitary awareness. Let us then say that you remember a dream of sitting with a group of monks in a Buddhist temple, meditating. A large snake, or naga, enters and begins inspecting each meditator. It comes to you. It rears back and bites your forehead at your third eye. You wake up. Let us then say that you follow the IDL interviewing protocol, become and interview the naga. Whatever it says, it will have the advantage of including your own degree of awakened perception and then adding to it its own degree of perception. Since its perspective includes yours and then adds its own to it, the result is very likely to be heightened awakened perception, regardless of what the naga says. It is not so much the truthfulness or correctness of the content of its statements. It may say things you already know. Rather than truth, revelation, insight, or catharsis, the process is much more the undergoing of experiential multi-perspectivalism itself, because it thins and expands your identity toward both polycentrism and your life compass' priorities.
PEMs as integral forms of phenomenological enquiry
Several factors make PEMs integral forms of phenomenological enquiry, following Roy's criteria.
A phenomenological enquiry into knowledge
IDL applies multi-perspectivalism to multiple sources of knowledge. Within the IDL framework knowledge comes from learning and following its various methodologies of objectification from scripting, enmeshment in drama, cognitive distortions, fallacies, and biases, goal setting, passivity, oneself, using interviewing, pranayama, and meditation, and setting intention, which is more fundamental than goal setting. Following the method builds knowledge through multi-perspectival awarenesses, triangulation, and trust in the methodology.
These are not fundamentally cognitive processes in the way that apprehension of both dreams and waking experience is normally understood, as states that are experienced and understood by us. Instead, identity is suspended; who is doing the perceiving as well as what is being perceived are suspended. Rather, as elements of these sources gain our attention as wake-up calls or simply arouse our curiosity, whether in the form of life issues, dream material, or imagery, thought, affective, or intentional material from meditation or other altered states of consciousness, these elements become first objects of direct identification and then interviewed using an IDL interviewing protocol.
Multi-perspectival sources of knowledge may be internal, in the form of knowledge about the self, affect, cognition and virtual perceptions and information, and “sensory information.” “Virtual information” arises as thoughts and mental images, memories, fantasies and dreams, while “sensory information,” involving proprioceptive and other forms of sensory input, life issues that address either the immediate socio-cultural sphere of interpersonal relationships, financial security, and physical and mental health, on the one hand, and the broader socio-cultural sphere, on the other. These multi-perspectival sources of knowledge raise important issues, both via methodology and interview responses, in areas of enquiry, including the natural sciences, psychology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, literature, the arts; as well as transpersonal wisdom. Therefore, a phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalism is applied to both cognitive realms of knowledge and immediate realms of experience that encompass not only cognition and affect, but core connectivity to both body and ecosystems.
A phenomenological enquiry into wisdom
IDL in particular and PEMs in general are intended to access wisdom in several ways. Wisdom comes from the objectification of self via repeated disidentifications with multiple perspectives that may or may not be self-aspects, or ways that we define ourselves, or thoughts, feelings, and worldviews with which we identify; the assumption that our sense of self is the determiner of wisdom is tabled by PEMs. Wisdom is a consequence of depersonalization without fragmentation or decompensation but, on the contrary, of heightened integration through the incorporation of expanded, more adequate self-definitions into a thinner, clearer, more transparent sense of self. Wisdom also arises via identification with higher octaves of core values, such as confidence, empathy, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing; and a heightened ability to balance not only such values but the contents of each of the four quadrants (feelings, thoughts, and bare consciousness; multiple perspectives and values; behavior; and interaction with both others and the environment.
Interviewed perspectives tend to possess more wisdom than we do because their perspectives include our own and therefore possesses our degree of wisdom while adding the wisdom intrinsic to their own experience and worldview, thereby providing perspectives that add some degree of wisdom to that we already possess. Both knowledge and wisdom accrue from the application of interview recommendations, as application provides opportunities for expansion of identity in ways that are increasingly adequate. In addition, becoming more adequate perspectives than our own at appropriate times and in appropriate ways is wise.
Phenomenological identification with transformational perspectives
There is a good case to be made that experiential access to perspectives that both include and transcend our own is transformational. Learning about and becoming the perspectives of interviewed elements, whether from dreams or the personifications of waking life issues, collectively referred to as “emerging potentials,” provides transformational knowledge. These may reflect stuck, fixated, or regressed perspectives or subtle, causal, high witnessing (turiya) or non-dual (turititya) perspectives. Knowledge of these perspectives becomes transformative to the degree that they are successfully incorporated into an expanded sense of identity, as is the intent of such practices as Tibetan Deity Yoga.
PEMs allow life to negentropically and autopoietically amplify its priorities in subjects, regardless of their level of development or state of consciousness. Negentropy is the opposite of entropy; it is the building up by organisms of structures and processes to reduce excess energy in order to move toward a state of entropy. This is observed in the interviews of random and “irrational” imagery as the unexpected presence of creative and helpful responses to important life issues. Autopoiesis refers to the ability of life to generate creative solutions internally, through the creative recombination of its own elements. From the perspective of the self, PEM interviewing enhances its autopoiesis. From the perspective of interviewed emerging potentials, PEM interviewing “wakes up” the self out of identification with worldviews and behaviors that block its integration into greater wholes.
Intrasocial negentropy and autopoiesis are antidotes to over-reliance on scripted worldviews and the advice of experts. The assumption of universal validity, if fervently believed and accepted by others, becomes a toxic substitution for the impulse to find one's own truth and path forward. Perspectives derived from “external” or Lower Right social, interactional and interobjective “Its” as well as others, including gurus, lamas, and experts, can be invaluable in the development of this or that line of expertise, while still not including our own perspective. The perspectives of others are theirs, not ours, and the claim that those perspectives includes ours, while possibly correct in some broad metaphysical sense, is, on a functional level, not only an assumption, but an extremely dangerous one. For example, when Saul fell off his horse and had a vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus, he reframed the meaning of Jesus' life not only for himself but for all humanity.
Whole person involvement
The entirety of identity needs to be on board for all core lines - the self system, the cognitive line, and the moral line - to tetra-mesh from one developmental level to the next higher one. Typically, this integration is seen as the task of the self, whether envisioned as psychological geocentrism or psychological heliocentrism, in which reality orbits around a Self which is unified with the source of all life, metaphorically the sun. To the extent that the whole person can be seen as the interactive participation of mind, brain, body, and world, PEMs allow life, as a self and Self transcending holon, to sculpt or reorganize aspects of identity into forms appropriate for the resolution of specific life issues and for the furtherance of the priorities of life itself. Whole person involvement for PEMs involves personal investment in both primary and auxiliary integral life practices mediated and directed by triangulation.
For example, you decide you want to take up a dream yoga and learn to be lucid in your dreams. You are setting a priority for your integral life practice. You then do one or more interviews around that issue, interviewing a diamond, which appeared as a personification of the mental clarity you hope to achieve, as well as a rope-serpent, a personification of your immersion in illusion and delusion. Both perspectives tell you, when interviewed, that your desire to lucid dream is based on a desire for more control over your life and indicate that from their perspective, you already have too much control for your own good and instead, need to focus on learning to give up control and share it with other intrinsic perspectives, like themselves. Therefore, instead of making a priority out of learning lucid dreaming, they suggest you practice trusting the perspectives you interview and testing their recommendations in your life. You are not sure you agree with this advice or want to do it, but it is an example of how whole person involvement involves sharing control regarding resolving life issues and setting your life priorities.
Phenomenologically multi-perspectival, not psychologically geocentric
PEMs are experientially multi-perspectival in the sense that they are not centered on “me” or “I.” AQAL is fundamentally a cognitive multi-perspectivalism based on understanding multiple worldviews from a perspective of knowledge about levels, lines, states, quadrants, and styles. Because we tend to identify with our thoughts, our sense of self adheres to our level of understanding, meaning that because we understand transpersonal states and have had some mystical experiences, we assume we are at some transpersonal level of development. The interviewing of emerging potentials is independent of one's knowledge of integral AQAL or any other cognitive multi-perspectivalism.
While valuing and honoring both psychological geocentrism and psychological heliocentrism, the interviewing of imaginal perspectives de-centers identity from any one self or any particular cluster of self-roles. It does not attempt to access a unified, transcendent sense of self in the sense of either Vedanta or Jung. PEM interviewing reveals multiple identities that are increasingly transparent and clear, without any particular locus of ownership. These perspectives do not belong to “you;” that is a psychologically geocentric perspective. Neither do they belong to “YOU,” your Self, unified with the cosmos. That is a psychologically heliocentric perspective. Instead of adopting this or that stereotyped role that is a subject of “me,” we develop an adaptive ability to shift perspective and identity according to life compass priorities that are neither geocentric or heliocentric, but polycentric.
Integrative of a spectrum of modes of knowing
PEMs integrate a spectrum of modes of knowing associated with the four quadrants of holons: sensory impressions, words and thoughts, images, feelings, images, whether from normal creativity, thinking, problem-solving, dreaming and shamanistic states, and higher order knowings that are subject to some operational form of objective verification, identification during interviewing and later, in specific waking contexts or in meditation, sensorimotor modes, and in direct means, that is, by becoming the object of knowing, as through element identification.
By making objects within any of these domains subjects for identification the self becomes the object of knowing through direct means. PEMs also attempt to recognize and honor these holonic aspects of any specific interviewed element by disidentifying with our self-sense in order to respect, learn from, and transmute through taking the perspective of the experienced other. This can be a simple presence or an interview as elaborate and specific as those found in the IDL interviewing protocols. Such interviewing can be done in the dream state, both normal or lucid, or other states of consciousness, including meditation.
The importance of experiential multi-perspectivalism within a phenomenalistic context
Much traditional identification, such as becoming one with an object that is the focus of a meditation, like a flame or bodhisattva, or with an interior, virtual flame or bodhisattva, or with the body-mind-brain constituents of the flame or bodhisattva, bypasses multi-perspectivalism in preference of unification. The result is a mergence of self and the object of identification without ever surrendering one's sense of self and authentically taking up the perspective of the flame or bodhisattva as an equally authentic and autonomous perspective which speaks from its preferences and perspective, not ours. Without this step, unification is relatively superficial, because there never has been a full realization and embodiment of the perspective of the other, but only the presumption of same. This is rather like sex without empathy, without having experienced love, intimacy and oneself from the perspective of the other.
The relative superficiality or depth of transmutation and transformation that results from these different approaches is significant and important. Where transformation turns objects of fear, anger, sadness, or confusion into positives, transmutation, as defined by Wilber, is “looking directly into a negative state of Form in order to directly recognize its already present state of Emptiness of Primordial Wisdom.” The second tends to lead to psychological heliocentrism while the first directs us toward an authentic experiential multi-perspectivalism. The first skips right to causal and non-dual states and simply assumes access and integration of the subtle. The problem there is Wilber's pre-trans fallacy. How deep and broad are causal and non-dual states that transcend but do not include subtle state internalization? Could this not constitute a form of spiritual bypass?
The line-dependence of enhanced perception
six key features of enhanced perception in extreme sports: clean intention, tuned attention, sensory acuity, enhanced proprioception, time-space dilation and self-less-ness...it turns out that these are exactly the kinds of disruptions to the EBMB, (“the embodied body-mind-brain”) that advanced meditation training (especially Zen, but including vipassana) are designed to do (p. 19).
Such disruptions occur between self and body in specific auxiliary lines related to athletic training. We can suspect that the creation of such disruptions will take us to similar states associated with advanced meditation training at the interface between self and brain and self and virtual or imaginative realms.
Roy is describing state shifts and two of the methods by which they can be accomplished: meditation and athletics. There are, of course, innumerable other methods that share these six characteristics, including vision questing, shamanic journeying, channeling, hypnosis, sex, emotional drama, psychedelics, states of flow, and addiction. Identification with alternative perspectives is an approach to altered state access favored classically by both Greek dyonesian rituals and muse access and by Tibetan deity yoga and more recently by role identification via processes pioneered by CG Jung, JL Moreno, and elaborated by Perls, the Stones, Genpo Roshi, Wilber, and others. I suspect Roy favors meditation and extreme sports because they provide clean intention to an extent that these other varieties may not.
However states of relative selflessness and exceptional harmony appear to be line-dependent rather than attributes of overall development. While they are authentic, generalized physiological states, functions, and adaptions, they appear to only express within this or that consciously focused context. For example, when a musician gets into a state of flow he or she can experience both spatial and temporal dilation and exceptional interpersonal connectivity among members of the ensemble. However, this appears to have no correlation with drug use, success in relationships, or professional ethics. Why not? In another example, Joe Montana, the famous quarterback, reported that the entire time he played American football “unconsciously,” implying a selfless state of flow, yet there is no indication that this state extended into other lines, such as moral, empathetic or some sub-lines of cognitive development, such as world view. Why not?
This ties in with our knowledge that non-dual meditating Zen monks could actively go to war for imperial Japan and Dzogchen Tibetan monks who could meditate in selfless flow and sensory clarity without experiencing any moral ambiguity about living in and supporting a feudal serfdom. It would appear then, that while these important and fundamental neurological and cognitive potentials and competencies have the potential to be generalized, they are generally limited in their expression to specific lines of conscious choice or preference and are themselves conditioned by socio-cultural incentives and disincentives. This is quite important, because most people identify with their strongest developmental lines while ignoring or minimizing the importance of their weakest. For example, most people identify with their emotions, which together comprise not only several sub-lines but play a central role in a whole stage (mid-prepersonal) of development of the self.
In addition, most people identify with their thoughts; we typically think we are what we think; our world view, for example, defines who we are. We typically assume that the level of development of our cognitive line reflects our overall level of development. If we have learned AQAL and adopt cognitive multi-perspectivalism we tend to assume we are developed to vision-logic, simply because we identify with the level of development of our cognitive line. Many athletes so focus on proprioceptive development that attention, awareness, and even identity are entrained to the physical. If they have an accident and are no longer able to perform they can lose purpose and meaning for living and with it, their sense of self. Obviously, there is great truth in the adage, “We become what we do.” If we acquire social status, we can easily define ourselves by the praise other people shower upon us; if we become wealthy, we can easily assume that we are entitled. In fact, research has demonstrated that wealth reduces empathy and compassion "How Wealth Reduces Compassion: As riches grow, empathy for others seems to decline", (Grewal, 2012, April 10, 2012 Scientific American)
While meditation experientially teaches us that we are not what we think, feel, and do, identity itself still tends to be invested in this or that developmental line, generally the cognitive, the self-system line, and one or more highly developed auxiliary lines, such as the line of spiritual intelligence. Even the amazing objectivity regarding identity that is developed by meditation, including the ability to stand back and watch ourselves go by, to disidentify with our thoughts, feelings, and actions, is itself a developmental line of witnessing or objectivity. When we identify with largely formless objectivity we may fail to generalize these extraordinary competencies to greater concern for others. Our tendency is to not only identify with our strengths but with those states which are blissful and that we most desire. Our tendency is also to support our in-groups and ignore or suppress the interests of out-groups.
As a result, there is the distinct possibility of being an exceptional meditator, complete with all the sensory acuities: clean intention, tuned attention, sensory acuity, enhanced proprioception, time-space dilation and self-less-ness, while remaining a very imbalanced person who does not exercise, has a lousy diet, poor communication skills, or someone who does not give much back to society and the world. In such a circumstance, what exactly does “spirituality” mean? What does “awakened perception” mean?
Integral Deep Listening attempts to address these concerns. It does so by building authenticity on the levels of body, nirmanikaya, and the subtle, dharmakaya, as a necessary foundation for authentic grounding in causal formlessness and the yet broader and transcending non-dual. It does so by building relationships in the interior collective quadrant with subjective sources of objectivity that serve as both personifications of those characteristics that block and sabotage the stabilization of higher, clear states while accessing emerging potentials that amplify conscious awareness of what it means to exist in clearer states.
What is the core self?
Roy notes a number of characteristics of the self:
“Normally, the perspective of the self includes 1) feeling of ownership of the body, 2) sense of agency over its actions, 3) being anchored to or located in the body and 4) referencing the world to the body and 5) referencing affects (emotional tones) to the self.”
We can also turn to AQAL for help in identifying what that self might be and what it might not be. Although Wilber does not seem to be insistent on this, or even consistent in making this assertion, it does appear that for AQAL the self, as distinguished from this or that other line, is dependent for its development on the evolution and balancing of at least four basic lines: the cognitive, which leads, the moral and relationship lines, and the self-system line itself, which therefore must follow, if it is dependent on the other three for its development.
It appears that Wilber believes morality is a core line because it seems unfathomable to posit a definition of “spiritual” that does not assume morality. Even those gurus who commit immoral acts, in the opinion of contemporary social norms, contend they are acting under a “higher” understanding of morality.
The moral line is only determined by interior intention and judgment in its early developmental stages; as it evolves, it is increasingly accountable to others by the objective criteria of trustworthiness. You want to know, “Can I trust you?” “Will you lie to me? When? About what?” “Will I abuse you? If so, how? When?” You don't care what my level of moral judgment is. You don't care if my intention is not to harm you; your interest is whether I will harm you, and if so, when and how. Becoming accountable to objective standards of morality is a huge step and not to be assumed, as many integralists appear to do. It is obvious that many politicians, CEOs, lawyers, and spiritual gurus believe they are moral, because they judge their morality by their intentions or peer appraisals, not by the court of the global commons, much less by triangulation.
While it is possible for the self-system, spiritual intelligence, or cognitive lines to race ahead, it is not possible to have a transpersonal self that has not first passed social criteria for trustworthiness, just as you cannot have trans-rational mystical experience without first developing and including reason. Mystical experiences that do not include reason are not transpersonal but rather prepersonal, as almost all mystical experiences on the Wilber-Combs Lattice, as most are likely to be. If we do not have this understanding and draw this conclusion we merely generate the pre-trans fallacy, in which we are unable to differentiate prepersonal mystical openings from transpersonal mystical stages. Something similar operates on the moral line: We can't have transpersonal morality that does not include “personal” morality, or morality dictated by social standards. If we look at the autobiographies of a considerable number of gurus and mystics they provide examples of the moral version of the pre-trans fallacy, in that they think that they have transcended social moral standards when they have never first demonstrated respect for them or the ability to live in compliance with them.
The other line that Wilber appears to consider to be core is the relationship line, or that which deals with the quality of interaction that we have with others. Who gets to judge the quality of our interactions with others, ourselves, others, or both? Clearly, such judgments are interactional processes involving both, however higher order empathy is not determined by our intent but by the assessment of the global commons and beyond that, by triangulation. Like the moral line, the quality of relationship is objectively determined by others using criteria of trustworthiness, but more fundamentally, by respect and empathy. These two are more fundamental because someone can act morally and still be respected, as a judge who makes what he or she, and even society as a whole, believes is a moral judgment but who does not demonstrate any empathy and therefore garners no respect. Therefore, of the multiple sub-lines that constitute the relationship line, the critical, irreducible line appears to be empathy: the degree to which others judge us as respecting, appreciating, and understanding their position. This does not require agreement, but only that the other assesses that they are respected, appreciated, and understood. Therefore, the formulation that we will use here is that at minimum, authentic self development is dependent on the development of the cognitive, moral, and empathetic lines. This means that while auxiliary lines can and do demonstrate remarkable selflessness and similarities to meditative witnessing at their higher reaches, there is no necessity that those benefits inure to the self-system line itself. The implication is that our assessment of the development of our identity, or self-system, is probably too high, because we tend to identify with our high lines, particularly the cognitive line, which leads. However, when the development of the self-system line is understood to be dependent on the development of the other core lines, and particularly the moral and relationship lines, since it tends to lag, the necessary conclusion is that the self-system line and our overall identity is largely dependent on the level of development of these two lines.
Like the moral line, it is only at early stages of the development of the empathetic line that we believe empathy is determined by our intention to take the perspective of others. As empathy develops, we realize that empathy is determined by the objective feedback of others. Do they assess us as authentically taking their perspective or not? Similar to morality, failure to take this step allows a version of the pre-trans fallacy regarding empathy to manifest. We believe we are being empathetic at a high level, in this case a personal-social level, when in fact we are functioning at a prepersonal level of empathy because we do not make ourselves accountable to others in our degree of empathy. We might say that like our morality, it may be authentic, but our empathy is shallow. It lacks the depth that comes from submitting our own assessments of our intention and judgment to the court of the global commons.
The importance of generalizing enhanced perception to the self
Regarding the three interfaces with the self-system line, the body, mind, and brain, the key question to ask is, “What determines whether this expansion remains line specific, that is, activated only within the context of sports, music, or the expression of a particular line, or is generalized to overall self development?” We can easily assume that such capabilities inure to the self, when upon examination, we find that individuals with these very high aptitudes, including mystics who have developed clear awareness and objective witnessing to a refined degree, may not be well-rounded individuals at all. Therefore, a central interest of PEMs is the promotion of a phenomenology that integrates a polycentric identity rather than a heliocentric or geocentric one, or a self-sense that thinks it is one or more highly developed line.
The question then becomes, “How do we cultivate a state of selfless flow that is foundational to development rather than associated with this or that line?” To do so we first have to differentiate a polycentric identity from the self that is identified with lines of ego development or various other auxiliary lines. For example, for you or me to identify as a musician, mystic, business person, lawyer, as having a 2nd Tier world view, as an ethical or an empathetic person, or as high in this or that line of ego development, is different from cultivating a polycentric identity that reflects a balance of cognition, morality, and empathy. If the self is that which climbs the ladder of development, then it must include whatever is the most lagging or fixated core line.
The line dependence of both perception and identity
IDL argues that perceiving the world as it really is, is line dependent. If you develop proprioceptive abilities, then you experience the world as it really is proprioceptively; if you develop objectification abilities, you experience the world as it really is by interior, cognitive and consciousness measurements of objectivity. These can and do differ from socio-cultural contexts in which we are immersed, as we have seen with the examples of Zen Monks and Tibetan Dzogchen masters.
The “conscious I” cannot function on a personal level, much less a transpersonal one, without objective feedback from the environment. This is not merely the sensory environment, but the social environment—how others evaluate our trustworthiness and ability to demonstrate respect. All four quadrants require interdependent balancing for tetra-mesh, or development of the self to the next highest level. Mystics and the vast majority of meditators and idealists tend to take social criteria for granted, because their emphasis is on interior and personal criteria—their state of consciousness and their own ability to sharpen their sensory acuity in different specific desired circumstances. Mystical experiences themselves tend to minimize, discount, or trivialize socio-cultural contexts. Socio-cultural contexts just aren't the priority in most mystical experiences, nor are they when identity is fused with cognition, as it tends to be in idealisms.
The mystical mind participates in the idea of enlightenment, a relationship between the self and the virtual, rather than the perception of who and what it is in the context of life itself. The talented individual, whether in sports, musicianship, the visual arts, or mathematics, participates in the idea of a gifted, capable self rather than the perception of a grounding in an authentic self. The knowledgeable individual who understands cognitive multi-perspectivalism participates in the idea of a self developed to 2nd Tier because it has a cognitive understanding of a vision-logic transpersonal worldview, rather than the perception of a self balanced in its moral and empathetic, as well as its cognitive development.
The self-system line can be thought of as our normal waking sense of self - who we are, our worldview, and those lines with which we identify. It does not include those lines with which we identify or those lines which we assume we have mastered that we have not, that are core lines. Because the self-system line does not need to include lines other than the cognitive in which to develop, it must be differentiated from our overall self, which includes the level of development of all core lines, chiefly cognitive, self-system, and moral (although Wilber adds relationship).
What we select into or out of participation with our idea of the self is largely a product of what is culturally and personally valued and therefore reinforced or encouraged. That means that some combination of a partial, and therefore inaccurate, cultural context, and a partial, and therefore inaccurate, personal context, determine our idea of the self. This “idea” therefore may have little relationship to self from the multi-perspectival perspectives taken by life itself regarding the level of development of the self. This is demonstrated consistently in IDL interviews of dream characters and the personifications of waking life issues.
Our mind therefore participates in a subjective, delusional, dreamlike “idea” of the self rather than veridical perception, which arises with increasing approximation to the perspective that life itself takes in its perception of the self. Not much of reality, that is, the perspective of life itself toward the self, gets through our filtering because life's multiple perspectives are not experienced as having survival value, nor is it reinforced. For example, the perception of the sun rising and setting has survival value; the perception that the cosmos is polycentric and that the sun rising and setting is a sensory-dependent perspective, possesses little if any survival value. Life itself may care nothing about adaptation, which is about survival, since life itself is not born and does not die since it is not some thing. Survival is a structure that enables evolution, but is not negentropy, autopoiesis, and evolution themselves. Survival is set up to filter out the perspective of life because life itself cannot live or die and cares nothing about adaptation, successful or otherwise. Manifesting forms care about such things; to continue to manifest in form and as forms, we must care about such things. However, any definition of life that contains both the manifest and unmanifest honors a context that includes and transcends both. Forms, like snowflakes, live and die, but those events do not affect life itself whatsoever. It is in this sense that the perspective of life takes a radically different approach to the self than living, breathing forms require in order maintain existence.
What is excluded from consciousness is as important, if not more important, than what enters it. The brain is assaulted by at least ten million bits of information from the eye every second, the skin is sending a million bits a second, the ear one hundred thousand, our smell sensors a further one hundred thousand bits a second, our taste buds perhaps a thousand bits a second. … All in all, over eleven million bits a second from the world to our sensory mechanisms. We consciously perceive about forty bits a second—and that figure is probably exaggerated.” (Tor Norretranders (1991). p. 126)3
“In itself, consciousness has very little to do with information. Consciousness involves information that is not present; information that has disappeared along the way.” (Norretranders, 1991 pg. 125)
This is one reason we are not all “psychic.” I have known, and perhaps you have too, psychics who were unable to screen out impressions about the lives, feelings and futures of others as we normally do. These people can be miserable, due to being inundated and overwhelmed by information, much of what is not understood, helpful, or rational, because the contexts which give it patterning and meaning are missing. Those who seek broader, non-filtered perception without first creating clear mechanisms for the selection of affective/sensory input are asking for trouble. The lack of information is in fact an asset in the context of whatever is the focus of attention, generally the development of one or another auxiliary line.
Lagging and fixated core lines lead to an under-developed authentic self
If the self line is indeed dependent upon the development of the core lines of cognition, morality and empathy, then we have to prioritize the most lagging and fixated of these lines if we want to develop an authentic sense of self. If instead, we only focus on the development of one, like the cognitive, and assume that because we are our thoughts that our moral and empathetic lines naturally will evolve to keep up with our cognitive line, those core lines necessary for the development of our overall self are instead likely to remain lagging and fixated.
This is highly likely, because human nature is to want to succeed and not to fail. To succeed we develop our strong lines, our assets, our strengths, because others respect, praise, pay us and otherwise reinforce us when we do so, and because it is both easier and more fun to develop our strengths, our natural aptitudes, than it is to focus on areas where we know we are weak or feel we are a failure. Typically, the result is that we develop a sense of self that is identified with the level of development of our cognitive line in conjunction with whatever auxiliary lines we have developed, such as marked proficiencies, like sports, music, math, or art, as well as various ego lines (Loevinger's ego development, ). In fact, we can so build our identity around a highly successful auxiliary line, as professional athletes, performers, artists, businessmen, and politicians do, that even our cognitive line is lagging. One can be wealthy, famous, charismatic, and powerful and be non-empathetic, immoral, and pre-rational. That is, our reasoning serves our emotions and preferences. One can have mystical experiences or be a proficient meditator, and have the morality of a rabbit and zero empathy. In such cases, what does it mean to talk about “self development?” If we equate self development with sensory acuity, cognitive competence, or status in such individuals, what sort of self are we glorifying and building?
Why the core moral line lags - and why it matters
For most people the lagging line will be the moral line. The first third of our life is about establishing the self-control necessary for further development. This means psychological geocentrism: “What do I need to do to control my body, feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and relationships? The answer to this naturally evolves, particularly regarding relationships, into “What do I need to do to become a respected member of the groups of which I am a member?” This means ethnocentrism, as an overlay of psychological geocentrism. We remain self-centered, but our sense of self has now expanded to include identification with our in-groups, such as our race, gender, family, peers, religion, school, political affiliation, and nation.
None of this is worldcentric, in that it does not afford the same respect, reciprocity, trust, or empathy to out-group members as to in-group members. We may have advanced meditative clarity and experiences of oneness with nature, the sacred, the formless, and the non-dual and still be egocentric or ethnocentric. There is no necessary correlation, because such skills represent high development on specific lines of cognition and spiritual excellence that can develop independently of the moral line. As elaborated below, we see the result in pedophilic priests, feudal monastic cultures, and gurus that have sex with their students. Those who desire level to level, or overall development need to first tend to the moral line, not the cognitive or line of spiritual excellence, to ethical exchanges on whatever variety of relationship exchange one is involved with - safety, security, sex, status, wealth, knowledge, transpersonal. While the cognitive line leads, according to Wilber, for self development, the moral line leads for collective development.
Achieving non-filtered perception as an attribute of the authentic self
Because it is exactly through the high development of such lines that the sacred is most likely to manifest, their development is viewed as desirable. But how do we develop non-filtered perception as an attribute of the self? First, we need to develop our lagging, fixated core lines. This means that we need to submit our morality to the judgment of the global commons, not just our intentions or the assessment of our peers. Similarly, we need to submit our empathy to the same standard of evaluation. Secondly, we need to listen to the assessment of our morality and empathy by interviewed emerging potentials, primarily because such perspectives are more likely to disclose the priorities of life itself, rather than contemporary socio-cultural norms. Comparing the resulting perspectives with those of others and common sense is triangulation. Third, we can develop our morality by treating a wide variety of others in the three realms of brain, mind, and body, as we would want to be treated by cultivating deep listening in an integral way to all three. We do so when we interview either actual elements from these realms or their personifications, and follow those recommendations that pass the test of triangulation. Fourth, interviewing forces identification which in turn impels the evolution of empathy, making sure that it does not remain a lagging line. Fifth, we need a regular meditative practice that authentically discloses the impermanence of particular elements of experience.
Our “emancipated perception from the socially performing, intersubjectively focused 'I'” is not necessarily a return to an authentic self, but a return to an authentic relationship to the context of the here and now. The distinction is important. A skunk or a criminal can have an authentic relationship with nature. We can even say that their sense of self is authentic, in that it may be authentically balanced in the core lines, at early or mid-prepersonal. Perception that is emancipated from the socially-performing, intersubjectively focused “I” can be expedited by identification with intrasocially-performing, intrasubjectively focused “I's.” Intrasocial perspectives are not only interior collectives, but exterior collectives that are virtual in that they are perceptual abstractions from the simplicity of what is. Interviewing both interobjective and intersubjective “I's” turns them first into intrasocial and intrasubjective “We's,” and then into multiple authentic “I's.” The result is that we not only dissociate from any one central locus of identity, but get behind the apparent ontological reality of personifications of intentions, opening up spaceless, timeless, and non-dual ways of perceiving the secular, moment to moment, with “ordinary mind.”
When we experience the authenticity of multiple “I's,” the concept of “authentic self” breaks down. It is seen for what it is: psychological heliocentrism. What we find instead is that there can be authenticity as a process without any ontologically real self or Self at all or, to put it another way, all selves or Selves become equally ontologically real. This is the same because when such a conclusion is reached through a the practice of a phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalism, the conclusion becomes that the quest for an authentic self becomes a dangerous exercise in elitism.
Reversing the construction of the self
Regarding the creation of both self and “reality, Roy states,
Some of this sculpting and carving would be done in primordial, pre-intentional stages, while some would be guided by intentional states and attentional needs, as well as eidetic phases involving memory and mental image-making while further cuts would be made through meaning-making processes of the social self. The whole gestalt would eventually, in imaginative and synthetic parts of the mind, be polished by symbolic, narrative, linguistic and conceptual elaborations of many kinds (p. 45).
For Brown (2002), the affect-laden intentional states preconstitute the subjective ground of experience. His theory of microgenesis places the “image” stage as a prior and requisite stage for the “body” to appear, and as a result exists for the subject as an object among other objects in the world.” When we dream, as when we are awake, we “are aware of the image, the product of the process, but not of the imaging itself (Heron, 1992. p. 145).
Applying this idea to dreaming, dream perception is not about overlaying direct perception with the imaginative aspect of experience (“eidetic elements”), but mistaking the preconstructed affect-laden intentional states for reality itself. When we take the perspective of one of these intentional states itself, we can begin to perceive the “intention of the intention,” or the emptiness behind and within the preconstituted affect-laden intentional state.
We back up or reverse the gates of microgenesis, moving from dream action (the experience of the perspective in its role in the dream) to conception (the interpretation of the perspective of its role in the dream) to imagery (the awareness that the role itself is ad hoc and without bhava, or “own-being,” or any determinate ontological status), to emotion (the objectification of affective aspects of the perspective) to intention (the recognition that the intentions that are personified by the perspective are themselves empty.)
IDL interviewing is a complementary adjunct to meditation in accomplishing the reversal of this creative process. It tackles the entanglement of identity with virtual, eidetic reality. We can think of the dream image, say a cabbage, or the pit that personifies our depression that we interview, as the “whole gestalt would eventually, in imaginative and synthetic parts of the mind, be polished by symbolic, narrative, linguistic and conceptual elaborations of many kinds.” The mental images, concepts, and eidetic phases offered up by the interviewed element is a step backward in the sculpting process. Both their remarks and our identification with their perspective or world view itself reveal its intentional states and attentional needs that gave rise to the image. Beneath that, if we pay attention, we can easily experience in the primordial, pre-intentional nature of the perspective, non-dual, deathless, impermanent specifics within a very concrete, autonomous, and highly relevant eidetic construct. These openings are not only duplicatable; their infinite variety quickly teaches us that unmanifest, impermanent, and highly authentic life is innate within every moment and occasion.
IDL interviewing demonstrates the truth of Roy's statement that “participation is never replication. It always creates emergent novelty.” (p. 67) When we participate in the perspective of this or that emerging potential, the emergent novelty of what is created is typically unexpected in the authenticity of its “fit” in all four quadrants of our current experience.
Complementary aspects of Roy's phenomenology of perception and IDL
Roy's integral phenomenology “provides a foundation for an embodied approach to both introspection as an inquiry into the nature of thinking, and metaphysics as an inquiry into the architecture of thought.” IDL is not particularly interested in or designed to investigate either the nature of thinking or metaphysics. As an integral life practice designed to direct other integral life practices, IDL is not primarily interested in the architecture of thought. Instead, IDL is an integral phenomenology that focuses on actionable identifications. It asks, “What, if anything, are the consequences when I 1) become some interviewed element, both during an interview and afterward, in specific, recommended contexts, and 2) follow the triangulated recommendations of these emerging potentials?”
Roy's integral phenomenology also “combines a direct examination of lived experience in contemplation and vipassana meditation, with contemporary neuro-cognitive science and neuro-affective science.” While IDL respects neuro-cognitive and affective sciences as validating contexts, it is not particularly integral in that regard. IDL, as presently constituted, does not have interest in combining its practice, as a dream yoga and integral life practice, with the blessings provided by seeming correlations with high science. Rather, its proof claims are essentially those of transpersonal empirical yogas: follow the instructions and validate them by submitting your results to peers in the method. Maybe someday people will do the experiments necessary to put scientific consensus behind IDL. I have not, not for lack of a desire, but largely due to spending my life in a non-academic setting. Private practice has yielded largely anecdotal accounts that can never rise to consensus validation. Academic settings afford the opportunity for research due to an abundance of research subjects. While consensus validation is not worth much, at least in the realm of yogas, without the experience of personal validation, personal experience is not going to rise above the realm of prepersonal metaphysics until and unless there is the collective consensus afforded by science. I know that, and I hope that one day IDL will have that foundation.
Beyond this, to keep from getting lost in the echo chamber of collective dogmatic groupthink, results need to be validated by their efficacy in the eyes of the global commons as well as scientific elites. Do these methods make sense to the children of third world farmers? Can they make a transformational difference in their lives? Can they be implemented by adolescents, the lonely, alienated, depressed or anxious in ways that improve their lives?
For Roy, “the ultimate goal of integral phenomenology is for individuals to shift from the passive modes of experience, to their active, enlightened modes. When the modes of experience remain passive, highly conditioned and habituated, the person expresses socially conventional, self-referential, neurotic forms of behavior, that are primarily unconsciously and reactively driven. Enlightened modes of experience provide the basis for enlightened action in the world, which is post-conventional, other-referential, compassionate, and open to more degrees of freedom, in awareness, intention and choice. Activating the modes of experience means shifting affect to intuition, perception to insight, tacit knowing to open participation, and inner perceptions to creative imagination.” (p. 8)
IDL uses experiential multi-perspectivalism as one tool in a toolbox. The issues to be “fixed” by these tools, and which Roy refers to as “passive modes of experience,” IDL calls “sleeping,” “dreaming,” and “sleepwalking.” For IDL, “activating the modes of experience” means shifting to “waking up,” which is plainspeak for enlightenment. IDL prefers “waking up,” because while enlightenment implies a specific destination and perfection itself, “waking up” implies ongoing holonic evolution and involution, that is, a continuous, non-ending developmental process. The “dreaming,” or “passive modes of experience” addressed by IDL are scripting, drama, cognitive distortions, and self-directed goal setting. The “waking up,” or “activated” modes of experience addressed by IDL are goal setting directed by triangulation, IDL interviewing, application of recommendations that meet the test of triangulation, and meditation.
Roy describes enlightened action in the world as “post-conventional, other-referential, compassionate, and open to more degrees of freedom, in awareness, intention and choice.” IDL describes action that is reflective of waking up as invested, that is, embodied, grounded, or participatory in identification in all four quadrants; empathetic, that is, validated by others as reflective of deep listening in a respectful and clear way, and objectifying, that is, that practices identification with experiential multi-perspectivalism as a yoga of witnessing and waking up.
IDL is not interested in shifting affect to intuition but in making both authentic. Similarly, it does not recognize a necessary dualism between perception and insight but instead focuses on developing embodied wisdom through experiential multi-perspectivalism. IDL views tacit knowing as a necessary preliminary step to open participation, two necessary steps in a developmental progression of application, rather than as oppositional constructs. Similarly, IDL values both inner perceptions and creative imagination. For example, the perspectives of interviewed elements are their inner perceptions, intrinsically authentic and valuable. At the same time, they are intrinsically manifestations of creative imagination.
Roy refers to awakened, active perception as insight. She also describes it as “direct perception: a sustained open awareness of one's lived experience as direct participation.” She describes direct participation as including “interactions among the multi-modal perceptual organs within the body-brain-mind of the person, as well as interactions between the person and the living world.” “If experience is an ecology of participation, then states of mind should be expected to be fluid and transitory between a spectrum of varieties of experience. In other words, because of the deep continuity of world, body, and mind, all experiential states are inclusive of world, body and mind—all the time.” (p. 84)
What this definition does is differentiate the objects of direct participation as interactions with micro and macro realities. IDL views this as a reflection of a perspective of the self, of psychological geocentrism. When one takes the perspectives of various interviewed emerging potentials, the result is that the clear-cut, “normal” distinction between subjective and interior and objective and exterior experience is replaced with a multi-perspectivalism in which there is no clear self that is the locus of experience. Therefore, experience is no longer reducible to either the body-brain-mind of a person, or to interactions between someone and the living world. Ontological status is indefinite, with objective/subjective realities neither affirmed nor denied.
Roy states, “Sensory clarity, I believe is the pre-requisite for authentic human relating. We have to get to square one before we can build a shared or collective understanding…” (p. 69) “…meditative practices can train the mind to decouple the imaginal or eidetic component of perception from the experience, creating a more naíve, more direct perception.” (p. 78) The sensory clarity that can be provided by meditation and which is exhibited in states of flow are extraordinarily important not only for decision-making but experiencing world views and self-definitions that far transcend our typical, socio-cultural, scripted identities. However, we can only hope that we do not “have to get to square one before we can build a shared or collective understanding.” IDL views sensory clarity as one manifestation of “square one,” essentially for the individual interior intentional-cognitive and exterior behavioral “brain” quadrants. “Square one” for the collective quadrants includes moral behavior that is deemed so by social out-groups. It is equally important and involves fundamentally different perspectives and perceptions because “direct participation” in individually, or self-driven contexts, is bound to locate both etiology and expression in vastly different domains. It is not that the sort of sensory clarity Roy is describing and recommend does not embrace, enhance, or encompass the collective quadrants, only that the world, others, and ourselves look quite at variance based on our starting position.
With IDL, that starting position is consciously collective and “other,” with disidentification from any and all self-definitions and attempts at both identification and unification with multiple “Its.” A phenomenology of the collective quadrants does not assume an interior or introspective orientation, but drops that assumption, with objects of observation those that are typically perceived as “other.” These include dream images while we are dreaming and the contents of mystical experiences. A collective orientation, phenomenologically-based or not, assumes accountability to and with others that is not necessarily implied by individual quadrant orientations. This is because both perception and self-development have the self as the primary locus of attention, not the collective. Again, this is not to imply that individual quadrant emphasis ignores or takes a reductionistic approach to collectives, only that contexts are structured by perspectives that take the self as the organizing principle. We know this is occurring when one thinks, “But how could one do otherwise?” “And if one could, wouldn't it lead to fragmentation, decompensation and regression?”
IDL interviewing demonstrates definitively that such concerns are artifacts of identification with an individual quadrant focus rather than experiential realities disclosed when we take an experientially multi-perspectival approach. This identification is a by-product of the formative years of our life when self-control and the creation of a sense of self were the primary work. That orientation then becomes either a habitual bias or a fear-based addiction or both, which is not automatically outgrown because one embraces cognitive multi-perspectivalism or high development on this or that line. This critique embraces the vast majority of mystical narratives, which are either psychologically geocentric or psychologically heliocentric. They do not relate the experiences from the perspectives of multiple participating “others.”
The foundational nature of relationship creates an intrinsic emphasis on accountability in the collective quadrants. Morality and empathy become fundamental criteria in addition to sensory clarity or cognitive objectivity. This is the case because trustworthiness and respect, as determined by objective others, are as important fundamental criteria in the collective quadrants as sensory clarity and cognitive objectivity are in the interior quadrants. Any adequate definition of a healthy self that is balanced in its development is going to meet criteria in all four areas by emphasizing, teaching, and balancing sensory clarity, cognitive objectivity, trustworthiness, and respect. This awareness is not based on insight, as normally understood as heightened awareness by an experiencer regarding either an interior or exterior problem, experience, or relationship. Instead, it is based on relationship feedback, accountability, and consequences in the interior and exterior collective quadrants. However, the result is comparable: a growing awareness that “the perceptual organs and the living world are not two, but one larger ecology…” (p. 18)
In every IDL interview we can ask ourselves, “What are we participating with?” The answer may be, “With my own projections, my thoughts, feelings, preferences and interpretations.” The participation may involve “memories, fantasies, worries, cognitive and culturally conditioned biases.” Or, it may be, “I am taking the perspective of this dream goblin or cobra personification of my life fear of snakes as completely as I know how.” The assumption that such perspectives are “shadow,” “self-aspects,” “parts,” or “subpersonalities” inhabiting the unconscious, subconscious, personal or collective unconscious, another dimension or realm, is tabled in any authentic phenomenological methodology. IDL simply refuses to make such assumptions, in order to give preference to integral deep listening. The reward is participation with authentic embodied perspectives that can be, and often are, both transformational and transmutational.
Limitations of meditation and consciousness expansion in a moral context
For both clarity and emphasis, I am going to bring together several strands discussed above, in order to underline why both stage and four quadrant awakened perception has to attend to the moral dimension much more than Integral AQAL, and Integral in general, has done to this point. Most moral practitioners find it difficult to square the circle of making discrimination into something compatible with spirituality. The doctrines of dharma and karma, however do so, finding perhaps their ultimate expression in Arjuna's justification of murder in the Baghavad Gita, a position which still has strong, highly respected advocates, such as Ken Wilber. Although it is widely assumed to be otherwise, sadly, there is no proven correlation between meditative ability and consciousness development on the one hand and moral behavior on the other hand. All world religions place moral behavior at the foundation for spiritual development. It is an entry level competency assumed of both meditators and those who have achieved high ranking within any religious institution. The same is true for spiritual groups that focus on the expansion of human consciousness or expanded, awakened perception. Sadly, stating or believing that we are moral actors, doesn't make it so. The evidence of same is as apparent as it is ignored. Four examples will hopefully be enough to make this point.
Dzogchen non-dual meditative traditions are widely considered to be some of the most elaborate and extensive explorations of the variety of types of formless meditative experience ever developed by humans. Dzogchen monastic communities were central to the governance and economy of Tibet for hundreds of years up until its reabsorption by China in 1959. It is well known that the Tibetan economy under the governance of these monasteries was a feudal system in which masses of peasant serfs, indentured and tied to the land, supported these monasteries, creating a two tiered society: those who had food, status, and security, and those who did not. Principles of dharma and karma taught both classes that they were in their respective societal positions because their actions in previous lives preordained it and that the best that they could do is “live out their dharma” and gain merit by serving the Buddha, the sangha, and maintaining the monastic, feudal system. In this way a discriminatory and class-based society was viewed as morally righteous. This view held sway in India, on the level of societal governance, until 1949, when the caste system was deemed illegal based on its inherently discriminatory nature. However, that has not kept these doctrines and dogmas from still being widely accepted throughout Indian society today.
The point is that discrimination has historically been deemed natural and acceptable. It continues to exist quite comfortably within the worldviews of some of the highest practitioners of both Hinduism and Buddhism. It is less obvious now in Buddhism, which is no longer primarily structured around monasteries, which have traditionally depended for their survival upon the doctrine of “merit” gained toward a good after life and better reincarnation through feeding monks, supporting monasteries, and sending children into monastic life.
As a second example, non-dual meditating monks took up arms for the Japanese Emperor during World War II. Whether rationalized as dharma, the subordination of spirituality to the State and society, or in some other way, we again have a crystal clear, undeniable example of the ability of awakened perception to coexist with violence, murder, decisions, and actions that most ethicists find violate fundamental principles of morality: reciprocity, respect, trustworthiness, and empathy. I agree, and I set out that case in various places, including in “Critiquing Wilber's Defense of Krishna's Justification of Murder in the Baghavad Gita.”
A third example is the proven widespread pedophilia within the Catholic Church. A nearly 2,500-page investigative report released by the French Catholic Church itself documented at least 216,000 cases of child sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church between 1950 and 2020 and at least 3000 French Catholic priests who were pedophiles. These are very conservative numbers, based on substantiated cases. The actual numbers are therefore likely to be far higher. Now that is only for a recent seventy year period in one country, in one branch of one religion. It does not address the issue of the prevalence of pedophilia within religion within France over its long history of Catholicism, nor does it consider the prevalence of pedophilia in other denominations, other countries, or other religions. But one thing it does definitively do: deconstruct the myth that there is some necessary correlation between religion, spirituality, self-development, consciousness, and awakened perception, on the one hand, and morality on the other. There is none, and we need to understand and face the reasons why if we are ever to generate transpersonal states, lines, and stages that exist on an ethical/moral foundation. The error is fundamentally twofold. On the one hand, it is a quadrant problem. On the other, it is a line/level fallacy.
The nature of the quadrant problem is as follows. Most self-development is focused or built around identity, as defined by our sense of self in the interior individual quadrant. This is the quadrant of intent and consciousness: how pure is our intent? How awakened is our perception? How evolved is our psyche? Because this is the case, most spiritual models treat the other quadrants not as interdependently co-arising but as teleologically dependent on evolution in the “upper left” quadrant of the interior individual. While Integral AQAL, for example, cognitively emphasizes the interdependent nature of all four quadrants and the pervasiveness of consciousness throughout all four, in fact, it has a strong interior individual bias, as shown by its reliance on mystical experience and the authority of historical writings by mystics, such as Shankara and Nagarjuna. It is also demonstrated by Wilber's unwavering defense of a teleological explanation of evolution in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that evolution is entirely naturalistic.
The nature of this bias is also demonstrated by the common belief that Kohlberg's famous stages of the development of moral judgment predict moral behavior, when Kohlberg never showed such a correlation, and neither has anyone else. This is because no one wants to face the obvious and clear disconnect between moral judgment (in the collective interior quadrant of value and interpretation) and intent, on the one hand, and personal and interpersonal behavior, in the exterior individual and collective quadrants, on the other. What this means is that people with the most noble of intentions and highly developed moral judgment can still be pedophiles, lie, steal, and murder people. They can still be highly acclaimed spiritual gurus that believe themselves to be enlightened and whom many others believe to be enlightened.
Again, as our fourth example, if we want proof of this we need to look no further than Wilber's endorsements of Adi Da, Andrew Cohen, and Marc Gafni. If we want an example of a notable disjunction between those deemed both highly cognitively developed and who are liberal/progressive icons, we need look no further than the example of Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, public welfare advocate in Chicago, someone who would clearly score at a post-conventional level on Kohlberg's scale of moral development, if not at Wilber's post-post conventional level, and who could still sign off on a list of people to assassinate by drone on “Terror Tuesdays,” turn around and give speeches on justice, human rights, and democracy, and then go upstairs and be a loving husband and father. How many millions of people still view Obama as a moral icon? How is that to be explained?
We psychologically identify with people we respect. They represent our hopes and aspirations. A cognitive bias called the “halo effect” generalizes characteristics we admire or respect to shape our entire perception of another into a congruent whole. When this image or belief system is internalized, then evidence that contradicts that image creates what Leon Festinger called “cognitive dissonance.” We have to reduce the contradiction between the ideal and the reality because that difference is a threat to our basic identity in the interior individual quadrant. If we don't or won't or don't know how, we have a “crisis of meaning” that can easily lead to an existential crisis which, if not resolved, can lead to suicide. This may be why Kohlberg killed himself; we don't know. He had a long history of chronic depression. However, we do know that it is the most likely cause of almost twenty US military veterans killing themselves every single day. They are unable to resolve the dissonance between social standards of morality in their civilian existence with their identity and behavior while in the military. Addiction and PTSD are mere symptoms of this fundamental quadrant disconnect.
There is no spirituality, religion, or morality without reciprocity, respect, trustworthiness, and empathy in the exterior collective quadrant. It doesn't matter what sort of axiology you want to invent or deontological moral value system you want to construct. Those are theoretical cognitive systems in the interior collective quadrant. If there is no congruence in the exterior collective, morality boils down to some version of what was famously noted by economist John Kenneth Galbraith: “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” In this regard, the pursuit of religion, spirituality, and awakened perception are best viewed as profoundly conservative exploits until proven otherwise.
Just how is that to be proven otherwise? That goes to the core of the issue. If we do not have some exterior collective means of validating what it means to be moral, then what we have instead are various attempts elaborate attempts at reducing our cognitive dissonance. Fortunately, we do have ways to determine morality in the exterior collective quadrant of relationship. They are called collective or societal norms. These are determined chiefly by two measures: law and the consensus determination of out-groups. Together these constitute morality as justice in the exterior collective, something Plato recognized and in his Republic added to the Socratic Triune of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. Note that Wilber's AQAL has still not been revised to recognize the equal standing of justice as the objective measurement of spirituality and consciousness in the exterior collective realm of relationship. Why not? One can only suspect that to do so decisively undercuts the pre-eminence of the interior individual quadrant and its claim on being the ultimate arbiter of identity and morality. Is it? Not if you accept a four quadrant model of interdependent co-arising as fundamental to evolution and personal development.
It is one thing to gain moral validation from the echo chamber of in-groups, where you gain reassurance you are a moral actor by excusing my immorality. It is quite another to allow our morality to be determined by the poor and homeless, victims of our wars and system of economic exploitation. What vote do those we have abused have in our determination of our morality? To what extent do we have blood on our hands when we vote for politicians who vote for war and the siphoning of resources away from the lower classes to enrich the upper ones? To what extent are we personally culpable for the ongoing stockpiling of nuclear weapons capable of annihilating humanity? To what extent can we get away with emulating Pontius Pilate and declaring our innocence of collective exploitation, torture, murder, starvation, and genocide? The point is not to flagellate ourselves over the crimes of our fathers but to move toward something similar to the South African “Truth and Reconciliation” commissions: to look honestly at our personal and collective moral deficits, own them, arrive at justice in the eyes of our victims, and move forward, submitting our definition of our morality to their judgment.
The second reason why self-development, spirituality, and awakened perception is not necessarily correlated with morality involves a level/line fallacy. People easily assume that because they are advanced in various lines that are societally reinforced and that accrue social status, wealth, and power, that they are morally advanced. They assume not only that advancement on the cognitive, self-system, or line of spiritual intelligence indicate advancement on the moral line, but that they can progress overall, level to level, without the tetra-mesh of their core moral line. Actually, their thinking never gets that far. Their defenses against cognitive dissonance imbue them with iron-clad certainty that they are highly developed moral actors. This is worse than nonsense; it's purposeful non-knowing, or choosing to remain ignorant, because authentic awakened perception creates too much cognitive dissonance.
If the moral line is core, then its development is necessary for stage to stage development. Therefore the moral line must itself tetra-mesh: its four quadrants have to be congruent for it to develop. This brings us to our previous discussion of the quadrant fallacy: if there is no congruence between moral intention and moral behavior, as determined by out-groups in the collective exterior quadrant, there is no tetra-mesh of the moral line. If the moral line is indeed core and does not tetra-mesh, there is no overall development. The problem is that because people normally identify with their thoughts, if they have a highly developed cognitive line, their self-system line tends to also be highly developed. This leads them to believe that their overall development is high - say post-conventional, 2nd Tier, enlightened, or whatever. We then just rationalize away the failure of the core moral line to tetra-mesh. We associate high line development of some lines with overall level to level development. This is a level/line fallacy.
What is the actual level of our moral development? We live in an amoral economic system which puts profit before human welfare. According to Kohlberg and Wilber - and I agree - amorality is pre-conventional and early to mid-prepersonal. We also live in an immoral geopolitical system which puts power over justice: “Might makes right.” That's not amoral; that's immoral. According to Kohlberg and Wilber again, immorality is pre-conventional to early conventional, meaning mid- to late prepersonal. You put those together and the conclusion is that our level of moral development, as viewed by the out-groups that are victims of our economic and geopolitical systems, is mid-prepersonal to late prepersonal. That is where I assess my overall development and level of awakened perception: at mid-prepersonal, striving to evolve up to late prepersonal. I think that's a fair and balanced assessment of where humanity is as a whole at this historical moment. There is no escaping this conclusion once we factor in global collective social norms in our assessment of our level of moral development.
How does that matter? If we do not come to terms with our reality as moral actors we have no foundation for religion, spirituality, or awakened anything. Yes, individual lines can and do race ahead, creating fundamental imbalances because our moral line has not kept up. this inevitably leads to individual and societal collapse. Instead of creating a stable, authentic moral foundation for our personal and collective development we are invested in sophisticated forms of self-delusion, attempting to ignore or rationalize away our cognitive dissonance. That's no honest or authentic foundation for development. It is not an enterprise that is going to evoke respect from those who can see through our collective dream.
Cognitive multi-perspectivalism, which typifies the arc of integral into 2018, creates a false identification of the self with the cognitive line which far surpasses the other core lines of morality and empathy in its level of development. Therefore, because we tend to identify with our leading lines, the pervasive delusion within the integral community is that an understanding of AQAL and subsequent integral developments indicates a self that has evolved into 2nd tier. This delusion is supported by approaches to integral that bias the interior quadrants that intrinsically organize reality around a stable, central self. The result is a massive pre-trans fallacy, not regarding spiritual experience, but regarding the development of identity itself. Sensory clarity by itself has not been able to either spot or rectify this fundamental perceptual delusion; what is required are collectively oriented forms of experiential multi-perspectivalism which not only de-center the self but determine level of development not only by interior and individual criteria but by the assessments of the global commons and triangulation.
As a yoga of the collective quadrants, IDL not only needs but requires the participatory integral phenomenology of sensory clarity integrating body-mind-brain in order to bring all four quadrants into developmental balance. It is only with an accurate assessment of the level of development of the authentic self that we can hope to lift it beyond the socio-cultural scriptings that keep it fixated at mid-prepersonal.
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