Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

Stages of
higher consciousness

From surface consciousness to divinisation

Integral Esotericism - Part Seven

Alan Kazlev

7-i. Levels of Consciousness - Four stages of inner realisation

The states of existence described in the chapter 4 are not just abstractions, but can be explored and experienced through consciousness-raising exercises and esoteric and spiritual discipline. This constitutes the path of spiritual development, by which one acquires freedom from cosmic forces(sect. 4-xxv) and ultimately becomes an instrument of the Divine actualisation and Divinisation of matter itself, which is also the realisation of Self as the Supreme and vice-versa.

The following very simplistic diagram refers to the first four stages in this ascent or inward movement of consciousness, from the surface consciousness of the outer personality, to the stage of Enlightenment and Liberation. This last is traditionally (both in the perennial philosophy and also in Wilberian theory) the final stage, but in the Integral yoga and transformation only the first of a series of larger and greater enlightenment and transenlightenment.

Fig 19. Stages of Inner Consciousness culminating in Liberation and Enlightenment

Note that the sense of ego and self-emphasis persists right up until the final realisation of enlightenemnet or liberation, when it is transcended. This is important when considering the "Intermediate zone", the region or stage of partial spiritual enlightenment that it is suggested (TLDI 2b) can be used to explain the paradoxical nature of many abusive gurus who still nevertheless seem to have authentic powers and realisation.

The following sections describe each of the above four stages or levels of consciousness and reality in turn.

7-ii. The Mundane level / Mundane Consciousness

Transcendent /
Causal /
Subtle /
Gross / Dense /

This is the level of the "exoteric", the outer being or surface personality - the outer physical, emotional and mental consciousness, and of the external or gross reality. In other words, this is the only sphere of being at which there is an actual Cartesian dichotomy between subject and object, self and other, "exterior" and "interior". Of course, what is exterior to oneself is actually interior to another, so even this dichotomy is invalid.

Cosmologically and ontologically, the Exoteric or Mundane sphere - in Kabbalah and Hermetic occultism referred to as Asiyah - constitutes the most external level or aspect of reality (see table 10). It is at this gross physical level that evolution takes place, supported by the subtle physical. This is why all these forces have come together, it is to manifest in and as the physical universe through the unfolding cosmic reality.

Mundane Consciousness, like all the spheres of being, consists of various sub-levels (physical, affective, mental, etc), of which the most focused and "objective" (pertaining to the exterior material world) and hence repeatable and scientific, is the "physical mind"(sensu Sri Aurobindo - see sect 1-ix). This is interested only in the mundane or outer being and the reality it experiences.

At the same time, the surface aspects of the outer being constitute the essential interface between the mundane individual self and the larger mundane exterior world (other selves). And although this is the most restricted and limited level of human consciousness (apart from the subconscious), by that very reason it is also the starting point for higher development.

There is also a much more limited form of quasi-physicalism, that of the fundamentalist religious believer, who applies a sort of physical mind objectivism to every word and letter of his or her particular sacred scripture, seeking to understand it the way that the scientist understands the external universe. Thus the mundane level corresponds to exoteric religion as well; concepts of an anthropomorphic deity apart from nature, and reliance on the infallibility of a particular scripture, or even of a pope or imam or some sort of priesthood, is just as much limited to the outer reality as objectivist secular knowledge, but much more restrictive. And whereas science and empirical method give a valid understanding of mundane reality - as indicated by its tremendous growth and success over the past few centuries - religious literalism gives an incorrect understanding, because it tries to present scripture as empirical fact, rather than as symbol and metaphor. In other words, religious fundamentalism takes religion, which belongs to "System B" in Gooch's table, and tries to force it into "system A". This is not to criticise those who practice their faith with sincerity, but only to point out that even good religion makes for bad science.

Ideally Integral theory should be the exact opposite - broad, open to criticism and receptive to new paradigms, and inclusive where fundamentalism, literalism and, yes, scientism also, narrow, inflexible, are closed to criticism, and exclusive. As always things are nor so simple, and ironically the largest and most influential part of the Integral movement - Wilberism - is also the most religious and intolerant, with the same inability to grow and develop through constructive criticism (for the reasons behind these claims see TLDI 2d). Thus the movement with the most potential in theory has the least potential in practice.

The following table presents an a rough theoretical description of the sublevels of gross physical reality according to the holarchy of Individual to Infinite-Universal (rows) on various Ontological density levels (columns)

Ontological state / Holarchy Spiritual of Physical
(spirituality inasmuch as it pertains to the physical)
Mental of Physical
(Humanities, philosophy, science, understanding - interface with mental plane)
Affective/Emotional of Physical
(Humanities, Art, empathy in part - interface with subtle physical plane)
Physical of Physical
(Dense physical)
(Complexity theory, systems science, chaos theory, mathematics, etc)
Universal-Infinite Universal Spiritual in the physical (= Almaas' Logos?) Mental plane and universal archetypes (Platonic ideas)

Emotional plane and universal felt meaning

The Infinite Multiverse (dense physical) (described in physics, mathematics, TOE, etc)
(Larger universe or Macrocosm) Cosmic Spiritual Physical deities / cosmic "devas" (Alice Bailey, etc) Mental cosmic archetypes; visionary imagination, large scale changes in history (some effects from subtle physical cosmecological forces) Emotional cosmic feelings; large scale changes in history
(some effects from subtle physical cosmecological forces)
Physical cosmos, Galaxies, etc, the Earth, etc
(described in astronomy, astrophysics, etc, also the Earth as a whole, planetology, Gaia, etc)
(sphere of collective society; Wilber's lower two quadrants)
Spiritual environment / "devas" (Alice Bailey, etc)

Mental environment
(Noosphere; including intersubjective networking, internet, etc; human knowledge) (= AQAL LL), theory, ideas, sciences and arts, human knowledge, Morality (as normative rules of behavior)

Emotional environment, cultures, societies, trends, mass media, the "double" sensu Steven Guth[1]
(described in Sociology, Sociobiology, History, etc; however the descriptions themselves belong to the collective mental) (= AQAL LL)

Physical environment
(described in Geology, Meteorology, Ecology, etc, and where man-made the physical infrastructure of society (= AQAL LR)

(I-Thou - ego or self in relation with others and with the world)  
Spiritual inspiration, aspiration, interaction with others (empathy) or with the Supreme (bhakti),
(aspiration in the physical, spiritual development, culminating in the integral transformation),
Mental interaction with others or noosphere as a whole through face to face communication, text, art, poetry, email, blogging, etc Emotional interaction with other through subliminal body language, art, emotional-auric interchange, etc
("Art" as empathic and the connection between artist and audience)
Physical interactions with other beings, or with the environment as a whole,
("Beauty" as appreciation of physical form)
(sphere of individual self; self absorption, microcosm or self as "little universe")
Spiritual consciousness, spiritual discipline, motivation, practice, enlightenment, jivanmukti (Liberated while in the body) Mental consciousness
(Psychology, phenomenology, science, etc also Gooch's "Ego" (table 2 in part); Wilber's IMP as mental-dualistic) (= AQAL UL), I.Q., mental bubble or fortress, mental development and self-development, subjectivity, paranoia
Emotional consciousness, developed sentience and feeling
(Biology, Psychology, etc, also Gooch's "Self" (table 2 in part)
(= AQAL UL); E.Q., sensitivity, feelings, emotional development and self-development, subjectivity, kleshas
Physical/ somatic consciousness / body (= AQAL UL); inanimate and animate (described in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Physiology, etc)
(= AQAL UR), physical/somatic development and self-development

Table 15: subdivisions of the Gross Physical (including AQAL quadrants)

Here different fields of knowledge and practice can be understood as pertaining to different realities. Physics and mathematics for example would be Universal-Infinite of the dense physical, since they have universal application, astronomy and astrophysics the cosmic, since they apply to large scale phenomenona, geology, meteorology, ecology etc the collective, and other fields of science in the individual dense/gross/asiyatic physical (this latter would be equivalent to Wilber's "upper right" quadrant). Complexity theory, systems science, chaos theory, etc would apply to the Cosmic down to the individual, and not just the lower right as Wilber asserts, since they apply on many levels of scale.. And obviously further holarchical levels could be postulated as well.

Creativity, integral activism and transformation likewise can occur at different levels or realities, in each case according to the aspect of reality at that level. I have included correspondences with Wilber's AQAL quadrants, to give a further idea of the areas of knowledge pertaining to each. Because of the subjectivity and sentience of the body, the left hand quadrants "I" also extend to the physical (the right column here).

The "Big Three" can also fit here. Wilber developed the idea of the Big Three as a simplification of his four quadrants. He draws on Plato, Weber, Habermas, and other philosophers for inspiration, but, obviously, gives the whole thing his own interpretation. These three are:

Beauty, represented by Art, talked about in "I" language (individual subjective), and representing the validity claim of subjective truthfulness,

Goodness, represented by Morality, talked about in "we" language (collective subjective), and representing intersubjective justness); and

Truth, represented by Science, talked about in "it" language (objective), and representing objective truth (upper right quadrant) and interobjective. functional fit (lower right quadrant).

All three - science, art and morals - also apply at the levels, because the four quadrants on which they are based occur at all levels, but each of which has a different methodology and validity claim: i.e. truthfulness, justness, truth and functional fit.

Looking at Wilber's Big Three there seem to me to be two different interpretations of this. First, as pertaining to different holarchic levels. Truth is something that is individually realised, yet universal (I am not just talking about science but truth at any level). Art is co-active in that it is intimate and interpersonal; from the artist to the audience; Morality is required for society as a whole to function and so is collective. These archetypes also pertain to different ontic gradations: Beauty pertains to perfection of form (Physical), Goodness to the Heart and feelings (emotional), although Morality requires the Will (physical?) to put into practice, although law being very intellectual requires the mental being, and Truth pertains to the intellect (the objective truth of empirical method) and beyond (levels of gnosis).

7-iii. Subtle / Occult / Spiritual / Esoteric Consciousness

Transcendent /
Causal /
Subtle /
Gross / Dense /

Beyond the literalist exoteric religious and rationalistic-mental explanations, is the intuitive understanding, experience, and access to the inner being. These are dimensions and states of being some of which are far beyond the mundane level of consciousness. Neither amenable to empirical study, nor able to be accommodated by literalist interpretations of scripture, they simply cannot be accommodated in either the secular scientism or the exoteric religious worldview. They include both sub-physical, intra-physical, and supra-physical realities. The supra-physical realities especially, are quite ontologically distinct from the physical, and hence can neither be proved or disproved by empirical methods.

This in no way means that science (the methodology and body of knowledge) as opposed to scientism (the exclusivist worldview) is wrong, or deficient. Science is one of the most extraordinary and inspiring and creations of the human consciousness, and should be supported and acknowledged as the foundation for any understanding of reality, because any theory or paradigm that contradicts science in its account of the physical world, such as Creation Science does, while not giving any form empirical evidence beyond religious sentiment, is quite simply in error.

Whether scientific methodology of any sort can be applied to the subtle realms is a fascinating question that has yet to be answered. Charles T. Tart[2], Ken Wilber[3], and Robert Searle[4] each in their own ways say it can; Jorge Ferrer in his book Previsioning Transpersonal Theory, and arguing from the postmodernist and participatory perspective, says it can't. I believe that both sides are right to some degree, but clearly this is a subject that needs more study.

The esoteric can be taken further, and presented in terms of levels of insight and transformative practice. Although on the one hand one could suggest this is a sort of progression of development from theory to practice to greater and deeper and more profound practice; a series of stages, which on the one hand can be described in terms of "include and transcend", but on the other hand can equally be described as each equally valid and in a a sense parallel. Also, it is very important to understand that all these levels (and all the sublevels they contain) are connected to and intergrade into each other, so this definitely should not be thought of a simplistic linear sequence in the manner of Theosophy or Wilberism. The further one allows one's consciousness to expand, the greater the insight and gnosis.

At these levels, experience is limited only the highly distorting nature of one's mental bubble or mental fortress. The result of this is that we do not see things as they are, but as we think they are. This is why many esoteric and occult cosmologies are highly subjective, even though they do authentically contact and in their practical form (occultism and some forms of yoga) allow the interaction with subtle realities.

The following shows the relationship between the various Ontological states and primary ontological worlds or density gradations, excluding the higher spiritual and transcendent realities.

Ontological state / gradation: Causal / Beriah Subtle / Yetzirah Gross / Dense / Asiyah
Mental / Ideational Reality Spiritual archetypes and deities, profound transcendent meditative states, cosmic consciosuness Higher spiritual heaven worlds, spiritual hierarchies,creators of forms, thought forms, traveling in the imagination, etc Mental consciousness; sense of "I", totality of thoughts and beliefs, Mind's eye, thoughts, imagination,
Affective / Astral Reality Higher heaven worlds and states, Causal astral cosmic archetypes and hierarchies of light, love, and bliss, mystical experiences, bhakti, compassion and mahakaruna Astral planes and worlds; Daimons, attractors, hierarchies, subjective and objective experiences, (Hermetic Kabbalah, occultism, etc) Emotional/affective consciousness; the Affective in the subtle physical is the Emotional body
Physical Reality Spiritual or yogic body and states, Tantric states and worlds, subtle physical deities etc Etheric, Emotional, and Mental subtle bodies and environment, auras, devas, alternative healing, astrology, cosmecology, "celestial" influences (Neo-Theosophy, Anthroposophy, etc) Gross Reality: Mundane psycho-physical (Physical, Emotional, and Mental) reality (Sciences and Humanities, Conventional Integral theory), Exoteric knowledge and understanding.

Table 16: The Subtle realities - subdivisions of Ontological states and gradation. The lower right cell refers to the Gross Reality, the other eight to the subtle reality

No philosophy can be truly considered integral which does not include these non-exterior-objective realities into account And I mean take them into account on there terms, not try to reduce them to explanations that are non-threatening and acceptable to the materialistic mindset.

7-iv. Intermediate / Pseudo-enlightened Consciousness

Transcendent /
Causal /
Subtle /
Gross / Dense /

Beyond the mental bubble are the far more cosmic and potent dimensions of the immanent/transcendent (indeed such dichotomies are meaningless at this and higher levels) intermediate zone, in which ignorance and delusion are determined not by the conceptual mind but by the levels of egoic pseudo-enlightenment and potent but misleading experiences of great power and knowledge which are however still not of the nature of true enlightenment or liberation. Indeed it seems that the great majority of gurus and teachers that proclaim total enlightenment but still retain narcissistic and abusive behaviour (rationalised as "crazy wisdom" or "necessary to break down the walls of the ego") are false teachers which are trapped in the Intermediate Zone, mistaking that for the final goal. This is explained by Sant Mat (Sikh esotericism) which refers to a number of misleading lesser heavens, by Sri Aurobindo in his important essay on the Intermediate Zone, and by my own comments in the "gurus and spiritual teachers" section of my website[5].

fig.20. Inner and Outer States and the extent of the Intermediate Zone

The various inner states of existence (i.e. anything beyond Gross / Asiyatic) may also be pertinent to an understanding of the Intermediate zone or region (described by Sri Aurobindo), which constitute states of realisation between the true infinite inner divine plane and the more limited and imperfect outer or superficial planes and being. Everything from the subtle to the transcendent, if considered or mistaken for the authentic egoless liberation and enlightenment, could be included under the Intermediate zone. This is explained in the above diagram, which also incorporates the four-fold Vedantic and Theonist division and Aurobindonian Integral psychology and metaphysics

The importance of understanding the dangers of the Intermediate zone and making orientation to Psychicisation (=Soul realisation) central to one's spiritual practice in order to avoid this, has already been explained in TLDI 2-v and 2-vi. Without understanding and recognition of the dangerous allure of the former, and without the absolute necessity of the latter in any integral, and hence any authentic, spiritual practice, genuine spirituality is probably impossible. The reason there are so many abusive gurus, with the beguiling and ambiguous experiences associated with them - experiences, indeed, the very same experience, that can greatly aid and help one person in their spiritual journey, yet totally destroy the life of another - is precisely due to the power of the Intermediate zone.

Note that the Intermediate zone is not an ontological level; it is not a specific zone or universe or reality in the spectrum of manifestation. It is simply a generic and useful label for certain high (to our mundane consciousness) stages of spirituality and self-realisation that the sadhak (spiritual aspirant) passes through, and which are intermediate between the ordinary consciousness and true egoless enlightenment. But many of the phenomena associated with the intermediate zone are ontological real and supra-mundane, because when one attains a certain level of development or realisation, one's being is expansive enough that it is possible to access these realities. The clasisc example is shaktipat, which is often given by gurus stuck at this level, and which constitutes radical transformative and transpersonal experiences that can give bliss to some, and mental breakdown to others. The same experience mind you, can heal one person, and destroy another. That is why so many devotees and disciples swear by their intermediate zone guru. All these experiences however are ultimately traps, because experiences given by a true Guru or Master are always positive; it is never a case with a true realised being that one devotee is helped and another destroyed. That is why, wherever there is any controversy at all, it is assign that the guru in question is trapped in the Intermediate zone, no matter how many devotees swear by him or her.

Intermediate zone subtle, causal, and transcendent level spiritual experiences and associated phenomena are only one (albeit very broad) class of phenomena and experiences that the spiritual aspirant may encounter when entering into the inner and occult realms. Others are classic paranormal phenomena, out of body experience, meetings with multidimensional entities, revelations of gods or archetypes, transpersonal experiences beyond time and space, and so on[6].

Unfortunately, as far as the contemporary New Age / New Consciousness / Integral movement and paradigms go, there is at present very little in the way of either theoretical or practical understanding of the Intermediate zone. This cluster of paradigms, based on watered down and apologetic versions of Vedantic and Buddhistic philosophy and practice, has little understanding beyond the Basic understanding of non-dual enlightenment.

7-iv-b. The Intermediate zone and False Spirituality.

It is a fact that not all paths that proclaim spiritual freedom and enlightenment actually deliver it. Even experiences that we think are spiritual very often are not, and teachers that we think are enlightened are far from it. This is the problem of the abusive guru, so characteristic of the New Age and Integral movement, and the partial enlightenment experiences that result from the abusive or false gurus' partaking of the Intermediate zone. Such false gurus have no more freedom than the average person, in fact they often are far more deluded, because of the overpowering nature of the larger forces, the larger holons if you will, that have swallowed them up. This is why there is so much pathological narcissism among charismatic false gurus and teachers[7]. Their little human personality identifies with the larger vastness of the force in question, and they they think they are God, and/or beyond all morality . The experiences these larger forces provide are worse than no experience at all, because they give the false guru the power to touch others, and the disciple or devotee, touched in this way, and having had a taste of enlightenment, will justify any abusive or narcissistic behaviour on the part of their teacher, and any masochistic response on their own part, as somehow necessary for their own enlightenment, to break down the walls of their ego. For more on this, see TLDI 2-iv . And here again a map of inner space and of supra-physical realities is required, and essential. Because without such understanding it is all too easy to take the false teachings as authentic.

What we are left with is on the one hand the lack of freedom and will of ordinary life, in which one is a slave and puppet to whatever forces come along (sect. 4-xxv), and which defines both the gross and the subtle/occult levels. And on the other the pseudo-spirituality taught by intermediate zoner gurus, in which case not only is the devotee still a slave and puppet of those same forces forces, but now is also prey to the manipulations of their (false) guru as well. And the false guru him or (more rarely) herself is even more of a slave and a puppet than their devotees, because they are so enmeshed in their own little power-trips of narcissism, self-justification, and sadomaschistic "guru"-devotee relationships, all of which come not from their own will or choice but from whatever usually little entities of the subtle regions or intermediate zones choose to work through them to enforce their own field of activity in the cult. Many abusive gurus seem to end up simply self-destructing because the occult forces that feed into them from the intermediate zone, and through them to their disciples and devotees, are inevitably too much for the small human personality to handle[8]. This is how abusive false guru and narcissistic charismatic leadership leads to progressive deterioration and increasingly outrageous behaviour on the part of the guru and as a result the eventual self-implosion of their whole movement or cult.

There is however a third option beyond the unconsciousness of ordinary life, and the slavery and abuse of an intermediate zoner guru. That is authentic spirituality, which simply means us getting in touch, and acting in harmony with, the Supreme, which is after all just our own Transcendent Nature. No rationalistic excuses, no buying into the self-delusion and slickly packaged offerings of "enlightenment" by intermediate zoner gurus. Authentic sp[irituality is always humble, and never makes excuses for the behaviour of others, nor denies the disquiet that one may feel when confronted with someone claiming to be a enlightened guru but acting very differently.

7-v. Enlightened Consciousness

Transcendent /
Causal /
Subtle /
Gross / Dense /

Beyond the intermediate zone is the state of true liberation or enlightenment. It is only at this stage that one finally becomes free of the various cosmic forces that determine the nature and contents of one's consciousness at the exoteric, occult, and intermediate zone levels (sect. 4-xxv).

Gurus and spiritual teachers that are established at this level are the real deal, and are indeed rare pearls to be sought amid the mud and muck of the countless beguiling intermediate zone false gurus. That does not mean that anything and everything an enlightened sage says is true. They are still limited both in their human expression and in the distorting bias and filter of their knowledge, understanding, and experiences up until when they attained enlightenment. An enlightened guru for example does not understand transenlightened states of realisation. But as far spiritual action in the material world goes, they are indeed exemplary, and light years away from the manipulation and deception of the false gurus

In all traditional spiritualities enlightenment is the highest one can go. Sri Aurobindo however refers to even greater states of trans-enlightenment beyond that. The nature of some of these states of liberation or enlightenment has already been referred to at some length in TLDI 3-v and 3-vi, to which the reader is referred.

Thus any integral spirituality would be one in which Liberation/Enlightenment is not limited to only one type of Liberation. Here again we find the weakness of Wilberian integralism, when it comes to application on the spiritual level, as opposed to the merely intellectual synthesis. This imbalance is due to the fact that Wilberian spirituality is based on the Advaitin, Buddhistic, and Daist concepts of non-dual liberation in the impersonal Transcendent, and sees the world-process as illusion. In contrast to this, one finds a more truly integral position in the more fluid approach to enlightenment and self- and God-realisation proposed by Sri Aurobindo and Abraham Maslow, and even the postmodernism-inspired participatory spirituality of Jorge Ferrer.

7-vi. Integral Spirituality

By Integral Spirituality I mean transformative practice leading to the Integral enlightenment and eventually the divinising of the individual nature and the collective and ultimately global evolution. Integral Spirituality seems to be absent from the Wilberian movement, as Wilber's book of the same name actually refers to the newest iteration of his intellectual philosophy. However, integral or integrative spirituality of some form is central to the revelation of authentic teachers like Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, and more recently A.H. Almaas (however there are other authentic teachings who still taught a more one-sided approach, such as the enlightened sage Ramana Maharshi). I interpret Sri Aurobindo and The Mother's Integral Yoga as the paradigmatic and most comprehensive example of Integral Spirituality, but this is not to deny the validity of other paths as well.

It is important then that we understand that authentic spiritual practice is a truly dedicated, life-changing and indeed lifetime commitment . An Integral Spirituality can only be built on the insights and teachings of actual realised or enlightened beings. We are not talking about some sort of ego-gratification or life-style choice, whether it be the pop-New Age Lifestyle Tantra that derives from Rajneesh (himself an abusive guru, although many people who only know his writings and at best brief darshans have spoken about how they benefited from his teachings) or "Integral cross training" (sect 6-iv) but a complete dedication to a goal that is far beyond the small ego and its narcissistic desires.

An Integral spirituality by its very nature is broad and inclusive. Everything is included; esoteric as well as exoteric, bhakti as well as Jnana, impersonal Divine as well as the Personal Divine (and vice-versa in all these categories). An integral yoga teaching is truly integral, because nothing is excluded. Hence this is also a spirituality and yoga that that acknowledges all traditions and paths Here we have the universalising Sufism of Hazrat Inayat Khan, the four complementary yogas of Swami Vivekananda, and also the syncretic approach of the current "New Age" movement. Unfortunately this sort of approach seems to be lacking in a lot of spiritual teachings, where instead we find things like hang ups and guilt feelings about the body, monotheistic intolerance that denies the insights of monism (for example exoteric abrahamic religions and some eastern groups like the Hare Krishnas), and even the Advaitin-Buddhistic approach where, if not balanced as it is in the teachings of Vivekananda or the tolerant loving-kindness approach of the current Dalai Lama, emphasises the transcendent non-dual witness consciousness to the exclusion of the physical and emotional being and the material world.

Freedom from dogmatism is also very important, if one is to avoid the tendency towards fundamentalism and cultism that is almost universal in humanity. It simply involves taking a common-sense view of things, and not allowing oneself to be caught up in the excitement generated by religious attractors and false gurus, is required if one is to avoid cultic bias. Practice means developing a healthy scepticism towards creeds and dogmas, and letting oneself follow one's own common-sense feelings and inner guidance, not external authority figures. This has been taught by Guatama Buddha, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and The Mother. One might even mention to some extent Atheism and Scepticism, except that they replace conventional religion with their own dogma of scientism and secularism, which ultimately is just another religion.

No matter how sublime a teaching, once you become a fundamentalist you are likely to lose the spiritual connection.

Finally there is the vision of a future, supra-mental, collective posthuman evolutionary state of physical divinisation . If the evolutionary cosmology has a history that takes us up to the present, it also has a future too, an Omega Point or state of Supramentalisation, as described by Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo, in Kabbalah it is is referred to as Tikkun olam, "healing the world". This is the cosmic Transformation and divinisation of the individual, collective, and planetary consciousness and being on all levels, Soul- and Self-realisation and beyond; Godheadhood, Supramentalistion, Omega Point, Divinisation of the World and the Cosmos as a whole. It is worth noting that Wilber tends to deconstruct teachings like this, using an Advaito-Buddhistic approach to concepts such as ignorance and transcendence; for example his comments on Teilhard's omega point in SES[9]. In this respect then, as elsewhere, the current thesis differs radically from the Wilberian paradigm.


7-vii. Four dimensions of Enlightenment and Divinisation

In TLDI 3-viii a contrast was made between conventional or traditional spirituality which as as its aim transcendence of the world and phenomenal reality, and the attainment of an unmanifest state of liberation, nirvana, union with God, etc (and these various states are not necessarily the same, see TLDI 3-vi), and the Integral Spirituality or Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, which is based instead on transformation and divinisation of the body, physical life, and the World.

A more detailed approach might have four stages of liberation and transformation, each higher of which includes but also transcends (to use Wilber's useful phrase) the preceding. This is indicated by the following diagram, which continues from the preceding one.

fig.21. Four stages of Liberation and Divinisation

Here we have again further stages; and in this case the highest of the preceding diagram (fig.19, sect. 7-i) is actually the lowest stage here; individual divinisation and liberation (also the innermost circle is the lowest, not the highest). There is also the stage of liberation or enlightenment which involves the individual divinisation of the body. Beyond this are the stages of Preliminary and Complete Supramentalisation (divinisation).

fig.22. Stages towards supramentalisation

As shown in fig 22, above, liberation could be partial (non integral). But for an integral divinisation, Liberation has to involve not just the liberation of a single faculty or identification with the Self as Absolute (Atman, Brahman, Buddha Nature, Godhead, etc), and not just the option and possibility of many different goals of realisation (Ferrer's "Ocean of many shores") but an integral transformation of Soul-Realisation in addition to Self-Realisation. This can be represented as follows:

In this diagram, arrows represent direction of development. There are two dead-end stages; Intermediate zone ensnarement and Static Liberation. At the lower left are the faculties of the physical, emotional/affective, and mental being. Realisation of the infinite inner being (table 9) and self-realisation can be had with any of these individually or with all together (in order to avoid too many overlapping arrows I separated the physical inner being and self-realisation (bottom middle left of the chart) from the affective and mental equivalent (upper middle left, and these could equally be portrayed in two separate boxes)).

Thus we have the first basic principle of any authentic integral spirituality - addressing all faculties of the outer being: Integral spirituality involves not just the enlightenment of the mind as in conventional liberation, but also the rejection of world-negating and ascetic spiritualities. In conventional Eastern nondual philosophy it is the mind that is stilled, leading to nirvana or liberation. The other faculties are ignored or suppressed, until they just drop away. In contrast, an integral Spirituality and an Integral Yoga has to equally transform all the faculties. Not just the liberation of Mind in Witness consciousness, but the Liberation of Feeling in the Divine Heart consciousness, of body in activities like alchemical Taoist and Tantric transformation. Hence the concept of Embodied spirituality , the rejection of world-negating and ascetic spiritualities. In contrast to the world-denying spiritualities concerned only with the higher faculties, and refusing to consider anything below the heart center, embodied spirituality regards the body as a source of spiritual insight, a microcosm of the universe as a whole, and pivotal and necessary for an enduring spiritual transformation. This is summed up in a good on-line essay by Jorge Ferrer, to which the reader is referred[10]. Wilberian Integral theorists might argue that "embodied" unnecessarily restricts spirituality to the Upper Right Quadrant of Wilber's AQAL diagram. Ignoring the fact that the upper right quadrant here represents an impersonalised dualistic misinterpretation of the body (sect ), the idea here is not to reject the other aspects of consciousness, but to redress the current imbalance of spiritualities that reject the body. This wholesome attitude to the body is an important part of the New Age movement, Neopaganism, and even pop Tantra[11]. In various forms of ecospirituality it is also extended to the world as a whole (see "a synergetic and organic society" above). A recent development along this line is Integral Transformative Practice, or ITP, a spiritual practice that attempts to integrate body, mind, heart, and soul, and is advocated by Michael Murphy and George Leonard. Within the orthodox Wilberian Integral Movement however there seems to be a lack not of spirituality as such but of any serious integral spirituality (Wilber refers to ITP but his attitude seems to be dismissive[12]), and esoteric-occult and integral yogic insight.

Spiritual development, whether referring to one faculty or to all of them, can lead either to Liberation or to ensnarement in the Intermediate zone. The latter appears to be the far more common outcome, if the ratio of abusive to genuine gurus is anything to go by (alternatively it could be argued that genuine gurus are just as common but are more secretive, this begs the question of why they should feel the need to stay hidden, and why those who are public chose not to hide) .

However where there is soul realisation - the coming forth of the Divine Center to guide and transform the physical, emotional/affective, and mental being, separately or together, there is no danger of ensnarement. This is because the Sincerity and Aspiration of the Divine Soul counters and dissolves the narcissistic ego and false sense of pride that leads to sadhaks and gurus believing themselves to have attained the supreme and setting themselves up as teachers on that basis.

Therefore actualisation of the inner being has to involve not just Self-realisation (Liberation or Enlightenment) as in conventional spiritual teachings, and involving the various planes and aspects of the Inner Being (see table 6), but Soul-realisation (The Divine Center) as well. It is only through the latter that one pass through the Intermediate zone without harm. Although in the initial stages consciousness may or may not still be limited to the physical, and the practitioner may be solitary or may interact via positive morality with others or with society, the goal remains transcendence of limited desire-ego, enabling the transformation and transmutation of the entire personality and surface individuality through Self and Soul-realisation

Soul realisation and Self realisation together lead to further progressive stages of transenlightenment. And in addition an enlightened or self-realised being who chooses not to enter into static liberation may choose to return to the Earth to participate in the supramental transformation, hence the arrows from Liberation to Transenlightenement.

A further development, not mentioned by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother but described in other traditions, such as the Taoist immortals and the Tantric nathas and siddhas is the concept of an immortal physical body; although clearly it is the subtle physical that is being referred to. The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky also teaches the creation of a subtle body, although the Gurdjieffian symbolism and metaphysics tends to obscure things somewhat.

Beyond these stages there is what The Mother refers to as Surhomme. Georges von Vreckem translates this as "Overman" rather than the conventional but misleading translation of "Superman" that is given in the English edition of the Agenda. This Overman consciousness constitutes the preliminary stage of Supramentalisation, and is transition between the old consciousness and true, tikkunic, Supramentalisation.

The Integral Transformation thus culminates in the process by which the entire individual and eventually the larger collectivity is transformed and ultimately divinised. This process of Supramentalisation, and the way in which it differs from both conventional enlightenment and liberation and the understanding of the current Integral movement has already been described in TLDI 3; especially sections 3-viii and 3-ix, to which the reader is referred.


[1] Steven Guth, The Double - a new paradigm for understanding the human psyche, 2003

[2] See e.g. Charles T Tart, States of Consciousness and State-Specific Sciences, Science 1972, Vol. 176, 1203-1210. online, "Science, states of consciousness, and spiritual experiences: The need for state-specific sciences". In C. Tart (Ed.), Transpersonal Psychologies. New York: Harper & Row, 1975 pp. 11-58

[3] Wilber is a strong believer in scientific studies like measuring the brain waves of meditating Zen or Tibetan monks; an approach that goes back to the 1960s, regarding which see Charles T. Tart, Altered States of Consciousness, Doubleday Anchor (1969, 1972), section 8, and more recently has been popularised by TM, a controversial cult-like organisation that has worked very hard to try to appear mainstream. Wilber's methodology has been criticised by Andrew P. Smith ("The Intersubjective Meditator: A Critical Look at Ken Wilber's Integral Spirituality", April 2006 ), and his theories and methodology regarding meditation in general, and TM in particular, have been strongly criticised by Jim Andrews ("Ken Wilber on Meditation: A Baffling Babbling of Unending Nonsense", Updated July 28, 2006)

[4] Robert Searle "Multi-Dimensional Science",

[5] "The Intermediate Zone guru" and other webpages in this section

[6] Mention might also be made here of the discoveries by Stan Grof, perhaps the greatest living phenomenologist of the inner realms of consciousness.

[7] For a purely exoteric analysis, see Len Oakes, Prophetic Charisma, Syracuse University Press, 1997. Although containing many valuable insights, observations, and cases studies, Oakes' analysis does not take into account the intermediate zone and the power of the larger forces therein, and hence has to resort to rather unconvincing psuchological explanations to explain the power of the charismatic teacher or guru.

[8] See Oakes, Prophetic Charisma, chapter 10

[9] Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, pp.319-25

[10] Embodied Spirituality - Now and Then "Embodied spirituality...views all human dimensions-body, vital, heart, mind, and consciousness-as equal partners in bringing self, community, and world into a fuller alignment with the Mystery out of which everything arises. Far from being an obstacle, this approach sees the engagement of the body and its vital/primary energies as crucial for not only a thorough spiritual transformation, but also the creative exploration of expanded forms of spiritual freedom. The consecration of the whole person leads naturally to the cultivation of a "full-chakra" spirituality that seeks to make all human attributes permeable to the presence of both immanent and transcendent spiritual energies.... " Curiously, Ferrer is critical of the Aurobindonian approach; perhaps because he is talking about realising what is already there, but not the concept of divinising and transforming the being into something greater.

[11] By "pop Tantra" I mean the popularised and vulgarised Tantra of the West; which seems to be mostly the result of Rajneesh and others associated with that way of thinking. Rajneesh in fact was unique in being open about this sort of thing, despite his abusive behaviour (see e.g. Christopher Calder, "Osho, Bhagwan Rajneesh, and the Lost Truth" ; and Hugh Milne, Bhagwan: The God that Failed, St Martins Press, 1987), which indicates he was not truly enlightened. But this does not mean that Pop Tantra itself is bad; the ideal is to take the best of their message and discard the authoritarian cult of personality that one finds in all such movements.

[12] Although Wilber speaks about Integral Transformative Practice in the 10 CD interview Kosmic Consciousness, his comments, and those of his friend Andrew Cohen, are rather dismissive and from the perspective of the Advaito-Zen "Two Truths" form of world-negating spirituality. See "Integral Transformative Practice: In This World or Out of It?" by Ken Wilber in What is Enlightenment? no.18, online at

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