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Definitions, . Quotes . - . Chapters .

object:1.07 - The Farther Reaches of Human Nature
book class:Sex Ecology Spirituality
author:Ken Wilber


0:The Divine is in his essence infinite and his manifestation too is multitudinously infinite. If that is so, it is not likely that our true integral perfection in being and in nature can come by one kind of realisation alone; it must combine many different strands of divine experience. It cannot be reached by the exclusive pursuit of a single line of identity till that is raised to its absolute; it must harmonise many aspects of the Infinite. An integral consciousness with a multiform dynamic experience is essential for the complete transformation of our nature. ~ Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis Of Yoga, p. 114

1:WE ARE YET the bastard sons and daughters of an evolution not yet done with us, caught always between the fragments of yesterday and the unions of tomorrow, unions apparently destined to carry us far beyond anything we can possibly recognize today, and unions that, like all such births, are exquisitely painful and unbearably ecstatic.

2:And with yet just the slightest look-once again, within-new marriages unfold, and the drama carries on.

1:I have been constantly emphasizing that each stage of evolution, in whatever domain, involves a new emergence and therefore a new depth, or a new interiority, whether that applies to molecules or to birds or to dolphins; and that each new within is also a going beyond, a transcendence, a higher and wider identity with a greater total embrace. The formula is: going within = going beyond = greater embrace. And I want to make very clear exactly what that means.

2:This is extremely important, I think, because the higher stages of development, the transrational and transpersonal and mystical stages, all involve a new going within, a new interiorness. And the charge has been circulating, for quite some time now, that endeavors such as meditation are somehow narcissistic and withdrawn. Environmentalists, in particular, often claim that meditation is somehow "escapist" or "egocentric," and that this "going within" simply ignores the "real" problems in the "real" world "out there."

3:Precisely the opposite. Far from being some sort of narcissistic withdrawal or inward isolation, meditation (or transpersonal development in general) is a simple and natural continuation of the evolutionary process, where every going within is also a going beyond to a wider embrace.

4:Recall that two of our tenets (8 and 12d) stated that increasing evolution means increasing depth and increasing relative autonomy. In the realm of human development, this particularly shows up in the fact that, according to developmental psychology (as we will see), increasing growth and development always involve increasing internalization (or increasing interiorization). And as paradoxical as it initially sounds, the more interiorized a person is, the less narcissistic his or her awareness becomes. So we need to understand why, for all schools of developmental psychology, this equation is true: increasing development = increasing interiorization = decreasing narcissism (or decreasing egocentrism).

5:In short, we need to understand why the more interior a person is, the less egocentric he or she becomes.

6:Begin with interiorization. "Evolution, to Hartmann [founder of psychoanalytic developmental psychology], is a process of progressive internalization, for, in the development of the species, the organism achieves increased independence from its environment, the result of which is that 'reactions which originally occurred in relation to the external world are increasingly displaced into the interior of the organism.' The more independent the organism becomes, the greater its independence from the stimulation of the immediate environment."1 This applies to the infant, for example, when it no longer dissolves in tears if food is not immediately forthcoming. By interiorizing its awareness, it is no longer merely buffeted by the immediate fluctuations in the environment: its relative autonomy-its capacity to remain stable in the midst of shifting circumstances-increases. This progressive internalization is a cornerstone of psychoanalytic developmental psychology (from Hartmann to Blanck and Blanck to Kernberg to Kohut). It is implicit in Jung's notion of individuation. Likewise, Piaget described thought as "internalized action," the capacity to internally plan an action and anticipate its course without being merely a reactive automaton-and so forth.

7:In other words, for developmental psychology, increasing development = increasing interiorization = increasing relative autonomy. This, of course, is simply tenet 12d as it shows up in humans.

8:The second link in the equation concerns narcissism, which is roughly synonymous with egocentrism, about which we have already said much. We need only recall that increasing development involves precisely the capacity to transcend one's isolated and subjective point of view, and thus to find higher and wider perspectives and identities. Piaget referred to the entire developmental process as one of decreasing egocentrism, or what he also called "decentering."

9:Putting these all together, we have: increasing development = increasing interiorization = increasing autonomy = decreasing narcissism (decentering).

10:In other words, the more one can go within, or the more one can introspect and reflect on one's self, then the more detached from that self one can become, the more one can rise above that self's limited perspective, and so the less narcissistic or less egocentric one becomes (or the more decentered one becomes). This is why Piaget is always saying things that sound paradoxical, such as: "Finally, as the child becomes conscious of his subjectivity, he rids himself of his egocentricity."2

11:The more he can subjectively reflect on his self, the more he can transcend it-his subjectivity, his interiority, rids him of his egocentricity. Howard Gardner does a masterful job of summarizing development as being the two processes of decreasing egocentrism and increasing interiority. "The first is the decline of egocentrism. The young child is, in Piaget's terms, totally egocentric-meaning not that he thinks selfishly only about himself, but to the contrary, that he is incapable of thinking about himself. The egocentric child is unable to differentiate himself from the rest of the world; he has not separated himself out from others or from objects. Thus he feels that others share his pain or his pleasure, that his mumblings will inevitably be understood, that his perspective is shared by all persons, that even animals and plants partake of his consciousness. In playing hide-and-seek he will 'hide' in broad view of other persons, because his egocentrism prevents him from recognizing that others are aware of his location. The whole course of human development can be viewed as a continuing decline in egocentrism. . . ."3

12:And this decreasing narcissism is directly connected with the "second trend in mental growth," namely, "the tendency toward internalization or interiorization. The infant either solves problems by his activity upon the world or he does not solve them at all. The older child, on the other hand, can achieve many intellectual breakthroughs without overt physical actions. He is able to realize these actions interiorly, through concrete and formal operations."4 By acting on the self interiorly, that self is decentered, and this allows, among many other things, the continuing expansion (decentering) of moral response from egocentric to sociocentric to worldcentric (integralaperspectival).

13:In short, the more one goes within, the more one goes beyond, and the more one can thus embrace a deeper identity with a wider perspective.

14:Meditation, then, as we will see in detail, involves yet a further going within, and thus a further going beyond, the discovery of a new and higher awareness with a new and wider identity-and thus meditation is one of the single strongest antidotes to egocentrism and narcissism (and geocentrism and anthropocentrism and sociocentrism).

15:And let us remember Piaget's central point about egocentrism, namely, that "egocentrism obscures the truth." It follows that meditation, as an antidote to egocentrism, would involve a substantial increase in capacity for truth disclosure, a clearing of the cobwebs of selfcentric perception and an opening in which the Kosmos could more clearly manifest, and be seen, and be appreciated-for what it is and not for what it can do for me.

16:In short, every within turns us out into more of the Kosmos. This is what seems to so confuse the flatland holists (and the ecological critics of contemplation), because in their flatland world of self and cosmos, the more attention you place on one, the less attention you have for the other (and they want everyone's eyes riveted on exterior nature), whereas in the pluridimensional and holoarchic Kosmos, the more the depths of the self are disclosed, the more the corresponding depths of the Kosmos reveal themselves. (We will see where all that leads in a moment.)

17:This general movement of within-and-beyond is nothing new with humans: it is a simple continuation of the Kosmic evolutionary process, which is "self-development through self-transcendence," the same process at work in atoms and molecules and cells, a process that, in the human domains, continues naturally into the superconscious, with precisely nothing occult or mysterious about it.

The capacity to go within and look at rationality results in a going beyond rationality, and the first stage of that going-beyond is vision-logic. If you are aware of being rational, what is the nature of that awareness, since it is now bigger than rationality? To be aware of rationality is no longer to have only rationality, yes?

Numerous psychologists (Bruner, Flavell, Arieti, Cowan, Kramer, Commons, Basseches, Arlin, etc.) have pointed out that there is much evidence for a stage beyond Piaget's formal operational. It has been called "dialectical," "integrative," "creative synthetic," "integral-aperspectival," "postformal," and so forth. I, of course, am using the terms vision-logic or network-logic. But the conclusions are all essentially the same: "Piaget's formal operational is considered to be a problem-solving stage. But beyond this stage are the truly creative scientists and thinkers who define important problems and ask important questions. While Piaget's formal model is adequate to describe the cognitive structures of adolescents and competent adults, it is not adequate to describe the towering intellect of Nobel laureates, great statesmen and stateswomen, poets, and so on."5 True enough. But I would like to give a different emphasis to this structure, for while very few people might actually gain the "towering status of a Nobel laureate," the space of vision-logic (its worldspace or worldview) is available for any who wish to continue their growth and development. In other words, to progress through the various stages of growth does not mean that one has to extraordinarily master each and every stage, and demonstrate a genius comprehension at that stage before one can progress beyond it. This would be like saying that no individuals can move beyond the oral stage until they become gourmet cooks.

It is not even necessary to be able to articulate the characteristics of a particular stage (children progress beyond preop without ever being able to define it). It is merely necessary to develop an adequate competence at that stage, in order for it to serve just fine as a platform for the transcendence to the next stage. In order to transcend the verbal, it is not necessary to first become Shakespeare.

Likewise, in order to develop formal rationality, it is not necessary to learn calculus and propositional logic. Every time you imagine different outcomes, every time you see a possible future different from today's, every time you dream the dream of what might be, you are using formal operational awareness. And from that platform you can enter vision-logic, which means not that you have to become a Hegel or a Whitehead in order to advance, but only that you have to think globally, which is not so hard at all. Those who will master this stage, or any stage for that matter, will always be relatively few; but all are invited to pass through.

Because vision-logic transcends but includes formal operational, it completes and brings to fruition many of the trends begun with universal rationality itself (which is why many writers refer to vision-logic as "mature reason" or "dialectical reason" or "synthetic reason," and so on). And some theorists simply subdivide formal operational awareness into several substages, with the highest of those stages being what we are calling vision-logic. James Fowler, for example, divides formop into early formop, dichotomizing formop, dialectical formop, and synthetic formop (the first two being what I am calling rationality, and the last two being vision-logic, although all four are "reason" in the very broadest sense). Incidentally, Fowler's extremely important work on the "stages of faith" (whose details I will reserve for a note)6 is yet another clear account of the evolution from magic to mythic-literal to the universal "commonwealth of being."

In other words, rationality is global, vision-logic is more global. Take Habermas, for example (in Communication and the Evolution of Society). Formal operational rationality establishes the postconventional stages of, first, "civil liberties" or "legal freedom" for "all those bound by law," and then, in a more developed stage, it demands not just legal freedom but also "moral freedom" for "all humans as private persons." But even further, mature or communicative reason (our vision-logic) demands both "moral and political freedom" for "all human beings as members of a world society." Thus, where rationality began the worldcentric orientation of universal pluralism, vision-logic brings it to a mature fruition by demanding not just legal and moral freedom, but legal and moral and political freedom (includes the previous stage and adds something crucial: transcends and includes).

In just the same way, ecological and relational awareness, which started to emerge with formal operational, comes to a major fruition with vision-logic and the centauric worldview. For, in beginning to differentiate from rationality (look at it, operate upon it), vision-logic can, for the first time, integrate reason with its predecessors, including life and matter, all as junior holons in its own compound individuality.

In other words, and I intend to emphasize this heavily, centauric vision-logic can integrate physiosphere, biosphere, and noosphere in its own compound individuality (and this is, as I suggested in chapter 5, the next major stage of leading-edge global transformation, even though most of the "work yet to be done" is still getting the globe up to decentered universal-rational pluralism in the first place).

This overall integration (physiosphere, biosphere, and noosphere, or matter, body, mind) is borne out, for example, by the researches of Broughton, Loevinger, Selman, Maslow, and others. As only one example, but an important one, we can take the work of John Broughton.

As usual, this new centauric stage possesses not just a new cognitive capacity (vision-logic)-it also involves a new sense of identity (centauric), with new desires, new drives, new needs, new perceptions, new terrors, and new pathologies: it is a new and higher self in a new and wider world of others. And Broughton has very carefully mapped out the developmental stages of self and knowing that lead up to this new centauric mode of being-in-the-world.7

To simplify considerably, Broughton asked individuals from preschool age to early adulthood: what or where is your self?

Since this was a verbal study, Broughton began with the late preop child (magic-mythic), which he calls level zero.

At this stage, children uniformly reply that self is "inside" and reality is "outside." Thoughts are not distinguished from their objects (still magical adherences; the child has not completed fulcrum three).

At level one, still in the late preop stage, children believe that the self is identified with the physical body, but the mind controls the self and can tell it what to do, so it is the mind that moves the body. The relation of mind to body is one of authority: the mind is a big person and the body is a little person (i.e., mind and body are slowly differentiating). Likewise, thoughts are distinguished from objects, but there is no distinction between reality and appearance ("naive realism").

Level two occurs at about ages seven to twelve years (conop). Mind and body are initially differentiated at this level (completion of fulcrum three), and the child speaks of the self as being, not a body, but a person (a social role or persona, fulcrum four), and the person includes both mind and body. Although thoughts and things are distinguished, there is still a strong personalistic flavor to knowledge (remnants of egocentrism), so facts and personal opinions are not easily differentiated.

At level three, occurring around eleven to seventeen years (early formop), "the social personality or role is seen as a false outer appearance, different from the true inner self." Here we see very clearly the differentiation of the self (the rational ego) from its embeddedness in sociocentric roles-the emergence of a new interiority or relative autonomy which is aware of, and thus transcends or disidentifies from, overt social roles. "The self is what the person's nature normally is; it is a kind of essence and remains itself over changes in mental contents."

Likewise, and for precisely the same reasons, "reflective self-awareness appears at this level." (This is fulcrum five, the rational and reflexive ego differentiating from, and thus transcending, sociocentric or mythic-membership roles, with the correlative possible pathology of "identity crisis." Notice also that the new ego-self is beginning to remain as witness to the stream of mental events, and is not merely carried away by any passing thoughts; the adolescent at this stage reports that something "remains itself over changes in mental contents.")

At level four, or late formop, the person becomes capable of hypothetico-deductive awareness (what if, as if), and reality is conceived in terms of relativity and interrelationships (ecology and relativity, in the broadest sense, as we have seen). The self is viewed as a postulate "lending unity and integrity to personality, experience, and behavior" (this is the "mature ego").

But, and this is very telling, development can take a cynical turn at this stage. Instead of being the principle lending unity and integrity to experience and behavior, the self is simply identified with experience and behavior. In the cynical behavioristic turn of this stage, "the person is a cybernetic system guided to fulfillment of its material wants.

At this level, radical emphasis on seeing everything within a relativistic or subjective frame of reference leaves the person close to a solipsistic position."

The world is seen as a great relativistic cybernetic system, so "holistic" that it leaves no room for the actual subject in the objective network. The self therefore hovers above reality, disengaged, disenchanted, disembodied. It is "close to a solipsistic position": hyperagency cut off from all communions. And this, as we have seen, is essentially the fundamental Enlightenment paradigm: a perfectly holistic world that leaves a perfectly atomistic self.8

A transcendental self can bond with other transcendental selves, whereas a merely empirical self disappears into the empirical web and interlocking order, never to be heard from again. (No strand in the web is ever or can ever be aware of the whole web; if it could, then it would cease to be merely a strand. This is not allowed by systems theory, which is why, as Habermas demonstrated, systems theory always ends up isolationist and egocentric, or "solipsistic.")

But for a more transcendental self to emerge, it has first to differentiate from the merely empirical self, and thus we find, with Broughton: "At level five the self as observer is distinguished from the self-concept as known." In other words, something resembling a pure observing Self (a transcendental Witness or Atman, which we will investigate in a moment) is beginning to be clearly distinguished from the empirical ego or objective self-it is a new interiority, a new going within that goes beyond, a new emergence that transcends but includes the empirical ego. This beginning transcendence of the ego we are, of course, calling the centaur (the beginning of fulcrum six, or the sixth major differentiation that we have seen so far in the development of consciousness).9 This is the realm of vision-logic leading to centauric integration, which is why at this stage, Broughton found that "reality is defined by the coherence of the interpretive framework."

This integrative stage comes to fruition at Broughton's last major level (late centauric), where "mind and body are both experiences of an integrated self," which is the phrase I have most often used to define the centauric or bodymind-integrated self. Precisely because awareness has differentiated from (or disidentified from, or transcended) an exclusive identification with body, persona, ego, and mind, it can now integrate them in a unified fashion, in a new and higher holon with each of them as junior partners. Physiosphere, biosphere, noosphere-exclusively identified with none of them, therefore capable of integrating all of them.

But everything is not sweetness and light with the centaur. As always, new and higher capacities bring with them the potential for new and higher pathologies. As vision-logic adds up all the possibilities given to the mind's eye, it eventually reaches a dismal conclusion: personal life is a brief spark in the cosmic void. No matter how wonderful it all might be now, we are still going to die: dread, as Heidegger said, is the authentic response of the existential (centauric) being, a dread that calls us back from self-forgetting to self-presence, a dread that seizes not this or that part of me (body or persona or ego or mind), but rather the totality of my being-in-the-world. When I authentically see my life, I see its ending, I see its death; and I see that my "other selves," my ego, my personas, were all sustained by inauthenticity, by an avoidance of the awareness of lonely death.

A profound existential malaise can set in-the characteristic pathology of this stage (fulcrum six). No longer protected by anthropocentric gods and goddesses, reason gone flat in its happy capacity to explain away the Mystery, not yet delivered into the hands of the superconscious-we stare out blankly into that dark and gloomy night, which will very shortly swallow us up as surely as it once spat us forth. Tolstoy:

The question, which in my fiftieth year had brought me to the notion of suicide, was the simplest of all questions, lying in the soul of every man: "What will come from what I am doing now, and may do tomorrow? What will come from my whole life?" Otherwise expressed-"Why should I live? Why should I wish for anything?" Again, in other words, "Is there any meaning in my life which will not be destroyed by the inevitable death awaiting me?"

That question would never arise to the magical structure; that structure has abundant, even exorbitant meaning because the universe centers always on it, was made for it, caters to it daily: every raindrop soothes its soul because every confirming drop reassures it of its cosmocentricity: the great spirit wraps it in the wind and whispers to it always, I exist for you.

That question would never arise to a mythic-believer: this soul exists only for its God, a God that, by a happy coincidence, will save this soul eternally if it professes belief in this God: a mutual admiration society destined for a bad infinity. A crisis of faith and meaning is impossible from within this circle (a crisis occurs only when this soul suspects this God).

That question would never beset the happy rationalist, who long ago became a happy rationalist by deciding never to ask such questions again, and then forgetting, rendering unconscious, this question, and sustaining the unconsciousness by ridiculing those who ask it.

No, that question arises from a self that knows too much, sees too much, feels too much. The consolations are gone; the skull will grin in at the banquet; it can no longer tranquilize itself with the trivial. From the depths, it cries out to gods no longer there, searches for a meaning not yet disclosed, still to be incarnated. Its very agony is worth a million happy magics and a thousand believing myths, and yet its only consolation is its unrelenting pain-a pain, a dread, an emptiness that feels beyond the comforts and distractions of the body, the persona, the ego, looks bravely into the face of the Void, and can no longer explain away either the Mystery or the Terror. It is a soul that is much too awake. It is a soul on the brink of the transpersonal.

We have repeatedly seen that the problems of one stage are only "de-fused" at the next stage, and thus the only cure for existential angst is the transcendence of the existential condition, that is, the transcendence of the centaur, negating and preserving it in a yet higher and wider awareness. For we are here beginning to pass out of the noosphere and into the theosphere, into the transpersonal domains, the domains not just of the self-conscious but of the superconscious.
A great number of issues need to be clarified as we follow evolution (and the twenty tenets) into the higher or deeper forms of transpersonal unfolding.
First and foremost, if this higher unfolding is to be called "religious" or "spiritual," it is a very far cry from what is ordinarily meant by those terms. We have spent several chapters painstakingly reviewing the earlier developments of the archaic, magic, and mythic structures (which are usually associated with the world's great religions), precisely because those structures are what transpersonal and contemplative development is not. And here we can definitely agree with Campbell: if 99.9 percent of people want to call magic and mythic "real religion," then so be it for them (that is a legitimate use);10 but that is not what the world's greatest yogis, saints, and sages mean by mystical or "really religious" development, and in any event is not what I have in mind. Campbell, however, is quite right that a very, very few individuals, during the magic and mythic and rational eras, were indeed able to go beyond magic, beyond mythic, and beyond rational-into the transrational and transpersonal domains. And even if their teachings (such as those of Buddha, Christ, Patanjali, Padmasambhava, Rumi, and Chih-i) were snapped up by the masses and translated downward into magic and mythic and egoic terms-"the salvation of the individual soul"-that is not what their teachings clearly and even blatantly stated, nor did they intentionally lend any support to such endeavors. Their teachings were about the release from individuality, and not about its everlasting perpetuation, a grotesque notion that was equated flat-out with hell or samsara. Their teachings, and their contemplative endeavors, were (and are) transrational through and through. That is, although all of the contemplative traditions aim at going within and beyond reason, they all start with reason, start with the notion that truth is to be established by evidence, that truth is the result of experimental methods, that truth is to be tested in the laboratory of personal experience, that these truths are open to all those who wish to try the experiment and thus disclose for themselves the truth or falsity of the spiritual claims-and that dogmas or given beliefs are precisely what hinder the emergence of deeper truths and wider visions.
Thus, each of these spiritual or transpersonal endeavors (which we will carefully examine) claims that there exist higher domains of awareness, embrace, love, identity, reality, self, and truth. But these claims are not dogmatic; they are not believed in merely because an authority proclaimed them, or because sociocentric tradition hands them down, or because salvation depends upon being a "true believer." Rather, the claims about these higher domains are a conclusion based on hundreds of years of experimental introspection and communal verification. False claims are rejected on the basis of consensual evidence, and further evidence is used to adjust and fine-tune the experimental conclusions.
These spiritual endeavors, in other words, are scientific in any meaningful sense of the word, and the systematic presentations of these endeavors follow precisely those of any reconstructive science.

The common objections to these contemplative sciences are not very compelling. The most typical objection is that these mystical states are private and interior and cannot be publicly validated; they are "merely subjective."
This is simply not true; or rather, if it is true, then it applies to any and all nonempirical endeavors, from mathematics to literature to linguistics to psychoanalysis to historical interpretation. Nobody has ever seen, "out there" in the "sensory world," the square root of a negative one. That is a mathematical symbol seen only inwardly, "privately," with the mind's eye. Yet a community of trained mathematicians know exactly what that symbol means, and they can share that symbol easily in intersubjective awareness, and they can confirm or reject the proper and consistent uses of that symbol. Just so, the "private" experiences of contemplative scientists can be shared with a community of trained contemplatives, grounded in a common and shared experience, and open to confirmation or rebuttal based on public evidence.
Recall that the Right-Hand path is open to empirical verification, which means that the Right-Hand dimension of holons, their form or exteriors, can indeed be "seen" with the senses or their extensions. But the Left-Hand dimension-the interior side-cannot be seen empirically "out there," although it can be internally experienced (and although it has empirical correlates: my interior thoughts register on an EEG but cannot be determined or interpreted or known from that evidence). Everything on the Left Hand, from sensations to impulses to images and concepts and so on, is an interior experience known to me directly by acquaintance (which can indeed be "objectively described," but only through an intersubjective community at the same depth, where it relies on interpretation from the same depth). Direct spiritual experience is simply the higher reaches of the Upper-Left quadrant, and those experiences are as real as any other direct experiences, and they can be as easily shared (or distorted) as any other experiential knowledge.11 (The only way to deny the validity of direct interior experiential knowledge-whether it be mathematical knowledge, introspective knowledge, or spiritual knowledge-is to take the behaviorist stance and identify interior experience with exterior behavior. Should somebody mention that this is the cynical twist or pathological agency of Broughton's level four?)
There is, of course, one proviso: the experimenter must, in his or her own case, have developed the requisite cognitive tools. If, for example, we want to investigate concrete operational thought, a community of those who have only developed to the preoperational level will not do. If you take a preop child, and in front of the child pour the water from a short fat glass into a tall thin glass, the child will tell you that the tall glass has more water. If you say, no, there is the same amount of water in both glasses, because you just saw me pour the same water from one glass to the other, the child will have no idea what you're talking about. "No, the tall glass has more water." No matter how many times you pour the water back and forth between the two glasses, the child will deny they have the same amount of water. (Interestingly, if you videotape the child at this stage, and then wait a few years until the child has developed conop-at which point it will seem utterly obvious to him that the glasses have the same amount of water-and then show the child the earlier videotape, he will deny that it's him. He thinks you've doctored the videotape; he cannot imagine anybody being that stupid.) The preop child is immersed in a world that includes conop realities, is drenched in those realities, and yet cannot "see" them: they are all "otherworldly."
At every stage of development, in fact, the next higher stage always appears to be a completely "other world," an "invisible world"-it has literally no existence for the individual, even though the individual is in fact saturated with a reality that contains the "other" world. The individual's "this-worldly" existence simply cannot comprehend the "otherworldly" characteristics lying all around it.
At the same time, these higher or deeper worldspaces (whether of conop or formop or anything higher) are not located elsewhere in physical space-time. They are located here, in deeper perceptions of this world. Other worlds become this world with increasing development and evolution. The worldspace of conop is a completely other world to the preop child (even though he or she is often staring directly at it), another world that nonetheless becomes perfectly obvious, present, seen, and "this-worldly" at the conop stage, and what was the fuss all about?
But prior to the increased development and evolution, there is nothing from the present this-world that will allow the child to adequately grasp the other world (or else the other world would have already become a real this-world). Just so with the higher or transpersonal developments. Explain them to someone at the rational level, and all you get, at best, is that deer-caught-in-the-headlights blank stare (at worst, you get something like, "And did we forget to take our Prozac today?").
So the first thing I would like to emphasize is that the higher stages of transpersonal development are stages that are taken from those who have actually developed into those stages and who display palpable, discernible, and repeatable characteristics of that development. The stages themselves can be rationally reconstructed (explained in a rational manner after the fact), but they cannot be rationally experienced. They can be experienced only by a transrational contemplative development, whose stages unfold in the same manner as any other developmental stages, and whose experiences are every bit as real as any others.
But one must be adequate to the experience, or it remains an invisible other world. When the yogis and sages and contemplatives make a statement like, "The entire world is a manifestation of one Self," that is not a merely rational statement that we are to think about and see if it makes logical sense. It is rather a description, often poetic, of a direct apprehension or a direct experience, and we are to test this direct experience, not by mulling it over philosophically, but by taking up the experimental method of contemplative awareness, developing the requisite cognitive tools, and then directly looking for ourselves.
As Emerson put it, "What we are, that only can we see."

In this regard, another common objection is that mystical or contemplative experiences, because they cannot be put into plain language, or into any language for that matter, are therefore not epistemologically grounded, are not "real knowledge." But this simply bypasses the problem of what linguistically situated knowledge means in the first place. Saussure, as I mentioned earlier, maintained that all linguistic signs have two components, the signifier and the signified, often represented as S/S. The signifier is the written or spoken symbol or sound, the material component of the sign (such as the physical ink forms written on this page, or the physical air vibrations as you speak). The signified is what comes to your mind when you see or hear the signifier.
Thus, I physically write the word dog on this page-that is the signifier. You read the word, and you understand that I mean something like a furry animal with four legs that goes wuff-wuff-that is the signified, that is what comes to your mind. A sign is a combination of these two components, and these two components are, of course, the Right-Hand dimension of the sign (the physical exterior) and the Left-Hand dimension of the sign (the interior awareness or meaning).
And both of those are distinguished from the actual referent, or whatever it is that the sign is "pointing" to, whether interior or exterior. Thus, the signifier is the word dog, the referent is the real dog, and the signified is what comes to your mind when you read or hear the signifier dog. Saussure's genius was to point out that the signified is not merely or simply the same as the referent, because "what comes to mind" depends on a whole host of factors other than the real dog, and this is what makes linguistic reality so fascinating.
Saussure's point-and this is what actually ignited the whole movement of structuralism-is that the sign cannot be understood as an isolated entity, because in and by itself the sign is meaningless (which is why different words can represent the same thing in different languages, and why "meaning" is never a simple matter of a word pointing to a thing, because how could different words represent the same thing?). Rather, signs must be understood as part of a holarchy of differences integrated into meaningful structures. Both the signifiers and the signifieds exist as holons, or whole/parts in a chain of whole/parts, and, as Saussure made clear, it is their relational standing that confers meaning on each (language is a meaningful system of meaningless elements: as always, the regime or structure of the superholon confers meaning on the subholons, meaning which the subholons do not and cannot possess on their own).
In other words, the signifiers and the signifieds exist as a structure of contexts within contexts within contexts, and meaning itself is context-bound. Meaning is found not in the word but in the context: the bark of a dog is not the same as the bark of a tree, and the difference is not in the word, because the word bark is the same in both phrases-it is the relational context that determines its meaning: the entire structure of language is involved in the meaning of each and every term-this was Saussure's great insight.
And this, as usual, contributed to a split between Right- and Left-Hand theorists. The Right-Hand theorists, or the pure structuralists, wanted to study only the exterior structure of the system of signifiers in language and in culture (an approach which in turn gave way to the poststructuralists, who wanted to free the signifier from any grounding at all-as in Foucault's archaeology or Derrida's grammatology-and see it as free-floating or sliding, and anchored only by power or prejudice: meaning is indeed context-dependent, but contexts are boundless, and thus meaning is arbitrarily imposed by power or prejudice-the so-called "poststructural revolution" of "free-floating signifiers").
The Left-Hand theorists wanted to study the contexts within contexts of interior meaning, the signifieds that can only be interpreted, not seen, and interpreted only in a context of background cultural practices (the hermeneuticists, from Heidegger to Kuhn and Taylor and aspects of Wittgenstein).
But both the hermeneutical Left-Hand path and the structuralist Right-Hand path agreed that signs can only be understood contextually (whether in the context of shared cultural practices that provide the foreknowledge or background or context for common interpretation, or in the context of shared nonindividual linguistic structures. I argued in chapter 4 that both of these approaches are equally important-they represent the interior and the exterior of the linguistic holon-and indeed even Foucault came to this understanding).12
All of which relates to mysticism in this way: the word dog has a shared meaning to you and to me because that sign exists in a shared linguistic structure and a shared cultural background of social and interpretive practices. But what if you had never seen a real dog? What then?
I could of course describe one to you, but the word will be meaningless unless there are some points of shared experience that will allow you to "call up" in your mind the same signified that I mean with the signifier "dog." (Substitute the word Buddha-nature for dog and you can see the importance of this line of thought for mystical experience, which we will explore in a minute.) The hermeneuticists are quite right in that regard: the same linguistic structures that you and I share are not enough, in themselves, to give you the proper signified. You and I have to share a common lived experience in order to assume identical signification.
Further, the actual experience of seeing a dog is not itself a merely linguistic experience. The signifier, the word dog, is not the actual dog, not the actual referent. Obviously, the total experience of the real dog cannot itself be put into words, put into signifiers. But the fact that the real dog can't be fully captured in words does not mean that the real dog doesn't exist or isn't real. It means only that the signifier has sense only if you and I have had a similar experience, a common shared lifeworld experience, and then I will know what you mean when you say, "That dog scared me."
In short, no direct experience can be fully captured in words.13 Sex can't be put into words; you've either had the experience or you haven't, and no amount of poetry will take its place. Sunsets, eating cake, listening to Bach, riding a bike, getting drunk and throwing up-believe me, none of those are captured in words.
And thus, so what if spiritual experiences can't be captured in words either? They are no more and no less handicapped in this regard than any other experience. If I say "dog" and you've had the experience, you know exactly what I mean. If a Zen master says "Emptiness," and you've had that experience, you will know exactly what is meant. If you haven't had the experience "dog" or the experience "Emptiness," merely adding more and more words will never, under any circumstances, convey it.
Thus, if we are going to level that charge at mysticism, then we must level it at dogginess and sunsetness and every other experience that happens to come our way. (This is really the cheapest of the cheap shots fired at mysticism.)
Conversely, words do just fine as signifiers for experience, whether mundane or spiritual, if we both, you and I, have had similar experiences in a context of shared background practices. Zen masters talk about Emptiness all the time! And they know exactly what they mean by the words, and the words are perfectly adequate to convey what they mean, if you have had the experience (for what they mean can only be disclosed in the shared praxis of zazen, or meditation practice).
Go one step further. If I say to a conop child, "It is as if I were elsewhere," the child might nod her head as if she actually understood all the meanings of that statement. The conop child already possesses the shared linguistic structure (and grammar) to decipher the words. But, as we have seen, since the conop child cannot fully grasp the implications of as-if statements, she doesn't really understand what is signified by my statement. Once the higher structure of formop emerges, however, this will usher the child into a worldspace where "as-if" is not just a signifier but a signified that has an existing referent in that formop worldspace: not just a word, but a direct understanding that more or less spontaneously jumps to mind whenever we hear or see the word, and which refers to a genuinely existing entity in the rational worldspace.
In other words, all signs exist in a continuum of developmental referents and developmental signifieds. The referent of a sign is not just lying around in "the" world waiting for any and all to simply look at it; the referent exists only in a worldspace that is itself only disclosed in the process of development, and the signified exists only in the interior perception of those who have developed to that worldspace (which structures the background interpretive meaning that allows the signified to emerge). No amount of experience by the conop child will ever show her the meaning of an "as-if" dog, because the as-if dog does not exist anywhere in the conop worldspace; it exists only in the formop worldspace, and thus it is a referent that demands a developmental signified to even be perceived in the first place.
To take it a point at a time: the signifiers of signs (such as the words on this page) are always physical, they are always material components, in which no meaning resides at all (Saussure's point); and because the signifiers arephysical, even my dog can see them (and, of course, sees no meaning in them; or rather, sees them from a sensorimotor level, as something to eat, perhaps). That is because the actual referent of a sign exists only in a worldspace (sensorimotor, magical, mythical, mental, etc.) that is itself disclosed only at a particular level of depth (preop, conop, formop, etc.). And in the same way, the corresponding signified of the sign exists only in the interior perception of those who have developed the requisite depth. (All of this occurs in a context of cultural and social practices, or an intersubjective community of the same-depthed.)14
Both the conop child and my dog can see the physical words "as-if"; neither of them can understand the phrase.
The empirical markings are meaningless. The child and the dog do not possess the developmental signified, and thus they cannot see the actual referent.
Several examples of referents and worldspaces: rocks exist in the sensorimotor worldspace; animistic clouds exist in the magic worldspace; Santa Claus exists in the mythic worldspace; the square root of a negative one exists in the rational worldspace; archetypes exist in the subtle worldspace, and so on-not as pregiven objects, but as the product of all four quadrants. And thus, in order to understand the referents represented by those signifiers (from "rocks" to "archetypes") one must possess the requisite depth through one's own interior development (so that those signifiers can evoke the appropriate signified: when you read "the square root of a negative one," you know what that means, what that signifies, but only if you have developed to formop). Just so, the words Buddha-nature and Godhead and Spirit and Dharmakaya are signifiers whose referents exist only in the transpersonal or spiritual worldspace, and they therefore require, for their understanding, a developmental signified, an appropriately developed interior or Left-Hand dimension corresponding with the exterior word, or else they remain only words, like the unseen dog, this unseen Spirit. And without the developmental signified, words will capture neither the dog nor the Spirit.
And note: I can run around until I find a dog and show you the dog, because we both exist in the sensorimotor worldspace and there is no developmental reason why you can't spot a dog. Or, in the other example, there is no reason you can't understand an as-if dog, whose referent exists in the rational worldspace. We already share that worldspace. We have already transformed to that level of depth: an entire and shared world of referents are therefore lying around for us to apprehend (because we have already created the worldspace or the opening in which they can manifest).
But I can't run around and find Buddha and show you that, unless you have developed the requisite cognitions that will allow you to resonate with the signifier whose referent exists only in the spiritual worldspace and whose signified exists only in the consciousness of those who have awakened to that space.

If I want to know whether it is raining or not, I go to the window and look out, and sure enough, rain. But perhaps I am mistaken, or perhaps my eyesight is poor. Would you check? You go to the window and yes, rain.
That is a very simplified form of the three strands of any valid knowledge quest (whether of the Left- or RightHand path).15 The first is injunction, which is always of the form, "If you want to know this, do this." If you want to know if a cell has a nucleus, then get a microscope, learn to take histological sections, stain the cell, put it under the microscope, and look. If you want to know the meaning of Hamlet, then learn English, get the book, and read. If you want to know whether 2 + 2 is really 4, then learn arithmetic theory, take the theorems, run them through your mind, and check the results.
The various injunctions, in other words, lead to or disclose or open up the possibility of an illumination, an apprehension, an intuition, or a direct experiencing of the domain addressed by the injunction. You "see" the meaning of Hamlet, or whether it is raining, or why 2 + 2 really is 4. This is the second strand, the illumination or apprehension. You see or apprehend, via a direct experience, the disclosed data of the domain.16
But you could be mistaken, and thus you check your results, your data, with others who have completed the first two strands, with others who have performed the injunctions and obtained the data. In this community of peers, you compare and confirm-or reject-your original data. And this is the third strand, communal confirmation (or refutation).
These three strands-injunction, illumination, confirmation-are the major components in any valid knowledge quest.17 One of the great values of Thomas Kuhn's work (and that of the pragmatists before him, and in particular Heidegger's "analytic-pragmatic" side) was to draw attention to the importance of injunctions or actual practices in generating knowledge, and further, in generating the type of knowledge that could be articulated in a given worldspace.
That is, social practices, or social injunctions (and I mean "social" in the broad sense as "sociocultural"), are crucial in creating and disclosing the types of worldspace in which types of subjects and objects appear (and thus the types of knowledge that can unfold). The referents of knowledge, as we saw above, exist only in specific worldspaces, and those worldspaces are not simply given empirically, lying around for all and sundry to perceive.18
Rather, these worldspaces are disclosed/created by cognitive transformations in the context of background injunctions or social practices.19
Put simply, the first strand of knowledge accumulation is never simply "Look"; it is "Do this, then look." Kuhn, in one of the great misunderstood concepts of our era, pointed out that normal science proceeds by way of exemplary injunctions-that is, shared practices and methods that scientists agree disclose and address the important issues of their field. Kuhn called such an agreed-upon injunction an "exemplar" or a "paradigm"-an exemplary practice or technique or methodology that all agreed was central to furthering the knowledge quest. And it was the paradigm, the exemplary injunction, that disclosed a type of data, so that the paradigm itself was a matter of consensus, not merely correspondence.
In the academic world of the two cultures, many theorists in the under-funded humanities (and virtually everybody in the New Age movement) seized upon the notion of "paradigm" as a way to undercut the authority of normal science, bolster their own departments, reduce empirical facts to arbitrary social conventions-and then propose their own, new and improved "paradigm." In all of these, "paradigm" was mistaken as some sort of overall theory or concept or notion, the idea being that if you came up with a new and better theory, the factual evidence could be ignored because that was just "old paradigm."
Among other things, this meant that empirical science didn't really show any "progress," but was merely a shifting of opinions ("paradigms") that had no referent except in the arbitrary conventions of scientists (and these conventions were always charged with some sort of "ism" that the new paradigm would overcome).
All of this ignored Kuhn's repeated insistence that "later scientific theories are better than earlier ones for solving puzzles in the quite often different environments to which they are applied. This is not a relativist's position, and it displays the sense in which I am a convinced believer in scientific progress."20
But by collapsing "paradigm" into a mere theory (itself unanchored), the scientific enterprise could be collapsed into various forms of literary chitchat (and the new masters of the universe were therefore . . . the literary critics).
And likewise, on the New Age front, a flurry of "new paradigms" could then step in and redress the ugliness of the old paradigm.
But paradigms are first and foremost injunctions, actual practices (all of which have nondiscursive components that never are entered in the theories they support)-they are methods for disclosing new data in an addressed domain, and the paradigms work because they are true in any meaningful sense of the word. Science makes real progress, as Kuhn said, because successive paradigms cumulatively disclose more and more interesting data. Even Foucault acknowledged that the natural sciences, even if they had started as structures of power, had separated from power (it was the pseudosciences of biopower that remained shot through with power masquerading as knowledge).
Neither the New Agers nor the "new paradigmers" had anything resembling a new paradigm, because all they offered was more talk-talk. They had no new techniques, no new methodologies, no new exemplars, no new injunctions-and therefore no new data. All they possessed, through a misreading of Kuhn, was a pseudo-attempt to trump normal science and replace it with their ideologically favorite reading of the Kosmos.
The contemplative traditions, on the other hand, have always come first and foremost with a set of injunctions in hand. They are, above all else, a set of practices, practices that require years to master (much longer than the training of the average scientist). These injunctions (zazen, shikan-taza, vipassana, contemplative introspection, satsang, darshan-all of which we will discuss)-these are not things to think, they are things to do.
Once one masters the exemplar or the paradigmatic practice (strand one), then one is ushered into a worldspace in which new data disclose themselves (strand two). These are direct apprehensions or illuminations-in a word, direct spiritual experiences (unio mystica, satori, kensho, shaktipat, nada, shabd, etc.). These data are rigorously checked (strand three) in the community of those who have also completed the first two strands (injunction and illumination). Bad data are rebuffed by the community (the sangha) of those whose cognitive eyes are adequate to the addressed domain.
Thus, as I covered in more detail in Eye to Eye, authentic knowledge has a component that is similar to Kuhn's paradigm (namely, the injunction), a component that is similar to the broad empirical demand for evidence or data or experience (namely, the illumination or apprehension, whether that be from sensory experience, mental experience, or spiritual experience), and a component similar to Sir Karl Popper's fallibilistic criterion (namely, the potential confirmation or refutation by a community of the adequate).
Accordingly, contemplative knowledge is, or can be, genuine knowledge, because it follows all three strands of valid knowledge accumulation.

Of course, this does not prevent the various contemplative traditions from possessing their own particular and culture-bound trappings, contexts, and interpretations. But to the extent that the contemplative endeavor discloses universal aspects of the Kosmos, then the deep structures of the contemplative traditions (but not their surface structures) would be expected to show cross-cultural similarities at the various levels of depth created/disclosed by the meditative injunctions and paradigms.
In other words, the deep structures of worldspaces (archaic, magic, mythic, rational, and transpersonal) show cross-cultural and largely invariant features at a deep level of abstraction, whereas the surface structures (the actual subjects and objects in the various worldspaces) are naturally and appropriately quite different from culture to culture. Just as the human mind universally grows images and symbols and concepts (even though the actual contents of those structures vary considerably), so the human spirit universally grows intuitions of the Divine, and those developmental signifieds unfold in an evolutionary and reconstructible fashion, just like any other holon in the Kosmos (and their referents are just as real as any other similarly disclosed data).
In the past few decades there has been a concerted effort on the part of many researchers (such as Stanislav Grof, Roger Walsh, Frances Vaughan, Daniel Brown, Jack Engler, Daniel Goleman, Charles Tart, Donald Rothberg, Michael Zimmerman, Seymour Boorstein, Mark Epstein, David Lukoff, Michael Washburn, Joel Funk, John Nelson, John Chirban, Robert Forman, Francis Lu, Michael Murphy, Mark Waldman, James Fadiman, myself, and others)21 to rationally reconstruct the higher stages of transpersonal or contemplative development-stages that continue naturally or normally beyond the ego and centaur if arrest or fixation does not occur.
Much of this work has been summarized in Transformations of Consciousness: Conventional and Contemplative Perspectives on Development (Wilber, Engler, and Brown), and I will not repeat its contents. But the conclusion is straightforward. As Brown and Engler summarize it:
The major [contemplative] traditions we have studied in their original languages present an unfolding of meditation experience in terms of a stage model: for example, the Mahamudra from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition; the Visuddhimagga from the Pali Theravada tradition; and the Yoga Sutras from the Sanskrit Hindu tradition. The models are sufficiently similar to suggest an underlying common invariant sequence of stages, despite vast cultural and linguistic differences as well as styles of practice.
This developmental model has also been found to be consistent with the stages of mystical or interior prayer found in the Jewish (Kabbalist), Islamic (Sufi), and Christian mystical traditions (see, for example, Chirban's chapter in Transformations), and Brown has also found it in the Chinese contemplative traditions. Theorists such as Da Avabhasha have given extensive hermeneutic and developmental readings from what now appears to be at least a representative sampling from every known and available contemplative tradition (see, for example, The Basket of Tolerance), and they are in fundamental and extensive agreement with this overall developmental model.
The evidence, though still preliminary, strongly suggests that, at a minimum, there are four general stages of transpersonal development, each with at least two substages (and some with many more). These four stages I call the psychic, the subtle, the causal, and the nondual.
Each of these stages follows the same patterns and shows the same developmental characteristics as all the other stages of consciousness evolution: each is a holon following the twenty tenets (a new differentiation/integration, a new emergence with a new depth, a new interiority, etc.); each possesses a new and higher sense of self existing in a new and wider world of others, with new drives, new cognitions, new moral stances, and so forth; each possesses a deep structure (basic defining pattern) that is culturally invariant but with surface structures (manifestations) that are culturally conditioned and molded; and each has a new and higher form of possible pathology (with the exception of the unmanifest "end" point, although even that is not without certain possible complications in its manifestation).
I have elsewhere given preliminary descriptions of the deep structures (and pathologies) of each of these four major stages.22 Instead of repeating myself, I have for this presentation simply chosen four individuals who are especially representative of these stages, and will let them speak for us. They are (respectively) Ralph Waldo Emerson, Saint Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, and Sri Ramana Maharshi. Each also represents the type of mysticism typical at each stage: nature mysticism, deity mysticism, formless mysticism, and nondual mysticism (each of which we will discuss).
And each represents a form of tomorrow, a shape of our destiny yet to come. Each rode time's arrow ahead of us, as geniuses always do, and thus, even though looming out of our past, they call to us from our future.

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1.07 - The Farther Reaches of Human Nature
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