Lightmind Extract 018
My post is pretty much Transpersonal Psychology 101 circa the mid-70’s, before Wilber published his first book.
It’s standard transpersonal theory that what Wilber calls centauric integration (which is what Grof refers to as ego death in my quotes of him) and nondual enlightenment are two different kinds of development.
Here are two quotes from Wilber, one on centauric integration and one on nondual enlightenment. I think these quotes make the theoretical distinction between centauric integration (which is what Grof means by ego death) and nondual enlightenment pretty clear.
1. Centauric Integration:
As consciousness begins to transcend the verbal ego-mind, it can – more or less for the first time – integrate the ego-mind with all the lower levels. That is, because consciousness is no longer identified with any of these elements to the exclusion of any others, all of them can be integrated: the body, the persona, the shadow, the ego – all can be brought into a higher-order integration.
This stage is variously referred to as the “integration of all lower levels” (Sullivan, Grant, and Grant), “integrated” (Loevinger), “self-actualized” (Maslow), “autonomous” (Fromm, Riesman). According to Loevinger this stage represents an “integration of physiological and psychological,” and Broughton’s studies point to this stage as one wherein “mind and body are both experiences of an integrated self.” This integrated self, wherein mind and body are harmoniously one, we call the “centaur.” The centaur: the great mythological being with animal body and human mind existing in a perfect state of atonement.
On the whole, we can say that as one contacts and stabilizes on the centaur level, the elements of the gross personality – the body, the ego, the persona, the shadow, the lower charkas – tend to fall into harmony of themselves. For the individual is beginning to transcend them, and thus he ceases to compulsively manipulate and exploit them. All in all, this is the stage variously described as one of autonomy, of integration, of authenticity, or of self-actualization – the ideal of humanistic/existential therapies, the highest” stage to which orthodox Western psychology aspires.
2. Nondual Enlightenment:
ANDREW COHEN: So what I wanted to speak to you about first was this whole question of what enlightenment ultimately is. I think it’s an important question because many, many people are interested in spiritual matters these days. And I think, interestingly enough, that the traditional definition of enlightenment may not actually be able to meet the needs of the evolving world in the time in which we are living.
KEN WILBER: I basically agree with everything you said and I would obviously have just a few different perspectives on it. You went through a number of very important concepts. Maybe we could start with the one you mentioned last, which were different types of enlightenment. At first that sounds kind of funny because enlightenment ostensibly is all-inclusive, timeless, all-embracing, unchanging, eternal, and so on. So it’s hard to imagine having two different types of any of those things. But in fact, even in the traditions, you find at least two major, very different conceptions of enlightenment. One was prevalent during the Axial period, starting at around 2000 B.C.E. up until roughly 100 A.D. And that was probably best expressed in the early Buddhist tradition, the Theravadan tradition, in the concept of nirvana or nirvikalpa, which basically means immersion in a formless realm, where there is no manifestation and no objects are arising. It is a state of consciousness utterly free of change, utterly free of time and space and self and turmoil. The classic analogy, for those who haven’t had that experience, is that it’s something like deep, dreamless sleep. You enter a state of formless consciousness. That state of nirvana was held to be the highest state of realization and was thought to be completely divorced from samsara. The world of emptiness was completely divorced from the world of form. Emptiness was transcendent and timeless; form was temporal-suffering, pain, illusion, and so on. And the goal, no question, was to get out of samsara, “off the wheel,” and into nirvana.
I think the real revolution in spirituality occurred about that time, starting particularly with the genius Nagarjuna in the East and Plotinus in the West. That was the breakthrough to what could be called nondual enlightenment or the nondual realization, which is a profound understanding of nirvana, or emptiness or the timeless or the transcendent, but it’s also a union because it’s a realization wedded with the entire world of form, with the world of samsara. So the whole notion of the nondual traditions was not that you got into a state that was formless, unmanifest cessation, but that that formlessness or that emptiness was one with all forms that were arising moment to moment. And that nondual state, or sahaj, was, in a sense, both the basis of the bodhisattva vow and the beginning of the tantric traditions. The idea was that somehow the world of samsara and the world of nirvana had to go hand in hand or you didn’t really have a full, complete, or, if you will, integral being.
So on the one hand, it’s still true that the dharmakaya or emptiness or the perfectly formless realm doesn’t enter the stream of time. But on the other hand, that’s only half the picture. The other half is that there is a stream of time, there is development, there is unfolding, there is evolution, there is transformation. And the real key to this discussion, I think, is when you understand that the only way you can permanently and fully realize emptiness is if you transform, evolve, or develop your vehicle in the world of form. The vehicles that are going to realize emptiness have to be up to the task. That means they have to be developed; they have to be transformed and aligned with spiritual realization. That means that the transcendent and the immanent have to, in a sense, flavor each other.
Sometimes what happens is that people get kind of dunked into emptiness. They have a radical realization of this infinite, boundless consciousness that they are. And then, as you were describing, the realization fades. They’re back in the same egoic vehicle. They’re the same contracted self, and they don’t know what happened. But they don’t want to get involved in actual practice or transformative endeavors that would make their vehicle capable of holding that realization in a fuller, more enduring fashion. So that’s unfortunate because then, as you say, they are cutting themselves off from the world of time, from getting involved in that world, and from what’s necessary to do in order to become a transparent vehicle of the timeless.
The best of a nondual or integral realization is that we have to basically work on both. We have to polish our capacity, in a sense, to fully realize emptiness, moment to moment. But it’s the emptiness of all forms arising moment to moment. So we have to have a radical embrace of the world of samsara as the vehicle and expression of nirvana itself. Unfortunately, I think you’re also right that a lot of the nondual schools don’t live up to it.
People tend to err on one side or the other of the equation. They either immerse themselves in samsara or the sensory-motor domain—nature is spirit, any manifest object is taken to be spirit, and so on—or they get immersed in the formless realm of cessation. And I think what we are interested in, certainly what you and I are talking about, is a realization that encompasses both emptiness and form. And let me just add, evolution occurs in the world of form, not in the world of emptiness. But that means that evolution is half of the equation. And so unless you get involved in ways to carry evolution forward, you are not going to be fully realizing the emptiness that you are.
Do you see that we are talking about two different things here? Centauric integration is possible without nondual enlightenment, and nondual enlightenment (as Wilber defines it here) is possible without centauric integration. Wilber says that one can develop spiritually while psychological, emotional, and other “lines” of development lag behind. Wilber says that Da is enlightened (in Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi) but is psychopathological. This is because centauric integration (which as Wilber says involves the integration of the body, the persona, the shadow, and the ego) and nondual enlightenment, are not the same.
This is why I am not impressed in the least, not the slightest bit, with people who appear to have realized nondual enlightenment (big fucking deal) but have major blind spots around their shadows and who often appear to have done no work at all on their layers of somatic-emotional armoring. I could care less if someone has “presence” and radiates like a gazillion suns rising in the sky at once if they are existentially inauthentic, psychologically shallow, ungrounded, and out of touch with their shadow. It is all too common for contemporary spiritual seekers to completely bypass existential, somatic, emotional, and psychological developmental tasks in favor of disembodied transcendence. It’s all too common for contemporary seekers to prefer out-of-the-body experiences to in-the-body experiences. It’s as if the Eloi have taken over a whole segment of American spirituality. And given the zeitgeist, this makes perfect sense. The Eloi have taken over a whole segment of American spirituality for the same reason that most Americans are more likely to know sports scores than casualty figures for Iraq.
The “gross realm” is just too gross for most of us and humans have been trying to escape it for millennia, and spirituality has long been recruited toward this end.
Filed under: Ken Wilber, Lightmind Extracts, Psychospiritual Growth, Shadow, Stanislav Grof | 1 Comment