An Enlightenment Interview with
(and a brand new Jordan Gruber commentary, dated December 10, 2007,
with some thoughts on the circumstances and impacts of this pivotal interview)
What follows it the full written transcript from Speaking of Everything (2001), a double-CD audio interview that I conducted with Ken Wilber, at Ken's home, in April of 2001, not so very long ago. Note that Speaking of Everything has been available at Amazon.Com, but soon will be out of print. A few, rare, copies signed by Ken Wilber himself are still for sale for $50 each; if you're interested, send me a shout at [email protected]
Ironically, when this double-CD set first came out as a finished product during the end of 2001, it was extremely popular, breaking Amazon.Com's top ten for the "Music" category. Why was it so popular? Well, it was nicely done, and included some Alex Grey artwork and a great design by our friend Brooks Cole of Holocosmos, but the real and obvious reason why this thing was flying off our shelves was the fact that at that point there had never before been a "live" interview with Ken Wilber available, that is, one where you could hear his actual voice in a non-scripted context.
As I've written elsewhere, getting Ken to agree to let me interview him was easy. But getting there physically, was very logistically difficult. And on top of the difficult of the trip, getting the actual audio recording device to function correctly was another huge real-time hurdle. But all of that pales in comparison to Ken's reluctance to have the interview released publicly.
To the extent that Enlightenment.Com is still "made," that was a make-or-break moment for us. I essentially importuned Ken, both in person and later by email, to let him let me make a product out of the recording. In fact, I sent him a copy of the interview so that he could see that, despite his misgivings, he had a decent-sounding voice and that he didn't come off as anything but a very caring, very decent, and enormously intelligent and likeable fellow.
Well, finally he agreed, we made the product, and it gave many thousands of people their very first opportunity ever to hear an actual recording of this brilliantly informative and entertaining creative genius. (And even though I now join in the ranks of those who are critical of Ken on multiple fronts, there's still absolutely no doubt whatsoever that he has a stunning mind. As I say in the interview, with complete admiration, hero worship, and perhaps some naivete:
"You know that people ride on your words. They eagerly read the latest Ken interview, and they go, "Ah hah," and it changes them. It's a burden. It's an office. It's a…you're Ken Wilber! I know that seems weird for me to say that to you but, you know, hey, you're actually Ken Wilber!")
So, essentially, my partners and I were able to bring the world more of Ken Wilber then it had ever had before. Whether this was just an inevitable development for Ken of played a crucial turning point, it was very shortly after this first-ever-voice-of-Ken-availability that many recordings of Ken, including video (something I asked for but was turned down on numerous occasions), began to appear. Today, Ken is available in great depth, from multiple sources, including his own Integral Institute and Tami Simon's wonderful Sounds True.
So, consider this interview as just a bit of frozen memetic history, or consider it as containing, in potential form, an initial and integral representation of some of the dynamics, writ large, that now make Ken seem quite a bit more problemmatic these days. In any case, enjoy the interview in its written form, and if you'd like to hear the original recording, why not go ahead and get a copy for yourself?
best to you,
by Jordan Gruber
First Interview Segment: On Integral Institute and its Activities
E.com: Its April 16, 2001, and were in Boulder, Colorado, and we have the wonderful privilege of being with Ken Wilber in his home, and were going to get to spend some time asking him some questions and listening to what he has to say.
So, Ken, lets start talking about the Integral Institute. Can you tell us how I-I is doing in general, especially on the practical and pragmatic level in the wake of whats been happening in the stock market, with people pulling money out, and how thats affected I-I?
KW: Well, this could be a real dialogue because of the experiences youve had with Enlightenment.Com. Yes?
KW: There are many ways to talk about the immediate impact it has had on Integral Institute. One of them is basically that we lost one hundred million dollars in pledges in about an eight month period. [Laughter.] Its not every day you lose one hundred million dollars. It left me feeling a little cranky and testy.
In terms of what its actually done, the scope of Integral Institute hasnt changed. The money itself, well, we still have several other pledges lined up for frankly comparable amounts and well know how these unfold over the next year. The economic situation, of course, could not be worse. It is just a crying shame that the bubble burst during this period. A lot of companies that should have gone out of business went out of business, but it took down a lot of work that was really top-notch and didnt deserve to go out in that ignoble a fashion.
E.com: Are any of your projects at I-I still going forward, like lets say the Encyclopedia of Transformation?
KW: Sure, yes, were still funding that, were still carrying the Human Change Process core team forward. We also refer to it as the Human Transformation Team. They are working on an Encyclopedia of Human Transformation, a complete literature review of all known forms of transformation for human beings.
Transformation seems to be a major concept that everybody talks about but we really dont have a good literature review of whats out there, number one, and number two, the type of research, what evidence is there that any of these things that say they transform people actually transform people. There are a lot of different ways you can at least try to look at that and get a handle on it, and were certainly doing that.
E.com: In the meantime, though, the grants that people could write to I-I for, none of thats happening?
KW: No, whats happening right now is that one of the main things we wanted to do with the original one hundred million dollars was to get it to as many people as possible doing work in this field, the general field of integral studies and integral endeavors. Thats one of the reasons that I started Integral Institute, to act as a funding source for people doing this kind of work because the marketplace doesnt reward truly integral studies as all. It rewards New Age approaches to it, it rewards the experiential workshop approach, as it were, it rewards the green meme and the purple meme and everything in between, but it does not reward truly integral studies.
So, the only way were going to get real work done in this field is, frankly, if we have funding agencies that will do it. And once the real work is done, and the research is done, and we start producing really solid texts, and presentations, and articles, and research, then we can create a market off of that. Thats going to be probably three years from now.
So, what weve done at Integral Institute
the biggest change in our orientation happened not because of the market, but quite independent of that, a change we would have made whether the market went up or down. And that is, we went from being a kind of community of some four hundred founding members to focusing more on producing what we call "integral product," actual books, texts, academic material in each of the ten branches. So were working on books in, for example, What is Integral Politics? What is Integral Business? Integral Medicine? Integral Law? Because what we found was that there were no really strong statements about an integral approach to any of these fields.
E.com: Which is one of the reasons academia can ignore it completely.
KW: It can ignore it completely, and the other things we found is that most people with very very good intentions would simply take what theyre doing and call it integral when it really wasnt. They were leaving out certain aspects of the human condition that ought not to be left out. We could demonstrate that to them, and they would say, "OK, I guess what Im doing is not integral."
So before we can build community, or create a market, or have a web presence, or have conferences, we have to produce specific texts in each of these ten branches, put together by one of our core teams of recognized scholars and researchers, saying "This is our best shot as an opening statement about what integral business is, integral politics, integral education, integral medicine, integral law, integral psychology, integral spirituality, and so on."
E.com: I've received quite a few questions from graduate students in different areas saying, "Im an anthropology grad student, what do I do to try to bring an all quadrants all levels approach into my university without completing alienating the powers that be?" Or how can a psychology graduate student become more involved with integral studies and help boost the efforts in a green meme school? Its sort of like they are dying out there for the kind of supporting materials you've just been speaking of.
KW: Thats exactly what we found. Until we have a series of really well-done, well documented, textbooks, if you will ... heres integral anthropology, heres integral law and criminal justice, heres integral medicine until we have this series of statements, the field has no traction. It has no way to really move forward. Whereas, if you do have a book on integral approaches to education, for example, and its a textbook with eight authors we plan on having these things be three and four hundred pages long we want to make a real academic statement, to begin with. Again, its not the final word, its the opening word. Its our first approximation of what an integral approach would actually look like, one that is truly all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states. Anything less than thats not going to be integral.
Once we have this kind of book on, lets say, integral anthropology, and a student calls up and says "Im going to Arizona State," for example, "and I would like to take an all quadrant all level all line approach to anthropological research. My professor thinks Im nuts. What should I do?" And we say, "Give him this 400 page textbook, and heres three hundred references, and here are supporting documents."
That would give them something to look at and respond to. And if they have criticisms of it, wed love to hear it, because were going to keep refining these things over the years. What we have to have is a statement, a really strong academic statement to begin with, because otherwise the field is simply going nowhere. And it has gone nowhere in thirty years.
E.com: So on top of the orienting framework that youve set up, youre really hoping to fill it out. However, the reality is that if you go into Barnes & Noble, you find your work in the New Age section, and that must be really galling.
KW: It would be, except the New Age section gets eighty percent more traffic than any other section.
E.com: There you go.
Second Interview Segment: More On Integral Institute; Creating an Integral Canon
E.com: What about audio recordings of an essential Ken Wilber? One person wrote in and said, "You know, Im not the kind of person who absorbs well when reading words. I need it from other modalities." Have you thought about re-going through all of your materials and creating a set of audio materials for at least the basic premises?
KW: One of the things that we want to do is get into multi-media as fast as we possibly can. I can go back and give an example of the approach that Integral institute is taking and how that eventually will have a lot of different outlets other than textbooks. Even though I am saying we want to emphasize textbooks, thats not going to be the only thing were doing.
So, we have a core team in the Integral Business branch, and its seven or eight very, very good people, including Leo Burke, who is at Motorola University, and Fred Studier, who is a consultant at Bane Associates, a very, very large consulting firm in California, and Tony Schwartz, who is with Fast Company, Bob Richards, who is the C.F. of our business group, Fred Kofman who is Peter Senges main collaborator when they founded the Organizational Learning Center at M.I.T. School of Business, Michael Putz at Cisco these are some very, very sharp people and what theyve done, basically, is what were trying to get each of the core teams to do. Which is, they can start by using my broad framework with all quadrants, all levels, all lines, but then based on their decades of experience in the field, in this case of business, to sit down and fill in all the details with actual, concrete, data from the world of business.
What theyre doing right now, for example, and theyve been meeting for almost eighteen months now, is creating PowerPoint presentations of what integral business leadership looks like. These are very sophisticated presentations. Bob Richards just gave one at an Esalen conference on integral capitalism, for example, and he was a big hit down there, it went over really, really well.
People really understood why you have to have an all quadrant, all level, all line approach to any kind of integral approach to economics. That kind of presentation has a much better chance of helping people understand these integral approaches than does a three or four hundred page textbook. We want to try to do a very broad range of material, from the very, very dense to the very presentable.
E.com: Well, that would be in line with your general theoretical approach anyway.
E.com: To hit it from lots of different angles, as it were.
E.com: When will volume II of your trilogy be out?
KW: Basically, the idea was to do one volume every ten years.
E.com: So youve still got some time.
KW: [Laughter.] A little bit. And not as much as Id like. What happened, of course, is that Integral Institute came along and in the last two years it's really taken a lot of my time and attention.
E.com: Are you happy with your leadership of Integral Institute?
KW: I am.
E.com: All along you said that you wanted to try to lead it from a second tier way, which might look a little bit disorganized maybe "disorganized" is the wrong word, but
KW: I think it does. What happens is, first of all, everybody thats involved in this has been very open and flexible and easy-going about it. The fact is, there are no second tier organizations out there.
E.com: The Vatican?
E.com: The Vatican?
KW: [Laughter.] I stand corrected. And so, a lot of people have a great deal of experience in OD, organizational development, with first tier companies. One of my main jobs is actually more than a leader, it is kind of a curmudgeon, a putting on the brake, and saying "Wait a minute. We cant organize this along first tier principles. We cant use standard organizational development materials."
E.com: Were not going to know what it looks like.
KW: Well, thats the thing. So what we do have to do is continue to put second tier people together in a room and have them thrash out these various ideas. Youve been to meetings. Thats basically what we do in the general meetings. We have as many second tier people as we can find, we put them in a room, we say "Heres the topic of conversation," and we see what comes out of that group. Eventually, we try to translate that into institutional forms, and so kind of heres going to be the infrastructure in terms of what we have set up.
The main thing that makes it difficult for me in any position of leadership is balancing this funding situation. That's complicated because, on the one hand, there are these exorbitant amounts of money that have been pledged, but on the other hand of course it can all fall apart, as some of it has already done. This makes it almost impossible to do any planning, frankly, that lasts much more than a couple of weeks. Thats how often the situation changes.
A lot of people sit down and say "We have to have a mission statement," "We have to have a strategy for the next six months," and I'll go "Forget it. Its an absolute waste of time to do that." The only friction Ive really had in the last year and a half is because I have to put the brake on some of these things and some people think Im not getting with the program as much as we could. But its really not the case. The situation changes dramatically every couple of weeks and we have to be very flexible to adapt to that, because it dramatically changes what were doing.
E.com: What about a European branch of Integral Institute? We received several questions about that.
KW: Thats definitely down the road. One of the difficulties right now is that were running a this is a delicate topic but frankly, were running a demographic problem, which is that 25% of the American population is green meme, and less than 2% is second tier. Ideally what would happen is that there would be organizations that tapped into the wisdom of all of these levels, so that its not that second tier is good and everything else is bad.
We need blue organizations, we need orange organizations, we need green organizations. What we dont have enough of right now are second tier organizations. So what were trying to do is not marginalize the other approaches, but we are trying to stop second tier from being marginalized, which it has up to this point.
So what were trying to do is focus on second tier approaches and solutions to these problems. Well, frankly, because there are fewer people interested in second tier less than 2% quality control becomes a delicate political diplomatic issue. How can we attempt to have an assurance that we are not simply taking our orange or green approach and re-labeling it integral, but how can we be sure that we really have some sort of yellow, turquoise, coral second tier, third tier, integral integral. It's a delicate issue.
So what we try to do is simply feel our way into this, find the people that there is kind of a consensus are very talented at second tier, that most people agree thats really what theyre doing, and then we try to frankly put them in core teams and fund them. Thats how weve been doing it.
And then when they've produced the product, the world is welcome to come in and criticize it, crawl all over it we want to hear every possible bad thing you can come up with, because we want to fix it! But right now what were doing is we have to watch quality control, and we try to do that by really carefully selecting these core teams and then just turning them loose to do what theyre going to do, and try to fund them. Extending it over to some place like Europe
were having hard enough trouble doing it right here in our own backyard.
E.com: Which is also why theres no easy way for graduate students to join Integral institute, or participate they are looking for something to do.
KW: I know. Right now there isnt.
E.com: You need something like an auxiliary.
KW: I know. What were going to have, again, is let me give an example. Lets say three years from now we have a large book out on several subjects, and we say "Heres our first shot at what we think is integral politics, heres a book on integral business, heres a book on integral anthropology, heres a book on integral medicine, and heres a book on integral education."
We then have a website and it says "Here are these half-dozen books," and by that time there will probably be twenty or thirty or forty articles and essays that we would also feel are pretty integral, and we would also put those on the website. Then we would invite graduate students to "Come, check out the website, read all this material, and if youre genuinely sympathetic with what were doing, come and join us."
But until we have a criteria, until we actually have something out there that defines the field, until we have, for the lack of a better term, a "canon" to get started, we cant really do anything. Otherwise the quality control becomes impossible. And so many people get excited by the idea that they sign up, and they come in, and theyre really not well-informed, and they havent done their homework, and all of a sudden the conversation is not going in an integral fashion at all its going in a very first tier fashion, and we dont have any traction.
So, for the next three years or so were putting all of our resources into these core teams to produce integral texts. Once those are out, all these other things will start to flow around that.
Third Interview Segment:
Taking Integral Studies Seriously; Boomeritis; Inter-Subjectivity: Whitehead & More
E.com: The thing about text, though, is that with your material, one of the criticisms is that everything is in a hundred different places, including the footnotes.
E.com: It seems that some sort of hyper-linked way of learning that is different or new text is words following each other in a line sequentially. It would seem that there would have to be a new mode of learning or apprehending these materials other than just trying to force it into the old way.
KW: We hope so. I would like to see three-dimensional hyper-linked, four-dimensional hyper-linked, presentations.
E.com: Maybe the web eventually will be good for things like that.
KW: Yes, absolutely. But we have to go back and start at square one. The simple fact is that 99% of the education that goes on in this country goes on in universities that use textbooks, and until we can make a statement at that level, were not going to be able to play fastball in this game. And all of these consciousness studies and integral studies will remain exactly where they are now, which frankly are sort of sideshows that nobody really takes seriously. Certainly not in any positions of power, in terms of the educational system, the political system, or the business system.
The impact of transpersonal and consciousness studies and so on is absolutely minimal. It just hasnt had any effect outside of very small areas, basically. Im very fond of what transpersonal and consciousness studies and alternative approaches have been able to do in their own realm. But they have not been able to break out of that realm. And so were not going to go back in and just repeat the same stuff from the last thirty years that just hasnt worked, basically.
What we want to do is go back and say, "What do we have to do to get this into Harvard?" "What do we have to do to get this into MIT?" "What do we have to do to get this into Berkeley?" and so on. Thats why at the Integral Institute we are working with a lot of people from the Harvard Graduate School of Education Bob Kegan, Susan Cook-Greuter, Jeff Stewart, Kurt Fischer and were trying to build bridges with these organizations and say, "Look. What type of material do you take seriously? And what do we have to do to make you take this material seriously?"
E.com: I'm reminded of that Max Planck quote where he says that the old generation will never get it, you have to wait until that generation dies and a new generation grows up that's used to the new I won't use the "P" word ["paradigm"] ...
KW: That's all right.
Do you think there is any way to really get to those guys that are at Harvard? [Editors Note: the exact Max Planck quote is: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."]
KW: To some degree, sure
E.com: If it's good enough, if it makes sense, if they are presented with the obviousness of the logical coherence and the fullness of it, some of them will go, "Hey, this is real."
KW: Yes, it's generally true what you say, which is what Max Planck is generally credited with saying, which is that old paradigms die when the believers in old paradigms die. I paraphrase that as "the knowledge quest proceeds funeral by funeral." But the fact of the matter is that a lot of the old non-integral people are already dying off.
Our generation will relate to this. Boomers will relate to it. Even though most of the Boomers are still green meme, they've been at the green meme for thirty years and they are ready to exit into yellow and second tier and more integral approaches.
You can do what Susan Cook-Greuter has done, for example, with developmental studies and Jane Loevingers work. She has used her sentence completion test, and pointed out that there are higher stages of self-development than Jane Loevinger spotted. She can demonstrate this using research and evidence that can be repeated. People take that seriously. She came out of Harvard Graduate School doing that. And then there is Robert Kegan, who is a member of Integral Institute. He's the first tenured professor they created a chair for him in adult development at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and is a very valued member of Integral Institute. These people take what we're doing very, very seriously.
That's the kind of approach we want to do. We're not saying other approaches are bad or wrong, it's just that approaching the powers that be hasn't been done seriously enough before by our field. They kind of stayed on the fringe and had their workshops and seminars and conferences
and nobody's listened to us. So we want to say, well that's nice, but we want to try this other stuff too, and what we need here is research and evidence. That's why one of the things we are doing is funding research in human transformation after we complete the literature review.
E.com: I haven't seen the re-written Boomeritis in novel form, but aren't you afraid that by putting something out that's likely to antagonize people, rightly or wrongly, that you end up jeopardizing your larger purpose?
KW: Certainly, if all it does is antagonize people and doesn't mobilize or offer any way out. In terms of antagonizing people, were you thinking in terms of the post-modernists?
E.com: Again, I haven't seen it, but when I read the first draft of Boomeritis it was clear that some people were going to get ticked off at you. If academia also melds with the people who will get ticked off, and what you're trying to do is to work your way into academia, then this would seem to be a little bit, maybe, of self-sabotage.
KW: Yes, if that's all it did I would agree, that's quite right. The main target of criticism of Boomeritis is the extreme post-modernists. This is a version of the green meme taken to extremes, what I call the "mean green meme." It's the pathological version of healthy green. Healthy green has done an enormous number of positive things. It brought in civil rights, it brought in feminism, it brought in environmental reform. Every meme, every stage, every level has something very, very important to contribute. Green had all of these fantastic contributions for thirty years.
But like every stage, level, or meme, green also has its downsides. The downside expressed itself in an extreme, deconstructive, post-modernism. For thirty years that deconstructive post-modernism has dominated academia. It has absolutely been the dominant voice in all forms of academia with the sole exception of hard physical sciences, which didn't give a shit about post-modernism one way or another. But post-modernists claimed that science was completely patriarchal, oppressive, and so on.
But now in academia people are sick and tired of extreme post-modernism. It's run its course. Everybody is sick of it, and nobody knows what to do.
Boomeritis was timed to aim specifically and address that one issue, which is: here's a critique of extreme post-modernism. It shows how it got started, shows the damage that it caused, and shows a way out. It is meant specifically ... I would not have written this book twenty years ago because the green meme had not run its course. All I would have gotten was nothing but vilified for doing it.
But there are so many people that see the truth of the general criticism that they now agree with me. I have sent Boomeritis out to fifty people, including frankly half the people I was criticizing. I expected to get an onslaught of angry reactions. Of the fifty people I sent it out to, forty-eight wrote back that they agreed with every single thing I said. I was actually shocked, because I thought, they can't have read the book. The two people who disagreed with it were not the people that were attacked. They had trouble, but it was for other reasons.
People see it, they see the argument, and they go, "You know what? It's right. We've got to stop this. It's time to move on." It gives them a way out. It's a very positive statement, unlike what post-modernism itself did which was to de-construct everything and put nothing in its place. This de-constructs de-construction by offering a positive, integral approach. You can actually go out and start applying this approach and produce real research, real effects, and change business, change education, change medicine, and so on. It's a very positive book in that sense.
E.com: And it will be out in the Fall?
KW: Yes, about this time next year.
OK, let's switch tacks at this point and talk about different theoretical aspects of your work. The first one is, I've been reading some of the material on holons, and intersubjectivity, and the disagreements as to Whitehead, and de Quincey. Now, I'm not very well-versed in all of this, but as I read it, it almost feels to me that this is heading towards the Scholastic arguments about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
It seems like there is no way to prove any of this at this point, and yes, you might get a theory that is a little bit more balanced, elegant, a little bit more in accord with Occam's razor, but it seems to me that this could be a theoretical cul-de-sac where you, for example, end up spending a lot of your time arguing about the prehension of quarks. But
who the hell knows? What's the point of all this?
KW: Well, I think that's a good point. My particular disagreement with Christian de Quincey was that in the three areas that he criticized my view, he didn't represent my view accurately, first.
E.com: You did a great job at that.
KW: So I had to go in and say, "Look, I'm sorry, this is what I actually said, and he is incorrect." Everybody pretty much agrees that I straightened that out.
E.com: Yes, you were brutal but accurate.
KW: [Laughter.] Well, that would be my reputation, I guess.
E.com: Only in part.
KW: Only in part. I'm actually a sweetheart of a guy.
E.com: I can vouch for that.
KW: [More laughter.] According to de Quincey I have no feelings at all.
E.com: There were some really funny things in there.
KW: You try to do it fairly lightly, and with a little bit of humor, and so on. Mostly I just wanted to set the record straight on my own theoretical stance. But I'll give you one example of why it's not just how many angels dance on the head of a pin, and why Whitehead does not have a truly transpersonal, spiritual, understanding of intersubjectivity.
Whitehead pointed out that in the real world, there can be no simultaneity for two different subject. In other words, your subjectivity and my subjectivity can never be co-present with each other. His reasoning went as follows.
By the time I say something, and it gets to you, so that you perceive my present, it's already past. So, for Whitehead, memory and perception are basically the same thing. There is no simultaneous now for any two subjects anywhere in the universe.
In the manifest realm, he's right. Unless you are going to start postulating faster-than-light information transfer, in the manifest realm, there is no simultaneity for two subjects. Now what that really means is there is no real intersubjectivity. All we're really dealing with each other is memories and shades of the past. We can never be present for each other in any radical true sense.
E.com: So, monads? In effect monads?
KW: Monads, windowless monads in a certain sense, but for Whitehead, the subject prehends an object, so it is relational, but the two subjects together one subject can not prehend its contemporaries, only its ancestors. So there is no simultaneity for Whitehead.
Now, I agree with him that in the manifest realm that's correct. And neither de Quincey nor David Ray Griffin, nor any other Whiteheadian, disagrees with Whitehead on that. They are stuck with the fact that there is no real intersubjectivity.
My simple point is that if you bring in the non-dual traditions, they all maintain that there are at least two truths. One is the truth of the relative realm, and the other is an absolute or non-dual awareness. In the relative realm, we grant what Whitehead said, there is no simultaneity for two different subjects. But in the absolute realm there is, because in the absolute realm there is only one subject, there is only one Self.
As Schroedinger put it, consciousness is a singular, the plural of which is unknown. Now, that's why you can have simultaneous subjects, because there is only one subject on the absolute side of existence. So the single Atman in me, or the single transcendental self in me, is identical in you, and that's why we can have a subject-to-subject co-presence with each other. It's very real, and very immediate, and does not exist merely in the stream of temporal realization.
E.com: Can two people feel it at the same time?
E.com: So, you and I, feeling
KW: You feel it right now.
E.com: If we focus on including David's, sitting over here, as opposed to just focusing on yours and mine, does it change? Does the feeling change?
KW: What changes is the manifest side of that transcendental witness. All of the forms are constantly shifting. So, when the transcendental self looks out through your eyes, it's going to see obviously a different perspective on this room than simply looking out through my eyes. But it's identically the same Self, and that's realized in states known variously as Satori. The basic realization of Satori is that I am that I am, and that's all that is, is this single consciousness that is one taste of everything arising moment to moment. That gives you a capacity for intersubjectivity radically beyond anything Whitehead ever presented.
And so my point is simply that we want to take both of these things into account when we are talking about both subjectivity and intersubjectivity. On the relative plane, what Whitehead said is more or less accurate, but on the absolute plane, where consciousness is a singular of which the plural is unknown, we *can* have knowledge of other minds, because there is only one mind.
Fourth Interview Segment:
Fully Embodied Realization; Reincarnation; Enlightenment for Today's World
E.com: Got it. Well, that's a great segue for this question, asked by a fellow named Jon Sillis, who I think you might know. Let me just read this one:
The issue I circle around most frequently and find increasing difficult to reconcile, concerns the relationship between the nature of philosophical and intellectual inquiry and the Buddha mind, prior mind, or the true nature of the mind spoke of as the point of realization in many of the non-dual traditions, including particular particularly Dzogchen. Namkhai Norbu, probably the world's most renowned Dzogchen teacher, states that although philosophies come and go and intellectual answers rise and fall, they are transient, distracting and do not lead to any kind of satisfactory or worthwhile understanding. Rather, genuine knowledge and its resulting liberation arises from simply observing the mind and body, and the energy of which they are composed, to identify the 'mirror' condition beneath. How, then, might this be reconciled with both the direction and purpose of your developmental model (if at all), and what are the consequences in your view if these perspectives do not, in fact, coincide? Many thanks and much love to you, Jon Sillis.
KW: [Laughter.] Excellent points, and again it's why we have to come back to
the only way we can answer this is to again rely on the two truths doctrine: the notion that there is a relative truth, or relative truths in the world of Maya and manifestation, but underlying all of that there is an absolute or ultimate or non-dual truth. When Namkhai Norbu is talking about the nature of the mind, he is talking about absolute truth, ultimate non-dual truth, which is the truth of one's ever-present awareness, moment to moment. That can be investigated quite regardless of what your philosophy is, or your psychology is, and so on.
E.com: Just shut up and look.
KW: Shut up and look. That's the basic, fundamental instruction for the non-dual schools. It's just shut the fuck up and look. [Laughter.]
E.com: The injunction that you can test.
KW: The injunction carries it is a little bit more specific. The ultimate injunction for the non-dual realization is not that you can get to a state where you have a non-dual awareness, but that there is something about your state right now that is already one hundred percent aware of it.
KW: So all we're going to do is keep pointing to it until you see it. We're not going to bring anything into existence that isn't already here one hundred percent. If you hear my voice, and see the table, and you're noticing sounds that are going on, that is the enlightened mind. That is one hundred percent of the enlightened mind.
Now, the reason that you don't go "Wow, I see it," is that you are too distracted by the objects that are occurring in that mind moment to moment. You focus on the objects passing by and you forget who the actual seer is or the witness of these objects, and so that appears that it is not present, but in fact it is ever present.
But it doesn't mean that we can therefore ignore truths in the relative realm. There are two reasons.
One, even though ever present awareness is, by definition, ever present it's present in quarks [laughter] it's present in every stage of development, what we don't know is if at least a certain minimum degree of psychological development is required in order to be able to realize satori or the nature of the mind. So, for example, can a worm have this realization? We're not asking whether a worm has Buddha Mind all sentient beings have Buddha Mind we're asking can it consciously realize it, can it have satori?
Most people say worms can't have satori. Carrots
probably not. When can it actually have this realization of one mind? That's where psychological development plays an important part. Frankly, my own opinion is that there are two things we have to address.
One is having satori as a temporary brief altered state versus having it as a permanent realization. I believe that the evidence to date suggests that a person can have an altered state, a transpersonal altered stage, at almost any stage of development. Even infants have waking dreaming and deep sleep states, so they have access to these gross, subtle, and causal states. But infants can't stabilize that realization, they can not convert it into a permanent, constant witnessing or non-dual awareness.
At what point can you start to convert it into permanent realization? I believe the evidence suggests a minimum requirement is second-tier psychological development to convert a passing state into a permanent trait of realization. That's an empirical question for us to find out that's what we're going to actually try to get some evidence on so we can help people move down this path as fast as they possibly can.
It's pretty clear that low levels of development can not permanently realize satori. This is where all of a sudden we can't just dismiss the relative realm, we can't just dismiss psychological stages, because it appears they are going to have an important role to play in how well we can realize this non-dual nature of the mind. That's one part about it.
The second part is that even if somebody has a very powerful and permanent realization of the non-dual ever-present mind, they still have to manifest and express that through their conventional personality and their conventional philosophy. The more balanced and integral and full-bodied their philosophy, the more adequate they are gong to be in conveying it and helping to make sense of the world. It doesn't really help a whole lot to have a great understanding of the nature of the mind if you can't convert that into educational policies, or policies for business or politics or for the real-world where real human beings live.
So, in addition to having an understanding of and an awakening to the absolute, non-dual, nature of the mind, you want to have an expression that is as integral and comprehensive as possible because it is going to be more effective in the real world. In the best of all possible worlds, we want to combine both, the relative and the non-dual, to give a more comprehensive approach to the topic.
Does this sort of address some of these issues?
E.com: Oh yes, I think you're doing a good job on that. Let me ask you just a few more questions from other people. What are your views on reincarnation or other ways in which levels of consciousness development are transmitted form one life to another? Are we all born at the same level and at the same capacity? Do we get to continue our work in more than one lifetime?
KW: Reincarnation is something that I think is one of the very difficult issues to deal with, in part because where I think many of us have had an experience, certainly at least of a temporary glimpse or altered state many people have had transpersonal experiences, satori, kensho nirvikalpa samadhi, sahaja samadhi, but not had a direct experience of a past life. So, empirical, first person knowledge becomes very, very tricky under these circumstances.
A Zen master can demonstrate satori at a drop of a dime. But not his or her past lives. The Dalai Lama says he can't remember his past lives, but I'm supposed to believe that Shirley Maclaine can. I have trouble with this. [Laughter.]
That's just the beginning of the problem. The second is that there has always been a very, very esoteric understanding of reincarnation which was put forward by Shankara when he said "The Lord is the one and only transmigrant." In other words, there is only one self, the same one self we were talking about earlier, and that's what transmigrates. That's what's reborn in every holon, frankly. I think that is true, but it does beg the question, which is OK, but what about my relative soul, on its way to enlightenment, does that puppy transmigrate, however you want to conceive it?
And the traditions are pretty clear that it does. There are very few of them that disagree with that. It becomes difficult as I say, because the evidence for it becomes much much shakier than the evidence for satori. You can go in and put somebody in nirvikalpa samadhi and hook them up to an EEG machine and get readouts from the brain that something is happening. But you can't put somebody in, hook them up to the EEG machine and say, "That's right, you're experiencing yourself building the pyramids 4,000 years ago."
E.com: And even if they are having that subjective experience, maybe they are just very creative.
KW: Very, very tough. You look at the guy who has done the most empirical research, Ian Stevenson, and I think the title of one of his books is a very appropriate title. He comes up with titles like "Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation." Check his books. At most they are suggestive, and it is very hard to prove, for example ... some of the evidence is, typically, that something happened to me when I was two years old, and it appeared to have something to do with a previous life, and only somebody who was there could have known about that information, and they checked on that information and found out it was true.
On the one hand, that seems to indicate that I was reborn.. But on the other hand, whoever had that knowledge, I could have just read their mind with telepathy. Once you allow non-physical existence, it is kind of hard to narrow down just what version of ghosts you're getting.
E.com: Like when they came up with the title "GESP" or general ESP to talk about all the different types of things being discussed, because you can't tell if it is coming from precognition or if you are directly getting it from someone's mind, and it becomes very hard to figure it out.
KW: Exactly, very hard to pin down.
E.com: Charley Tart has done a good job explaining that.
KW: Charley has done terrific research in this area, and he'd be the first one to tell you that it is damn hard to pin down once you open up the Pandora's box of that kind of existence. Aurobindo added another kind of twist that I always thought made a certain amount of sense, to me, anyway. The soul, in order to endure the rigors of transmigration, has its self to be fairly highly evolved. Otherwise, it just dissipates on the shock of reentry or whatever.
E.com: That sounds to me like some of the modern magical theories where you don't actually achieve a soul, for real, until you've done a lot of work and you stabilize it.
KW: Yes, I think that's the general idea of what's coming across here. Theoretically, that makes sense to me. Theoretically, I believe that the soul does transmigrate, it continues to do so until it has permanent access to causal states. I theoretically believe that the bardo realm that transmigration occurs in is the same as the subtle or dream state. It's classically or traditionally maintained that if you can, for example, permanently access lucid dream states intentionally, that when you die it is the same process, you go through a dream state and you can control your rebirth. It's the same process, it's the same state. And if you're conscious during the dying process and remain conscious into the bardo realm, then you can to some degree select how the rebirth process goes. I think that makes theoretical sense.
If you get to the point where you have permanent access to the causal or formless state, you have a further choice given you, according to the traditions, you don't have to come back at all. You can simply remain in the formless, nirvanic state and not be reborn. That is clearly the aim of the Thereveda tradition, to get off the circle of samsara entirely. By the time you then add the non-dual traditions, they replaced that with the notion of bodhisattva, which is whether you are enlightened or not, you are coming back, coming back to help the rest of us who are still here.
All those make theoretical sense to me. I don't have the kind of empirical evidence for them that I do for satori, or nirvikalpa samadhi, or sahaja samadhi. I've had a direct experience of that kind of thing
many people have had direct experiences of nirvikalpa samadhi, whereas very few people have had a direct experience of going to the bardo realms, and seeing past lives of twenty and thirty or forty lifetimes ago.
E.com: Other than some of these near-death examples.
KW: Well, that's fine too, but again, it gets a little dicey in terms of how you are actually interpreting it. The near-death experience to me, though, is not really evidence of reincarnation. It's evidence of these higher states that you can access. If you actually look at what they're tending to do, it's not very different from accessing sahaja samadhi or nirvikalpa samadhi or something. It's a direct experience they're having and they come back and tell you about that direct experience. That doesn't prove that they were reborn. The same way that having satori doesn't prove that you were reborn. I'm just saying it's a different type of evidence, it's much much harder to get the transmigration evidence.
E.com: Got it.
KW: So all the things I gave you make theoretical sense to me, but I myself have never experienced a past life. Whereas the other type of evidence I'm mostly working with, nirvikalpa samadhi, or sahaja samadhi, or svabhavikakaya, there's direct evidence for that. Many of us have experienced those, we have EEG things showing that something is going on in our brain, probably just you know complete seizure. [Laughter]
E.com: You right quadrant kind of guy.
KW: So, theoretically I think it makes sense, but it is real hard to come by evidence.
E.com: All right, let's move on here.
E.Com: Here's another good question that I would like to ask you. It's from a fellow named Mark Edwards. He asked, "Why have you only really focused on the interior contemplative spiritual practices when many other spiritual traditions the sacramental traditions, the collective traditions of social service, the behavioral traditions of devotion, hatha yoga, sacramental family life, the artistic spiritual traditions of calligraphy, music, etc, can be so beautifully and easily explained and presented within the collective and behavioral domains of your model." He thinks that the exoteric traditions should get more play with you.
KW: Yes, I think he is exactly right, and he is himself doing writings that are addressing that lack. And I think from what I've seen that he is doing a very good job of it. One of the reasons, one of the things that I tend to focus on, are the hard theoretical issues that there aren't a lot of good I tend to focus on some of the hard theoretical issues that need attention, let's say. Difficult issues. Once I come up with something that at least appears to be a solution, or a first approximation, then I tend not to be as interested. I tend to move on to the other tough issues.
KW: So, in this case what he's talking about, precisely because all those things that Mark mentioned do fit my model
E.com: It's not a big deal for you.
KW: It's not a big deal for me. Right. People can come and they will see the obviousness as this gentlemen has and he has gone and done terrific work. That's what I hope people will do. They'll come and they'll go, "Ah, got it, got the outline, got the framework," and then they can go on and do this extraordinary and important work.
E.com: Like Enlightenment.Com wants to do with transformational techniques on the web.
KW: That's right. [Laughter.]
E.com: Here's another one. The traditional goal of Eastern religion and esotericism is moksha, freedom from rebirth, in the form of samadhi and nirvana. Are these types of goals relevant for modern humans? Can they be restated in forms that are consistent with the modern and dominant scientific world view?
KW: Yes, I think any time you have a state that offers liberation from life's suffering, it's relevant. I don't think anybody would want to forgo a capacity for great liberation, including somebody in the modern world. The difficulty, of course, is how then do you bring that into the everyday world in a way that has some sort of relevance. I think hat's where the general notion o f the bodhisattva tends to make a great deal of sense,. Which is namely, you, after thoroughly realizing the formless state of nirvana, bring that realization to bear on every form that arises. The impulse that accompanies that is something known as compassion. So the driving force becomes, "I have been fortunate enough to find some kind of liberation, freedom, fullness in my own being. How can I communicate that to others in a way that benefits them?"
It's not very different than somebody came along to you and gave you a billion dollars. Most people's initial impulse is, "I'm going to share that with some other people that need it." It's the same thing if you get a really profound awakening experience. It's not, "Oh, I'm going to get away from the world," it's "Oh, somebody gave me a billion dollars. I'm going to go out and share it." And that's generally what happens with people who have that kind of realization. They are moved, in a very very profound way, to share the wealth. And that's what happens.
So the pressing concern right now is something we talked about a little bit earlier. Yes, once you've found the nature of the mind, once you've found nirvana, once you've found this formless ever-present state, what do you do in the relative realm? And what you do is you try to go in with as integral approach as possible and start to have an impact on the educational system, on the political system, the business system, and so on, so that those systems become conducive to states of realization and liberation. Obviously, it's a tall order, but that's no reason not to engage it.
E.com: No. It might be the purpose of being here.
KW: [Laughter.] Somebody might say that, yes.
Fifth Interview Segment:
Challenges and Criticisms to Ken Wilber's System: Part A
E.com: I'd like to get serious now, with your permission...
E.com: ... and talk to you about a problem that I have had with respect to you for a long time. And that problem is why it is that more people don't acknowledge the grandeur, and beauty, and immensity, and magnificence of your theoretical system? It is completely and absolutely obvious to me that you've done a better job of what you've set out to do than anyone else ever has. You know, comparisons well, I don't know about comparisons to Hegel and Kant but certainly to William James seem to me to be totally appropriate at this point.
Your marriage of science and mysticism, your bringing together Western development psychology and Eastern spirituality, your ability to bring so many, many theorists into rough alignment through the orienting generalizations and your fantastic organizational skills ... it's all unsurpassed.
So, what I'd like to know is, given that, why is it that so many people ... it's not just that people end up getting pissed off at you, but why is it more people aren't willing to read and acknowledge you... I'll point out your work to them, and I've been reading you since 1981, and go "This is totally amazing. He has blown my mind completely at least three separate times." Starting at the first time I read The Holographic Paradigm and was staring at a washing machine and watching it go back and forth and thinking of the glycerin and the whole thing...
So, in order to kind of get at this and I have a suspicion what I'd like to do is go through some of the criticisms that have been made towards you. Obviously I'm doing this as a friend and not as ...
KW: That's OK.
E.com: ...an enemy. The first one that comes up, and we've talked about this before, is the difficulty of your work. It's all over, it keeps changing, you seem to agree with everybody who comes along, and you find a way of integrating them in. I think that that's a bogus objection. Read the works ... it's like RTFM, "read the fucking manual" in computer stuff. Read it, see it, and it keeps getting better and more comprehensive. It must irk you a little bit, though, that people just don't get it.
KW: [Laughter.] Well, before I respond to that, let me get the first part out of the way and say that there might be a couple of correct reasons that people are put off.
A lot of what I'm saying could be wrong. We have to acknowledge that a lot of what I'm saying could be wrong, and people look at it and go "No, no, wrong, wrong, no, just wrong." So that, I could be wrong, and that's why they're not responding to it.
Second item, of course, is that, some people, at least on three books, out of twenty books ... there were some footnotes that were polemical, and some people have objected to those. I think that that's a red herring myself, but I think it has to be acknowledged that made it difficult for some people to get into the argument because they were put off by this aspect in three of these books.
That said, then, I would go to reasons in my favor, of why I believe some people have trouble with it. And, obviously, these are self-serving reasons. I've given reasons on the other side, and now I'll try to give some reasons in defense of myself.
The first that I've found is that if I just look at the people that respond to my work versus those that don't, there's a general pattern. The people who respond to my work are those that have read just about as much as I have. They know what's out there, and they're very familiar with a large number of the things that I'm bringing together. And so they realize the importance of including all of these various types of approaches and systems and ideas, and trying to bring them under one umbrella.
E.com: You are providing a better map than anybody else has.
KW: That kind of thing. People like Mike Murphy, who himself has done comparable kind of stuff. Someone like that will just look at it and get every single sentence from beginning to end. He just completely groks the whole thing and adds stuff to it along the way.
Most of the criticism that I get comes from people that I think haven't done enough homework to realize why some of these things need to be included. The amount of research, for example, on the developmental aspects of the psyche cross-culturally ... there's been an enormous amount of research on that ... most of it tends to be just tossed out by people.
I have a general rule which gets into the second problem with why people have difficulty with my work, which is: my general rule is that everybody is right. And so I have a very different approach to brining together different philosophies and different psychologies, which is that every single system ever offered has some degree of truth in it. As I sometimes put it, no mind can product 100% error. Unfortunately, most of my contemporaries approach philosophy in this fashion: I've got a particular idea and everybody else is wrong.
E.com: Right. It's either/or. Period.
KW: Yeah, basically, that's the approach. Everybody is right. Even the materialists and the reductionists. They have very important things that need to be included. So I ask more a meta-question, which is "What system or pattern can honor the most number of truths from the most number of disciplines?"
E.com: So you never met a question you didn't like?
KW: Just like Will Rogers. And that's actually the truth. So people find behaviorism to Marxism to atomism ... there's some parts of all of that that I try to, in a very loose sense, based on orienting generalizations, say, you know, let's just skip all the details right now ... generally speaking, these people are right about this general thing. Let's just make room for that. Let's put that over here. And the Buddhists ... they're right, let's put that over here. And all those physicists, OK, let's put them over here.
Once you do that, you get this sort of composite map, and clearly nobody wants to confuse the map with the territory, but just as well you don't want a fucked up incomplete map.
E.com: You want the best map you can get.
KW: Right, which is what most people give you. So, unfortunately, it therefore takes a lot of homework to be able to relate to what I'm doing. People have to see the importance of honoring every known truth. If they don't have that impulse, they'll settle for a lesser, partial truth, because it's easier on them. It's not hard. They say, "Well, I'm a Buddhist, and everybody else is wrong," and that's the way it is. Well, I don't know about everybody else, but I'm not going to get into it with them. So, I understand that impulse, but it's not the impulse behind my work.
The third thing I would say in my self-serving defense is that the research pretty clearly indicates that you have to be at second-tier before these problems will even exist for you. Blue and orange and green aren't interested in integral, comprehensive maps. That doesn't make sense to them. There's something very dramatic that happens when people move into second tier, into yellow and turquoise. All of a sudden big pictures are the only things that satisfy. Because there's a comprehensiveness, there's a fullness, there's a drive to integrate and to honor and to include all these various approaches, and system, and truths.
E.com: Once you've left the farm and seen these other things, you can't just...
KW: You can't go back.
KW: But, again, run the demographics, less than two percent of the population is at second tier. I've always been writing for those people. That's not a big audience, relatively speaking. So those are my three self-serving reasons for it.
I am ... I would I could say that I have been really gratified how, in the last, particularly in the last five years, this stuff has caught on. And now, you know, the books are now, to blow my own horn, are in close to 34 languages. We just went into Slovenian, Slovakian, Estonian, Latvian, Serbian apparently they are reading now that they have stopped raping and killing Bulgarian ... so, with 20 books in up to 34 languages, I'm the most translated academic writer in America.
E.com: And you're kind of cute, too.
KW: It's kind of cute, yeah.
E.com: No, you are.
KW: Yeah. That's kind of fun. And, we have a sitting President and sitting Vice-President that has endorsed this work. It's come a long way. It's really come a long way. I see the signs of it increasing are really happening quite rapidly, actually.
E.com: Let me ask you one ... let me get to my critiques that I have lined up, and we'll just get rid of them. We talked about the difficulty of your work. We talked about how some people experience you as arrogant, and what they're doing is this whole projection thing, mainly, and they're saying "If, you yourself admit that you're not fully enlightened, then how can you be writing about enlightenment?" and that sort of thing. But I think that's pretty much a red herring...
KW: I think so too.
E.com: ...so let's just go past that. One more thing about the polemical style is that, I don't know if in the three books and the footnotes you're counting the second to last page of One Taste, which I once asked you about.
KW: That's right. I changed that in the second edition.
E.com: I just thought it was. you know, harsh to say that all these...
KW: I changed it.
E.com: You did?
E.com: Oh wow. OK, well, Never Mind, then.
E.com: OK, now I want to get to the ones that really interest me.
KW: But I'd like to point that out, I mean, that there was a....
E.com: Well, I mean, what you were saying was, "If you are running with the wolves, or doing men's groups, or doing whatever, if it's not true in deep dreamless sleep, and every place else...
KW: That's correct.
E.com: ...then it's not real."
E.com: I thought that was harsh.
KW: OK, let's, let's ... now you've done it, so let's just pause... let's just, me reflect on that just briefly.
E.com: Here's where we're going to get interesting.
KW: Remember ... it is just what we've been talking about earlier, though. I was trying to point out the difference between the two truths. The relative truth and the ultimate truth. And what I was saying and trying to make very clear throughout that whole book is that all of these things are fine in the relative realm, including integral transformative practice, weight lifting, running with wolves, any of these things.
E.com: Going to the movies, as you talk about.
KW: Going to the movies. These are all completely valid in the relative realm. But I wanted to end with a reminder of absolute or the non-dual realm. And I used a quote from Ramana Maharshi to remind you of that. Because when I first heard it it became a koan that for six months I was in ceaseless meditation on, until it sort of popped open for me. And that is, if it's not present in deep dreamless sleep, it is not real. Now that is very shocking, because there is only one thing present in deep dreamless sleep, and that's...
E.com: The self.
KW: Formless consciousness. Yes, the self. Transcendental self. And until you can remain subtly conscious to the waking dream in the deep sleep state and realize that ever-present self, then you don't have ultimate "non-dual" realization. So I wanted to end One Taste with that reminder: do all those other things, but don't forget the ultimate truth as well. Something is present with you through all changes of state, the waking, dream, and deep sleep state, and you must awaken to that realization of that ever-present witness that is right now aware of everything that is arising moment-to-moment. Until that happens, everything else is OK, but it is relative, and it is passing, and it is not going to affect ultimate liberation. That's what I was doing.
E.com: And that's right. But what I think happens is that people look at what you've written, and they kind of idolize you, and they see that you are in to deep meditation and non-dual awareness, and they know that they are not doing that, and they end up feeling bad about themselves.
E.com: Even though you say...
E.com: Everything is...
KW: No. That's exactly what is supposed to happen. Ramana Maharshi kicked me in the butt and he said "Wilber, if you don't have at least some understanding of this, you should feel bad about yourself." And I said, "Okay, Sir," and I worked on, until I had at least a little glimmer of that understanding. You can't make people feel totally good about themselves and still spur them to try to have a realization.
E.com: That would have been idiot compassion, in your terms.
KW: In a sense. Yes. Now, what I did do, because I was a little surprised when you brought that up, but any time somebody brings up a section and says, "This is mean spirited," or "This is unfair and I don't like it, go back and do it ..." So I went back for the revised edition and wrote several sentences in trying to indicate what we're talking about, to sort of soften that section. So...
E.com: Well, thank you.
KW: Yeah, well.
E.com: All right...
E.com: Let's move on to a few philosophers....
Sixth Interview Segment:
Common Challenges and Criticisms to Ken Wilber's System: Part B
E.com: John Stuart Mill said that he would rather be Socrates dissatisfied than a swine satisfied.
E.com: And, the way he knew that that was true is that he asked people who had both experiences people who had debauched lives, and also people, the same person, who then studied philosophy. In your case, my belief is that you haven't studied, for example, full-on nature mysticism. You haven't experienced it, from what I've heard. Let me finish here.
KW: All right.
E.com: Now what happens is that, once we get to the trans-rational levels, you talk about nature mysticism, then deity mysticism, then formless, and then non-dual... How can you know that you're not merely projecting what you have studied and the people who you are most enamored of, and that you've ended up producing this wonderful theory that once we get to the higher states ... it's this way, this way, this way .. when I'm pretty sure that they haven't, and you haven't ... how do we know that the highest beings on this planet aren't some wild shamans somewhere now or in the past who have done stuff that we just don't have any idea of? And that their ultimate states are just so ... or maybe it's still not hierarchical, maybe they're just incommensurable, maybe they just don't line up. How do you know that the non-dual meditative thing isn't just your projection here?
E.com: How could you know?
KW: I have several funny lines that I'm not going to give because they won't translate very well to print. I'll try to just give a straight answer, although I'm chortling inside I'm so humorous, to myself.
It's a very good question, and that's exactly right, and let me be the first to say that basically what I try to do in my writings is to present evidence. And if there isn't evidence for something I try to shy away from it. I think that's why even though I went back and was editing the collected works, about 95% of everything I've written I still stand by, because it was based on evidence at the time, and the evidence still holds up. What I found that what happened in my writings is I would just continue to expand it into other areas I haven't dealt with, but even the earlier books are very, very solid because it is based on a certain type of evidence and a certain ... I try to be very careful about following the evidence, phenomenological, scientific, or spiritual experience.
E.com: Sure, you're an empiricist whether it's in the physical world or it's inter-subjective hermeneutical verification.
KW: As long as we use that in the sense of immediate experience and awareness and not in the sense of sensorimotor...
E.com: You're a scientist Ken. It has to do with subjectivity, but you are a scientist.
KW: Also, hopefully, art, morals, and science, and hopefully I'm all big three, I'm hoping not to get pigeonholed as a positivist which Jorge Ferrer does to me, so I'm not going to let you get away with that.
But, we do try to look for evidence, definitely, and in this case the general ... there are several lines of argument. One of the most classic used by the traditions is the so-called Chinese box, which is if one state has access to the other state but not vice-versa, then you're probably dealing with a higher state. The three great states that all human beings have access to are waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. Generally speaking, those are also called gross, subtle, and causal. When consciousness has an expansion in any of those states, you get a different type of mystical feeling.
In the gross realm, which is held to be the lowest ontological realm the gross realm is that which is defined by sensory perception and frankly, it includes nature, and Gaia, and anything you can see in a waking state, generally speaking, based on the sensorimotor perception. An expansion in the gross realm produces what we call nature mysticism. And it's an expansion with the sensory motor world, moment to moment. That's a very high state. As you know, in my own system of ten levels it's number seven. It's what Plotinus called the "world soul."
KW: Most people that acknowledge that have two or three higher states, including Aurobindo, including Plotinus, and including most of the traditions. And they arrive at it being a higher state because once you have had an experience of the gross realm, and being one with the gross realm in nature mysticism, we then enter the dream realm, during sleep for example, or in savikalpa samadhi. The gross realm is suspended. So, in the dream state there is no Gaia, there is no physical, empirical, nature, material world. You are instead in a world of luminosities and images, non-material images.
This dream state is held to be, if you then have an expansion of consciousness in the subtle, then you experience generally something known as deity mysticism which is a oneness with beings that are not merely in the physical realm. And that being can include the oversoul itself, it can include yidams, it can include becoming one with Christ or angels or yourself becoming a Dhyana Buddha, Sambhogakaya realization, for example.
What tends to happen under those circumstances is you also start lucid dreaming, so you have access to both the waking state and the dream state, in consciousness. If consciousness continues to grow into the deep sleep or formless realm, then that experience is that there's no gross realm present, there's no nature, no Gaia, nor is there any subtle realm present. There are no deities, no angels, no luminoisites, no nothing. There is only causal formlessness, vast, unbounded, consciousness as such, without an object. That's held to be a higher state, because, generally speaking, they unfold in a way such that you can experience subtle states without experiencing causal permanence, but not vice-versa.
So, in other words, if I'm permanently installed in causal witness then by definition I'm witnessing everything that is arising, constantly. I am aware of the gross realm of nature mysticism, when it arises. In the dream state when nature disappears, I am now witnessing the subtle realm. And in the causal realm, I remain as the witness, where no objects arise. But I can't have an experience of just the gross realm, in other words, be just the nature mystic. I can have that experience without being able to experience these other states, but not vice-versa. Therefore, these other states are higher, because they transcend and include a lesser state. So, that's one way to establish that causal...
E.com: So you're saying it is pretty well empirically noted ...
KW: That's right.
E.com: ... that it goes this way and not the other way.
KW: It's not only empirically noted, it's kind of ... it's ... logical too ... you can just sort of deduce it. As I say, for example, you can have access to subtle states without having access to permanent causal witnessing, but not vice-versa. If your permanent causal witnessing, you have access to subtle states, by definition, and by the fact that you are witnessing everything that is arising, including all the subtle states.
E.com: And the only way for people to know that what you're saying is really true is to ...
KW: Experience it.
KW: That's correct. So what you try to do is give, kind of the argument of the Chinese boxes, saying, "Look, experience shows us this," number one, and number two, there is a logical coherence about it. Even though these states themselves transcend logic, the fact is that you can achieve one without the other, but not vice-versa, and that not vice-versa constitutes a hierarchy of unfolding and the traditions certainly generally maintain, in terms of Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, Dharmakaya, gross, subtle, causal, and I happen to believe that that evidence supports that. There are other types of states that don't show that progression, and they are just equivalent states, as far as we can tell. And generally what happens is in the subtle realm, for example, is you can have all sorts of different types of subtle experiences, none of them significantly higher or lower, and you can have some without others, and there is no stage conception.
Not everything occurs in stages. I say roughly in my own model roughly one out of three ... stage conceptions covers about a third of what is going on. But it's almost always left out because people don't like stages, feel they are hemmed in, and nobody wants to be hemmed in, so they just toss all that stuff out, sort of a Boomeritis kind of thing going on. But a lot of stuff doesn't occur in stages, and that's certainly true of various waking state mysticism, or nature mysticism, all sorts of variations occur there.
The shamanic state actually tends to move from nature into subtle. It does have some subtle Sambhogakaya mysticism going on, particularly when you have journeys to the upper world and under world. Now even though they do tend to have kind of a nature imprint, in many cases they are getting much more into subtle luminosities and even kundalini experiences tend to happen. But the formless state tends to be not often understood in shamanism...
E.com: ... having a religious experience...
KW: Is not understood ... [Laughter] ... very well in shamanism. I make a classic distinction, which is, unless you have gone through the causal unmanifest you can't really have a true non-dual state, because the actual non-dual state is the union of pure emptiness with all form. If you haven't accessed the pure causal formlessness, you can't have a genuine non-duality where that formlessness is then one with all form that is arising moment-to-moment. A lot of people take nature mysticism and call that non-dual, and it's not, because it leaves out the subtle, causal, and therefore non-dual states.
E.com: Got it.
E.com: Thank you. Next philosopher, Frederick Nietzsche.
E.com: You're familiar with the concept of the Uroborus, the snake turning around and swallowing its own tail. My question is ... suppose that the leap from rational to trans-rational consciousness is one that can only be made in a complete letting go. So that when it is time to evolve into trans-rational consciousness, you have to, in order to really let go of yourself, you have to really let go of everything. You have to be willing to experience chaos, you have to be willing to experience ... you have to be willing to go through the dark night of the soul, through an almost kind of a Dionysian energy.
Your system seems to promise almost sort of an orderly evolutionary transition that will be just plain and simple. But the reality is that, I think, that's not how it happens for most people.
E.com: Unless you're in a contemplative or spiritual tradition, a lot of people go through really wild stuff before they get established at a higher stage.
KW: I think all the time. All the time, actually.
E.com: Does this question make sense?
KW: Sure. Yes, but ...
E.com: So that you're saying it's this nice, simple, logical progression...
KW: No, no, no.
E.com: ... and actually to get from rational to trans-rational, you have to be completely willing to let go of rational...
KW: Of course.
E.com: Which is very scary to do, and the rational mind doesn't want to do that.
KW: No, no, no. Look, you're entirely correct. What I do, and I've often called it ... I'm giving a ... when I lay out the stages of development, I am giving what I explicitly called in SES a rational reconstruction of the trans-rational. Now, that's a very specific thing. It does not say that this rational reconstruction will get you to the trans-rational, it's not instead of it, it does not try to replace it. It just says, look, we can say a few things about these higher states. We're not completely mute on the topic. After all, the mystics have been talking about them for millennia. But it's entirely different to say, "Look, there's gross and there's subtle, and there's causal states," it doesn't mean that people progress through them in that simple one-two-three fashion. In fact what actually happens is that it is turbulent, and it's extremely chaotic and in terms of letting go of everything, yeah, well absolutely letting go of everything.
But that's ... it's not ... on the one hand it's very hard, on the other hand it's not hard at all. Because everybody does it once every twenty-four hours, they pass form the dream state into deep dreamless state, and they completely let go of everything. Everything. There is no rationality. There is no suffering. There is no pain. There is no self. There is no non-self. Everybody is plunged into that formless realm every night for hours on end. And they are plunged into that real Self ... on that basis.
So, everybody knows how to die. You do it every night. You let go of your ego, you let go of your body, you completely let go of it every single night, many many times.
E.com: And you don't get freaked out that you're going to sleep...
KW: You don't get freaked out! No. So what happens ... if you became conscious of that process, then there's a little freaky out part that goes along with it. And that's what the traditions are for generally, and that's what a good master is there for, to kind of hold your hand because, frankly, if you trip in consciousness, it's totally freaky, and totally chaotic, and scary as hell.
But the simple fact that I kind of laid out some of these broad milestones doesn't mean that that actually is how it actually occurs when you go through them. The same if we have a map and it says "Here's Boulder, and there's Denver," you know...
E.com: Yeah, I had that last night, you can't get to 93 from 270...
KW: [Laughter.] So, some of these things are laid out in a simple way, but that's not the way the path goes, and it's always very, very difficult,. Particularly the non-dual and higher ones are difficult because they're so simple. They're much, much simpler than most people can grasp. And therefore it takes a very, very, very long time to see what is literally one hundred percent in front of yours eyes right now. And it's just so fucking obvious that it takes most people about two decades to see it and believe it. And that's what Dzogchen has mostly ... probably the most effective ...
[Pointing to Isaac, the dog.] His snoring is not going to help the digital equipment. Either stop snoring or you're going to go out buddy. We'll see what happens.
Anyway, it's not just the people die each night completely as they pass into formlessness, it's that formless state is their ever-present awareness moment-to-moment. There is something in you right now that without any effort whatsoever is noticing everything that is arising. You notice the birds, you hear my voice, everything is noticed. There is something in you that is conscious of everything moment-to-moment.
E.com: And it's the same...
KW: It's the same.
E.com: In you.
KW: It's the same in me. Consciousness is the singular of which the plural is unknown.
E.com: Whether in the dog or not is unclear.
KW: [Laughter.] We assume so, we assume it is right down into little quarks. What happens it that people have something else that's called "attention," it's a contraction in the field of that ever-present noticing, and that tension is your identity. So, instead of resting in that noticing space that notices everything that is arising and that is your original face, the face you had before your parents were born. Instead of resting into that condition, we contract into attention, and then we follow on objects that pass by this noticing. Our life is a string of putting together objects, in a way that we can wring as much pleasure as we can from each one as we kind of hook them together.
So, whereas the actual ... the only bliss comes from the witness itself, not from any of the objects we grab at. So each night people get kind of refreshed by letting go of objects and resting in this infinite self, but that self remains as the ever-present noticing on their day-to-day basis, and what meditation is, basically, for these non-dual traditions, is a way of stilling these objects until you notice the fact that you are always noticing. Until you simply start to rest in that ever-present witness, which itself cannot be seen, or heard, or tasted. It's this vast seer. And becoming comfortable, by letting go of objects, moment to moment, and that's the freaky part, because that's the dying part, and that's where it gets very, very whacky for several years, usually, until it's done, and then it's just completely rather pathetically obvious.
E.com: Once you get it.
E.com: And only you can get it, only each individual can get it.
Seventh Interview Segment:
Common Challenges and Criticisms to Ken Wilber's System: Part C
E.com: Which brings us to Herman Hesse.
KW: That's what I thought.
E.com: I knew you'd think that.
In The Glass Bead Game, otherwise known as Magister Ludi, 1946, for which Hesse won the Nobel Prize for literature, he wrote ... this is the Music Master speaking. I don't know if you've read the book.
KW: A long time ago.
E.com: I hadn't, and I started because people told me that it relates to Enlightenment.Com. He wrote:
To be candid, I myself, for example, have never in my life said a word to my pupils about the 'meaning' of music; if there is one, it does not need my explanations. On the other hand I have always made a great point of having y pupils count their eighths and sixteenths nicely. Whatever you become, teacher, scholar, or musician, have respect for the 'meaning,' but do not imagine that it can be taught.... The task of the teacher and scholar is to study means, cultivate tradition, and preserve the purity of methods, not to deal in incommunicable experiences which are reserved to the elect - who often enough pay a high price for this privilege.
The phrase that struck me was the notion of not imagining that the meaning can be taught. And the real reason I think people get pissed off at you is that your work does not carry an inherent moral injunction in it. It does not tell them how to live their life.
It goes back to you saying, very carefully, that you are not a guru, you are a pandit; you are a scholar, and you a teacher, now, but not a teacher as a guru. And so people are looking, reading your work, and they don't feel as excited and compelled as they think they should feel if somebody has really figured out as much as you've figured out. There doesn't seem to be a moral injunction other than "evolve," or maybe, "practice an all quadrants all level" approach. But they don't feel inspired, they don't see an archetypal world vision the way I imagine people think they would have felt reading Hegel.
E.com: And that's because you can't teach them the meaning. The real meaning of spirituality isn't something you would ever claim you knew and would teach them, because you're not that kind of a guy. That's not what you do. And you've never made the claim that that's what you're doing.
E.com: But yet, because you have put out a better, more comprehensive system than anybody else has, they think that ... the better your system becomes, the more they expect to find it in there, whether or not you ever tried to set it out. I think it drives them kind of crazy.
E.com: And that's why they're assuming that if you're really who you seem to be, and have done what you seem to have done, then they would read your work and get inspired in a different kind of way.
Now, I myself, when I have read some of your poetry, I actually like your poetry. I've gone blissing out into some altered states really struggling with the notion of the witness, or even when we were talking before, for a very short period of time, I un-contracted my contraction of consciousness and I was maybe getting "it" a little bit. But that's a personal interactive thing, and I'm lucky enough to know you and be here. But when people read your work ...
I keep making this point again, but "whatever you become, teacher, scholar, or musician, have respect for the 'meaning,' but do not imagine that it can be taught." Well, you teach people to count their eighths and their sixteenths very nicely. You are really good around scientific method and showing what you're doing and about being empirical and about showing people where they are leaving stuff out. You do that stuff fabulously. I think you're right on with Hesse here, but that thing about "teaching the meaning," it's there because it's everywhere. And that's what you're pointing out. But they want it ... I don't know ... spoon-fed, or something like that.
KW: It's a tough one. I certainly hear what you're saying, and it's again also one of those areas which of course you can't win. If I actually did what they were saying, people would say, "Ah, he's trying to control the meaning and shove it down my throat." So if I actually succeeded in doing it I would be criticized; if I don't do it I get criticized.
I think because what happens is something in a sense like what you're talking about. What you can basically do with any of these -- and ultimately, all of this work is just ... really comes down to pointing out instructions. What we were doing: pointing out the witness; pointing out the non-dual state. Because these are things that are ever-present in people. And it doesn't take any development to have access to that, because it's something that is completely one hundred percent ever-present. It's not a change of state. It's that which observes changes of state.
So, on the one hand, when people read my work there isn't a person that will get very excited about it, because it does tend to carry a kind of imperative, which is, to somehow start applying this. In that sense, in the relative realm, the moral injunction is to be the best you can, be all quadrant, all level, all line. Just because that's a more comprehensive mode of understanding in the world and it has the less marginalizing tendency than any other system, because it tries to embrace all known truths ... in a friendly way. It says, "all of these truths are important."
E.com: You're even OK with translative and not transformational.
KW: In a sense, that's fine. If you're going to translate the world, do your best to do it in as comprehensive and inclusive fashion as possible. That's the relative injunction. The ultimate injunction is "Wake Up!"
And so what I generally do is alternate these in the writing. And what you call the poetry is ... When I particularly started this with SES, and I've done it almost every book since, is I'll give some of this elaborate all quadrant, all levels, all lines, but at some point I'll say "OK, now forget all that." What's aware of all that? And there are pointing out instructions for the witness, and the non-dual or saja state in almost all of these books. So what I'm trying to do under the circumstances is cover the bases, if you will, trying to say the real thing here is you need to wake up to your original face and your real self, and then you need to translate that into the real world in as comprehensive and inclusive a fashion as you can. Because even though realization itself is formless and ever-present, you don't want to translate that formless realization into some narrow, petty, small philosophy. And many people do that.
E.com: Or into an obsession of any kind.
KW: But they do. And it's unfortunate. Because it's not a healthy way to express realization. And so I've found even teachers that have a wonderfully strong powerful realization often don't have a very integral philosophy to embrace it, and they end up supporting some really rather narrow petty ideas.
KW: Not to be mean-spirited, or anything like that at all. But formless realization doesn't carry information about the world of form. That's why when that person said, "What do I know how to do that Buddha doesn't?" And I said, "drive a jeep," and it wasn't just a throwaway line. The point is there are truths in the manifest realm that you have ... even if you are awakened to nirvana, samsara evolves and changes, and you have to take your nirvanic understanding into the world of samsara in a more comprehensive and up-to-date fashion.
And so even for a Buddhist, there's nothing in Buddhist treatises on kidney transplants or computers or automobiles. Nirvana has to be adapted to the changing circumstances of samsara, has to be expressed through that. So I have two injunctions. One is, "Wake up to nirvana." Two, "Express it in an integral samsaric philosophy," because otherwise you're going to dent your realization, you're going to squish it, you're going to not honor it, you're going to narrow it down into some very small, often petty philosophy that doesn't take account of the riches of the manifest realm. So, it's hard to get a crusade going under these circumstances because it is kind of ... it's a very broad stroke. So that's why I tend to try to alternate as well. And a lot of the poetic sections are where people get most fired up in terms of their own realization. The other stuff is just hard work. The all quadrants all levels is just flat out hard work. [Laughter.]
E.com: The other piece of this is that you better than anyone, perhaps, have championed the inner realms, your left side, subjectivity, the interior dimensions. Although you've fought like hell to bring it back into legitimate discourse, the very act of producing a logical system of the magnitude and beauty of your system, for some people, ends up taking the mystical, interior, sparkly, magical, chaotic, divine nature right out of it. Somehow, for them, your logic sucks the mystery and beauty right out of reality. It's almost as if the Apollinian cancels out the Dionysian and I don't think there's a way you can win on that.
E.com: And it's not your fault...
KW: No, I understand. Here's what...
E.com: And it puts them off. They go, "Hey, he's not got like this radiant, luminous ..." But it's all there, obviously you do, but they don't read it and get excited the way they do about authors whose names we won't mention who write stuff that is not even close.
KW: What would probably change a little bit on that... First of all, if that's all that I did, or if I actually thought that this rational reconstruction of the trans-rational was a be-all and end-all in itself, then these people would be completely right. Logic does suck the life out of any of the trans-rational realms. And so, obviously, you don't want to do that. But at the same time, you don't want to just ignore, oppress, marginalize rationality and logical analysis. That's also an important part of manifestation. So what you want to do basically is have an integral approach that includes all of those aspects.
And if you take ... one of the things that we're going to do for example, I think people are going through it now ... if you just take the poetic pointing out instructions from my books, and you just put those all together in one volume, then there's no quadrants, there's no levels, there's no lines, there's no development, there's none of that. There's just pointing to this ever-present awareness, that you are, and that you have been eternally, and at how you can actually awaken and realize that and have that manifest throughout your life. And if you just read those sections, then it's entirely different. Then it's nothing but Dionsysian sort of ecstasy, basically. There's no logic, there's no stages, or realms, or any of that kind of stuff.
E.com: Just like reading Grace & Grit, it's a totally different ...
KW: A totally different experience.
E.com: ... take on who you are.
KW: Exactly. But part of what you want to do, at some point is, if you're trying to make room in the conventional realm for any sort of dharma, or any form of trans-rational awareness, and since rational professors, so to speak, take all of that as being completely hallucinatory nonsense, then somebody has to go in and sort of have it out with these guys on the rational level. And say look, hey, there's abundant reason to acknowledge these higher trans-rational states.
But of course I have to be rational to do be rational to do that part of the argument. And that's what I do. And it's fine. We'll do Derrida. We'll do Foucalt. And we'll do Heidegger. And we'll do Russell, and you know, whatever game you want to play. And when you've done all of that you'll see that it doesn't exhaust reality.
Something else is going on here. There are trans-rational states and stages of which we have an extraordinary amount of evidence, and by cutting yourself off from that you are cutting yourself off from your real nature. Now, somebody has to do it; it's an ugly job. I've decided to step in and do my best on that part. But it doesn't mean that I think that that's the only thing you have to do. And frankly, it's hard. I'll be glad when I don't have to do that any more. It sucks. I just want to write mindless poetry and bad novels. [Laughter.] And I can too.
E.com: Yes, I know.
KW: [Laughter.] I can write as bad a novel as the next guy...
Eighth Interview Segment:
The Burden of Fame; Strumming the Strings; Working Day Satori Blues
E.com: Well, that's a nice segue here for me to ask you just a few personal questions I wanted to ask you.
The first was, "Why you?" Comparisons to Hegel, the "Einstein of Consciousness"... even if they are only half right, how do you feel about the fact that you are the world's most influential and popular psycho-spiritual theorist? How's it feel to have so many people reading and absorbing your words? Is it heady? Do you just think of yourself kind of like as a normal guy with a dog that snores or do you ... is it hard not to get inflated?
KW: Yeah. It's one of those things ... I tend not to think about it. It's like people who have an overnight success. It's one thing if you're like a rock band, and you're together for a week and then you have a hit single, and then on the next day you're the cover of Time Magazine or something. That must be very unbalancing. But most of the bands ... like the Beetles or something ... they were out there ten years, day in and day out.
And so, I wrote my first book when I was twenty-three. And I went through a period of, kind of inflation and unbalance, because so many projections are put on you that you are both demonic I'm much more demonic than some people would think I am and also there are positive projections going on. And what tends to happen is that some way, sooner or later, you really have to address that. And I don't think I was a particularly fast learner in that regard. But I've had such a long time...I've had thirty years, basically. So even somebody who is kind of slow, like me, in that area, I'm pretty OK after...
E.com: It wasn't like all of a sudden you had fifty million dollars ...
E.com: Overnight and ...
KW: Exactly. It wasn't like I all of a sudden woke up one day and people started saying this out of the blue.
E.com: And you went through some heavy shit with Treya.
KW: I had some heavy stuff with Treya, which was very, very...radically one hundred percent humbling. Because you just .... death is the great leveler. You lose face, you lose everything, and you can't control it, and it will win, and you will find out a way to let go and relate to that in a direct, simple way. I was absolutely crushed by it. And I went semi-insane in 1985, what I call Hell Year, and I wrote about it very, I think honestly, in Grace & Grit. The whole chapter in Tahoe. I was just ... horrified.
E.com: That's the first book I give to someone that I want to give them to you.
E.com: Because they want to know you are real and you are human.
KW: [Laughter.] So mostly, I don't ... if you had some way that you could tape record my inner dialogue, none of those words that you use you would ever find me saying to myself. You'd never find, "He's the Hegel of this, or he's the great this, or he's the world's most influential..." You'd find none of that in my interior dialogue. It does not cross my mind.
E.com: You're just trying to do a good job at what you do.
KW: And my dog snores.
E.com: And your dog does snore. And we have proof.
E.com: And how about the fame?
KW: What it does do, the one thing I would say is, the sort of, the particular type of burden that I've always felt, and that I think is extremely important to feel, is a responsibility to present the truth as best you can. And that means based on as much evidence, from as many different sources, as you possibly can. And it's something that you want to go back and read ten or fifteen or twenty years later, and say, "I still think that's pretty true." I feel that because a lot of people look to my work for ways that's going to really ... they are going to incorporate in their lives.
KW: And I want to make sure that I'm not going to disappoint them by leading them down a road for which there is simply no reason, no rhyme, or no evidence. So I think that is a kind of, if I feel sort of any quote "burden" it's that, but I think it's a burden that everybody in this field should feel. Sort of your, in the best sense of the word, a kind of internal conscience as a compass, it makes you be responsible for what you write. So that part is ... I feel that, and I think I should. It's very important, actually.
E.com: So in a way, you are moving from pandit, pundit, to teacher, guru, just a little bit, because you know....
KW: A pandit is a teacher. Great pandits were ... Nagarjuna was a pandit. Plotinus was a pandit. It's just it's a little bit different in terms of what you're communicating and how you communicate it.
E.com: You know that people ride on your words. They eagerly read the latest Ken interview, and they go, "Ah hah," and it changes them. It's a burden. It's an office. It's a ... you're Ken WIlber! I know that seems weird for me to say to you but, you know, hey, you're actually Ken Wilber!
KW: [Laughter.] OK.
E.Com: The fame thing, I know that you used to have problems with things like stalking -- we can take this off the tape if you don't want me to talk about it...
KW: It's OK. I have it still.
E.com: Does that still go on?
KW: It's a real problem.
E.com: Women wanting to have your babies, and men...
KW: Men and women. Different types. And both positive and negative. The women are almost always positive. The men are sort of half and half. Half of the men that stalk me are very angry, and half think I'm God, and we're having secret communications with each other. And usually what happens ... and so they'll simply come from around the world, across the country, just show up on the front porch. And they think that I'll know when they're here. And I can tell, I can just instantly feel them, when they're around, because...
E.com: I got a question from somebody, who I won't say who it was, and he wanted me to communicate it to you, and he was talking about how we're all Elder Brothers, and this was the opportunity for him finally to connect, and I'm thinking....
KW: Right. Be careful. Exactly. The standard joke I make about it is, the men, basically, one way or another do drive by shootings. It's a one time thing. If they're mad at me they leave the bomb threat, and then they get tired and they go away. Or they think there's some great communication and they'll try to get it across, and if I don't respond they'll go away. And the reason is that men can't commit.
Women, on the other hand, the little relationship lovers, stalk me for decades. And they're just always there. Mostly they're very, very pleasant people, and we kind of have a standing ... some of it becomes very fun. You can't have any contact with any of them. One of ours ... I don't want to give too much information ... one leaves about three twenty minute messages a day on the answering machine and has been doing so for seventeen years.
KW: [Laughter.] Never meet any of these people, I don't ... you can't have any response ... but most of them are very sweet, it's very funny. But unfortunately, a lot of them is sort of like the David Letterman incident, and we have to call the police, and they have to come and get them, and it's very, very unfortunate and very, very difficult. And what I really don't want to have to do is put up a fence around the house, but I really think I'm going to have to, because it's getting much worst.
E.com: Yeah, that would be too bad.
Strummin' the Strings
E.com: So Ken, what do you love most about what you do? People want to know that. They want to know what makes Ken Wilber happy on a day-to-day basis.
KW: Well, a couple of things. One is there is ... an analogy I kind of use is it's like a guitar. And there's the string on the guitar, and there's the box behind it that gives resonance to it. And whenever you awaken your own soul or spirit, that's like strumming the strings. That's the actual where the sound comes from. But there's a greater ... that's the ultimate sort of bliss and reward and awareness and understanding and truth and goodness comes when you strike those strings.
There's another kind of satisfaction comes from having the box on the guitar resonate and give depth and expression to the sound from the strings. And what my writing does for me is, after I strike these higher chords, through my own spiritual practice, my writing is the box behind it that can give it a resonance. It can flush it out. It can give it a manifest form that makes the sound even richer. The sound still comes from the strings, still comes from the soul or spirit ... the mind can be the box on the guitar, it can give expression to it. It's very very fulfilling in that sense.
So, I'm not trying to think my way into spirit. I made that very, very clear from the beginning. You have to do spiritual practice to get to the trans-rational. You can not use the rational to get to the trans-rational.. Spiritual practice gets you to the trans-rational. But then you can get a rational expression too. You can also express it in dance, or painting, or poetry as well, and that's very important. But you can also do it ... you can give a rational expression to it.
And I continue to find that even as I say, with enlightened teachers, they benefit from this kind of philosophy because it gives them a bigger box for their guitar. So the strings, when they strike them ... well, there's this little, bitty non-integral box behind the strings. And I continue to be struck by how even really great, realized teachers need an integral philosophy to be the box to express the music of their soul and spirit. Because it doesn't come with the territory. It does not come with the territory. You have to do the work ot understand all quadrants, all levels, all lines, and so on. And so what I enjoy doing is giving that kind of form to it, because it allows a more comprehensive expression of spiritual understanding. So that part I like.
The other part I like is that it makes a difference in people's lives, and that's important to me.
Working Day Satori Blues
E.com: When you're writing, though, on a day-to-day basis, do you have flow states the way Csikszentmihalyi talks about them? Do you disappear into an altered work state ... what John Lilly called it, I think something like your "working day satori." You go places like that?
E.com: You love the actual work of providing the...
KW: I'm not ... I'm very ambivalent about the actual process because it is very physically painful. I get it in ... in fact I think pretty weird states. I process information at a very, very spooky rate. Most of the books I've written, a lot of people know, it's really only a couple of weeks to write each of these books. And it never takes longer than about three weeks to write these books. They generally are fully formed by the time I sit down and write them. And the actual writing process is uncomfortable because I will go sometimes just around the clock, basically. It's a very very intense process.
E.com: It sounds like a purgative experience, and you don't have any choice but to be the vehicle through which this great writing happens.
KW: It just ... because so much information is there, in order for it to be coherent, I have to stay in that working day satori. I think it's a fine phrase that Lilly has ... was it ... is that what it was?
KW: Working day satori or working satori or work day satori?
E.com: No, I've got it. It's "professional satori."
KW: Processional satori. What I think is in the non-dual state ... it could be flow, but frankly, I think you can have flow on gross, subtle, causal, and non-dual planes. This is a non-dual flow, there's no question about it. And it's very, very intense. So, it's not a favorite time for me, that part of it.
E.com: Hmm, that's interesting. Everything has it's price.
KW: Yeah, yeah.
Unraveling the Mysteries of
Life, Death, and Pain
E.com: So what would you most like to say to a younger version of yourself, that is, somebody just starting out exploring their interests in the fields of consciousness, subjectivity, psychology, philosophy, and the human experience. If you can go back to the dishwashing Ken just starting to write, would you give yourself some advice?
KW: Well, I do, in the novel, Boomeritis. Boomeritis is actually written by a twenty-year-old named Ken Wilber, as you'll see. The advice comes in the same two categories that we've been talking about, sort of off and on during this, which is the relative and the ultimate, or the non-dual.
For the ultimate or non-dual the primary recommendation is take up a spiritual practice. And learn to cultivate that awareness which is not a change of state. Which is ever-present noticing, through all changes of state, waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. There is that timeless, unchanging, presence, that is your actual birthright and your original face. And the only way you can recognize that, again, because it's so utterly, utterly, simple, the only way you can recognize it is to exhaust all of your other options, until literally it is the only thing left staring you in the face, and then you go, "Shit, that's embarrassing. I've only been looking at it for fifteen billion years now and I didn't quite recognize it." Take up a spiritual practice. It can be vipassana, Zen, centering prayer, yoga ... the shamanic material will work but you really have to make sure you don't just get caught up in phenomenal passing states.
E.com: The altered staters.
KW: That's right. A lot of nature mystics and shamanic states come and they go. That's not the ever-present self. The ever-present self does not come, and it does not go. It's fully present right now, and it witnesses these states that come and go. If you just merely get it associated with phenomenal states, that's fine, but it's not realization. See, you want to ... you can do it through shamanic or nature mysticism but you have to be careful not to merely confuse some gross change in state with the unborn or the ever-present. So take up a spiritual practice and make that real. That's the only thing that will unravel the mystery of life and death and pain. And while you're doing that, decide what you want to do in the manifest realm.
E.com: So that it is coherent...
KW: Yes, on the way up and the way down. If you have a little bit more balanced, integral approach in the manifest realm, not only will you be healthier and saner, but once you have had some sort of realization, and your realization tends to deepen, you will have a bigger nicer guitar box to make a more resonant sound when you strike the chords of your soul and spirit. So you want to have, if you're going into business, go into integral business. See how you can have an all quadrant all level all line approach to business. It's not that hard. Once you get into it it's actually fairly simple. It's just I, We, and It, the big three...
E.com: Truth, Beauty, Goodness...
KW: [Laughter.] Art, Morals, and Science, and so on. For that you do need to do a little bit of study, and you can start with my books and follow up with thousands of other people past and present that are working on the integral approach.
Transformation and the Internet
E.com: You talked about 2% being second tier, maybe it will move to seven to eight percent in the next hundred years, which will have tremendous impact.
KW: The next decade.
E.com: The next decade! What will make the shift come about? What will actually prod the greens to go yellow? What can people do to help make that happen?
KW: One of the real mysteries of human existence is what actually does help people transform. It's a complex, mysterious, process that nobody has really figured out. We do know a couple of parameters. One is in order to transform from whatever stage you're at, you have to be at that stage long enough that you kind of have met its basic needs. You've stated everything from that particular stage, you' kind of know what's there, your not grasping for it any more. You've had your fill. You've eaten at that dinner table and you're ready to push on.
E.com: Satisfied swine.
KW: [Laughter.] Yes, exactly. That has to be in place. Then you have to run up against the limitations. You have to be constantly realizing that your basic questions about your existence, you can't answer from the level you are at. You have to have a kind of conscious dissonance set in. You have to be both full of that level and unhappy. Something's not right, you want more, there's more out there and I don't want to just be stuck with where I am at.
Then there has to be generally some kind of process of conscious understanding. And it can be through psychotherapy, it can be through a contemplative practice or meditation, but some way to have an insight into the fact that you are living a narrow and relatively constricted life compared to what you could be living.
E.com: Compared to your birthright.
KW: Compared to your birthright. Certainly. Even on the relative plane, just a little nudge up is going to give you a broader expanse in the relative realm.
Finally, generally some sort of catalyst, something happens that will trigger it. Sometimes it can be reading a book, at that point. What's happened with the Boomer generation is that our generation has been at the green meme for thirty years, basically. What Paul Ray calls Cultural Creatives is basically the Green Meme. And because we've been there for thirty years, we're sick of it.
Everybody is sick of this pluralistic relativism, and then the Green Meme swamp, and people are really really looking to get out of it. And that's good. We meet the first criteria. We've satisfied it, we've tasted it.
Second criteria: we're unhappy. We don't like it. So, all we need now is a little bit of insight and understanding into the situation, and hopefully that's frankly what some of these books can offer. Whether you read Bob Kegan's book or read Spiral Dynamics or read Boomeritis, for that matter. And you get a little bit of insight into the fact that you can make this transition to second tier, and then ultimately, third tier.
E.com: Do you think, though, there might be a book, like let's say as popular as The Celestine Prophecy...
E.com: A fellow named David Roel said if second tier is only a small percent, then how can it encourage progress in the first tier in an honest forthright way when first tier can't yet understand second tier concepts?
KW: Right. That's exactly right. What I think can happen is ... I think there can be a Celestine Prophecy of the second tier. Because what's going to happen is that we take that 25% of Americans that are at the green meme, that's some fifty million Americans, and if even about a third of them are green exit, ready to pop, that's fifteen or twenty million Americans that are ready for second tier.
And that means that two percent can go to five, six, seven, eight percent in the next decade. And I really believe that that is a possibility. And certainly one of the things that we're trying to do at Integral Institute is position ourselves at the forefront of that incoming second tier wave so that when that wave starts, roughly in five, six, seven, eight, nine years...
E.com: People will have something to turn to.
KW: We'll have some stuff. We'll have some products, some text, some presentations, some multi-media. Iincreasing numbers of books that will help them orient to this second tier, more integral, existence, and how to apply it in business, in education, in relationships, in therapy, and so on.
And then somebody will come along, and there will be a series of very popular things. And there will be the Jonathan Livingston Seagull, you know, all these kinds of very popular things, even written on a third grade level, but they will speak to that truly integral impulse.
KW: I don't think I can do that. I think I'm
E.com: You're not the popularizer.
KW: I don't think I can do it that well. But I think some people will be doing it, I really do.
E.com: What do you think about the Internet and its transformative potentialities? At Enlightenment.Com we're saying that if we give people access to everything that's out there, then they will know which pieces they want to try so they want to move forward. That's just one of way of going about it. My sense is that the Internet could be the greatest transformative tool that humans have devised, but we just haven't figured out how to go about doing it yet.
KW: I think there's going to be a couple of things that will happen that will really put it into a whole 'nother dimension. The down side of the internet right now is that it's not a full-bodied communication. So, it's disembodied, it's agentic, it's abstract, in a certain way.
E.com: What was that second word you said?
KW: Agency. Communion.
E.com: Oh. OK.
KW: It's more the agency side.
E.com: Got it.
KW: And, so, it makes it very hard to get really engaged in profound types of transformation, because the fact is that when you're really working with human transformation, there's a component of it that is physical to physical presence. That's not the whole story, but it's an important part of it. And there's a transmission that occurs between human beings on an etheric, emotional, and subtle level of energy...
E.com: Anything from pheromones to, subtle bodies, to
KW: All of it. And the simple resonance of the precious human body being next to another one. And all of that gets screened out on the net right now.
E.com: That's why we have some of, let's say, Charley Tart talking about a few things you get to watch him even in a little window doing his rap...
KW: It's better.
E.com: ... you get so much more of what he is about.
KW: That's right. What I think we're going to eventually have, is I think there are going to be ways that we can transmit full-bodied presence over the net. And there's actually some very interesting technologies coming out.
You know Bob Richards, with the Clarus stuff, in terms of what you can do with a CD in terms of sound. It's really rather astonishing. I don't know if you've ever seen it, but Bob has a technology that they discovered when they were working with the energy of the chakras basically in trying to see what aspects of that energy they could actually physically... what aspects they could reproduce with basically mechanical ... with very subtle machines.
KW: The upshot of it, besides coming out of several very different kinds of technologies that are very interesting, is there's one type of subtle energy that basically reduces the level of noise in any information transfer system. So what happens is that if you take a CD, for example, which is already very clear sounding sound, and you put it in this field ... all of a sudden you are sitting there listening to the CD through your ears, and you put it in that field, you start feeling it with your whole body. You actually listen to this CD with your entire body.
It's a very very wild sensation. And it's very addictive. Once you actually get in that field, and you go back to just listening with your ears, you go, "Oh, tinny, don't like, it, don't like that at all." It's much more real, like the sound that you actually get being in the presence of another human being.
So, that's an example of the type of technology, we combine that with holographic imagine with this full-bodied technology of information transfer, and I think at that point people will be able to call up Suziki Roshi giving meditation instruction...
E.Com: OK. We were talking about subtle sciences and wholly-embodied ways of transferring...
KW: So once you combine this capacity for a more full-bodied information transfer, to the extent that happens, and you mix it with something like a holographic image, I think you are going to get at least a lot more capacity for human-to-human interaction over the net. And under those circumstances, then I think the transformative power of the net will become quite large. Right now, the main, really two main things the net has done Well, three.
One is it has helped business to business stuff quite a bit. It's sort of bizarre that the main economic impact of the net has been to help General Electric be much more efficient at what it does. And Jack Welch will be the first to tell you this. The cutting edge network and web stuff is being done at GE. It's painful to all of the Silicon Valley types which like to think of the coming transformation and all of that. But what it's really done so far is help General Motors and General Electric be better at what they're doing. And the people who have had any success on the net have been K-Mart and that kind of thing. So that's number one.
Number two, as simple information transfer, it's quite extraordinary, and it's empowered, not hugely, but to a modest degree, it's empowered average citizens to find out more about items that previously only professionals had access to.
The biggest change that has happened is in how people relate to their medical illnesses. As soon as they get sick they get on the net and they find out within about twenty-four hours ... they know ten times more than their doctor knows about the disease that they've got. And then go into the office and they shake these doctors up. And they'll go, "Here's the latest treatment techniques, here's what going on, here's what's going on." I think it's a completely terrific thing, and I think we're going to have to very, very fast evolve a new type of medical practice to handle this. It's going to really have to be very much more partnership between the guy who has the power of the prescription pad and the people who are in fact doing most of the research on their own disease.
E.com: Wouldn't the same kind of model apply to people doing different types of psycho-spiritual practices and disciplines? Especially if they really use the net to create sangha, community, among themselves. That's what I'm seeing. There's no place on the web still where I want to hang out all the time, which is why I keep trying to build that place.
KW: Right. Oh, I ... no, I think that can happen, but that's a little bit different model, because if you are working with psycho-spiritual growth, generally to some degree, for some period, you need a teacher in the flesh doing that. Whereas on the medical model, all you really want form this guy is a prescription.
It's a little different kind of a scenario. Obviously, if you need surgery or something then that's a different type of thing. But we can come back to what a community could be on the net. I'm just pointing out that main effects that the net have had on the world at large has been those, and the information transfer. And the third has been to completely splinter and fragment society to an unprecedented degree, and increase hate groups exponentially.
E.com: Right, they can find each other really easily.
KW: They can find each other. And that is a real problem. So, the bright promise of the net really hasn't even begun in terms of what it can do for human to human transformation. And again I don't think that's going to happen for a while, but I think it's going to be very, very important when it does happen. In terms of building the kind of community you are building, again, part of the difficulty is that what we call the consciousness movement, in general, as you know, really is a dozen different groups.
E.com: Or a dozen dozen dozen.
KW: Dozen dozen...it's hundreds. But it's ... a dozen big sort of general collections. And none of them really get along that well with each other.
E.com: Right. They all think they have "the" answer, "the" truth.
KW: Yeah. And it's a problem, because so far it's just been treated as a catchall, it's all the "New Age" or it's all what ever the single phrase is. And it's really not at all. And so it makes it, it's kind of a ... it balkanizes economic models. Because people want to go in and say, look, "How can we reach these fifty million people who are involved in all this stuff?" where as a mater of fact these fifty million people are really very, very heterogeneous. And no one community is going to get to them. And then you have to start actually narrowing down what you are trying to do, and the audience you are trying to reach, because otherwise what happens is you alienate everybody by trying to be everything to everybody.
So, on the one hand, you do what we're trying to do at Integral Institute, which is, we're trying to be as explicit and as upfront as we can and say, based on just everybody's group consensus, we're trying to find the best second-tier and third-tier thinkers that we can, right now. Right now, frankly, we're an elite think tank. And we're not pretending to be anything else.
Once we produce integral products, integral books on business, medicine, law, and so on, then we want to create an integral community, that's not going to be elitist or a think tank or anything like that at all. But right now it is.
That makes it very easy for us to find our audience. It makes it very easy for us to come up with business models, and makes it very easy for us to focus, which is what we're doing. But once you move out to a larger market, a larger audience, it gets very very difficult and very very confusing, as you know, because you're trying to build a site that can be a happy home for a fair number of people in pursuing these, but right there you get these internal tensions then where the things that will attract some people will really turn others off, and vice-versa. It's very very difficult.
E.com: Yes, difficult to not offend people when you are talking about their religions, and any type or way of attempt to systematize it, or rate it, which we're going to try to do...
E.com: Fraught with difficulty, but then again, it could yield some interesting data and help people.
E.com: So you just kind of go ahead and do it.
E.com: The QLink. A plug for our friend Bob.
E.com: You're wearing one right now?
E.com: So am I. Do you think it works?
KW: Yes. I believe that...
E.com: We touch them to each other ... bzzzzzz ...
E.com: You've read the science on the site ...
E.com: And spoken to Bob...
E.com: And you feel that it does do roughly what it says it should do?
KW: Yes. My feeling is that, again, what we do is follow the evidence. Bob and I have known each other for a long time, and he from the beginning has agreed that what you really do is just go out and get as much evidence as you can on what these things do. So, the amount of scientific evidence on it so far is small, but very, very promising. You've seen some of it on TV, and stuff.
One of my favorites is, you put people in front of a computer screen, for twelve hours, and take a sample of their blood and look at it under a microscope, and it's very very sad.
E.com: Right, those who do and those who don't wear QLinks have different...
KW: It's unmistakable. It's really... and the BBC did a whole news broadcast on it, and they brought their doctors in, and had them independently do it. The people without the QLink, their red blood cells look all dented and shmooshed and it's really pretty scary. And the people wearing the Q-Link, it reversed in like three hours and stuff.
E.com: What I find is I don't like to go out without it.
KW: Yes. I know. It's very rich, very magical. It awakens the purple meme in everybody.
E.com: It does, doesn't it.
Evidence of Powers
E.com: What about, though, talking about things that have some evidence, siddhis, in general? Powers? One of the people who asked me a question said, "What do you think about ... there's a lot of good evidence for siddhis, and for PSI in general, so what about focusing on that as a way to get people into interior dimensions in general? The evidence is good enough that it should bring...
E.com: Hard-nosed empiricists around, but it doesn't.
KW: It doesn't. It's very strange, and I had a ... there's actually a ... Roger Walsh called because the ... U.C. Irvine had been given, I don't know, a $500,000 dollar grant or something to do another series of psychic research. So Roger was calling people saying, you know, what they really want to do with the experiment that will prove once and for all that psychic events happen. And they were trying to have an informal discussion about what should that experiments be. New ways to bend spoons, or make dice show up the right number of times. And I said basically that that was a misuse of money. Because the real problem is, we have meta-analysis on psychic phenomenon....
E.com: Yes, Dean Radin's book. It's fabulous.
KW: That's right. It puts it beyond dispute, and every statistician agrees. So I said take your $500,000 and buy a fucking PR firm.
KW: Because you people just have bad press. Another experiment is not going to change things. It's already one hundred percent certain. Another experiment is not going to make it more certain. What you do have is a massive resistance to these kinds of things. And what you really need is an education system, a PR system, an advertising system, if you will, in the best sense of the word, to do that. Frankly, a lot of the money we're allocating at Integral Institute, large portions of it are for research, but large portions of it are, in the best sense of the word, for PR. Education. We've got to get the word out about this stuff.
I happen to think that psychic phenomena ... and I think MIke Murphy and I have a friendly disagreement here .... Mike is very interested in these, and he thinks that continuing to get the word out on them because it really is very compelling that people will just come around to seeing that. I think just the opposite. I think people just look at it and go, "That's really spooky," and they just run away from it.
E.com: It can't be real so it's not real. And any evidence that you have has to be faked.
E.com: The whole thing that's being going on for fifty years.
KW: The approach that I've found ... none of them are very good ... but one of the approaches that can at least reach a certain type of audience is the developmental approach. Because once you have evidence that there are, let's say, eight stages of development, in certain aspects, then somebody can always go, "How about nine?"
And once you start investigating these upper stages, they invariably start looking very spiritual. They do. It convinces a lot of people, like Lawrence Kohlberg, who famously added a seventh stage. That's one way to do it. Another way is to do brain/mind research, because when the TM people showed that there was a fourth stage of consciousness different from waking, dreaming, deep sleep, the transcendental stage of meditation, and they have physiological ...
KW: Yes, and that got published in Science Magazine, that did more than every Upanishad ever written to convince a certain type of Western mind that there's something real going on. I think a judicious look at that kind of research and presentation is very very important, and frankly, I don't think siddhis helps that much, even though I think the evidence is compelling. But I think it just freaks people out in a certain sense. It's kind of funny, actually.
E.com: Well, it would just be like if we found out that we actually were reading each other's minds all the time ...
KW: Yes. [Laughter.] That's the thing. Which we probably are...
E.com: Or my dear mother, for example, whenever something psychic happens to her, when she tries to tell me about it, she always says, "And it happened, and I knew it ahead of time!" And I go, "I know that, mom." And she keeps telling it to me so I'll freak out too, and I don't freak out because I see things happen all the time and there's just nothing to be done about it.
Four Quadrants Forever
E.com: We're just about done. Why four quadrants?
E.com: Your model is ... by taking a Kabbalistic look, every number is magical. When I worked at GNOSIS Magazine, I found out that there were people who championed every number. You could do a five quadrant ... people probably want you to do a quintessence thing...
E.com: Four is a good logical strong place to rest. You're going to stick with that?
KW: Well ... [laughter]... I've said a couple of things. One is that all holons have at least four dimensions. The four quadrants. I haven't said they only have four. But the way I arrived at four was if you're sort of building a universe, I mean, what kind of distinctions do you need to get a manifest world going at all?
G. Spencer Brown, that wonderful book Laws of Form it's really a work of genius, everybody agrees basically said the universe comes into existence when a distinction is made. A line, a boundary is drawn, and that allows a manifest world to exist. And the simplest kind of boundaries you can draw are between inside and outside, and singular and plural. You sort of need those before you can get anything else going.
E.com: So is it possible that your philosophy, your theory of everything, is just a well-elaborated version of what it is if you do those two distinctions...
E.com: ... and there could be entirely different ...
KW: I've never said there weren't others. There might be. But at the very least, this is what happens: we have insides and we have outsides, and we have singulars and we have plurals, in every dimension as far as we can tell. Even the dream world has that, if you look at it. Even hallucination will have it.
There's an inside, and then you see somebody else as an outside; there's singular and there are plurals running around; so you have the four quadrants, in all dimensions. I claim that the four dimensions, and the four quadrants, go all the way down. I believe all ... I believe quarks have an inside and an outside, and I believe they are singular and plural. That's why I believe consciousness goes all the way down, because insides go all the way down.
So, basically using that analysis ... it turns out that it shakes down to very, very common things like the big three, and the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, first person, second person, third person, and so on. These are dimensions that all human cultures recognize. Probably because they are very real dimensions. And what I've found a way of doing is just finding a little simpler way to state it, the inside and outside, the singular and the plural, and come up with a little four quadrant diagram.
For me, the importance of that is not that it has to be religiously believed or anything like that at all, but it's just a reminder, of saying, in any approach to reality, are you touching all four of these faces? Because if you're not, you're leaving something out important. And when you leave it out, it's going to boomerang, come back at you in unconscious ways that you are going to regret. So that's just a way to help us remember to be a little bit more comprehensive, a little bit more inclusive, make sure we're touching bases with these four important dimensions of all holons. It's saner, basically, it's healthier to do that.
So, but there could be ... I've had people that say, "No, there are six," and they add six, and then there are eight ... and that's OK.
E.com: Some people are writing questions in to me about, like "What about the relationship between the intersubjective and the this and that," and it goes on and on and on.
KW: Yes, yes.
Drugs & Meditation
E.com: Can you say a little bit more about psychedelics? I don't know if you want to talk about your own personal experiences ....
KW: That's OK.
E.com: If any, and what you think of the government's current position, and also the notion of conscious, sacred, guided use, either with a psychotherapist or with religious practitioners?
KW: Right. I've sort of well-known as not having a whole lot of experience with psychedelics. And I've written about what I believe, what I think was one very large LSD trip in college that I wasn't particularly fond of. But I never really did any psychedelics at all, not even sort of experimentally. Not because I didn't want to or anything, it just really wasn't sort of in the cards for me.
That changes a bit for me when I moved to, as you might imagine, when I moved to Marin in the early 1980's and stayed with Roger and Francis, who are advocates of conscious drug use done carefully and in a sophisticated fashion under all the right set and settings. They were pretty instrumental in getting me to try MDMA. It's the only drug I've had any experience with.
It was completely legal in 1983 when I did it. I probably did a dozen trips. I thought it was absolutely wonderful. I just absolutely loved it. There tends to be a kind of diminishing return experience on that drug. I think a lot of people do it for a while, and then they've had enough, they've learned what they could learn from it, and they just sort of stop doing it. I stopped doing it around 1984 and have had no desire to do it since then.
My sense is that the people I know that have done it responsibly, have gained a lot from using psychedelics to open up a certain space. But there are downsides. Particularly in this movement, you find there are two general approaches to consciousness studies. One is the druggies, and one is the meditators.
And the druggies are into altered states, and the meditators are into stages. And the meditators believe that you have to actually discipline and work and it's four years, ten years, fifteen years, to reach a stable realization of these higher states and stages. And the psychedelic or drug side is much more into altered states, ayahuasca, LSD, any sort of number of altered states, and they don't tend to get into permanent realizations based on these things.
I happen to believe that both of these models I use states and stages I believe both of them are required. But there's kind of an acrimony between these two groups. There are very few people that do drugs and are serious meditators. And the people that only do drugs, I think eventually it kind of tends to catch up in a way. I don't see permanent realization coming from these things, I don't see permanent access to some of these higher states, and I think at some point the simple neurological noise of the ingredients starts to almost outshine the luminosity that was there, perhaps, at the beginning.
And so the people I know that I've watched over thirty years that have done only drugs have becoming increasingly, frankly, unpleasant people, and disillusioned, and sad, in certain ways. It's not to say that meditators do all that much better, but there is at least a chance with meditators that you can have a permanent realization that is enduring and not merely a transitory state.
I think people do better if they either have a judicious combination of the two, or if they do mostly meditation. And my recommendation is don't just do drugs, because people tend to get into trouble, and the theories I see coming out of people that just do drugs are frankly pretty whacky theories. They don't take enough evidence into account, they are not inclusive enough, they don't include other types of data and evidence and I think hey re very partial.
Which Practice is For You?
E.com: What about sort of a third group, people who do kind of the New Age seminar world, whether it was EST or now Landmark or Insight or Actualizations or Avatar? There are lots of systems out there that people are paying lots of money, and certainly when people go into these things they have heart-opening and mind-blowing experiences. There does seem to be sort of a "seminar effect," which means as long as you're participating in the group, and doing their work, or selling their thing, you get "it," but then when you go away from it, there's nothing ... you learned some language, maybe, and maybe some skills, but it doesn't seem to produce...
KW: That's one of the things that is a good area for research. One of the things we'd like to do at Integral Institute is investigate just that kind of experience.
I'll give you another type of research that we'd like to do. I've talked with several people about this, including Andrew Cohen. And Andrew is very interested in pursuing this. If you take something like spiral dynamics, that's just one example of aspects of developmental stages, and you take someone and give them the Spiral Dynamics test...
You give ... let's say, 200 people go to an Andrew Cohen week long meditation.
KW: Andrew will be the first to tell you that of all the people that come to him, maybe some percentage get it and some percentage don't. Let's just say the percentage is five percent of the people who come through actually get what he is saying and stay with him and work and get some sort of realization.
And this is how I put it to Andrew when we were talking about it. What if you gave the Spiral Dynamics test and you found out that the people who "got" what you were doing were predominantly turquoise, and that the others just didn't get it. I said, "Now, wouldn't you want to know that ahead of time? Wouldn't you want to have some sort of way that you could dramatically increase the people that you are effective with and perhaps cut down on those that you're not as effective with?" And maybe other people who are orange do great with Hatha Yoga. Who knows?
E.com: That's the most appropriate vehicle for them.
KW: Exactly. The point is that it is a question of research. Now, we don't want to get too crazy about this kind of research. You don't want to pigeonhole people, you don't want to prematurely cut people off, or anything like that. But we're getting to the point where we have so much information about stages of consciousness and stages of consciousness and types of factors that influence transformation, that we can be much more helpful to a larger number of people if we have some of this research being done.
And so it might be, for example, that Avatar works with a particular type of person, and they get a good opening, but then if they don't do certain types of follow-up then it dissipates, for example. And I think we're at a point now where we can start to look into some of these questions, using some of the tools we have, because there are an awful lot of investigative tools now to help people chart how they are doing in their consciousness growth and unfolding.
And some people will always be put off by the whole thing -- it's too Orwelian for them, they think you're trying to control them, and they don't want to be hemmed in by stages, and that's fine too. Nobody has to do this. I would like to know, for example, how I'm doing, where I'm at, where I need help, you know.
E.com: I once asked Charley Tart about this and he said it would take tens and tens of millions of dollars and we're not likely to get that kind of money to do this research.
KW: That's correct. But we had a hundred million, last year. So that's exactly what we're going to do with it. If we had that, we would put tens of millions of dollars exactly to this.
E.com: That will be a good day.
E.com: Well, any final words Ken? Let's wrap this up. Anything you'd like to say? To the masses?
KW: Just delighted to share this time with you.
E.com: Well, thank you very, very much.
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