We are republishing this now at a time when the glue that held the world together through the end of the Cold War seems to be dissolving. The financial crisis besetting the globe is but an exterior reflection of an interior condition of transformational dynamics. Given the trajectory of history, it is entirely likely that the mess created in the "First Tier food fight" will get worse before it gets better as the way of Spirit works Itself out.
What follows is the last of a four-part essay.
The Integral Embrace
Facing the Shadow
So if my hypothesis about our trimemetic world has any validity, what—if anything—can (or should) we do about it? After all, the titanic tidal forces of Kosmic history, now arising among us in three distinct structures, appear to be overwhelming even to the citizens of a nation as powerful and blessed as the United States. How much more formidable must they appear to us as individuals—and therefore how much less susceptible of individual influence?
Amber, Orange, Green: each is a legitimate and authentic structure of consciousness coming into existence as elements of Kosmic evolution. And yet to each of these structures as they look out from their own interiors, the others appear as strangers and threats. This is evidence of the challenge that “transcending, including, and integrating” poses in this evolutionary process. As Ken Wilber has demonstrated, each new level both transcends and includes each of the earlier levels. Properly understanding this dynamic requires us to also remember that each line of development is subject to this process. And, at the same time, we must also bear in mind that each line unfolds relatively independently of one another.
This combined and uneven development has led Wilber to caution us to appreciate that, when one or more of the earlier levels have not come into a mature expression, or have possibly even developed in a dysfunctional or pathological way, there will be discernible effects on the later memes. The underdeveloped waves will impact the later ones by appearing as drags on or blockages to the evolutionary momentum. And whether these snags show up in one or more lines of development, they will impact the momentum of a person’s overall evolution.
Thus we can appreciate that transcendence and inclusion require a third action before development can proceed with relative ease.
That is why to Wilber’s formulation I have added “integrate”: transcend, include, and integrate. Failure to integrate earlier levels is what we discern as the drags and blockages in the later levels. At the same time, the later levels, because they do access greater depth, can bring healing to the unintegrated parts and permit the integration that liberates acceleration.
About four years or so ago, I found myself feeling blocked from further spiritual growth. My meditation practice seemed barren, and I felt sluggish within my soul. The sense of excitement and wonder that had characterized my earlier spiritual practice and discovery had disappeared, and I was left feeling stifled and frustrated. My career trajectory had slammed to a halt, and I had no inspiration about what I should be doing with my life.
An image came to mind over and over again: I was being choked by some unseen force. Something was intervening to stop my awareness from expanding, and that something was within me.
I was working on my master’s degree in Consciousness Studies at John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California, at the time. Insights from the work of C. J. Jung in a survey course in psychology led me to suspect that I was dealing with classical shadow issues. I concluded that, given the nature of these things, I could either wait until they revealed themselves in meditation, or seek a more activist approach and recruit someone trained to reflect back to me what I was unable to see of my own accord.
I was led to a Jungian therapist who was also educated in India as a practitioner of Advaita Vedanta, and began to work with her on a regular basis. After several years of therapy, capped by participating in the Landmark Forum and its subsequent courses, I finally began to understand why I was feeling choked spiritually.
What was bumping around in the shadow had arisen because I had summarily stifled my emotional and relational development at the tender age of one year—a time when I and all humans are just emerging from the Beige archaic, uroboric initial wave of consciousness. At twelve months old we have only just begun the journey into differentiating ourselves from our mother/environment. In the upper right, we are only now consolidating the neural networks, the “hard wiring,” of our brains. A blow against the healthy consolidation of this wave in any given line of development impacts our subsequent progress because that now stifled capacity will impede its own and the other lines as they unfold.
In my case, I see now that while the cognitive line has had a relatively free and easy path of growth—now well into the Second Tier—the arrested development of my emotional and relational lines has kept my “center of gravity” hovering just this side of the First Tier border.
And it makes sense. If we can visualize the incomplete line of development as a subpersonality—as the Jungians suggest—then that little child is huddled deep within our subconscious, radiating onto all the other lines of development the fear and inflexibility that characterize his stifled consciousness. His terror of the death that he imagines will result if he relents and lets go of his defensive psychic posture is an anchor that drags on all subsequent momentum of consciousness growth.
Given that psychologists have identified at least twelve distinct lines of development, it is easy to see why recognizing where we are in the unfoldment of our “individual” consciousness is challenging. Although Wilber has devised a “psychograph” to aid us in the matter, I have not discovered a whole lot of research on how to actually plot and interpret a psychograph in its dynamic nature. A valid psychograph would not only indicate the extent to which each line of development has unfolded, but also any blockages that each line might be experiencing and how the growth of each affects the whole. At this stage of AQAL inquiry this art form appears less developed than palm reading or aura interpretation.
What further complicates this is the impact of the Four Quadrants: an individual psychograph is nested in the collective psychograph (or is it a sociograph?). In other words, consciousness being unitary, there is ultimately no such entity as an individual consciousness; there is only consciousness itself, and its unfolding through us as individuals.
And the holonic nature of the realm of Form means that there is always a simultaneous interior and exterior view of any occurrence. (Wilber elaborates a much more sophisticated version of this in Integral Spirituality, asserting that there are actually interior views embedded in the Right Hand quadrants, and exteriors in the Left Hand. This may be just by way of driving the serious student even madder than does the requirement to account for the lines of development in appreciating the trimemetic challenge, but Wilber—thank God!—does not stand still on anything he has written.) Thus understanding involves simultaneous grokking of the features that characterize the four quadrants.
It’s Not About “Me”
Having brought intentionality and prayer work to shadow areas of my psyche, I have had awakenings not only to the nature of my underdeveloped emotional and relational capacities, I also have discovered how to apply the appropriate psychological and spiritual therapies to hasten the healing that facilitates the necessary integration. This quest has led to discover a missing essential that has always been implicit in my work but not conscious: that transformation is assisted by recognition of its multi-quadrant dimensionality. I realized that transformation at the level of community is an inescapable requirement for “my” own spiritual growth.
This, I am discovering, is a universal truth for folks who have reached the limits of the First Tier. Personal resources, especially in the face of the prevailing cultural center of gravity, are inadequate for the leap to the Second Tier. And even though it seems clear that certain avatars and saints have had the grace to make the jump on their own, they all seem to turn right around and bring their new consciousness right back into their communities.
So here’s the challenge we discover once we transcend the First Tier: it’s no longer about us as individuals. As the identity of self finally outgrows the individual personality, our awareness of and actions in the world cease being confined to the prison of our personal self-conception and begin to arise from identity with a greater “I am.”
All of the earlier levels of consciousness are still present, and they most emphatically continue to support the mental construct of our personal egoic identity. But because we have escaped the tyranny of the First Tier, we now begin to discover an entire new and unexpected set of goals, aspirations, and understandings. We become less attached to the predicates of our daily personal lives and more intrigued by both how the greater world evolves and what contribution we can make to it. We immerse our First Tier structures in a deeper, freer realm that liberates our developed strengths and heals our psychopathologies.
In AQAL terms, we become much more aware of the lower quadrants; we are actually capable for the first time of integral awareness. As Wilber notes in Integral Psychology:
For the fact is, this is the dawning of the age of vision-logic, the rise of the network society, the postmodern, aperspectival, internetted global village. Evolution in all forms has started to become conscious of itself. Evolution, as Spirit-in-Action, is starting to awaken on a more collective scale. Kosmic evolution is now producing theories and performances of its own integral embrace. This Eros moves through you and me, urging us to include, to diversify, to honor, to enfold. The Love that moves the sun and other stars is moving theories such as this, and it will move many others, as Eros connects the previously unconnected, and pulls together the fragments of a world to weary to endure.On the doorstep to the transpersonal realms we find ourselves less and less interested in our personal story and more and more fascinated by and committed to something far greater and more profound that our own minor myth. This world, this species, this universe—grander expressions (or so we first believe) than any individual human, far more captivating and spacious than the confines of our personal mental prison—as the locus of our new identity dictate who we are now to become.
We will no longer play in the sphere of personal transformation; by leaping out of the First Tier we have exhausted everything it has to offer. Now we glimpse the possibilities of transformation on a far more majestic scale, and we dedicate ourselves to uncovering the gifts we individually have that can enhance this endless Kosmic dance of infinite recreation.
But, as always, remember: it’s transcend→include→integrate. There will be lines of development still struggling through the First Tier memes, even as the cognitive and other lines are unleashed into the Second. We will still be subject to the energies of the three blind memes in those areas of our own development.
But now, for the first time, we can begin to cherish these dear stages of growth. We can come to appreciate how necessary each is to the Kosmic unfolding. Like indulgent mothers, we can chuckle when we see them manifest in predictable behaviors and presumptions all around (and still within) us. And at the same time, like impatient fathers we can call these underdeveloped parts of ourselves forward to a more glorious future, and hold them accountable to the Divine appointment that is planted in each holon at the moment of its creation.
Some would call these integral endeavors “powerful glimpses of a true Descent of the all-pervading World Soul.” Others would simply say the time is ripe for such. But this much seems certain: less comprehensive endeavors are starting to lose their appeal; the allure of flatland, the call of fragmentation, the regressive pull of reductionism are becoming much less fascinating. Their power to enthrall the mind becomes weaker every day, as Eros works its subtle wonders in and through us all.
Integral Embrace of the Three Blind Memes
Look around the world from the Second Tier. Is it not magnificent? Evolution is busting out all over! Far from being a curse, the nexus of three powerful First Tier levels of consciousness possessing billions of people is creating the energy necessary for mass escape from First Tier gravity. Ray Kurzweil and others, in glimpsing the possible (Right Hand) structure of the next level of consciousness evolution may not understand how the Kosmos is setting it up, but they absolutely intuit that the time is fast approaching for an entirely new order of “reality.”
From the point of view of Green at the leading edge of the First Tier, the world is swiftly going to hell in a hand basket. The United States, gripped by arrogance and fear, is trying to impose an Amber imperium on the world, and this conceit is fueling the backlash of al Qaeda and the Iranian atomic weapons program. Its quixotic adventure in deposing Saddam Hussein and its hubristic attempts at building a fragile democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan are grotesque failures. The U. S. is also destroying the global environment by refusing to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, thus guaranteeing an ecological holocaust in the next century. And finally, by placing its future in hock—especially to the Chinese—America is heading for a crash that will make Alaric’s sacking of Rome in 410 seem a picnic.
As one peruses the pages of American newspapers or listens to NPR or other Green media, it is easy to catch the tone of despair. Amber George W. Bush has an iron grip on the levers of power and is monomaniacally focused on imposing his fundamentalist will upon a manipulated and deluded nation. He is aided and abetted by a docile political class that is clueless about how to oppose his drive for dictatorship; it’s Germany, 1931, all over again.
Orange, on the other hand, is determined to build up material wealth as the way to build upon the end of the Cold War. Far from being a threat, we need China (and India) to pull their weight in the world economy. The crunch that their accelerating demand for oil is putting on energy costs is the appropriate impetus for research and development of new energy sources, including the latest generation of nuclear power plants. Opening up world markets, reducing barriers to trade, promoting public health and education in third world countries are the natural paths to a richer future. Orange has always been willing to suffer the turbulence of markets, because reason tells it that the yin and yang of economic development include the continuous pulling down of the old to make way for the new.
And so from the point of view of the Chinese and the Indians, whose societies are being seized by Orange in accelerating waves, America’s paralysis and Europe’s sclerosis are opportunities for leapfrogging into industrial hegemony. All around the rims of the Pacific and Indian Oceans a new industrial market, activated by China’s determination to develop a modern political economy, is arising.
Green, with its commitment to diversity and equality, is in a terrible quandary about this. Although it is committed to a level playing field, it also knows that the rapid growth of Chinese and Indian industry is an enormous threat to the global environment. What to do? What to do? When blaming Amber/Orange America for this situation finally loses its cachet, Green will have some serious work to take on.
And Amber remains, as we have seen above, caught in its simultaneous longing for and dread of the modern world. Globalization of the world economy is changing the Third World whether it wants it or not. It appears likely that Amber will continue to act out its schizophrenic relationship with Orange (it doesn’t have a clue about Green, except that it sometimes is its ally against Orange) for some time to come.
But the Kosmic action is now moving decisively into the Second Tier—even if very few people are there yet. But because the Second Tier operates from an identity of self with global and even universal realms, it can have profound effects on evolution in relatively short spaces of time. By consciously accessing the lower quadrants we start learning how to leverage all the power of the Kosmos. Just accepting and being willing to embrace the world as it is, driven by the spectrum of consciousness as it has evolved to now, change the dynamics of history.
If you are up for the integral embrace, you will know that we are now called to focus on transformation at the level of community. How can we grow and evolve becomes the urgent inquiry; no longer do we worry so much about how I personally grow and evolve. We begin to perceive the illusion of the individual self in our willingness to identify with the greater collective. And when the tyranny of the personal self begins to dissolve, the radiance of possibilities never imagined begins to shine forth. We begin to ask, what can we do for the evolution Spirit Itself?
Let us begin to savor how Spirit is manifesting Itself right here and right now. The three blind memes are, even in their sightlessness, Spirit-in-action. They are in fact leading us through the wilderness to the Land of Canaan. They may not cross over the River Jordan with us, but without them we never would have gotten near. The unfathomable love of Spirit for Itself in all its manifest forms and unmanifest potential makes this crossing over possible. The amazing fact that It acts through and as us to achieve this leaves us open-mouthed in awe and wonder.
As always, it is appropriate to let Ken Wilber have the last word.
This Eros is the same Spirit-in-action that originally threw itself outward to create a vast morphogenetic field of wondrous possibilities (known as the Great Nest). Out of itself, as matter, it began; out of itself, as life, it continued; out of itself, as mind, it began to awaken. The same Spirit-in-action differentiated itself into modes of the good and the true and the beautiful, as it continued its evolutionary play. And it is now the same Spirit-in-action, starting to become collectively conscious of itself, that has initiated an era of integral embrace—global village to communications internet to integral theories to network society—as it slowly binds together the fragments of a world that has forgotten how to care.
Just so, the same Spirit-in-action has written this book, and it is the very same Spirit-in-action who is now reading it. From subconscious to self-conscious to superconscious, the great Play continues and the grand River flows, with all of its glorious streams rushing into the ocean of One Taste, never really lost, never really found, this sound of the rain on the temple roof, which only alone is.______________________________
 Wilber now asserts that one can sit in meditation for years and never see the structures of consciousness arising, much less shadow issues and other underdeveloped psychological matter. Integral practice requires appropriate psychotherapies. See Integral Spirituality (Shambhala: Boston, 2006).
© 2006, 2010, Unity Politics, Inc.