Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.




Sunday, February 26, 2012

Four Faces of Spirit: An Intro to Ken Wilber


On the road to the Divine there can be many twists and turns. Sometimes the way seems clear of obstruction, a light from within guides our direction with a sense of certainty that thrusts us onwards like the strong winds that prompt the sails of  ships forward. At those times a feeling of elation stirs the spirit onwards, thirst is alleviated as we ride aboard our soul's vessel, mist spraying, satiating our parched senses and renewing our vigor. Refreshment from the Divine pours upon us as if some great warrior pierced the underbelly of the mammoth beasts of clouds above, allowing rain to break upon our heads jerking us awake. Completely aware we travel on. Feeling and seeing everything moment to moment. There is no separation between us and the vessel we ride upon or the sky above or the rain falling down. We are one with All. We are one with Spirit.

Unfortunately, the journey towards awareness and Spirit isn't usually so elating and satisfying. Moments like those are sometimes referred to as "peak experiences", temporary and fleeting, but giving us a foretaste  or peek, of what we can expect to experience in even greater quantities and on deeper levels as we plod onwards and progress from one stage to another on our journey towards understanding.

Instead, the spiritual journey, at least mine, can be more likened much of the time to that of trekking through the woods on a path that hasn't been cleared for ages. Sometimes the way seems quite sure, the path widens and I can walk with relative ease and assurance. Other times it's as if the path stops entirely and I need to get out my machete, take a breath and seek direction as I start to carve my own path for awhile, hoping it will soon find it's way back to a more sure trajectory towards the Divine. Going completely on intuition to guide me. It's easy then to miss out on small clues that can help lead me in more fruitful directions as I miss the markings and signs around me.  Completely focusing on the large branches blocking my view I miss out on the subtle intricacies offered.  If only I would step back and take it all in, breathe, and see the view before me in a more complete way.

I haven't written many posts lately as I have done a lot of seeking inwards and that has caused me to write less and read and meditate more. My pursuit toward a  more clear comprehension of reality has lead me to drop a lot of the excess spiritual and dogmatic baggage that I once carried. In the recent past I've spent a great deal of energy untangling myself of the attachments I had towards presupposed ideas of what I've always come to accept as true so I could get a glimpse of what truly Is. After such a process I found that  I now could identify the many illusions I one held as fact, but once they finally scattered it was like what was left was a void, vast and shapeless, infinite and dark beyond comparison. How do I navigate myself in THAT? How do I find my way when there seems to be no objects between spans of space, but just merely space itself? It was like I found myself stumbling through a dark night with not even a trace of the moon above to guide me. Empty and wondering if there was even a Divine to seek after.

What I needed was perspective and discernment. No, the space before me was not empty I just lacked the insight and vision in which to make out the shadows, shapes and form that becomes ever clearer the more one objectively gazes outwards.  I believe God and reality are synonymous. To see reality more clearly is to  understand God more clearly. The tool I realized I needed was a helpful framework which I can use to orient myself in the journey onwards. Something that will help me see and absorb my experiences and the reality which Is, with a greater sense of depth and objective clarity.

This is where Ken Wilber comes in. Following the suggestion of a friend who has always provided me with great resources I began to read, "Introducing Ken Wilber: Concepts for an Evolving World"by Lew Howard. I had read some of Wilber's work in the past and listened to some of his lectures and interviews on YouTube but must admit his work at first glance can seem very complex and daunting. If one approaches it without a sturdy foundation it is likely that one will miss a lot of points and concepts that Wilber introduces to readers. That has definitely been my experience in the past. So, I decided to try out Howard's book and see if I could gain more insight and understanding into Wilber's philosophy and if it could indeed aid me in my journey towards understanding reality in deeper ways.

Wilber has designed a comprehensive map  which one can use in order to see reality more clearly. It is called AQAL or All Quadrants All Levels. The basic theme around this map is that all of life consists of holons. You are a holon, I am a holon. Anything that you can possibly think of is a holon, including the thoughts and concepts you use to process the very information you are reading in this post. Howard desribes holons as any "entity that is itself a whole and simultaneously a part of some other whole." For example, an atom is a holon. It, in itself, is an identifiable entity, a whole. It also finds its identify of being a part, a part of a molecule. Howard notes that even ideas are holons. There are more encompassing ideas that are composed of smaller ones. Reality consists of an eternity of nested holons. Everything is always both a part and a whole.


Wilber's philosophy includes the assertion that all holons are manifestations of Spirit. There is no one holon that is more "spiritual" than another for all are grounded and arise equally from the same source: Spirit. When Spirit manifests a holon it always arises having four perspectives, or as Wilber sometimes puts it, Four Faces of Spirit. This is where AQAL comes in.  There are four perspectives in which we can see any one object or occurrence (holon). All holons have a singular, plural, interior and exterior nature. When we learn to see things with these four perspectives simultaneously we are indeed seeing things in their true entirety. We are starting to immerse ourselves in a more complete awareness of what really Is. We start to see the interrelated nature of life and thus begin to understand ourselves and others in more complete ways.

This is a representation of Wilber's AQAL model:


Courtesy of Google images


I am not yet finished with Howards book and plan on discussing Wilber's philosophy in much greater detail but I'd like to add a very important point to Wilber's AQAL model. When an individual begins to focus on any one of the four quadrants when interpreting a holon, it dramatically skews one's perception. This is called reductionism-when the four quadrants essentially are collapsed into only one quadrant. When I read about this phenomenon I automatically identified myself as having recently got too caught up into the upper right hand quadrant. Identifying and focusing with the physical and almost disattaching myself of late from the spiritual. One can see clues of this in my recent article "The Fragility of Existence" where I reflected on whether or not reality was just comprised of the physical. This is not an uncommon pitfall for many and in fact the upper right quadrant is where a lot of reductionism takes place. The fact that Wilber's AQAL model helped me to realize this shows how it can be practically applied in helping individuals to understand themselves better.

Howard states, " To believe that the only things that exist are physical objects would mean that things such as love, mind, soul, and spirit are derived from material physical objects-if they are even admitted to exist at all." To maintain this view would be to look out at reality through the means of tunnel vision and lose the full spectrum of perception that is possible. This is an easy stumbling block for many who seek out the truth to find themselves in because science emphasizes the physical yet neglects the spiritual and sometimes it's easy to begin to think that only science can provide us with true objective answers. But science is just one perspective among three in which is needed to interpret reality and must be balanced with the others to get a more holistic and integral view.


I look forward to discussing other dimensions of Wilber's  philosophy of integral theory in future posts.
 


Thoughts? Please share them in the Comments section. Thank you!

27 comments:

  1. Jessica, your writing is brilliant! I love how you can express the facets of your spiritual journey and growth with such amazing and vibrant imagery. And, I agree, we must be open to the reality because reality IS God.
    I did enjoy reading about Wilber's philosophy, but found myself getting bogged down in it just a bit. Still, very interesting approach, and, if it helps you to grow deeper in the reality that is God, it is a blessing for you.
    So glad I stopped by today!
    Blessings, Jessica!

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    1. It's always great having you stop by Martha and hearing your thoughts! Thanks for sharing them. :)

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  2. Jessica, this reminds me of a book that I read called the Four Agreements. We are all connected. I feel people and places come into our lives just at the right time. Not a minute before or after. Each of us plays an important part in each others lives. That's my two cents. Sounds like a great read...

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Cathy...I haven't read the Four Agreements yet but I've seen and heard it mentioned quite a few times...I'm going to have to give it a read in the near future. ~ blessings

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  3. Hello Jessica.
    Fascinating information. Wishing you well as you continue on with your journey.
    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you Andy..fascinating indeed. :)

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  4. I have heard so much about his books... but have never picked one up. I wish you many moments of reflections on your journey

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    1. I had dabbled in Wilber in the past but am glad I'm taking a much more methodical and closer look at his philosophy. I'd love to get your thoughts on future parts regarding it. :) Thanks for stopping by Savira!
      ~namaste

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  5. Jessica, you have a magnificent way of bringing spirituality into everyday life. I wish I could gain more insight into my present state, but I have faith that it will come. Your posts are always an inspiration to me ☺

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    1. Thank you Mary, that means a lot! Insight will always come...when there's a will to discover it, which there is in your case, it will surely come! :) ~blessings

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  6. Jessica, this sounds interesting. It's all about balance isn't it. I love the way you weave your words, you're such an amazing writer.
    I've never read Wilber, but I look forward to hearing more. It seems each of us has something unique to offer and sometimes breaking things down into a sort of formular helps us to see things better.
    Sending big hugs!
    Leah

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    1. Thank you Leah! Yes, there are times when breaking things down definitely helps with perspective and direction. I look forward to sharing more of Wilber's ideas with you in the future. Thanks for stopping by! ::hugs::

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  7. Thank you for sharing this Jessica. Always enjoy the way you weave spirituality into your narrative. So interesting!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Rimly....Glad you enjoyed the post! :)

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  8. Wilber is awesome. Maybe when I'm done reading Osho I'll buy one of his books ;)

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    1. Maybe when I'm done with Wilber I'll give Osho a read. ;) I've heard he's really great too! You might want to give Howard's book a read first if you're interested in diving into Wilber...at least I've found it really helpful myself. Just a suggestion. Wilber is great though so I'm sure you'd love anything you started off with from him. :)

      Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  9. " To see reality more clearly is to understand God more clearly" True indeed,your writing is very inspiring and I enjoyed reading it.

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    1. Thank you Tess...glad you enjoyed the post!

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  10. Is Wilber's idea of "holons" similar to Leibniz' idea of "monads"?

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    1. I'm not sure Javs, honestly I'm not familiar with Leibniz...I'll have to look him up. Good question...you just gave me something new to learn today...thanks...:) Btw..if you are interested in learning more about Wilber's ideas I'd definitely recommend the book I'm reading, "Introducing Ken Wilber: Concepts for an Evolving World."

      Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  11. All I can say is that Jessica,u enlighten me!!!

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    1. You're so sweet Alpana...glad you enjoyed the post. ~Many blessings. :)

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  12. i LIKED A statement u made (among others)that to kno reality fully we have to know god fully. That realty s God! I appreciate your clarity! Cant paste link in this comment box!!, I had wanted you to read a particular post from my archives

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    1. Sorry you are having trouble posting the link in the comments section Jerly...I'd love to read the post you are referring to...feel free to send it to me via fb messages and I'll post it here as well so any interested will be able to read it as well.

      Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  13. Hi Jessica :) You remind me so much of Diarmuid O' Murcho, not that you write of Quantum Theology lol...but he was the first person I met who spoke of shifting paradigms. That's how I perceive you and your journey. You are to me a seeker of truth and it's a very positive quality. Your persistence will get you there.

    I was longing to write you how I've seen you detach from you the traditional way of thinking :)I haven't heard of Ken Wilbur except from you and I haven't experimented much outside the Bible. I really learn a lot from your readings and sharings.

    I still have to dig deeper to understand his perspective and I do not wish to pretend I know :)

    I hope to read more of your reflections and your experience of God through your posts :)

    Thanks for always sharing something new :)

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  14. Melissa,

    You've been here since the very beginning and I always love when you leave your thoughts-they are always encouraging! I'll have to check Diarmuid O'Murcho out...now you have me curious! ;) Thank you for being so supportive of my journey...You point out that I have detached myself more from the traditional way of thinking..That is definitely the truth! Talk about paradigm shifts! I have definitely gone through one and feel I am still going through one..and I feel blessed to have you come along with me and to share it with you. Not everyone has been so open minded and supportive..thank you for your grace. :)

    ~blessings and love

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  15. Well, Jessica, my friend and fellow seeker, this surely is interesting. I’m aware, always, of being in two worlds at once. Seated in heavenly places and simultaneously here in this physical realm. I tend to think more in spiritual terms than physical. For God is Spirit. But also love. And we are here to learn to love, as He loves. You’ve inspired me so much since I’m known you! And you continue to be a light shining bright in this world!

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