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!