Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What's this "we" stuff, fanboy?

So, if you have been looking at these quadrants in the AQAL model, you should now realize that the left-side quadrants are internal parts of Being and the right-side quadrants are external parts of Being. The Upper Left, or "I" Quadrant, is the inside of the individual, while the Upper Right Quadrant, the "It' Quadrant, is the outside of the individual.

Let's take that further. The Upper quadrants are the individual. The Lower quadrants are the collective, i.e. not just you, but everyone with you.

So, the Lower Left Quadrant is the "We" quadrant. It is the internal side of the collective.

What does that mean in English?

You do not exist alone. There are many other individuals out there with you. Whenever you come into contact with some other person or group, there is a relationship that sets itself up. That relationship can be thought of as an entity in itself, really.

When you date someone, or marry them later on, you have your identity. Your partner has his or her identity. The both of you also have your fused identity together. There's three identities there. In a healthy relationship, all of them are cared for. In unhealthy ones, one or more of those identities gets out of balance.

That fused identity with your partner is not the only fused one you have. If you have children, you also have a fused family identity, or collective. If you work for a company, you are a member of that company's collective identity. If you are on a sports team or in a class, the same thing applies, and so on.

Identities can be short-lived or more or less permanent. When you are on an airplane, you are part of the "We are all on this plane together now" identity, until the trip ends and that collective disperses.

If you can open yourself up to this, you can feel the collective identity around you. In ancient times, these identities were worshiped as household deities, or saints, or ancestors. They can be felt and maintained, and they can be screwed with.

Just like everything else, "We" entities grow and evolve and unfold. You may identify with yourself early in life. Then you get a family and you identify with them. Perhaps, you are part of a tribe or a national group that you identify with. Tribes and national groups are a larger sphere of concern than families, so becoming concerned with members outside your immediate household represents an unfolding or advancement along a line of development in the "We" quadrant. Ultimately, your care can extend to "All of us", or the world's population as a whole. People at that Stage in this developmental line think of themselves not as a "Smith" or as "an American" or a "European", but as a "member of the human race on Earth".

Perhaps as time goes on, even that identity will expand, somehow.

In any case, reality in this quadrant is not about some supreme individual being, or a concrete physical existence, but rather it's about the understanding that all beings and individuals are one Entity.

Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." That has a lot of meanings along this line of development. In the early Stages, it is literal: be nice to your neighbor even if he's mean to you. Later, as you develop along this line, you understand it to mean "Love your neighbor because you ARE your neighbor."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Concrete Quadrant

Let's take a look at the Upper Right quadrant in the AQAL model given in the last post. (AQAL stands for "All Quadrants, All Levels, All Lines, All States, All Types", or just "All Quadrants, All levels" for short. This is the short hand name for Ken Wilber's Integral Operating System (IOS), which is the name of this philosophical system.)

Quadrants are all about what you believe is real. What do you believe is real?

If you believe that reality can be reduced to nothing but a bunch of atoms, molecules, and electrical impulses zipping around, then you are right! If you believe that all manifestations or feelings or knowledge of God or the Universe or Oneness is nothing other than what your biological brain is capable of experiencing, then you are right!

The Upper Right quadrant says that reality is a concrete scientifically knowable existence. Just like in the other quadrants, there are Stages here too. Quarks make up protons, and neutrons. Protons and neutrons make up atoms, along with electrons. Atoms make up molecules. Molecules make up substances which in turn make up all kinds of stuff as we know it. Planets are in solar systems. Solar Systems are in galaxies, galaxies are in universes. Hell, in today's science there are even theories about clusters of universes! Those are Stages.

The Upper Right quadrant is the exact opposite of the Upper Left, or "I" quadrant. If instead you believe that reality is truly some unknowable mystical existence and that all physical things are really an illusion manifested by this unmanifest reality, then you are looking at it from the perspective of the Upper Left quadrant.

Here's the thing... All the quadrants are right.

Reality (with a capital "R") is made up of all four perspectives simultaneously. However, most people only come from one perspective. That does not make them wrong. That only means they have a part of the whole.

So those "science people" who are extreme in their views of reality and don't believe in any "mystical hoopla" are right. However, they are only partially right. By the same token, the ones who believe that science is a "trick of God to test our faith in what is true" are also right, but again, they are only partially right.

Friday, December 12, 2008

There's 4 sides to this story....

So we talked about the development of a single individual along a spiritual line. But wait a minute.... isn't that a bit self-centered? All about "me", "myself", and "I"? You bet! Don't you think there's more to the story than that? Like what about the rest of the world's existence and development?

This is where the term "quadrants" come in. It is a basic principle in Integral philosophy or an integral approach to anything.

When you talk about yourself, or "I", that is one perspective. There's words to describe yourself in most languages, e.g. "I", "me", "mine", "myself"... etc. There are also words to describe the person you are talking to, right? Languages use words like "you", "your", "yours", "yourself" for that. "I" is first person, and "you" is second person.

So right there, there's another possible perspective.

Then of course, you can talk about "us". If you and I are speaking, then "We" understand each other, and "we" feel this way about something. There is a collective plural "we" happening there. In other words, "you" + "I" equals "We". "We" is first person plural.

It's trivial, but stay with me.

Finally, "We" can talk about some other object or person, a third person "it". The third person "it" can also be plural, i.e. "them" or "a bunch of its".

So, in all, there are four perspectives to everything. There are four facets to existence.

The four perspectives, "I", "It", "We", and "Its" can be laid out in four quadrants, like below:

So, thinking back, the spiritual line of development is a line that only exists in the Upper Left quadrant, the "I" quadrant. It's only part of the story! The Upper Left quadrant only deals with interior things inside the individual.

I'll spend a little bit of time talking about each of the other quadrants now. If you look on the diagram, you will notice that the "I" and "It" quadrants deal with the individual, and the "We" and "Its" quadrants deal with the collective. Also, the left side deals with internal things, inside of people, and the right side deals with external things, i.e. outside of people.

Thanks to wisdomspace.net for the graphic on quadrants.

Monday, December 8, 2008

To infinity and beyond!

Beyond Stage 5, there are other stages, but they are hardly worth thinking about at this point.... if thinking about them is even possible, really. Suffice it to say that once this pull towards Oneness begins, it continues. People who are in Stage 5 and passing into the higher stages will gradually pass from an ethnocentric to a world-centric view of things. Their main areas of concern will encompass more than just themselves and their immediate cultures/nations/surroundings.

One thing is important to point out on that journey: expansion of concern, compassion, and capacity for suffering are not feelings, they are experiences and deep understandings/knowings/beings. (There really is not a word for it, exactly. Picture being able to grok the experience of Oneness, rather than just theorizing about it or feeling it emotionally.) Instead of feeling concern for all beings in the world at this stage, you ARE all beings in the world, and you know it.

I am sure there are a lot of other aspects of this that I do not even touch on because I am not able to. Alas, all I can do about these stages is theorize.

Nevertheless, that spiritual line of development is only a teeny tiny portion of spiritual development itself! It's about 1/4th of it to be exact.

Now that we've described a single line of development in detail.... let's blow the doors off this thing.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Postmodernism and other complicated words

As rational thought and logic come to the fore in Stage 4, lots of interesting advances in technology and other areas of study come into being. As we are seeing today, there is an explosion of both positive developments and negative ones which threaten to destroy everything. Religion, which is seen by Stage 4 people as an annoying and deadly relic of the past, tries to make a few last gasps at preserving itself, and the rational Stage 4 opponents fight to crush it even more.

It is almost like there are two arcs of spirituality dueling there. There is a pre-personal arc, or magic/mythic arc, where people maintain that reality is some concrete magical existence run by mythical beings. Then, there is a rational arc, or personal arc, which sees reality as a concrete physical existence grounded in logic and reason. The media absolutely loves this shit too. The "conservatives" fight to advance their magic/mythic arc, while the "liberals" fight for their logical one. Then occasionally they throw in the New Age nutcases who are basically Stage 2'ers masquerading as something that is neither.

In all that fray, the third arc is completely lost, and as Stage 5 emerges, people start to find it. The third arc of human spiritual/psychological development begins with Stage 5, and in this part of the developmental path you start seeing Reality as grounded in a timeless eternal nondual reality. The mythology of the early stages seems silly and literal, while the rationality of Stage 4 seems empty and without meaning. In fact, I can remember clearly what the boundary between Stage 4 and Stage 5 feels like: all physical things are a crock, and nonduality is perfect already, so what's the point of anything?

Stage 5 often contains folks that claim to be "spiritual but not religious", and that is a phrase that typifies this stage. Dogma no longer makes sense, and rationality is not quite enough. However, some of the ideas in the dogma of the lower stages, like being a productive member of society and taking care of your family while getting along with others, are extremely useful for a happy life. Moreover, the level-headedness of the rational stages is useful for solving problems without violence and destruction. In that regard, the lower stages are transcended and included in Stage 5.

In another way of looking at it, Stage 5 starts to regard most religious practices as valid means of developing. The stage includes them all. In Stage 5, Reality is very BIG. It is so large, in fact, that it cannot be encompassed with a single faith, and people in Stage 5 start to wonder whether all faiths are simply looking at the same thing from a different angle, but getting wrapped up in the emotional garbage.

Reb Zalman Schacter once gave the analogy of the "Circle of Truth". Reality is a circle. For most of human history, we've known about a 5-degree arc on that circle. The rest of Reality was unknown to us. Over time, people and religions have explored more of Reality and uncovered more of the circle, and right now in our history, we are getting past that 180-degree arc point, so we are beginning to see points on the circle that are directly opposite to each other but BOTH true. "This is True... but.... this opposite is also True." One of my senseis, who was probably quoting another Buddhist somewhere was fond of telling me "Everything and its opposite is True, Josh."

In Stage 5, logic is only part of the pie. Your capacity for understanding Reality reaches beyond logic and dogma, and you are able to experience the truth of opposites.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Logic is Spock's religion...

After the Mythic stage of development comes the Rational stage. Eventually, people start to see some issues with worshiping and relying on magic, spirits, deities, etc. Namely, their prayers or spells usually do not seem to work. So what do they do? Sometimes, they explain it with a crutch, like a misused definition of "Faith", or they wave their hands and say that it is all part of the higher being's(s') plans. The response to this is an argument, and the argument soon recruits logic and rationale as weapons.

Eventually, some people progress to the "show me" stage, where they believe only things that they can see, or make sense of. They will say things like:

"I do not mean to say God doesn't exist. I just haven't seen evidence."

"Why do you believe in things blindly, without being shown the reason?"

Contrary to the belief of most Stage 3 individuals, people in the Rational stage are not all discounting the existence of the entities in the lower stages. They are simply saying that if those things do exist, there needs to be some explanation. Not only that, they wonder how others can abide the contradictions in the dogma of the first three stages. Examples of contradictions are how multiple Stage 3 religions can claim to be the true one, and how any beings like the one they describe would allow multiple false faiths to exist if that was the case. For instance, the largest faith in the world contains 2.5 Billion members. According to them, 3.5 Billion people are wrong, and some higher power hates or looks down on all the 3.5 Billion non-believers. How can that be true, wonder the Stage 4 folks?

Pretty much all members of the Rational stage of development would admit that they might believe in some sort of dogma if it could be proven. Once again, this stage does not do away with previous stages, it just includes them and looks at them from a higher perspective.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Myth Thumpers

The next stage is called the Mythic stage, associated with the color amber in Ken Wilber's and other literature. Somewhere around 80% or more of the world today is at this stage.

In the Mythic stage, the spirits of the previous two stages coalesce into some kind of extremely organized mythology. No more are they thought of as random entities running around performing mischief at their own whim. Instead, they are seen as intelligent beings with human qualities that participate in daily life, and have infinite knowledge and wisdom, not to mention power. Moreover, followers in this stage profess (and insist on) belief in their chosen mythology as the one true one. "Non-believers" are in big trouble, according to them.

Sometimes, as you all know, there is only one entity worshiped. All of the spirits are seen as subservient to, or part of, an over-deity that reigns everything. If you think about it, that is a piece of evidence that this line of spiritual evolution is moving towards something. If the ultimate goal is realization of Oneness with all things, and the ultimate acknowledgement of what is in each moment, and the subsequent realization of eternity.... then it makes a lot of sense that this line of development progresses towards a theme of "One". At this point, in Stage 3, it manifests as the thought of one God, but the big thing to notice in this stage is that the one God is still separate from the people it rules.

If all this sounds familiar to you, it is. Most followers of the Judeo-Christian religions, and even the Hindu, Shinto, and Zoroastrian faiths resonate with this theme.Notice again how this stage does not countermand the stages below it. It enfolds them and includes them. Of course, individuals in this stage, especially evangelical or fanatical types, may at times strike out in favor of their belief system as the one true faith, and that can be extremely dangerous... to put it mildly... no disrespect to the millions of people who have died for such reasons over the last millenium.

Sad as that may be, you can derive a lot of understanding from this observation.There is nothing you can do to convince anyone at this stage that he or she is only seeing part of the picture. Not only that, you should not try, because the people at this stage are not necessarily WRONG. They are simply taking in the world at their capacity. When their time comes to move past this stage, they will, and maybe not even in this lifetime.... and they may even destroy themselves (and us) in the process. Nevertheless, eventually they will tire of it, and humanity as a whole will statistically progress to Stage 4. It is already in process, and if we survive, it should be interesting.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Baby, it's Magic

At the next level along the line of spiritual development, the hapless and chaotic spirits that possess everything become interactive. Instead of feeling helpless about their plight, people begin to bargain with the forces of nature and the universe. They start to believe and realize that the universe operates like a machine, and that by pushing certain buttons they can get it to do things. Sometimes this button pushing amounts to no more than the random thumping of a chimp on a typewriter, but other times people in this stage figure out what a couple of the buttons do and start using them over and over.

In today's world, these are the "shamanic" or tribal religions. Mainstream examples of religions that occupy this stage would be Santeria and Voodoo.

Commonly, adherents in this stage see the world as a place of conflict, in which they occupy one side, i.e. Good or Evil. Their actions are thought to further their perceived nature of either good or evil, whichever they favor at the time.

Notice something, however. This stage does not do away with anything in the stage before it. Instead, this stage represents a flowering or unfolding of the Preconventional stage. In the first stage, there are spirits. They are still there in the second stage, even though they may grouped together or renamed as other spirits.

That makes this a good example of how Stages work in Integral Philosophy. Each successive stage enfolds and includes the one before it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ye Olde Stage

The archaic stage of development is fairly easy to point out to anyone living today. Think back to ancient religion.... not ancient, like Egyptian.... ancient like caveman. This is a lot like the Stage 1 God that I described in an earlier post.

At the archaic level, everything is a complete mystery. People at this stage believe that all creatures and objects have living spirits inside them, and that these spirits are able to influence life in different ways. Things like weather, disease, crop yield, etc. are all influenced by these spirits. The spirits themselves may or may not be intelligent, and people at this stage may not even differentiate at all between the objects and spirits. They may not even admit the presence or existence of the spirits, so much as the mystery of life itself.

Keep in mind here that I am not saying anything about specific cultures or religious faiths. All of these stages can be "colored" by any religious flavor. I am only talking in general terms.