Wilber’s Trump and a Post-Truth World: An Overview and Critique

Cynthia Bourgeault offers a critique on Ken Wilber’s article “Trump and a Post-Truth World: An Evolutionary Self-Correction” as a study guide for contemplatives.

Now that Ken Wilber’s paper on “Trump and a Post-Truth World” is officially posted and making its rounds on the internet, I feel at liberty to share my initial “cliff notes” and comments a bit more widely. My comments below were generated originally (and somewhat hastily) for a group of senior Wisdom students who are already working their way through this tract. It is still to be regarded as primarily a “working draft” for limited circulation, not a formal response to Ken’s thesis.

The first part is a quick overview of the main points of Ken’s argument as I understand it. The second part raises a few points for feedback/critique/further reflection.


Ken Wilber’s wide-ranging and fundamentally hopeful monograph is an analysis of the recent presidential election from the perspective of levels of consciousness as developed primarily according to his own Integral Evolutionary Theory. The powerful contribution he brings here is to move us beyond the reactivity gripping both sides of the political spectrum and offer a much broader perspective. He proposes that Trump’s upset victory reflects an “evolutionary self-correction” necessitated by the fact that the leading edge of consciousness, the so-called green level, lost its way in a mass of internal self-contradictions and gradually failed to lead. His 90-page paper is a lengthy, often verbose, occasionally brilliant analysis of how this situation came to be and what needs to happen to heal it.

To enter this discussion, one first needs to have some familiarity with the general schematic of levels of consciousness which Wilber has been steadily developing and refining for more than thirty years now (since his Up from Eden, first published in the early 1980s). Wilber summarizes this in an early section of his paper, but here’s the cliff notes version:

Levels of consciousness are “color coded” as follows:

  • Red: egocentric, self-referential, instinctual
  • Amber: (alias “mythic membership”): ethnocentric, authoritarian, pre-modern
  • Orange: world-centric, rational, individualistic, modern
  • Green: world centered, pluralistic, post-modern

Green, the highest evolutionary level consistently attained to date, began to emerge in the 1960s and has gown steadily for the new [following] five decades, to the point that by Wilber’s estimate, some 25% of the population are presently functioning at that level (how does he generate this data?). But along the way, green began to wander off course, increasingly caught in some internal contradictions that were inherent in its worldview from the start; i.e.:

  1. Its inherent tendency to relativism, which progressively morphed into the notion of the claim that there is no such thing as universal truth or universal values.
  2. An inherent “performative contradiction” between its claim that all values are equal and its inner assurance that its value (“that there is no universal truth”) is nonetheless normative and binding.
  3. A failure to distinguish between “dominator hierarchies” (based on oppression) and “growth hierarchies” (based on evolutionarily necessary differentiation), and a general dislike of all hierarchy.
  4. An [increasingly] hyper-sensitive political correctness that consistently stirred the pot of resentment and anger (both within green itself, the so-called “mean green meme,” and certainly against it, among the other levels of consciousness).

This “aperspectival madness,” as Wilber terms it, left the ostensible evolutionary leading edge caught in an increasing cul de sac of “nihilism and narcissism.” Trump was able to successfully fan the smoldering fires of resentment building at all three lower levels — red, amber, and orange — into a roaring blaze of anti-green sentiment — an “anti-green morphogenetic field” that went on to torch the entire green value system. However apparently contradictory and volatile Trump’s agendas may be, Wilber points out, the common denominator is that they are always anti-green.

Without condoning these agendas, Wilber does lay out a scenario through which it is possible to discern a coherence (I’ll stop short of saying a “justification”) behind the otherwise unfathomable upheaval that awaited the world on November 8. Rather than simply further demonizing Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” that put the man in office, or resorting to ominous and paralyzing specters of Hitler and Armageddon, Wilber’s hypothesis offers a way to make sense out of what happened —and to cooperate with evolution in making the necessary adjustments.

In the final section of his paper, Wilber does exactly that. He lays out several steps (some theoretical, others quite practical) whereby green could help heal itself and get back on track. In the end, however, Ken’s conviction becomes increasingly transparent — and finally explicit — that the basic performative contradictions inherent in “green-think” are so deep as to be unsalvageable, and that the only long-term and truly satisfying solution will come only from a robust emergence of the next level of consciousness: Integral (color-coded turquoise or teal), which is truly “second tier” (i.e., transitioning to the non-dual), capable of integrating and including all perspectives, unafraid of healthy hierarchy, and hence truly able to lead. It is from this level, he believes, that the ultimate evolutionary resolution will emerge — once a “tipping point” of about 10% of the population functioning at that level is stabilized.

If it takes the Trump election to create this evolutionary jolt, so be it; the important thing is not to miss the window of opportunity now that it has so dramatically opened.




II. Comments and Critique

1. The greatest contribution of this paper is that it gets the scale right: it “nails” the arena in which events are actually playing out and offers a plausible hypothesis as to the underlying causes, a hypothesis which restores both coherence and an empowerment. Virtually every other analysis I have seen — political, sociological, Biblical — is working from too narrow and limited a perspective (that’s the nature of intellectual discourse in the post-modern era; you either get rigor or breadth, rarely both). While I do not share all of Ken’s conclusions, I am totally in agreement that the evolutionary frame offers our best shot at a coherent explanation and a mature and skillful resolution.

2. And as Teilhard discovered a generation before, it is at the evolutionary scale — i.e., over deep time — that “deep hope” becomes possible. I am gratified that Ken seems to agree with Teilhard that evolution is intrinsically purposeful (and in much the same terms as Teilhard sees it: moving toward greater “complexification/consciousness” — not specifically so-named — and an ever-fuller manifestation of Love (or “Eros,” in Wilber languaging). I wish Teilhard were more generally cited in Wilber’s work; it would certainly draw the dual streams of Teilhardian and Integral Evolutionary Theory into a more creative and ultimately illumining dialogue.

3. I continue to suspect that Wilber often conflates “levels of consciousness” with “stages of growth.” The two are not identical, at least according to the criteria I have gleaned from my own Christian contemplative heritage. I remain to be convinced that orange and green are actually different levels; to me they look more like simply progressive stages of the same level. Orange may be individualistic while green is pluralistic, but both are relying on the mental egoic operating system (“perception through differentiation”) to run their program; green’s “groups”, therefore, are merely “individuals writ large,” (which “co-exist,” not a new holonic unity [which “coalesces”]). Or another way of saying it: green is simply orange looking through a post-modern filter.

This, incidentally, I believe to be another fatal “performative contradiction” undetected by Wilber; greens think FOR oneness but FROM “perception through differentiation;” how crazy-making is that? It’s a pretty significant developmental gap to navigate, causing their minds always to be out ahead of what their psyches can actually maintain. Hence the anger, the arrogance, and the hypocrisy.           

4. I’m no political historian, but I think Wilber takes some pretty large leapfrogs through the history of the political parties in the US. I’d be highly skeptical that he can make his assertion stick that Democrats by and large function in a higher level of consciousness (green/orange) than Republicans (orange/amber). This may be true of the past few decades, but given that prior to its infiltration by the Religious right, the Republican party was more often the standard bearer for the leading edge of consciousness, case in point: Abraham Lincoln), while the Democratic party was the home to most ethnicities and nearly all of the South. Thus, it’s difficult to see how it would be without its share of well-entrenched ethnocentric (amber) perspectives.

5. Finally, and most substantively, the most important corrective the Christian mystical tradition has to bring to current secular or Buddhist-based models of “second tier” (and higher) states of consciousness is the insistence that the leap to this new level of conscious functioning is not simply an extension of the cognitive line but requires “putting the mind in the heart,” not only attitudinally but neurologically. There is a supporting physiology to each tier of consciousness (which is why I think green and orange are still basically at the same level), and that all-important shift from 1st-tier to 2nd-tier will only happen when grounded in an active awakening of the heart.

And this means, basically, it will happen in the domain of devotion — i.e., our heart’s emotional assent and participation in the ultimate “thouness” of the cosmos and the experiential certainty of the divine not simply as “love” but as Lover. That is to say, I believe it happens beyond the gates of secularity, in the intense, holographic particularity of the upper echelons of each sacred tradition. This is for me the profound strength of Teilhard’s model, as over and against Wilber’s more secular model; it unabashedly is able to stir the fires of adoration and spiritual imagination as it “harnesses the energy of love.” Striving to light this same fire with metaphysical matches, Wilber is left essentially “anthropomorphizing” evolution, transforming it into a new version of the classic demiurge, the creative and implementing arm of the logoic omniscience.

I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback. I repeat: this is a groundbreaking and heartening essay, at the right scale, and headed in the right direction. It’s worth taking the time to grapple with.  

43 replies
  1. Ming
    Ming says:

    Great article, thx! Green seems to have the same ‘problem’ as Wilber described with Orange in Boomeritis… that for all the high-minded ideals, it still remains mired in Narcissism. And ironically the very advances in post-industrial technology, now ‘post-modern’, also seem to be -increasing- that very Narcissism, just as others like Christopher Lasch first warned in ‘The Culture of Narcissism’. Because no matter how ‘advanced’ the next stage of thinking, the Ego and Narcissism will always manage to ‘re-purpose’ it to suit its own self-centered ‘reflection’. And the very tech that brought about the next ‘stage’, also now facilitates that same Narcissism.

  2. Mike
    Mike says:

    Perhaps, hope for 10% + of society to evolve from primitive(ish) to “integrated,” might follow a similar path as going Step 1 to Step 12 in AA, or Rohr’s/Jung’s 2 halves of life. In other words, if enough people give-up on culture as it is, and actively foster a more [enlghtened] world, thru careful use of their words (spoken, typed, etc), and Votes, it could happen. But, have we fallen far enough yet? I’m afraid we have one more bad election cycle. Maybe Trump, or worse

  3. Mary Pat
    Mary Pat says:

    I am so grateful for both Cynthia and Ken and I really appreciate Cynthia’s critique. From a subjective view, having been studying integral since 2006 while also having a centering practice, I am increasingly aware of how in the midst of turmoil and a growing witnessing capacity I continue to, in retrospect often within an hour to hours, catch my own perspectives forming from teal, back to green and orange, and sometimes amber and red. It’s not hard within a short period of time to have any teal/turquoise stages hi-jacked by my lower ones. Fortunately, due to help from Cynthia’s writing and others, I am merciful with myself and recognize how complex our psyche and this transcend and INCLUDE really is. Growing increases gifts of Knowledge, Understanding and Compassion because its so humbling. It needs to be as this is really heady stuff, which I dearly love, but for me, state experiences of unity have convinced me of how our human condition most requires our ever openness to and acceptance of deep kenosis (which Cynthia has helped me with so much through her book: Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening) that can only truly begin to unfold through our soul level of awareness. No matter what form we are in, our inclusive loving “WE” awareness remains our truth as we participate in evolutions collective unfolding. My attachment to any outcomes has been torn from me leaving gapping wounds that are healing me at the same time. This is happening to so many in so many ways. We must be willing to become Love Incarnate, we were born for it and we need to Be that love Here and Now. Thank you for being willing to remain an amazing vessel for us all! I hope this makes some sense.

  4. John Earle
    John Earle says:

    Yes, putting the mind in the heart is key. Helps to remember the deep time component of evolution. After all we didn’t even know about evolution (Darwin’s Origen of Species)until the last half of the nineteenth century or ego until the first half of the twentieth (Freud)and evolution of consciousness (e.g. Wilberian synthesis) until the last half of twentieth. And here we are!! Thank you for your contribution, Cynthia.

  5. don salmon
    don salmon says:

    I just wrote this at the integral theology website. It might help clarify my earlier comments (and mercifully, it’s briefer:>))

    I think it would be interesting to explore the question of whether “stages” as a uniform, unchanging description of various phases of growth is an apt word.

    For example, virtually every developmental psychologist agrees that between the “sensorimotor” stage of infancy and the emergence of language, there is a dramatic change of “operating systems” – perhaps most fully illustrated by the full emergence of the “I”; self awareness.

    But if this is the case, is it really appropriate to refer to the “shift” from early to late adolescence – which some refer to as shifting from conventional to individual, or concrete operations to formal operations – as reflecting even remotely the same kind of shift from infancy to toddler-hood?

    it may be that what is happening in the second instance is not really a stage shift, but a progressive refinement of the capacities of the pre-frontal cortex (the mediator of self-awareness).

    To go much further, is the shift from ordinary consciousness to nondual consciousness the same as either of those other two shifts just mentioned?

    If not (and I don’t think it is, as it is not an evolutionary or developmental shift but a “shift” outside of time and space altogether) then ‘stages’ wouldn’t be appropriate for this either.

    Indian philosophy has terms, “Sattwa, rajas and tamas,” which provide a profound, psycho-cosmological understanding of the evolution of consciousness but avoid the limitations of the whole ‘stage’ concept.

    Given that almost the entire field of developmental psychology (outside of spiral dynamics and Wilber’s integral psychology) has abandoned stage thinking, it might be worthwhile to re-think this model.

  6. don salmon
    don salmon says:

    I just came across this in my morning ‘lectio divina” practice. It is from Sri Aurobindo’s “Synthesis of Yoga,” (available for free online) in the section on “the Yoga of Works.” He is discussing here the availability to all human beings, no matter what “level” of development, of the ‘ladder of Love.” It reveals an entirely different vision of the unfolding of nondual spiritual awareness from the hierarchical view (though still allowing for evolutionary progression)

    **** (p. 172)

    Although it is a divine love for the supreme and universal Divine that must be the rule of our spiritual existence, this does not exclude altogether all forms of individual love or the ties that draw soul to soul in manifested existence. A psychic change is demanded, a divestiture of the masks of the Ignorance, a purification of the egoistic mental, vital and physical movements that prolong the old inferior consciousness; each movement of love, spiritualised, must depend no longer on mental preference, vital passion or physical craving, but on the recognition of soul by soul,—love restored to its fundamental spiritual and psychic essence with the mind, the vital, the physical as manifesting instruments and elements of that greater oneness.

    In this change the individual love also is converted by a natural heightening into a divine love for the Divine Inhabitant imma- nent in a mind and soul and body occupied by the One in all creatures.

    All love, indeed, that is adoration has a spiritual force behind it, and even when it is offered ignorantly and to a limited object, something of that splendour appears through the poverty of the rite and the smallness of its issues. For love that is worship is at once an aspiration and a preparation: it can bring even within its small limits in the Ignorance a glimpse of a still more or less blind and partial but surprising realisation; for there are moments when it is not we but the One who loves and is loved in us, and even a human passion can be uplifted and glorified by a slight glimpse of this infinite Love and Lover. It is for this reason that the worship of the god, the worship of the idol, the human magnet or ideal are not to be despised; for these are steps through which the human race moves towards that blissful passion and ecstasy of the Infinite which, even in limiting it, they yet represent for our imperfect vision when we have still to use the inferior steps Nature has hewn for our feet and admit the stages of our progress. Certain idolatries are indispensable for the development of our emotional being, nor will the man who knows be hasty at any time to shatter the image unless he can replace it in the heart of the worshipper by the Reality it figures. Moreover, they have this power because there is always something in them that is greater than their forms and, even when we reach the supreme worship, that abides and becomes a prolongation of it or a part of its catholic wholeness. Our knowledge is still imperfect in us, love incomplete if even when we know That which surpasses all forms and manifestations, we cannot still accept the Divine in creature and object, in man, in the kind, in the animal, in the tree, in the flower, in the work of our hands, in the Nature-Force which is then no longer to us the blind action of a material machinery but a face and power of the universal Shakti: for in these things too is the presence of the Eternal.

    • Holly
      Holly says:

      In reading your last few comments, Don, I am wondering what you think of the difference Ken makes between Stages of development (spiral dynamics, the colors) and States of consciousness (spiritual, emotional). I think this is one of the most profound parts of integral thinking and it feels they are being confused in this dialogue ~ Stages of development are permanent, States more fluid. With Stages we transcend and include, with States we flow in and out again. That is why someone can have a high State experience at any Stage of development and interpret that experience through the lense of their developmental Stage ~ an example of this might be religious extemist killing folks that don’t believe the same as them. The interesting thing that happens in the higher Stages of development, they look like permanently acquired spiritual States. This is where Integral puts Aurobindo’s levels of unfolding~ in the higher Stages of the cognitive line of development. The Wilber Combs Lattice is a bringing together of Stages and States. I am interested in what you think ~ Holly

      • don salmon
        don salmon says:

        Hi Holly:

        Great questions. Maybe I’m coming from too academic a viewpoint. Ken Wilber originally (back in the early 70s, when he wrote “Spectrum of Consciousness”) took the idea of “stages” from academic psychology; Piaget specifically. There is virtually nobody in mainstream academia who takes “stages” in Piaget’s original sense seriously (even Piaget dramatically changed his idea).

        So we could just let go of that and say, well, maybe Ken just developed his own idea. That requires a whole essay in itself, but to me, the crucial thing is, what is developing? In Ken’s version of a primarily Advaita Vedantic/Buddhist view, (this is not necessarily an accurate depiction of Vedanta or Buddhism, but that’s another thing; I’m referring here to how he has presented his work over the last 40 years) there’s just no coherent description of a true individual. He himself recognized this in the early 2000s and started talking about the authentic self (borrowed in part from Marc Gafni) but if you look at just about any Sufi, Christian mystic, Dzogchen/Nyingma, Vaishnava, Tantric or many other of the more integrative spiritual traditions, you can see that there’s very very little in modern transpersonal or integral literature that conveys the majesty, infinity, beauty, Ananda (bliss), oneness with God of the true soul, the true individual.

        It seems to me, if you don’t start, right at the beginning, with Truth, but instead, simply paste together ideas from materialistic psychology, you’re going to end up exactly where Ken ended up somewhere in the early 90s – with a motley pastiche, a kind of Chinese menu selection (take stages from column A, states from column B, add garlic and soy sauce, mix with lines of development, and still you’ll be hungry just an hour or two later!).

        On the other hand, just taking the Indian tradition, which I know best, but is not necessarily in any way “superior” to others, you start right off the bat with the Divine, the Purushottama, the Supreme Godhead who is beyond personal and impersonal and who wholly integrates both and all and more and beyond. The true individual, the Soul, whether you understand it as merging or simply in union, must be the basis of any truly integral psychology (note – the term “integral psychology” was first coined in the mid 1930s, when Dr. Indra Sen, an Indian psychologist, went to Sri Aurobindo and asked his permission to use the term to refer to a psychological vision inspired by integral Yoga).

        So, what is developing? Now we have somewhere to start. It is ALWAYS the soul that is developing. Now we start completely transforming the idea of “stages” as well as “lines” (by the way, Howard Gardner has pretty much left aside his original formulation of “lines of development” as well).

        In the Indian formulation of development, the soul may express through the physical, “vital” (pranic, life, energy, chi) and mental structures or levels of consciousness. That overall expression may be tamasic (dominated by the generally inert, dull physical consciousness) rajasic (dominated by the active, vital consciousness) or sattwic (dominated by the purified, calm, mental consciousness). This is incredibly practical when we translate it into contemplative neuroscience. You can take, for example, virtually any DSM diagnosis (i actually do this in my psychology work, though I don’t necessarily tell my colleagues or patients!:>)) I’l trust y’all to keep this between us) and see the way that the pre-frontal cortex (the vehicle in the brain for developing a sattwic consciousness) is being subverted by the mental, emotional or instinctive programming of the brain (in other words, the rajasic and tamasic aspects of our consciousness).

        The whole concept of “lines” is just far too mechanical to deal with the extraordinary complexity of our mind/brain/life/body complex. To give a specific illustration of this, Jan (my wife) and I have been using Dan Siegel’s “interpersonal neurobiology” as a basis for our website on the brain and mindfulness (www.remember-to-breathe.org). Over the last year or so, I’ve been feeling increasingly that his emphasis on brain localization is too rigid and concrete (in a very similar way to the way Wilber uses his various categories). I spoke last summer to a friend who teaches the brain to medical students, and he told me that neuroscientists are widely moving away from defining the brain in terms of structures (the amygdala is the “fear center”; the brain stem is where the “fight or flight” mechanism is located) and toward complex neural networks.

        Interestingly, this fits quite well with Indian psychology.

        So to sum up this ridiculously long comment:

        1. The foundation of any truly integral psychology (“psychology” literally meaning “the science of the soul”) must be the soul, and must be rooted in a deep, profound understanding of what the soul is.
        2. The soul expresses through mental, vital and physical vehicles (at least, on the earth plane; there are other worlds we’re living in and interacting on at this moment – what may be colorfully referred to as the “dream” or inner worlds – the Sufis spend a LOT of time on this and this knowledge is also essential for understanding psychological and spiritual development).
        3. The soul expression does not progress through rigid or even definable “stages” but rather, the expression progressively mirrors more and more fully the wisdom, love, compassion, and beauty of the soul. Those religious folks you refer to as murderous or aggressive are simply being ruled by the lower parts of the brain; it doesn’t need much more complexity than that.
        4. Virtually all of the spiral dynamics “stages” can be seen as moving from tamasic to rajasic to various refinements of the sattwic (even what many people are calling “nondual” is described in the Bhagavad Gita simply as the most refined sattwic expression – you can see this in chapter 17 where the yogi who is sattwic is described as seeing One in all and all in One – and is not yet even awakened!)
        5. The higher ‘stages’ that Sri Aurobindo describes – Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, etc are beyond the highest spiral dynamics stages. Ken Wilber’s definitions just have nothing to do with what Sri Aurobindo wrote, and it’s probably best not to even get into those until the rest is clear.

        All of this very much strengthens Cynthia’s intuition, that she expresses very well in The Heart of Centering Prayer, that there is a profoundly different way of looking at the awakening and transformative process of soul awakening than the standard ascent/hierarchical approach. Rather there is an opening inward and a shining outward that I don’t think is captured by the Wilber/Combs lattice (I’ve talked to Alan about this as well).

        I’m sorry, I’m not really editing this – I’ve dashed this out while taking a break from composing some music for our course, so, I hope it’s not too all over the place.

      • don salmon
        don salmon says:

        Hi again:

        After looking at the very wordy comment, I feel a need to express this in a really different way.

        Jan and I did a 7 day “insight dialog” retreat back in the summer of 2000. Greg Kramer had developed “insight dialog” after teaching insight meditation for over 20 years, finding that people would meditate, or go on retreats, and have all kinds of wonderful experiences and then go out after the meditation or retreat and clearly failed to integrate their experiences (it sounds like “states” vs. “stages” but I don’t think that quite captures it). He felt the most difficulty his students had was in the area of relationship, so he developed a “meditative/relationship” practice.

        Greg gave us permission to teach this practice, and over time, I felt it was a bit artificial. I suggested to Greg he take a text, and use it as the basis for the meditative conversations.

        Is this sounding familiar? Of course, it’s lectio divina! In fact, the Tibetan Buddhist “analytic meditation” is so similar, I have found contemporary descriptions of lectio divina often contain the exact same phrases as teachings on analytic meditation.

        So what does this have to do with your question?

        When I read about the intense disputes regarding Wilber on “www.integralworld.net” (I don’t recommend it – you’ll get a headache:>)) – every time I feel, “this is not the way to do integrative psychology.”

        I’d love to get people together for a retreat – at LEAST 3 or 4 days, but preferably at least a week. The first 2 or 3 days, no reading, no thinking, no talking, just being together in silence, in waking, dreaming, sleeping, eating, walking, in yoga, or basketball, or zip lining, or whatever people want, but no words.

        When everything is flowing, and synchronicities abound, and we’re at the point where we can finish each other’s sentences so much fewer words will be needed, then we start.

        Start, as always, with the soul. Here’s one of my favorite descriptions/guides, from a short article written by Mirra Alfassa in the early 1950s (actually, about 6 months before I was born:>)):


        The starting-point is to seek in yourself that which is in- dependent of the body and the circumstances of life, which is not born of the mental formation that you have been given, the language you speak, the habits and customs of the environment in which you live, the country where you are born or the age to which you belong. You must find, in the depths of your being, that which carries in it a sense of universality, limitless expan- sion, unbroken continuity. Then you decentralise, extend and widen yourself; you begin to live in all things and in all beings; the barriers separating individuals from each other break down. You think in their thoughts, vibrate in their sensations, feel in their feelings, live in the life of all. What seemed inert suddenly becomes full of life, stones quicken, plants feel and will and suffer, animals speak in a language more or less inarticulate, but clear and expressive; everything is animated by a marvellous consciousness without time or limit. And this is only one aspect of the psychic realisation; there are others, many others. All help you to go beyond the barriers of your egoism, the walls of your external personality, the impotence of your reactions and the incapacity of your will.

        But, as I have already said, the path to that realisation is long and difficult, strewn with snares and problems to be solved, which demand an unfailing determination. It is like the explorer’s trek through virgin forest in quest of an unknown land, of some great discovery. The psychic being is also a great discovery which requires at least as much fortitude and en- durance as the discovery of new continents. A few simple words of advice may be useful to one who has resolved to undertake it.

        The first and perhaps the most important point is that the mind is incapable of judging spiritual things. All those who have written on this subject have said so; but very few are those who have put it into practice. And yet, in order to proceed on the path, it is absolutely indispensable to abstain from all mental opinion and reaction.

        Give up all personal seeking for comfort, satisfaction, en- joyment or happiness. Be only a burning fire for progress, take whatever comes to you as an aid to your progress and immedi- ately make whatever progress is required.

        Try to take pleasure in all you do, but never do anything for the sake of pleasure.
        Never get excited, nervous or agitated. Remain perfectly calm in the face of all circumstances. And yet be always alert to discover what progress you still have to make and lose no time in making it.
        Never take physical happenings at their face value. They are always a clumsy attempt to express something else, the true thing which escapes our superficial understanding.
        Never complain of the behaviour of anyone, unless you have the power to change in his nature what makes him act in this way; and if you have the power, change him instead of complaining.

        Whatever you do, never forget the goal which you have set before you. There is nothing great or small once you have set out on this great discovery; all things are equally important and can either hasten or delay its success. Thus before you eat, concentrate a few seconds in the aspiration that the food you are about to eat may bring your body the substance it needs to serve as a solid basis for your effort towards the great discovery, and give it the energy for persistence and perseverance in the effort.

        Before you go to sleep, concentrate a few seconds in the aspiration that the sleep may restore your fatigued nerves, bring calm and quietness to your brain so that on waking you may, with renewed vigour, begin again your journey on the path of the great discovery.
        Before you act, concentrate in the will that your action may help or at least in no way hinder your march forward towards the great discovery.
        When you speak, before the words come out of your mouth, concentrate just long enough to check your words and allow only those that are absolutely necessary to pass, only those that are not in any way harmful to your progress on the path of the great discovery.
        To sum up, never forget the purpose and goal of your life.

        The will for the great discovery should be always there above you, above what you do and what you are, like a huge bird of light dominating all the movements of your being.

        Before the untiring persistence of your effort, an inner door will suddenly open and you will emerge into a dazzling splen- dour that will bring you the certitude of immortality, the con- crete experience that you have always lived and always shall live, that external forms alone perish and that these forms are, in relation to what you are in reality, like clothes that are thrown away when worn out. Then you will stand erect, freed from all chains, and instead of advancing laboriously under the weight of circumstances imposed upon you by Nature, which you had to endure and bear if you did not want to be crushed by them, you will be able to walk on, straight and firm, conscious of your destiny, master of your life.

        And yet this release from all slavery to the flesh, this libera- tion from all personal attachment is not the supreme fulfilment. There are other steps to climb before you reach the summit. And even these steps can and should be followed by others which will open the doors to the future. These following steps will form the object of what I call spiritual education.

        But before we enter on this new stage and deal with the question in detail, an explanation is necessary. Why is a dis- tinction made between the psychic education of which we have just spoken and the spiritual education of which we are about to speak now? Because the two are usually confused under the general term of “yogic discipline”, although the goals they aim at are very different: for one it is a higher realisation upon earth, for the other an escape from all earthly manifestation, even from the whole universe, a return to the unmanifest.
        So one can say that the psychic life is immortal life, endless time, limitless space, ever-progressive change, unbroken conti- nuity in the universe of forms. The spiritual consciousness, on the other hand, means to live the infinite and the eternal, to be projected beyond all creation, beyond time and space. To become conscious of your psychic being and to live a psychic life you must abolish all egoism; but to live a spiritual life you must no longer have an ego.

        Here also, in spiritual education, the goal you set before you will assume, in the mind’s formulation of it, different names according to the environment in which you have been brought up, the path you have followed and the affinities of your tem- perament. Those who have a religious tendency will call it God and their spiritual effort will be towards identification with the transcendent God beyond all forms, as opposed to the immanent God dwelling in each form. Others will call it the Absolute, the Supreme Origin, others Nirvana; yet others, who view the world as an unreal illusion, will name it the Only Reality and to those who regard all manifestation as falsehood it will be the Sole Truth. And every one of these expressions contains an element of truth, but all are incomplete, expressing only one aspect of that which is. Here too, however, the mental formulation has no great importance and once you have passed through the intermediate stages, the experience is identical. In any case, the most effective starting-point, the swiftest method is total self- giving. Besides, no joy is more perfect than the joy of a total self-giving to whatever is the summit of your conception: for some it is the notion of God, for others that of Perfection. If this self-giving is made with persistence and ardour, a moment comes when you pass beyond the concept and arrive at an experience that escapes all description, but which is almost always identical in its effects. And as your self-giving becomes more and more perfect and integral, it will be accompanied by the aspiration for identification, a total fusion with That to which you have given yourself, and little by little this aspiration will overcome all differences and all resistances, especially if with the aspiration there is an intense and spontaneous love, for then nothing can stand in the way of its victorious drive.

        There is an essential difference between this identification and the identification with the psychic being. The latter can be made more and more lasting and, in certain cases, it becomes permanent and never leaves the person who has realised it, what- ever his outer activities may be. In other words, the identification is no longer realised only in meditation and concentration, but its effects are felt at every moment of one’s life, in sleep as well as in waking.

        On the other hand, liberation from all form and the identifi- cation with that which is beyond form cannot last in an absolute manner; for it would automatically bring about the dissolution of the material form. Certain traditions say that this dissolution happens inevitably within twenty days of the total identification. Yet it is not necessarily so; and even if the experience is only mo- mentary, it produces in the consciousness results that are never obliterated and have repercussions on all states of the being, both internal and external. Moreover, once the identification has been realised, it can be renewed at will, provided that you know how to put yourself in the same conditions.
        This merging into the formless is the supreme liberation sought by those who want to escape from an existence which no longer holds any attraction for them. It is not surprising that they are dissatisfied with the world in its present form. But a liberation that leaves the world as it is and in no way affects the conditions of life from which others suffer, cannot satisfy those who refuse to enjoy a boon which they are the only ones, or almost the only ones, to possess, those who dream of a world more worthy of the splendours that lie hidden behind its apparent disorder and wide-spread misery. They dream of sharing with others the wonders they have discovered in their inner exploration. And the means to do so is within their reach, now that they have arrived at the summit of their ascent.

        From beyond the frontiers of form a new force can be evoked, a power of consciousness which is as yet unexpressed and which, by its emergence, will be able to change the course of things and give birth to a new world. For the true solu- tion to the problem of suffering, ignorance and death is not an individual escape from earthly miseries by self-annihilation into the unmanifest, nor a problematical collective flight from universal suffering by an integral and final return of the creation to its creator, thus curing the universe by abolishing it, but a transformation, a total transfiguration of matter brought about by the logical continuation of Nature’s ascending march in her progress towards perfection, by the creation of a new species that will be to man what man is to the animal and that will manifest upon earth a new force, a new consciousness and a new power. And so will begin a new education which can be called the supramental education; it will, by its all-powerful action, work not only upon the consciousness of individual beings, but upon the very substance of which they are built and upon the environment in which they live.

        In contrast with the types of education we have mentioned previously, which progress from below upwards by an ascending movement of the various parts of the being, the supramental education will progress from above downwards, its influence spreading from one state of being to another until at last the physical is reached. This last transformation will only occur visibly when the inner states of being have already been consid- erably transformed. It is therefore quite unreasonable to try to recognise the presence of the supramental by physical appear- ances. For these will be the last to change and the supramental force can be at work in an individual long before anything of it becomes perceptible in his bodily life.

        To sum up, one can say that the supramental education will result no longer in a progressive formation of human nature and an increasing development of its latent faculties, but in a trans- formation of the nature itself, a transfiguration of the being in its entirety, a new ascent of the species above and beyond man towards superman, leading in the end to the appearance of a divine race upon earth.

        Bulletin, February 1952

      • don salmon
        don salmon says:

        ok, now, the webmaster is going to be after me for this! No, seriously, tell me if this is all too much:>)) I just felt there’s another aspect of this that is so essential……. well, ok, here goes

        So, silence, stillness, seeing, embracing the energies ever-arising “from”/within the Infinite in whom we live and move and have our being.

        13.7 billion years ago is “now” (the eternal, not passing “now”)

        even the most intransigent materialist scientists are starting to view this all so differently. Christof Koch, who worked with the late Francis “you’re nothing but a pack of neurons” Crick is inching toward panpsychism – a crude enough view, but at least, one seeing consciousness pervading the universe (that’s “C”onciousness, not “c” consciousness!).

        And in the past 15 years, an enormous body of good, solid mainstream research has emerged providing indisputable evidence for an “evolution” of consciousness. Freeman Dyson sees electrons as having mind-like abilities to make a “choice” – botanists are telling us of the intelligence of plants (in which, by the way, Mirra Alfassa tells us the soul is near the surface – so much for linear “stages”!); one celled organisms are seen as demonstrating sentience AND intelligence; animals as “simple” as fish have some kind of “centered” experience; mammals like squirrels have an internal imagery capacity to remember where over 30,000 nuts are buried; primates have a sophisticated enough mental development to have a genuine social culture and to be able to practice deception. And the psychic being (different from the “soul” or “psychic entity”) is using all this to grow over lifetimes, millennia, billions of years. And there may be something like “lines of karma” where the infinitely complex physical, vital and mental consciousness which the soul uses for expression has consequences for the individual, for interwoven societies, for the planet, for the physical universe, and for the infinitely larger “inner” universes of which there are innumerable manifestations, and all of this “within” the Silence and all of it manifesting the Divine beyond both the manifestation and the Silence.

        “What need have you, Arjuna, to have all my glories enumerated. With an infinitesimal drop of my ineffable, unthinkable Being, I manifest this and all possible universes, in all of which it is well, it shall be well, all is all, and each all, and infinite the glory. Each of them is great, the small is great: the un, There, is all the stars, and every star again is all the stars and sun.” (thanks to Sri Krishna, Julian of Norwich and Plotinus:>)

        All that is glorious, beautiful or mighty shines by reflection of a portion of that Being. Vainly we seek on earth a symbol grand enough to adumbrate its glories. In ancient Egypt and Chaldea the starry heaven was Its only symbol; the heaven with its interlinked and patterned stars whirling in gleaming harmonies around the pole. But all the splendors of the cosmic depths, their mind-annihilating magnitudes of time and space, symbol to all men of eternal Law and Beauty, are but a moment of the Might Atman [Mahat Atman]; infinities ranged on the shoulders of infinities; a wondrous hierarchy of living spiritual Powers where each is each and each is All and all dance forth in ecstasy the Cosmic Harmony.

        Vast beyond thought as is this spiritual realm, this flaming Cosmos of Divine Ideas, yet still beyond lies That, the One Eternal, the Parabrahman, Rootless Root of all> Beyond all Gods, beyond all time and space, beyond all being even, flames Its dark transcendent Light

        From that Eternal Brahman issues forth the Mighty Atman, great beyond all thought, and all the countless starry worlds that fill the wide immensities of space. Yet so vast is Its spaceless, timeless grandeur that all these wondrous emanated worlds are as a drop taken from out the ocean, leaving Its shoreless being ever full. Therefore, Sri Krishna, speaking for That Brahman, says, “having established this entire universe with one fragment of Myself, I remain.”

        And how do we see this?

        “On Me fix thy mind; give thyself in love to Me; sacrifice to Me; prostrate thyself before Me; having thus untied thy whole self to Me, with Me as thy Goal, to Me shalt though come… Fix thy mind on Me; give thy heart’s love to Me.” To such a one, giving himself in the ecstasy of love, there comes the free response of love, the pressure of the hand, the strong support, as unfettered and as free from all thoughts of “deserving” as is human love at its best. “To Me, then, shalt thou come; truly I promise, for thou art dear to Me.” (From Krishna Prem’s commentary on the Gita)


    • Mary Pat Jones
      Mary Pat Jones says:

      Just wanted to say I really found your entry helpful and intriguing. Will check out your site. Thank you!

  7. Holly
    Holly says:

    It is interesting to see the many parts of Ken Wilber’s integral theory ~ quadrants, stages of development, states of consciousness, lines of development and types. When we look through all these perspectives there is room for higher levels of cognition as well as spiritual development, emotional development etc ~ these being unique lines of development that are moving through stages to encompass more consciousness, love, awareness and heart.

    • don salmon
      don salmon says:

      Holly: Here’s a much more succinct version:

      1. Development refers to the development of something. If development occurs by stages, what is it that is going through the stages? If it’s cognition, whose cognition? The same question goes for affect, motivation, kinesthetic ability, or any other “line” of development (if what we are in truth is Spirit, then “Spirit” can’t possibly be a separate “line” of development – it makes the whole notion of development incoherent). The concept of discrete psychological stages of development originated with Piaget, who was trained as a biologist, so he didn’t deal at all with the question of “self.” If the self doesn’t go through stages, but the vehicles through which the self or Soul manifests are progressively more imbued with qualities of Soul, does it even make sense to say that this progressive manifestation occurs in discrete stages?
      2. If we granted that it might make sense in some instances to talk of stages, one of Cynthia’s favorite phrases, “operating system,” may clear it all up. Take what Piaget referred to as the sensori-motor stage of development, that of the new born infant. Virtually everyone in the field of psychology, whether or not they refer to stages, agrees that something radically different occurs in the transition from non-verbal newborn to verbal toddler. There is clearly a different “operating system.” You can see this clearly with a quick thought experiment. I assume you’re at least 20 years old, so think back 16 or so years (for me it’s nearly 60 years). Can you remember anything vividly from age 4 or 5? I have a very distinct recollection of sitting in the dining room in my house in Harrington Park, NJ, where my older sister was teaching me, at the age of 4, to read music and where, in the next several months, I was able to make my way through book 1 of accordion lessons. I imagine you may have some similarly vivid memories, at least of Kindergarten. Now, you’ve gone back almost 2 decades, just go back about 3 more years. Nothing. Zip, no memories of when you were 3 months old, right? Of course not, it was a different operating system.
      3. We now have the two major distinctions from Indian psychology – the manas, or instinctive, emotional mind, which we share with animals, and which is present in our infancy (primates can perform cognitive operations equal to that of a 4 or 5 year old, but do not have the complex level of self-awareness of a 2 year old child – they do not have that same operating system. Self awareness exists, but it is that of manas, not of the new operating system, the Buddhi, which is mediated by that unique part of the human brain, the prefrontal cortex.
      4. In this light, rather than a NEW operating system, blue, orange, green, yellow, turquoise and on up through 2nd tier, are not really new operating systems, but Buddhi.1, B.1.0, B.1.1, B.1.2, (and 2nd tier) B.2.0, B.2.1, etc. And the non-dual is not “higher”; it’s not a stage at all. One realizes or awakens to nonduality by stepping outside the sphere of development at any point. It is always (infinitely) here and (eternally) now – that is, outside of time and space, thus, outside the realm of development.

      Now, for states. The concept of a “state of consciousness” as used by Wilber comes from Charles Tart, who coined the term to help people understand what was happening with psychedelic drugs. The “waking, dream and deep state” classification from Vedanta really has nothing to do with this. The “waking state” and “Dream state” really have very little to do with waking or dream consciousness. Rather, those terms are symbolic of organizations of consciousness which relate to the typical structure in waking – which is characterized by the most rigid separation of subject and object; and dreaming – which Sri Aurobindo refers to as “knowledge by direct contact” – which can be so overwhelming that many have mistaken the unified field experience of the inner dream realm as the nondual. The Deep Sleep state – sushupti – is not the darkness of typical deep sleep, but the bright Light of prajna. It does not require going into what Tart might call a different “state of consciousness” to access this. One simply shifts attention while in the waking “state” – and immediately perceives the inner realm by direct contact, or with another deeper shift, sees all with the eyes of Light of prajna.

      As for the distinction you made, the Tibetan Buddhists, particularly in Dzogchen, as well as Paul Brunton and Sri Aurobindo, all make the simple distinction between temporary “experiences” of cosmic consciousness, of nonduality, of Self, of awakening, with “realizations” which are permanent. This distinction goes back at least 3000 years, where it can be found in the Katha Upanishad, and nothing about states and stages is needed to make this clear.

      I hope that helps.

      very best,


  8. Ron Adams
    Ron Adams says:

    Cynthia, Thank you for your insightful critique of Ken Wilber’s ebook. My take is that you have correctly highlighted a weakness in Wilber’s separation of Green and Orange and have given us a needed corrective to not be elitist no matter what level we feel we are at. As many have commented, we so often fall into the dualism around distinctions of levels. As you indicate ‘green may simply be orange looking through a postmodern lens’. Your corrective that ‘I’d be highly skeptical that he can make his assertion stick that Democrats by and large function in a higher level of consciousness (green/orange) than Republicans (Orange/Amber)” is right on target. Wilber makes the point that at each level there is a leading healthy edge and a dysfunctional chaotic drag that he calls ‘aperspectival madness’. Could it be that Democrats and Republicans for the most part are all operating out of the dysfunctional side of their own current level? The urgent need of our time is for individuals to transcend to the healthy Teal level that appreciates the contributions of all other levels and then moves forward with healthy dialogue around terrifically hard modern problems. Your cosmic Christ may be transformative to many, but Wilber’s secular spirituality will be the avenue by which many others move forward.

    • don salmon
      don salmon says:

      Hi Ron:

      I just read your interesting comment. I think your references to Cynthia’s vision of the cosmic Christ links well to the passage from Sri Aurobindo that I quoted.

      The cosmic Christ, not being a “level,” is available to all, in a way that the complex cognitive structure referred to as “Teal” is not. Through simplicity and progressively less self-centered love, any and all human beings may move forward.

  9. don salmon
    don salmon says:

    (Following up on previous point on stages of development) A very easy way of looking at the problem with “stages” of development is to use a great phrase that Cynthia has used:

    The shift from “manas” (the sense mind or emotional mind of Vedanta) to “buddhi” (that which is “enlightened” in the Buddha) is a shift from one operating system to another. The changes in spiral dynamics from blue to orange to green to yellow are all changes within the same operating system. If manas is mountain lion, and buddhi is yosemite, then blue, orange, etc are simply yosemite, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc.

    By reaching an ever-widening circle of individuals with mindfulness and more importantly, truly contemplative practices, the inner cultural world will shift to a new operating system.

    At the same time, this can be facilitated with “outer” institutional or structural change. When building new institutions, when creating community structures, when devising new economies or political structures, to look at what facilitates the shift from manas, to buddhi, and beyond (see the end of chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita for more on this ancient “developmental” process), and to look further at what facilitates the emergence of the new OS beyond buddhi (beyond – the higher intuition; and within, the Divine spark, the soul or evolving psychic being).

  10. don salmon
    don salmon says:

    I love your point about the “leap” required for the new era is from the heart, rather than merely cognitive. Ultimately, it’s certainly clear, from the evolutionary perspective, that the only sustainable solution to the global crisis is a shift to a new consciousness. Jean Gebser had a “vision” of this in the early 1930s, himself acknowledging that, on the inner planes, he had been influenced by Sri Aurobindo’s “field of force” in the emergence of this vision. Franklin Merrell Wolff also recognized what he referred to as “Recognition” as the only solution; and of course, Sorokin and de Chardin (along with, more recently, Joanna Macy and David Korten) have said the same.

    What struck me about the Wilber article is the same problem with the concept of “stages of development” that he has struggled with since the 1970s (by the way, in his “Wilber-Combs lattice,” he does attempt something like a distinction between stages and levels, but the problem remains there as well).

    The essential problem is that Wilber began writing in the 1970s, at a point when Piaget’s ideas about stages had not yet been completed rejected. The “cognitive revolution” had already, in the previous decade, begun to view development in terms of increasing complexity of information processing, but the ‘stage’ idea continued to linger (in 2003, I spent some time researching the newest ideas on development – I was struck by a 1000+ page book published by the American Psychological Association, “A Century of Developmental Psychology,” which, apart from a dozen or so pages reviewing Piaget, had not one word to say about stages of development!).

    In the 1990s, TM researcher Charles Alexander edited the book, “Higher Stages of Development.” The majority of the authors continued to hold on to the by-then completed outmoded views of stages. Alexander began the book with a section that included several authors who held the “information-processing” theory. This did not seem at all promising to me, but one author – Ellen Langer – stood out. For the most part, she rejected the concept of stages of development, with one exception – those that occurred in early childhood. Though she is now mostly known as the major proponent of the allegedly “Western” form of mindfulness, her proposal was almost identical to that of Indian psychology from over 2000 years ago.

    To take it back “just a bit”

    If you look at the beginning of the cosmic evolutionary process, and consider the 370,000 or so years when elements and the ‘laws’ (patterns!?) of nature were forming, you can already see an “increasing” manifestation (emergence) of consciousness. Jumping ahead 10 or so billion years, we now know that plants have a rather marvelous “nervous system” of sorts and clear signs of conscious response to their environments. Similarly, we continue to discover more and more marvelous signs of consciousness even in one celled organisms. With the increasing number of mainstream cognitive scientists and philosophers beginning to look at panpsychism seriously, and the clear evidence of a phylogenetic “ladder” in biological evolution, we’re on the verge (just in time for the transition to the new era) of an evolutionarily-based science of consciousness which, in tandem with contemplative science and the emergence of contemplative disciplines throughout the existing world religions, provides a strong foundation for the age to come.

    The ethologist Frans de Waal suggests that some kind of “centering” of experience appears even in fish, and grows stronger in amphibians and reptiles. With mammals – and most likely birds, at least, African Gray parrots like Alex Pepperberg! – we have clear signs of “reasoning” though for the most part, still very little “self-awareness” if at all. This kind of emotionally and “vitally” based reasoning is almost exactly what Indian psychology refers to as the “manas.” This same “manas” (“sense mind” or “emotional mind” – “emotions” here being the passions, not necessarily complex human feelings) is predominant in the infant.

    What seems to happen in a few animals – chimpanzees, dolphins, Alex, and a few others – is the first glimmer of self-recognition, very much along the lines of what starts to occur in human infants somewhere between 18 months and 3 years (“No!” is one of the great signs of this:>). This is the emergence of the Buddhi, represented physiologically by our pre-frontal cortex (“PFC” for short) with its capacity for abstract thinking, planning, deciding, judgment, self-awareness, empathy and self-regulation).

    But in Indian psychology, the Buddhi was never understood along purely cognitive lines. In fact, as the Buddhi becomes progressively illumined, a number of stunning things begin to happen: (1) with the freeing up of consciousness from the “tamasic” (ie inert, dull, subconscious) influences of the physical and instinctive consciousness) and from the “rajasic” (ie hyperenergetic) influence of the “life” (pranic, chi) consciousness, its innate sense of the whole, of unity, of integrality, begins to emerge, with an increasingly refined balance of cognition, volition and affect (‘knowing, willing and feeling’ in classic Aristotelian and Kantian terms).

    Two more profound things begin to occur. Through contemplative practice, as one gains the ability, through the purified Buddhi, to enter more and more into Silence, the “knowing/feeling” of the Heart awakens, and one more and more acts “from” the Heart rather than relating to it as something essentially separate. At the same time (it’s not really time – it’s synchronous, outside what we ordinarily conceive as “time”) the Light of the Spirit begins to irradiate the now “enlightened” Buddhi and the world and the “self” are seen in an utterly and profoundly new way.

    So to get back to the early “phase,” it is not so much stages that have been popularized as blue, orange, green, etc, but a progressive (and non-quantifiable – at least, not through Loevinger’s “sentence completion” test!) refinement of the Buddhi, as it becomes freed from the influence of the manas and the “indriyas” (senses), opens to the influence of the Heart within and the Spirit above.

    The key to all this is the understanding of the true individual, which has nothing to do with the separative ego. It is the soul, or as Sri Aurobindo refers to it, the “psychic being” which is the Divine spark progressively, over the course of evolution, developing a vehicle to manifest the Divine “on earth, as it is in heaven.”

  11. Nigel Wellings
    Nigel Wellings says:

    Such a relief to hear a wise and compassionate voice in the midst of so much fear – and speaking of fear is it not fear that permeates this whole thing: fear that fuels a refuge in what is ‘orange’ but also fear of letting a known narrative go at the level of ‘green’? I guess it is then fear that ties us all together and it is how we respond to fear that differentiates who we are. In this sense post-Trump I have spent quite a lot of time a warmish kind of colour which is a mix between red and yellow but am looking forward to ‘teal’, (what colour is that exactly?).

  12. Ian Spencer
    Ian Spencer says:

    The “teal” colour seems to me to be a useful metaphor for the understanding that any form of progression / evolution needs to include that which went before. Transcendence is so often understood as “leaving behind” what went before, but this is a crucial mistake as it’s dualistic. The fullness of transcendence can only be experienced, and can only be effective, when that which went before is included in that which is now. So the dream of dualism (all the different colours of Wilburs model) is transformed into the concrete reality of non-dualism (or absolute unity) only as it get’s caught up in the process of waking-up. Leaving the “colours” behind, one after the other as we “progress” is in itself, dualistic fantasy and goes nowhere. So I like the “teal” idea very much if it means a transcendence that doesn’t separate itself from what is transcended. Not because its an interesting theory. But because when I consider my life, that’s exactly how it’s been.

  13. Amy
    Amy says:

    Wilbur’s levels of consciousness echo of David Hawkins’ work in transcending the levels of consciousness. I wonder if he got some of his ideas from David?
    Do you know where/how he came up with this?

  14. Amy
    Amy says:

    These levels of consciousness sound a lot like David Hawkins’ work, Transcending the Levels of Consciousness. Hmmmm?

  15. Jenny Gillespie
    Jenny Gillespie says:

    I struggle with these intellectual discourses and long for a more poetic heart-centered approach to understanding and embracing our next evolutionary phase. I find myself listening over and over to James Finley in disc 9 of CAC’s ‘Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate’ CD collection. The burden of our pain and suffering is so intimately and completely shared, as is the love that is us.

  16. Janet Thompson
    Janet Thompson says:

    You write: “Finally, and most substantively, the most important corrective the Christian mystical tradition has to bring to current secular or Buddhist-based models of “second tier” (and higher) states of consciousness is the insistence that the leap to this new level of conscious functioning is not simply an extension of the cognitive line but requires “putting the mind in the heart,” not only attitudinally but neurologically.” Immediately springs to mind a very important buddhist text, “The Heart Sutra”. I have a hunch that it represents devotional buddhism, as in the devotional Christian mystical tradition.

    • Ian Spencer
      Ian Spencer says:

      Hi Janet – I’m a Christian (Anglican Priest – akin to the Episcopal in the US) and also a practitioner of Zen Buddhism. I chant the Heart Sutra with my sangha each week, it’s an amazing Sutra that has had a profound impact on me. But it’s not devotional and not in the Christian mystical tradition in that way. That said, it is certainly mystical and of course, at the same time, concrete. As Zen is. “Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form” is the theme of its teaching.
      It’s about the realisation of absolute unity (and yet Form makes the character and appearance different). In terms of Trump, it would say, Trump is Trump and you are you, and it would also say yet the “both” are one and the same. No separation. Knowing that, it’s possible to stay conscious and so bring about the arising of compassion as a counter to the wounds being opened up in the U.S. and indeed around the world.

  17. JoAnne Kramer
    JoAnne Kramer says:

    Greetings! I have not yet had the opportunity to read Wilbur’s eBook yet, however, I’m thankful to one of my favorite and respected wisdom teachers whose heart&mind I trust to layout intellectual/heart-side perspectives in this evolutionary time of significant change. Buckled into it by faith, observing & trusting, seems like the only safe place to stand. It all belongs.

  18. Lawrence Willson
    Lawrence Willson says:


    Let me offer my utmost gratitude for your critical essay on Ken Wilber’s “Trump and a Post-Truth World.” I am sympathetic with your critique respecting points 1, 2, and 4 . . . with the caveat that at 2, Wilber actually speaks well of his evolutionary cohorts, including your Teilhard, in his major metaphysic, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution. I am less sympathetic with your point 3—finding in Wilber no conflation between “levels” and “stages;” appreciating his modern/postmodern divide between “orange” and “green” as a heuristic device; and suspecting no quarrel between you and Wilber on the “co-exist v. coalescence” discernment. Respecting your “most substantive” point 5, I would simply offer a poem to bring you two, together,

    The Robe

    On a hook on the back of
    the door to the room where I
    sleep & make poems, there rests
    a black, cotton, terry-cloth
    robe, with two loops for a sash
    that wraps around the waist and
    above pockets on each side.

    The robe was given to me
    by the partner I live with
    so many years ago now
    that neither of us recalls
    precisely when, or just what
    the occasion might have been—
    Christmas . . . a birthday, perhaps.

    The robe hangs at the ready
    for when I need warm cover
    without getting fully dressed.
    I have worn it so often
    it spurs countless memories
    of gathering newspapers
    from the yard, mail from the porch.

    I had on the robe when I
    first read the headlines,
    “Obama Begins ‘a New Era’. ”
    (I still have that newspaper.)
    More often than not, whene’er
    I wear the robe, in my right hand
    will there rest . . . a pencil.

    The robe I often wear when
    I write was made in Turkey
    so it connects me with its
    maker. No matter whether
    we ever know each other,
    the robe forever yokes us
    as surely as one bloodline.

    Nothing special, the robe is
    (just so) a sacred object,
    not in itself but in its
    capacity as a thing
    in awareness to relate
    all things other than itself
    in splendid co-genesis.

    A simple concrete thing bears
    the mark of universal
    kinship, leaving a trace of
    what can only be called love.
    The observer then becomes
    a lover of things all round,
    all the while rising, falling

    afore one’s poet eye in
    such variety of forms,
    each emptying self-being,
    every act in alliance
    with every unique other,
    so every verse in every
    universe ever likely.

    As a sacred thing the robe
    draws respect and reverence
    for its utility, its
    longevity, and the fact
    of its presence hanging on
    a hook back of the door to
    the room where I make poems

    while I soundly roundly sleep.

  19. Cynthia
    Cynthia says:

    Hi Cynthia… Thank you for putting so eloquently the obvious. God is not complicated, but simple. As the evolution of mankind continues we will eventually wake up to the truth of all that is. For in truth this is the only way one can truly live or survive. The imagined world of our minds can not be fixed with the same mind frame that created it. It cannot be fixed nor was ever intended too. For in truth, it does not even exist. Only when the death of the ego happens, separation, will mankind be able to enter truth, the ultimate healer. For in truth all illusions slip away. The “imagined” world as we know it will then collapse and a new world, full of balance and harmony will begin. Because that is what truth brings. Unfortunately, this can only happen when all essentially come home. For only truth can enter truth. A perfect design of perfection. It is all that is and ever has been. So perhaps we can all just rest in love and know that this is all for us with love from God! There are no mistakes my friends only blessings. Thank you Cynthia, I sooo love and appreciate your deep revolutionary wisdom.

    With love,

    Cynthia from SaltSpring Island

  20. Peter McNally
    Peter McNally says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Wilber omitted a level of consciousness between amber and orange, namely bronze. Bronze is:
    world-without-America centric, irrational, pluralistic, semi-post-modern. In addition, bronzes think they are greens. Trump was able to fan the fires of resentment of people in all the non-bronze levels of consciousness into a roaring blaze of anti-bronze sentiment. The way things have been going in the media and in Washington DC, it seems that the bronzes, including Wilber, do not realize what happened on November 8th.

    • Jon McGee
      Jon McGee says:

      Peter, you’ve given the most astute observation on this page. All the fear and loathing of the left-wing is bizarre enough without bleeding over into some spiritual hocus-pocus and lip service to non-dualism. Certainly if Trump is causing people to block the river of love from their heart than that is the problem needing service.

  21. Deborah Foster
    Deborah Foster says:

    Thank you indeed Cynthia. This is a challenging and anxiety inducing time on the Planet. This discussion gives perspective and helps to address why a lot of things seem to be falling apart. These transitional periods are certainly chaotic, and it helps to have some articulation around the “details”. Hope you will continue with your reflections and sharing them. Very helpful as all of us struggle with this phase of evolution, and wondering what the Maker is doin’.

  22. Cheryl Truesdale
    Cheryl Truesdale says:

    I believe your overview and critique hit the nail on the head. After I devoured Ken Wilbur’s ebook, I felt both exhilarated and hopeful – finally someone was saying something that made sense to me. During an excited conversation I had with my husband upon reading Ken’s ebook, I both shared my enthusiasm as well as the one missing element I wished had been addressed – the AWAKENING OF THE HEART and it’s necessary contribution to the evolution of consciousness. From your many wonderful teachings I have learned that the best contribution I can make to the unfolding that is taking place is to remember that no act of consciousness is ever waisted. So, for me, it’s through centering prayer and trusting the outcome to God, that I find myself in awe that little ole me has been given the miraculous gift of being part of this beautiful thing called “Life”! I can’t wait to read your newest book!!

  23. Bill Ryan
    Bill Ryan says:

    Thank you, Cynthia. This offers some clarity in the intellectual analysis of events and points the way forward. I remain concerned, however, that there is far too much privilege that insulates us, the ones who call ourselves the modern mystics, from the reality of the cruelty and destruction that is visited upon the more vulnerable in our communities. That is an insulation of non-activism and non-involvement that can be non-heartful to the detriment of an evolution of Christ consciousness that Teilhard is pointing towards. Large populations of the sick, the poor, the disabled, the elderly in the United States are slated to receive a death sentence of a short and ultimately fatal life without essential medical care. That is just one aspect of the new reality. We are them, and they are us. Contemplation is not real if not incarnated in action and solidarity with all those at risk.

  24. Maria
    Maria says:

    Thank you for unpacking Ken Wilbur’s article on our current political arena, etc. I especially love your summation and really, how the Christian Mystical Tradition impacts the evolution of consciousness, through “the experiential certainty of the divine not simply as “love” but as Lover.” That feels like the game changer. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Peace be with you.

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