More Fresh Perspective: Ken Wilber and Raquel Torrent in Denver

Fresh Perspective / October 2011

Ken Wilber and Raquel Torrent

Ken Wilber, American philosopher, has been a prolific writer and contributor of Integral Theory in relation to self development and application across all domains of human activity.

Raquel Torrent, founder and former President of the Spanish Integral Association (2005) and founder of the Spanish Integral Conferences (continuing from 2003), visited Ken Wilber at his home in Denver, Colorado, USA. One purpose of this fourth visit to Mr. Wilber was to conduct this interview. Ms. Torrent, in conjunction with the Spanish Integral Association, prepared the interview questions.

Raquel: First of all tell us about your health. Have you gotten over the seizures?

Ken: Well, I do not really feel very well, as I am still under the after waves of the seizure I had. The good news is that I have not had another big one. I just have flare ups, and believe me it is not nice. It is kind of disturbing, as I do not have a lot of energy to keep on writing, which is what I would like to do.

Raquel: How do you see the development of religion and spirituality and what is the Relationship you find with politics?

Ken: Prerational religion and transrational religion. These are two very different types of religious engagements. The first is mythic, prerational, fundamentalist, and it is exactly what the Enlightenment was trying to overcome. Voltaire’s battle cry remembered the cruelty that Catholics had inflicted in the name of God. Even now we still see almost every terrorist in the world today having a fundamentalist religious belief of mythic, amber, conformist level whether it is Buddhists putting sarin gas in the Tokyo subway, Sikh separatists, Al Qaeda, or Baptists blowing up abortion clinics. This is probably the most divisive force in the world today and is why liberals are anti-religion altogether. But they throw out the baby with the bathwater overlooking transrational spirituality. It has nothing to do with some narrative you have to believe or some story they told you about but with an actual technology of the next level of consciousness being the leading source of human liberation. Politics itself gets caught between these two and does not make a distinction between getting free of religion or not; but if we are transrational, we want politics to incorporate it because those are the highest levels of development, and, therefore, higher levels of cognition and love and compassion and care. So making that distinction at the very least is crucial, and very few people make it.

Politics can come from all three realms. Tribal systems, egocentric systems, prerational systems had politics: chieftains, warriors and so on. They had a political structure. Therefore saying that politics starts only with the world centric rational consciousness is not correct, as there is politics at lower levels. That is the problem with prerational politics, as it is the type of politics that brings lots of problems for being ethnocentric, war-oriented, and very divisive. It is habitually related to mythic levels of consciousness; and that is the kind of religion that, unfortunately, most people mean when they hear spirituality. They think that is the mythic religion of Moses parting the Red Sea, or God really making rain upon the Egyptians, or the fact that you have to believe in Jesus in order to be saved because if he is not your personal savior you will burn in Hell. This is essentially the same form of fundamentalism around the world. This is the type of religion that liberalism fought so hard to overcome, and in general terms represents the separation of church and state. But when we have higher levels of development, we have transpersonal, third-tier, transrational consciousness that is not conformist, not ethnocentric, is radically all inclusive, and draws on the higher capacities of men and women. That is an important factor that needs to be included in politics or we would have people who just argue one to the other without really doing much. They just say, “Oh spirituality is important and it needs to be acknowledged or we would have a nightmare with terrorists and all of that,” but they do not do as they preach when at the mythic level of consciousness, as in many cases they are the terrorists themselves. The Integral approach is the only one that acknowledges and includes both levels of consciousness. That is where there is a “we” at different levels.

What the Western Enlightenment brought was the introduction to and the protection of the right to disagree, to not go along with the crowd. In America, there is something added to the Constitution called the Bill of Rights. These are rights for individuals that groups cannot take away from them. So that was a very important turn in history. Unfortunately the introduction of the rights of the individuals came along with looking at religion as only mythic, so it reduced all religion to that just mythic level of consciousness in the lower left, and that was a disaster. The good news is that modernity protected the individual rights; the disaster is that it reduced religion to just a bunch of dogmas, rituals and beliefs, leaving the core spirituality out.

About 70% of the world population is still at ethnocentric levels, so their ideas are governed by the world traditions and the world religions. So we must think of new terms for transrational, transpersonal to talk about the super consciousness realms because they are so different from the prerational. On the other hand, any postmodernist sees any statement as being pluralistic, and that is why postmodernism has no beliefs, is nihilistic. If you say a belief, a postmodernist would understand that you are making some kind of a negative comment to that statement. So kids are not allowed to have any belief as it is seen as negative ground. Studies in the Western world show that this generation graduating from school now has the highest degree of narcissism. They are even more narcissistic than the boomers, and we were called the “me” generation.” Postmodernism contradicts itself, as it states that it is making a superior work when it says nothing is supposed to be superior. It is really funny. What is not funny is the horrid influence that is having on culture and politics and also on education, and I do not see really a way out of it unless and until we develop second-tier consciousness.

Raquel: How do you see and consider the European revolutions taking place (Iceland, Spain), and do you find any relationship with the Arabian world situation?

Ken: The problem worldwide, that we also certainly see in Europe, is that with the emergence of the values of the Western Enlightenment, and, in particular, postmodernism, most of the people now have so much freedom of ideas and action that there is a wild individualism and everyone has his own truth. “I do my thing, you do yours.” That is fine if we could have that plus the community consciousness altogether, but the problem is that all that individuality is making social cohesion very difficult being that this is the main trap that we are going to be facing for the next several decades.

Nobody in the political arena has any idea of what to do, as once an idea is introduced into the culture it is hard to get out. We have really a sort of egalitarian wild free-for-all attitude. Even terrorists are using these ideas to justify their acts. European left, for example, supports Muslim terrorists as trying to establish their own freedom and their own ideals against the colonializing imperialistic Western world, but this is crazy. There have been colonial periods throughout history. Even Europe went through a period of colonizing other countries; but you have to be very careful of how you judge that because some of the results are good and others bad. Mohamed Ali himself, after visiting Africa, talking about the slave ships, said “I am glad my great great grand daddy caught that ship.” Western liberals have this deeply anti-western, anti-humanistic view, and so they went through a period of identifying with third-world revolutionaries in general; and that came to its first sort of end with the Munich Olympics and the actual attack and killing of Jews. This is something that happens a little bit too close to Europe’s back yard and showing a little bit too much the true colors of the terrorists. That confused the left for a long time, but now they have regrouped because they are after all coming from the same basic level of development, the pluralistic, postmodern, and they have now found an ideal in the Muslim’s cares and it helps them.

Even to refer to any group as terrorist, according to the left, is to make an invalid judgment because Al Qaeda, for example, smashed into the World Trade Center, and that was not an act of terrorism. It was an act of expressing a desire for freedom and liberation, so they say, from Western colonialism and imperialism. Capitalism is the co-pilot of the airplanes, we deserve it, we brought this to ourselves, etc. That has continued to be the support for particular Palestine and Muslim terrorist groups. Now at the same time you find, particularly in the Middle East, a real-world developmental battle going on between the mythic fundamentalists and the rationals.

So this is what we see going on in these countries and the mythic fundamentalists are run by their mullahs and the Muslim heads of religious orders, while the modern rational business middle class is fighting against that. Then we see that back and forth and back and forth in pretty much all of the Arabian countries. At present Muslims fundamentalism is probably the largest mythic membership political organization in the world. From the very beginning it has always been a split between the so-called moderates and the so-called extremists, and the moderates are against violence of that sort and the extremists are for violence. The more fundamentalist the belief, the more in favor of violence, seeing then Jihad as real holy war. As development continues, in what we call conveyor belt, more and more Muslims move into an orange version of Islam, which is what we want, because that is world centric instead of ethnocentric, because it judges people regardless of their race, colour, sect, or creed. That is what we want to see and want to support. The difficulty is that the Western green (intellectuals) do not know what to do with that kind of split because their judgments are not well developed in terms of spiritual intelligence and are not really good at spotting these kinds of things, so they read in merely political terms.

Israel is now looked upon as the real aggressor–the mean, wrong imperialistic party. There is still that kind of thing going on; and then, in the meantime, European countries themselves are obliged to deal with actual factions of let us say Muslims who are actually following Muslim law to the extent that all women have to wear scarves or burkas and the liberal European countries are being faced with the actual so-called “performative contradiction” where they say “everything is the same,” but they do not really believe it. There are some things that are superior to others, but they are not able to say that in a way that they are not claiming what they are saying. That is precisely the problem. We are seeing in these countries, these factions that clearly are pre-conventional, conformist, with mythic membership. No liberal in their right mind would support these actions if a Western government tries to impose things onto his people. If the French government would say, “OK, let’s start tomorrow requiring that all women must wear face scarves,” France would blow up. But it is OK if you are a Muslim and you make Muslims do it. So this is part of what I call “aperspectival madness,” this idea of a radical egalitarian perspective. A fake egalitarianism in reality.

Again, they do not believe that all values are the same for one thing. They believe their values are better. That is the problem. The political situation is going to face a real big issue for several decades, and I do not think that first-tier values are going to be able to solve this problem. We are going to actually have to wait now until the second tier emerges and develops and then wait until it gets into politics. That could take 20, 30, or 40 years. It is a nightmare.

In the meantime, people that have studied the percentages on this say that there is a 90% chance within the next 10 years that there will actually be a nuclear incident perpetuated by a “terrorist group.” If that happens we are going to be in a true nightmare. In the United States three or four states could be wiped off making them unlivable. This will throw the United States into a profound economic depression, which will throw the world itself into the deepest economic crisis of all time. It is a really horrifying view. Let’s see if the shift to second-tier consciousness has sufficient time to act.

Raquel: After meditating with Goenka’s Vipassana for two years, I do not arrive at transcendent duality (subject observes object–sensations), so what would you say is the last step to transcend this duality? Is it necessary to keep practicing during many more years in order to experience unity? Is success a matter of effort? Is it possible to keep on observing forever without arriving at that which is observed?

Ken: The thing about meditation and the states that you get into is that the states are real and they have their own characteristics, but they are influenced by the ideas that you have in mind about what the ultimate state is like and what you should experience. These are the ideas that you carry into the state, and when you come out of the state these ideas are what you first see. The fact of the matter is that Vipassana at best works for Nirvikalpa Samadhi, that is a type of cessation or a great production of mental activity and actually looks at all manifestation as inherently wrong and illusory. Nagarjuna, when he found Vajrayana roots, virtually 95% of the practices that Mahayana and Vajrayana do, Gautama Buddha never did, and yet they keep saying “according to the Buddha.” It is a very narrow, partial, fragmented practice and it looks at all manifestation as Saṃsāra. There is no experience of Saṃsāra in any form that is either true or good. So it is just Nirvana, and in Nirvana you see a lot of NIR practices too.

In Nirguna Brahma, the NIR means “without without” and the GUNA means qualities. So pure Brahma, without qualities; Nirvikalpa Samadhi, without movement of mind; NIR, cessation of consciousness. Nirvana is NIR, “without,” and “VANA, “qualities, or characteristics, aspects and so on.” In a sense it is like a deep dream or sleep; and the idea is that you get into that state, and in that state there is no ego, no desire, there is no suffering. There is nothing. You can actually, as we have seen in the Vietnam War, set yourself on fire. So that is Vipassana. The whole philosophical idea drenches the practice itself. So the best thing in this case is to get into something like Zen or something like Dzogchen, which is at the highest levels of Tibetan teachings. Vipassana is a school that has these Dzogchen teachings. They divided these Buddhist teaching into nine levels and the first two are Vipassana Shanta, so it is just introductory training for the mind, and that is it, not any higher than that. The third level is Tonglen, the practice of Vajrayana; the next three are outer Tantras; and the other three are inner Tantras. Outer Tantras maintain a distinction between absolute and relative and Inner Tantras identify with absolute and with relative.

Dzogchen has better philosophy, as they are truly non dual–they represent the non-dual nature of the mind as ever present. It does not have a beginning in time. It is 100% present right now. Even that idea changes how we meditate and it changes the effect and nature of what happens. It is just a much better system and is philosophically much more accurate and more acute and is largely used because of Nagarjuna and the way he explained emptiness as radically unqualifiable, including that idea. You cannot even say that is unqualifiable. So getting into one of the forms of Buddhism, either Mahayana like Zen or Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism, Dzogchen or Kardhu is much more recommended. Even if you are doing Vipassana Shanta training, it is done a little bit differently and studying a different context, so never is Saṃsāra looked at as just nothing but being wrong or elusive when you see it through concepts or unqualifiable awareness. Then it is Nirvana. It is true, it is pure Budhadharma. It is just a very sophisticated system and much more accurate and you end up seeing all manifestations as ornaments of spirit.

Raquel: Having in mind that reality is tetra-emergent, which would be the quadrant that has to catalyze the necessary advancement for the change toward a higher stability and sustainability in a short or medium term, at least in the developed countries?

Ken: Lower right quadrant, I would say, because what happens is that individuals have these shifts in awareness and sometimes groups do too. But unfortunately these shifts are not anchored in an actual institution that would carry them on and keep on doing it over time. It slips, it does not have traction, it blows away; and that is one of the things so startling to realize. It seems that everybody, even in the lower right quadrant, is sort of the last quadrant they are paying attention to. But if you look at somebody, let’s say like Karl Marx, for him it was actually the only quadrant that is real. That is overdoing it, but it does look like that. For a really well informed historian of world culture, the lower right quadrant is the single most important factor for determining the average level of consciousness. If you look at Yankies’s work, for example – let’s say for the foraging cultures, agrarian cultures, industrial cultures – the number of factors that are similar in every culture is very obvious and thus have the similar techno-economic base.

You can see that Marx got carried away and made it the only real thing, but there are four quadrants that are all important. Of course we have to have individual awakening in the upper left and that has to be communicated and shared with individuals in the lower left, but all of that is not going to stick unless we have institutions in the lower right. So we need to see Integral Medicine, Integral Education, Integral Politics, Integral Law, and Integral History; and once it gets situated there we will recognize that these material conditions are there 24 hours a day but they are not being paid attention to. They are bearing down on us day in, day out; day in, day out.

The interesting thing is that whatever level of consciousness created the artifact, that is precisely the level of consciousness that the artifact resonates with and stands there to give and to give and to keep on giving. See how important culture is in a society. In the third of those societies, mainly agrarian societies, food is still gotten using a small digging stick or a hoe. Unlike agricultural societies where a herd of animals draws a plough, in agrarian societies 80% of the food is gotten by women. A pregnant woman can use a hoe; but agrarian societies are mainly men, and they rule life. They are very patriarchal in general, although there are some examples still today of matrilineal lineage in Africa. Early agrarian societies already established the institution of gods and goddesses as their symbols of power and authority to look upon for a great and continued bounty. If you find a great mother goddess being worshipped, that is agriculture. It has that kind of effect – it just reaches across the board. It is astonishing. It is just there day in and day out, day in and day out, resonating in its own consciousness. That is exactly what we need to do – start taking Integral consciousness and create institutions that would integrally resonate with the Integral consciousness of the people.

Feminine energy is vital for what is happening right now in the world. What we have found in the last 10 years or so is that largely due to the efforts of both men and women feminists, women have been freed from their traditional roles. This started with the industrial revolution because machines did the work on nature that human bodies had to do previously, and since men had stronger upper body strength, men developed their productive spirit clearing the forest, building cannons, building houses and roads. Women made the interior. When the machines started doing that it took away the necessity of men doing one thing and women doing another. In North America, for example, right now with the exception of engineering and mathematics, there are more women in college in every other discipline than there are men including law and medicine. The strange thing that is happening is that men are still the disposable sex (sent to wars) with the need to be providers and protectors. So men are actually in a bizarre situation. Women have taken the left quadrants and men the right quadrants. What we are still looking for is some balance and we are really behind as a whole.

People like Carol Gilligan – she presented these four stages of growth interestingly – and her book was pretty badly understood. She made two points. One was that both men and women developed in the same four hierarchical levels of development – men are the ones that tend to think hierarchically, women not as they tend to think more relationally – so many feminists took that wrongly and saw that any hierarchy is just male. So they threw all that out, and that was devastating because it kind of gutted women’s stages of growth. The second point describes the stages themselves. Her first stage is what she calls “selfish” and the next one is called “care,” and then “universal care.” This corresponds to egocentric, ethnocentric, and world centric. The next level would be integrated or Integral. So that is something that we can see happening within our stages of development. At earlier stages of development the sexual stereotypes tend to be pretty strong, pretty hard to overcome. We see these third-world countries all the time in this attitude. This is exactly what confuses liberals because they say we are all the same; and you go to the third-world countries and you have clitorectomies, hidden women under the burkas, and all these horrible practices. Liberals are supposed to say, “Oh that is wonderful, because it is their culture” (see the ethnocentric level). They cannot bring themselves to say that is horrifying, so they just kind of turn their heads and ignore it and therefore do nothing about it. The single greatest thing that represents the biggest change in third world consciousness is educating girls because it can change more factors in society than any other thing.

Raquel: Which has been the biggest discovery in your life?

Ken: That is interesting. Let me see. AQAL without a doubt. After that I remember now my grandmother who was born the very same year that the Wright brothers flew their first flight, and then she died in the same year that Armstrong put a foot on the moon. That is an interesting lapse of time for great discoveries. I would also say DNA is a great discovery and all its development into the brain. How it changes continuously. It is very plastic. They used to think that you die with the same brain that you are born with and now they know that it is not like that. Neurons can recycle and be born. It is amazing.

Raquel: What is the meaning of fear and what has it revealed in your life?

Ken: I think that is one of the most accurate things that the Course of Miracles said: the opposite of love is not hate, the opposite is fear. I really think that is true. If you take the Upanishads, they tell you that everywhere there is “other,” there is fear. So what you really come around to is that where there is a self contraction there is fear. Fear is the fundamental move of the self contraction. Love is the fundamental feeling of expansion. That is the truth and that is how I learnt my lessons–through suffering and pleasure and through, up, and around all variations on that. Nowadays I realize this reality more and more and more in the everyday stuff.

Raquel: Which is the most optimistic version of a world that would produce positive evolution and therefore positive changes?

Ken: The center of gravity of all world institutions will be at least on second tier. We would understand transformation so well that we could pretty much warranty that whenever someone is born they can evolve all the way to second tier without blockages of any sort, because all members of society will be pushing toward that manifestation of evolution. As it is, we have a very poor understanding of development and transformation. We really do not know why people grow and evolve.

Margaret Mahler, one of the greatest psychiatrist researchers in child and adult growth and development, videotaped hundreds of kids and found that the child is actually born as a separate emotional self and stays like that during its first few weeks (this was afterwards doubted) and then gets symbiotic with the mother during four or five months, being one with her, separating afterwards as an individual self that can sense that the mother is “another” person. She would see mothers who were psychologically nightmares raising really healthy kids and vice versa. She concluded after 20 years of research, “the lion’s share of development rests with the infant.”

Of course we do not want to hear that, as we want to impose things on the child, and above all we have this pretension of doing it “right,” taking “good care,” being “good parents,” and running “good schools.” It is a very narcissistic attitude in reality, because who knows what is best for the kid but the kid him/herself? We do not know much about development. This is so that it makes you believe in reincarnation as kids seem to come already formed and much more nowadays when kids seem to come out knowing many tricks already. Therefore, having the understanding that we can guide people in the process is the only thing that we can really do, but without the idea that we know the what and the how. People keep forgetting that even if we have a government in second-tier consciousness, people are going to start in square one and there will still be people stuck in gangs, tribal warfare, and wonderlands. So, greasing the spiral of evolution would be the most advisable so that people could get through easily. Would not that be great?

Raquel: Which would be the logical end for humanity if we keep on acting like we do?

Ken: (After a great great laugh, Ken responds). It is very likely that we would see a series of cross hatching disasters. We are going toward the peak of scarcity: lack of oil, water, healthy food. I would say that is going to happen from here to no more than 20 years. It is dangerously cascading down. Like I said, even our capacity of producing food is–we are pushing too hard. We are almost 7,000,000,000 beings on the Earth. We have increased close to 150% from 1950 to 2000, when from 1900 to 1950 the increase rate was only around 40%. Paul and Ann Ehrlich were already alerting us in 1968 with their book “Population Bomb” about the danger of overpopulation.

All these lacks would speed up negativity to a possible collapse of the world financial system. It has almost happened recently. Some of these banking institutions were declared too big to fail, and there was a certain period when the head of the Treasury and all his advisors literally thought that the entire financial system would collapse. They were so overextended as they had been lending money out. They were making loads of money and were giving loans at terrifying rates. In order to cover their assets they insured those loans with certain insurance companies. One, specifically AIG, had insured something like 70% or 80% of the world’s biggest banks; and when all of them called in, AIG went broke. Something that nobody thought that could happen, occurred, the whole thing fell apart. The United States government, against the wishes of the nine largest banks, finally gave money to these failing banks and told them to start loaning it out to keep it working. It was something nobody wanted to deal with but, it turned out to work. But we are still on that edge of possibility and to see something come that close scares all of us. It is like that airplane with a nuclear warhead that crashed off Spain, like 15 years ago. It had five fail-safe mechanisms to stop it from going off, and fortunately only four of them failed, so that is out there waiting to happen. Then all these things are aggravated with the fear of a terrorist nuclear explosion.

Any number of things could happen. Certainly, war is possible. Iran and North Korea are two absolutely insane nuclear powers. Now of course with the recent meltdown of nuclear facilities in Japan, we see a disaster there that it is almost as bad as a nuclear explosion. With the wind blowing, it goes all the way to Northwest America. There are so many nuclear stations that are still out there – I mean 80% of France’s energy comes from nuclear plants, and we have dozens and dozens of them. This is a fear that goes back all the way to a movie called “China Syndrome” with Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas playing in it. It was about this nuclear plant that had a meltdown. It was named the China Syndrome because if the nuclear material melted through the bottom of the plant it would just keep on going all the way to China, and they were very close to that happening.

So the problem is that we have so many of our systems interconnected. If one goes down, it just means that all come tumbling down, and it could be anything. It could be a terrorist attack, it could be oil, it could be water. For the first time in history mankind’s major problems are global and that means that anything a single nation does would not have any impact or changes in the whole. So whether you look at the worldwide financial system, anything one nation does is not going to fix it. You look at terrorism. Anything one nation does would not fix it either. You look at the global climate problem and anything one nation does will not change it. That is very different than before. Usually in the past all our problems were something we could fix. Cannot do it now. It is truly an Integral age in a positive and a negative sense–positive that we have these capabilities, but negative that the world needs to be acting together. If we fall apart, it is all going to go. There are so many factors that could go wrong, put us down, and all of them are so intertwined, it is spooky. Let’s hope that before all of this happens we are able to rise to second-tier consciousness, although I am not really very sure as it seems that devastation is going more rapidly than consciousness.

Raquel: What is Illumination for you and is there any difference with Enlightenment?

Ken: Luminosity, mainly. There are actually experiences of billowing clouds of light and luminosity. It is very common in subtle realms. There is a kind of light that is just a type of clarity, and clarity tends to be something that is carried over into day–to-day awareness. It is not exactly the same as Enlightenment, which is a state of being that includes the body, emotions, the mind, and, furthermore, the integration of it all in the spiritual experience of emptiness. Not just theoretically. It really has no qualities and truly it is radically free. So, it is not again like light vs. darkness, bliss vs. non bliss, but it is just this radical openness and emptiness of freedom and forms. It is not the self identified with clarity or luminosity or anything like that but experiences of total calmness. Enlightenment with meditation and the sort of billowing blissful luminosity is something very common to experience. Also with a kundalini kind of experiences. Clarity is common with things like Zen meditation, Shikantaza, and so on. It is also interesting because clarity is the transcendental wisdom of anger. So if you go into anger with non-dual awareness it gives way to clarity. I had that experience.

Raquel: If you consider consciousness as an instrument, not as an object, which one is the object of consciousness?

Ken: Well, all phenomenon that are arising are the object of consciousness. So that is consciousness with a capital C–Big Mind, Spirit. But it is a way of thinking about Spirit that connects it with our everyday experience, because not everyone is aware of their consciousness. Certain traditions maintain that if you look at your consciousness in a particular way, it will wake you up. So the fact that you have consciousness at all really means that Big Mind is present or Spirit is present and you just have to recognize it for the way it is. When you have that recognition then you reckon the source of the creator of all things that are arising, what is called in some religions “The Creator.” Then you also recognize that all things are pure and merely ornaments of consciousness. This is a sort of basic realization, some sort of mystical enlightenment and awakening. This is one of the questions like why is there a God or why is there Spirit? Or why is there emptiness as ultimate reality and why should it be an ultimate reality anyway? The answer is “because IT just IS” (LOL).

Raquel: There is a very well known phrase that says, “When I find the answers, all questions change.” Could we understand this situation as one of the features of change at a higher consciousness level?

Ken: If I understand the question, the answer is “sure,” because at higher consciousness levels everything changes–what you thought about is not so. The nature of everything changes, the purpose of everything changes. Suddenly you see the reality, the illusion behind the scenes of reality, the deeper reality at the end of the surface, and so all questions and answers change at that point. That is the whole idea of waking up.

Raquel: Could time be seen from an Integral perspective as an objective dimension of Kosmos evolution? What does it mean “more time, more complexity” and therefore higher development of consciousness?

Ken: Essentially yes. That is one of the differences between physics, for example, with the osmosis with intention, and biology or psychology. You can take those equations of physics and run them forward and backwards and they are still true, but when you get to living material the thing changes. If we follow the time arrow we see that it is going in a specific direction (actually going from more concentrated to more diluted and more expanded). So if you put a drop of ink in a glass of water, it will always expand throughout the water, but it will never go back to a drop. So we could say that the universe does have a directionality built into it. By the time we get to living matter, we are then developing towards more complexity and more consciousness; and therefore also increased capacity for love, care, concern and compassion and all those are built into the universe, the actual intrinsic capacities of the universe. They unfold as much as we let them unfold. Therefore, in a sense, time is just directionality.

Raquel: Do not you think that the world of therapy has brought a higher confusion regarding the non-ending process of human evolution?

Ken: Yes, I would say so, to the extent that therapists think that they can solve a problem and get to a conclusion. Then that would sort of cut out the notion of continuing change, which is not something that a therapist wants to realize. But Hansack, who was one of Freud’s inner circle, said that therapy ends when the patient realizes it could go on forever, which is just what many therapists (talking mainly from the psychoanalytic approach) do not want to acknowledge. Integral therapists would recognize the end of the therapy from ethics and deep encounter with the soul of the patient.

Raquel: Through the Wilber-Combs matrix, we can see the two main elements to understand Enlightenment. One, the type of non-dual experience; and, two, the level of consciousness development. Non-dual experiences could be partial depending on the type of phenomena that arises. I understand that perspectives are included in Enlightenment, because a higher number of perspectives can be taken as the level of consciousness elevates. My question is if a non-dual state could also be partial, depending on the perspective, for example, could it exist at the non-dual state where the only perspective is the third person?

Ken: Well the answer is essentially yes. Virtually all of the states of consciousness, including turiya, can be awakened and created. Awakeness and creativity are not dual. They can start to unfold as early as red or amber and you can have those experiences and interpret them as just second person or just third person or just fourth person. That is because there are basically two different phenomena in general. States and structures (levels). States of consciousness create the type of phenomena that arise, and structured consciousness perspectives create the type of interpretation that you get and the view that you take of them. So there can be non-dual phenomena that can be seen purely as amber and interpreted the same way. We know a lot of mystics who do have ethnocentric views. There is a book, Zen at War, which is nothing but enlightened masters talking about the goodness of war. They are high in transpersonal states, but they are low in levels of light. It happens all the time. Most of Buddhism in the West is being interpreted from green and it is opened to that but is a fundamental confusion. It becomes postmodernism.

Raquel: Why do you think that many Integrals dislike Catholicism and keep on confusing it with the mythical level?

Ken: Most forms of Christianity are still at mythic levels, and that is sort of inherently irritating to modern and postmodern perspectives. It is something that is appropriate when you are eight years old but not when you are an actually grown human. Religion is one of the few places where in societies that have already reached green, amber is still an accepted belief for an adult. We do not do that with medicine. We do not do that with science. Because if we would do that, for example, at the first year of medical school, we would study how to use leeches, bloodletting, or shamanic procedures, but we do not do that. Instead, religion does it. They keep on teaching that grown men and women should believe that God rained frogs down on the Egyptians and that Moses really parted the Red Sea and that Jesus was born of a biological virgin. This is nonsense, absolute nonsense. The problem with this is that your salvation depends on what you believe in, so if you do not believe in what they say you have to believe, then you will burn in hell. So, it makes it one of the most difficult stages to get out of as an adult because the consequences are so horrid.

You can interpret Christianity from any level you want. One of the things we have in Integral life is a series of courses in Integral Christianity, which takes the fundamentalism of Christianity away and interprets it from a higher level. Thomas Keating, Rollie Stanich, and others have been working on that for a long time. It mainly teaches the consciousness of one, two, three faces of God from a turquoise level of understanding of Christ and what it means. It is all very doable and very clarifying. We are having a great response to it from people who are known to be very good Christians and Catholics.

Raquel: Do you have any idea of what happens with Integral people and money? Is it true that an Integral person has to be always economically successful or it is not Integral?

Ken: No, not necessarily. They generally have a considerably above average education and therefore an above average income. Rich are those people who are orange business CEOs. If they have a primary business that has the capacity of making money, then they will make more and more money if they use the Integral Theory. Integral itself does not make money. It is just a framework. It is not my experience that you have to have money in order to be Integral or that all Integrals have to have money. There are people that have a very high level of Integral consciousness and at the same time do not know how to promote themselves and earn a lot of money. In fact, most people that are in the Integral movement, unless they have that business we were talking about, are earning less than average; and the reason is that the percent that are Integral in the population is still too low and so there is not a big market out there for these things. But if you have a business, let’s say a consulting business and then you learn this theory and bring these ideas into your business, you will do better and you will make more money. But if you are just like a student, then you do not. You cannot just sell Integral, unless you set up a course that teaches Integral. And yet you would also have to find the people interested in it, and if they do not know what Integral means, how are they going to get interested? It is not an easy task.

There are those that did fine with Integral because on top of the knowledge of the theory they had the skills for business. Like I said, there are only so many of those to whom you can sell it. So we are not going to see Integrals per se making a lot of money until we have something like 10% of the population in Integral; and, more importantly, they are self identified and acting out. People that have traditional values say that they have traditional values and then you know what they mean; but if you say that you have Integral values, nobody knows what you are talking about. So there are Integrals and they do not know they are Integral. So even if you want to advertise something that is Integral, you first have to explain what Integral means and then tell what your Integral product is. So that is not something that will automatically make money. So that is the first problem you have to get over. Right now people are struggling, and that is an added inconvenience to spread the word of Integral Theory.

Raquel: Do you think that the “15 M” (Spanish Revolution) is really moving people’s consciousness and that we would really start to see the awakening of our society?

Ken: What is happening around the world is a conscious movement to some degree because, do not forget, that we keep on evolving. What that means is that people in general are moving through all these stages and some of the stages are new. So the pluralistic egalitarian green stage that did not exist before 1960, with the whole revolution of the 60s that was destructionist and down with the system–stated and confirmed with the main 1968 students revolts in Paris – began to be established starting the whole influence of green pluralism in our Western culture. That represents a higher stage than the one that a fairly large number of people were. It was 10% in the 70s and 20% in the 80s and 24% now. Second tier is just about 5%, so most of the liberals and leading edge thought leaders are at this egalitarian green stage. They are the ones celebrating Palestine Muslim terrorists or the ones defending the rights of the cultures to do horrifying things to the bodies of women, for example.

So all of that is going on, and at this time people experiencing that change are mainly the boomer generation that had stands that they could tell things were changing, and they had a sense that this was a sort of all or nothing change. There was the old way of thinking and the new way of thinking. The old was amber and red, hierarchical and rigid; while the new was going into orange and later on to green. So standard books appeared like “The Aquarian Conspiracy” or “Green America.” Also the idea of the World Wide Federation and new paradigm of non-hierarchical thinking was processed and fluid. The old way of thinking started blaming orange for most everything amber was doing and ended up condemning orange, including actually the good parts that orange had, like being the first world-centered morality. For example, it is the first structure that outlawed slavery. Amber gives no credit for that. What we really have in the past 30 years is a remaking of many societal institutions along green lines. Of course, there is still a very large amber component and a very large orange. But green has been through the postmodern age and has run out of steam philosophically, and they realize it and have become contradictory. People are learning the hard way that postmodernism is not just an idea. It is a structure of consciousness and so you cannot argue somebody out of it. Logic, evidence, and facts would not change their minds. They have to grow out of it and that could take from 5 to 10 years. So even though any of them would say postmodernism is dead they still see the world through green. It is not up to them. It is our own choice. They do not have the technique, they do not have the tools or the perspective, so they are stuck with it. It is a very very bad position for these people, as they cannot think that it is wrong and neither can they think anything else.

We are also seeing an increase in the percent of people who are at second tier, which is already Integral. This is starting to show up, because at the leading edge of every discipline there are certain individuals in some place in every college that are at second tier and starting to write about it, talk about it, and act upon it. They often find my work and think, “Oh, I knew this already. He wrote it down first, but I knew this.” So that is happening. All this stuff is going on and the main problem is that we still have 90% of the population at first tier. The definition of first tier is that it thinks that its values are the only correct values. So we have culture wars which are amber vs. orange vs. green. They are all at each other’s throats, and they are trying to change social institutions this way. All of this has had a great and horrid impact in education where the result is that they are the generation with the most narcissistic students of all times.

Orange business science keeps on going its way. They have also amber. What is happening is that the Catholic church, for example, is becoming increasingly third-world oriented because individuals in the third world tend to have magic and mythic beliefs. Even in the United States 60% of the population is churched, meaning it goes to church or synagogues regularly when in Northern Europe it is only 11%. They are mostly orange and green. The US is a strange country. We fought the Civil War between mythic and rational cultures and we have been really two countries ever since. The Northern states are orange and green and the Southern states are amber and red. So it is kind of crazy.

Finally, in Spain, this movement which is arising is probably coming from an amber reaction to what is going on with orange and green. So basically green has led such a nihilistic, desolate, and depressed atmosphere that individuals are going down the scale looking for values. We are going to see a lot of that in many other countries because green cannot offer anything anymore and people crave to keep on moving. What greens do is say, “We are better, and we will deconstruct everybody else.” But they have already deconstructed everything in the last 30 or so years, so there is nothing left to deconstruct. They are so out of it, they are so depressed, that they cannot offer anything – no positive values at all, because of course you are not allowed to have those. Any positive values you have are going to be taken as judgment on somebody else. So the ironic part of it is that it does not get them anywhere. So I would say it is just an amber reaction in a green way of thinking. A desperate angry reaction that, if not raised to a higher level, will end up just sitting there. Do not get me wrong. It is very good that there are such kinds of reactions as they move the consciousness of everyone involved. But there is a need for further second-tier actions, and you can only get that when population consciousness is at second tier, and I just do not see that happening in Spain or elsewhere.

Raquel: How do you think that our universities are influencing the development of consciousness? Do they contribute to its revolution or to its stagnation? They seem to have arrived at a fossilized state and even entered a regressive status in which accumulation of data, doctrine inducement, and ego infatuation of many teachers are nourished.

Ken: It is stagnation. What happened in the 60s and early 70s is that green took over the humanities at the universities. They had almost no impact on the sciences; therefore, sciences remained orange and even teal, but the humanities basically went from orange to green. This changed how history was done, it changed how sociology was done. Big theories were out and microanalysis was in. A history text of, say the history of France, will no longer be about this or that king, but will be maybe analyzing the daily life of a serf (slave) and just analyzing the smallest details of all he did. There were history books in the US that did not even mention presidents. It was outrageous because nobody is more important than anyone else, so you cannot just single out great men and great women and write about them. You have to write about every typical ordinary soul. That was called microanalysis, and so all that changed the entire philosophical fabric of the West, which was deconstructed and had no important part at all. It was actually part of an imperialistic conquering, colonialistic mentality, so we had post-colonial studies and on and on. The problem with that comes after you have deconstructed everything because there is nothing left. So you run out of steam, and you realize that you do not have anything positive to say. You are actually not allowed to say anything positive because you are not allowed to make conclusions or assertions, because all those are taken to be judgments of the other. So it all grinds to a halt, and you do not really know what to do. That is what has happened and is happening in the Western-oriented universities all around the world. They have completely run out of steam and are basically largely just a negative impact on almost every area of society–negative impact on politics, negative impact on ordinary lifestyle, negative impact on cultural philosophies and general thoughts.

Orange is completely eradicated from the schedule. Orange is the drive to achieve, the drive to excellence, the drive to accomplish something, so like every other level is needed too. But all that is cut out. There is even a large movement that wants to get rid of greens. Orange is out and so everybody gets a blue star, nobody is better. Instead of transcend and include, it is transcend and exclude. It is a real disaster.

Raquel: If life would have any objective that is a quality that would define it, which would it be for you?

Ken: Eros I would say. Eros is the drive to self organization and development. There is a gentleman who has discovered a technique of engaging in sports activities in a particular way that you focus your eyes to process information. It turns out that there are two different ways to do so. One is to focus on something and to follow that one time after another. The other is to defocus and just keep your eyes on sort of like a window pane in front of you. If you do that it turns out that your accuracy and quality of play actually increases significantly. People playing tennis, for example, when they play it for the first time, if they apply this method, it looks like they have been playing for a year or more. It is astonishing. So if you are really influenced by my work and you find a real Integral quality to it all, using it all the time, that focalization seems to give way, to slip easily into transcendental and mystical states of witnessing and oneness. It has had a great impact on Colin Bigelow (my personal assistant), and now he is going to learn about all this and to understand it even better. He is writing about all this. So that has to do with this impulse of evolution that Eros represents. Any state change tends to do that and is a very effective way of getting into relative flow states.

Eros is the essential quality of life and the Kosmos in general. That is what you call passion and that is what has taken us from dirt to Shakespeare. That is not random. There is nothing random about that. It is a real drive toward order, higher complexity, and wholeness. Whitehead said there are three categories in wholeness: the one, the many, and the creative drive towards novelty that you cannot deny. I agree with that. The one and the many is the definition of the whole. We only need two categories: “whole ones” and “creativity,” or “Eros.” The one and the many can be put together as a whole one and the other is Eros. The interesting part is that those have perspectives.

Raquel: Since I read and study your works I am more passionate with life and evolution. Could we say that Integral Theory invites passion for life and therefore helps to evolve?

Ken: Oh yeah, absolutely. One of the hopeful points about Integral Theory is that it is, what we call, psychoactive. The more you study it, the more it impacts your being. One of the reasons is that a lot of people see and live these five major elements of the theory as plugs to reality: quadrants, levels, lines, states and types. People are even aware that they have these dimensions and so you point it out to them and you say look at your “I awareness,” look at your “we awareness,” and they go, “Oh, yeah, I did not even noticed that.” So all of a sudden all their being starts to become conscious and so that in itself changes the person. That by itself gets it up and running and on board and on the radar screen and all that. We even know of studies showing that just looking at the developmental line of people who study psychological developmental models actually themselves start to develop faster. Just even knowing that the possibility of change is there, starts it up. So that is what happens with Integral Theory. It gets all these things up and running and buzzing. It increases awareness and growth and development and evolution. It is very Eros.

2 thoughts on “More Fresh Perspective: Ken Wilber and Raquel Torrent in Denver

  1. Luke

    Sad, incontrovertible evidence of Wilber’s cognitive decline. He should be allowed to retire in peace.

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