(This post points to a severe problem with Ken Wilber's view of evolution which arises from a failure to appreciate the dynamic relative approach to time).
We now move on to the Chapter "Idealism: the God that is to Come".
Ken starts by pointing out a key difference as between premodern and modern cultures relating to differing interpretations as to the direction in which the Universe is unfolding.
According to him in premodern cultures, history was portrayed as a devolution or falling away from God.
So in the unfolding of Spirit we humans were once close to God but through a series of separations, sins and contractions Spirit gradually has become less available.
However sometime in the modern era this idea of history as devolution was replaced by the notion of history as evolution (a growth towards God).
This view is explicitly to be found in the 19th century writings of Schelling, Hegel, Spenser and Darwin and in the 20th century in de Chardin (West) and Aurobindo (East).
The Idealist view that cosmic and human history is most profoundly the evolution and development of Spirit occurred immediately in the wake of Kant (just after the Big Three had been differentiated). Its most fruitful period was in the 19th century before considerable dissociation of the three spheres had taken place.
The Idealist position is rooted in the view that (exterior) phenomena are - in dynamic terms - meaningless in the absence of the (interpreting) mind. It is easy therefore to move from this position to seeing the entire Universe as the product of Mind and the progressive unfolding of Spirit.
From the perspective of the finite Universe, understanding of the unfolding of this Spirit is the key to understanding Spirit itself (wherein true liberation lies).
Ken is at his most eloquent as he portrays this all embracing world-view (as on P. 106).
"Having fallen into the manifest or material world, Spirit begins the process of returning to itself, and the process of the return of Spirit to itself, and the process of the return to of Spirit to Spirit is simply development of evolution itself. The original descent (or involution) is a forgetting, a fall a self-alienation of spirit; and the reverse movement of "ascent" or evolution is thus the self-remembering and the self actualisation of Spirit. And yet, the Idealists emphasized all of Spirit is fully present at each and every stage of evolution as the process of evolution itself.
He portrays evolution in somewhat linear terms.
First spirit goes out of itself to create Nature. However this is slumbering Spirit as Nature is not yet self-reflexively aware. In the second stage, Nature evolves from nature to subjective Mind. So in contrast to Nature as Objective Spirit, Mind is Subjective Spirit.
At this point Mind and Nature can become dissociated.
Now, the Romantic solution to this was to move back in time to an earlier point in history to heal this split.
However according to Ken the Idealists took precisely the opposite view as they saw the solution to the Mind-Nature split as the move forward to the realisation of the Absolute - as the Spirit beyond all.
Ken himself is very much in agreement with the general thrust of the Idealist position and its emphasis on evolutionary progress (as the actualisation of Spirit).
His key criticism of that the Idealists lacked an authentic spiritual practice inhibiting experiential realisation of their goals. Too often they were content to take refuge in metaphysical statements of reality rather than adopting a meditative yoga.
One is left with the strong impression that Ken's own recommendation for the Integration of the Big Three would involve the Idealist position - with its emphasis on evolutionary progress - wedded to a genuine spiritual approach.
However the somewhat linear view of evolution as the progressive movement of history towards a temporal future is - from a dynamic perspective - deeply flawed. The integration of the Big Three is not possible without appreciating this key point.
In identifying evolution with progressive forward movement, Ken confuses interior and exterior aspects of reality (i.e. finite self and finite world).
Let me illustrate this important point.
When I become of a phenomenal object there is a movement of awareness out from the self to the (exterior) world. For example if I notice an object such as a tree, it is posited in experience with an (exterior) location in space and time.
However, corresponding subjective awareness (of self) involves a reverse (interior) movement of consciousness.
Thus in dynamic terms the self and world are complementary (in all experience).
The movement of both aspects in understanding is always therefore in opposite directions.
Thus if I portray evolution of the world in forward progressive terms, then corresponding evolution of the self takes place - relatively - in a backward regressive fashion.
Equally if I portray evolution of the self in forward progressive terms, then corresponding evolution of the world is - relatively - in a backward regressive direction.
This in dynamic relative terms, progressive and regressive are entirely relative terms (as are all polar opposites). Progression always implies regression and regression always implies progression.
Ken Wilber's approach shows very little appreciation of dynamic relative movement (which is based on a circular logic).
He uses a linear logic (which treats movement in an unambiguous one-directional fashion).
So historical time is viewed in linear terms. Progression is associated with the movement forward to a future (in historical time). Regression is associated with the movement backward to a previous past.
However a dynamic appreciation of time is very different.
We start now from the spiritual centre which continually exists as the present moment. Historical expressions of time always issue out from this centre in opposite directions (and have a purely relative meaning).
Thus in terms of the Absolute spiritual present, relative expressions of time have both positive and negative interpretations. Indeed it is the experiential realisation of the paradox inherent in such finite phenomenal measurements that leads to the intuitive realisation of the present moment.
So right now I am in the spiritual present. However insofar as I am not fully aware of this present moment, I will seek meaning by moving out from this centre towards the (exterior) world to identifify with (objective) phenomena. Though this leads to the differentiation of objects in experience, it also leads to dissociation and separation.
So I now attempt to heal this polarised split through a reverse movement back to the (interior) self. This now helps to differentiate the self in experience.
Again however - insofar as I identify this self with phenomenal symbols - it leads to separation and dissociation. So this leads me out once again to seek meaning in the (exterior) world.
Thus experience involves a continual dialectic interplay of the self with the world. There is indeed an important need to differentiate both poles separately; however equally there is a need to integrate these poles (that have been differentiated).
Now linear logic - which Ken employs is ideal for translating the (direct) differentiation of experience.
However circular logic is required for integration. It creates continual paradox in terms of all linear distinctions thus eroding (rigid) identification with them. This then frees the mind for a qualitative intuitive transformation and experiential realisation of the Absolute spiritual present.
So we need linear logic to separate and differentiate; we need circular logic to once again unite and integrate.
Once again Ken's approach is very unbalanced in that he attempts to translate reality by a logical method that is only suitable for differentiation. From a truly dynamic perspective it is thereby full of half-truths and inconsistencies.
In linear terms history is portrayed either as a progressive forward movement or as a regressive backward movement in time.
Ken Wilber very much dichotomises the Romantic and Idealist positions (though both in dynamic terms are fully complementary).
Because he is using a linear either/or logic he then has to choose one of these polarised interpretations.
Despite reservations about their lack of a genuine spiritual practice, he clearly chooses the Idealist position. He therefore identifies development with evolution as the progressive unfolding of Spirit. The whole thrust of his approach is therefore on the Ascent.
However in dynamic relative terms this is meaningless. It is interesting once again to contrast Ken Wilber's view of the Ascent with that of St. John of the Cross.
As Ken is using a linear either/or logic, his view essentially represents the progressive differentiation of "higher" level structures in development.
However in St. John's approach the Ascent means precisely the opposite as the progressive integration of "higher" level structures in development. So St. John continually focuses on the dynamic relative task by which one erodes all (rigid) identification with structures.
Wheras Ken Wilber is representing an evolutionary Ascent of consciousness, St. John of the Cross - in relative terms - is representing an involutionary Descent. So what is progression in terms of Ken's approach is profound regression from St. John's perspective.
St. John deals with the need for profound immersion in the spiritualised unconscious (which is the true basis for integration). This is attained though realising the purely relative nature of all conscious phenomena). Fittingly he uses the Biblical reference of Jonah swallowed up in the belly of the whale to make this point.
From a dynamic perspective Ken Wilber's view of evolution is all-wrong and represents a very important linear confusion.
In dynamic terms evolution represents a purely relative (forward) movement in time (which emerges from a spiritual centre in the present). Involution represents the corresponding relative (backward) movement in time to this spiritual centre.
Evolution and involution - by definition therefore - take place at all stages of development. Whenever I become aware of the (exterior) world (in relation to the self), evolution is taking place; then when I become aware of the self (in relation to the world), involution is taking place.
To identify development solely with evolution is simply failing to recognise the inherent dialectical interplay of all understanding.
(Of course as evolution and involution are relative terms, I could equally identify the moving inward to self as evolution, in which case movement for the world would be involution).
Because Ken's approach to evolution is so one-sided, his spiritual perspective is equally one-sided.
Again the Spirit manifests itself under two complementary aspects i.e. the transcendent and the immanent.
The transcendent aspect represents an otherworldly view of the Spirit as literally - without Nature.
However the immanent aspect represents a this-worldly view of the Spirit as within Nature.
Now if we are to maintain both aspects in balace, then we need to use the dynamic relative (i.e. circular) approach.
However as Ken uses a linear one-directional method of translation he comes down in favour of just one aspect (which in his case this is the transcendent).
For example we have on P.109
"Only spirit itself which is beyond any feelings of Nature and beyond any thoughts of Mind, can effect this radical unity."
This is a purely transcendent view where the entire emphasis is on unity from above.
However in the immanent view the emphasis is on unity from below.
So we could equally say
"Only Spirit which is inherent in all feelings of Nature and in any thoughts of Mind, can effect this radical unity.
Now clearly either of these positions is one sided. The real task is to show how they are connected and achieving this is the very means of reconciling the Romantic and Idealist positions.
It is very important to recognise that the Romantic movement is based directly on the affective function (of sense and feelings) whereas the Idealist movement is based on the cognitive function (of mind and intellect).
Once again these two functions bear a complementary relationship to each other.
When I use the cognitive function I control my environment (though thought). The very words concept (and perception) suggest this. The "cept" in both cases is derived from the Latin word to capture (capio). So in using the intellect I literally try to capture (and possess) the objects of my environment.
This is why thought is impersonal, as by its very nature it takes away the personal freedom of objects. Science for example views all objects as impersonal; however correctly understood everything in nature has a unique personal aspect.
By contrast when I use the affective function (through sense and feeling) I am responding to my environment. This very response requires letting go of the controlling influence of thought.
This enables the objects of my environment to truly be so that they can reveal their own unique identity.
The cognitive and affective functions are complementary aspects which are mediated through the central aspect (which is Spirit). And here we see the route to the true integration of the Big Three.
In this sense morality (as the central spiritual aspect) is seen as an essential co-ordinating and balancing factor for the two other aspects of Art (affective) and Science (cognitive).
So I start from a certain realisation of my spiritual centre (which informs the quality of my moral choices).
I then use my cognitive function to control my environment (and assert the self). However when used to excess this leads to a crucial imbalance.
So I then have to move in the opposite direction letting go of identification with thoughts. This brings me back to my spiritual centre. So the next movement outwards - now freed of thought - is one of response to the objects of my environment (which can now assert their identity). Again when carried to excess this leads to imbalance. So once again I have to learn to let go (of attachment to sense) and move back to my spiritual centre. This prepares the way for the next movement out in cognitive terms.
S there is an increasing going out from and returning to the spiritual centre.
With growth in spiritual awareness one acquires an increasing ability to co-ordinate both cognitive and affective functions (keeping them in dynamic balance). In this way the Big Three become better integrated.
I have identified two crucial sets of polarities here.
The first set represents the horizontal movement of exterior-interior polarities (allowing for one important set of dynamic interactions).
However the second set represents the vertical movement of equally important cognitive-affective polarities giving another set of dynamic interactions.
Once again Idealism and Romanticism cannot be satisfactorily reconciled from a linear one-directional perspective.
The true solution requires a dynamic relative perspective.
Thus we always start from the present moment (which is Absolute). The Idealist position (using cognition) then carries us out from this centre forward in time (which has a purely relative meaning). Thus development is identified with progression and evolution.
This eventually causes imbalance (in terms of the underlying spiritual present) which is without polarity. So the Romantic position (using the affective function) then carries us back to this centre in time. Thus development is now identified - relatively - with regression and involution.
So from this perspective Idealism and Romanticism acquire their proper place as equally valid relative expression of the Spirit (which is Absolute).
Neither Idealism nor Romanticism can be reconciled with the Spirit while using linear notions of time.
Their reconciliation requires the use of (circular) dynamic relative notions.
To be continued ...