"Let's begin by examining his metaphor of the two cars as it applies to Wilber's model, because
this is where he first sets up his false dichotomies, his notion of polar opposites.
Collins has his cars travelling in opposite directions.
In terms of Wilber's hierarchy there is either evolution or regression, and regression should not be confused with involution (devolution). When Wilber refers to involution he is talking about
the process whereby the Kosmos became manifest, that is, Spirit becomes matter. We are well past
that point and the Kosmos, now manifest, is evolving toward Spirit. (10) Wilber's model is
therefore a map of evolution; it does not purport to contain the process of involution. And in
Wilber's evolutionary model regression is a very specific aberrant condition. One cannot regress to lower levels easily. Where, except in the case of severe trauma, does one regress from vision-logic to preoperational? (11)
So, in terms of Wilber's model the cars are basically travelling in the same direction (even if
one or two have broken down temporarily)."
This quote exemplifies the severe shortcomings of Ray's style of criticism.
Firstly, we have the repetition of his untenable stance in relation to polar opposites.
My illustration of the cars uses the directions of "forward" and "backward". Now "forward" and "backward" represents a very straightforward example of polar opposites, which I would have thought would be readily accessible to everyone (though apparently not to Ray!).
So no! it certainly does not represent a false dichotomy!
Secondly, Ray makes no attempt whatsoever to properly relate the purpose of this illustration of the two cars, though it has profound implications for the translation of development.
To represent this as "Collins has his cars travelling in opposite directions" is to reduce what is a very subtle position to utter absurdity.
Thirdly, he then simply restates Wilber's linear asymmetrical approach to evolution (and regression) with which I am already quite familiar.
However this is not addressing my criticism which was detailed at length in "The Dynamics of Development". However, before Ray can hope to properly address it, he needs to show more care in actually understanding its true nature (which certainly is not evidenced by his remarks).
I have dealt at length in the opening section of my reply with the topic of evolution and involution. The purpose was to show how one moves from using isolated polar frames of reference for discussing such issues (which typifies Ken's approach), to the adoption of mutually complementary frames of reference (which properly define an integral approach).
In the 2nd Preface to "The Spectrum of Consciousness", Ken mentions how evolution and involution can be defined in ways which are the opposite of each other. This arises from switching the polar frame of reference, which thus reverses meanings.
What was evolution in one reference frame (from the standpoint of self in relation to Spirit) is involution in the other (from the standpoint of Spirit in relation to self). Likewise what was involution (from the standpoint of self in relation to Spirit) is now evolution (from the standpoint of Spirit (in relation to self).
However Ken then fails to draw the dynamic implications from this, and sticks to the unambiguous definition provided through adopting one partial frame of reference.
So he defines evolution and involution is terms of separated - rather than complementary -reference frames.
So he is like the isolated driver in my example adopting a linear - rather than a circular - notion of direction.
However the crucial point to recognize, which is the very basis for a dynamic interactive - as opposed to unambiguous static interpretation - is that by the very nature of experience, we keep switching between opposite reference frames. So from one perspective, we see from the standpoint of self (in relation to Spirit); from the other we see from the standpoint of Spirit in relation to self). Both opposite sets of interpretation in relation to the direction of evolution and involution are valid and continually take place in experience (though the actual balance between them may vary greatly). So just as in a dynamic interactive sense (as maintained by Heraclitus) the way up is the way down and the way down is the way up, likewise - from a circular perspective - evolution is involution and involution is evolution. In other words what is evolution in terms of one polar reference frame in experience, is involution in terms of its complementary frame (and vice versa). Once more, in dynamic terms these frames necessarily interact.
Furthermore this logic applies to all polarities in dynamic terms.
However Ken fails to make this circular interpretation, which is very distinct from the linear unambiguous position he adopts. And this is of vital significance, as the linear approach (which isolates reference frames) is not properly suited as a means of integration.
So (frontal) development is certainly presented by Ken as a model of evolution. However in dynamic interactive terms, this makes little sense, for it is equally a model of involution (where both of these terms have a merely relative meaning). I must strongly emphasize how important this distinction is, and its great relevance for so many issues in development. Indeed I will illustrate this point later with reference to Ken's treatment of the "Dark Night" and show how his undue identification of the development process with evolution leads to a serious unresolved problem in his approach.
Thus what I term an Analytic 3 interpretation goes significantly beyond Ken's use of vision-logic.
It requires two important stepsIntegration then applies at the level where these paradoxes, created in terms of dualistic understanding, are reconciled in nondual spiritual terms. So starting from the initial dualistic perspective, this always entails the reconciliation of complementary opposites.
the recognition that every dualistic asymmetric interpretation has a mirror image alternative (when we switch the polar frame of reference). Ken himself has actually illustrated this point - though apparently without appreciating its general significance - in the context of two diametrically opposed asymmetric interpretations of evolution and involution. the vital insight that in the dynamics of experience one keeps switching as between these opposite reference frames (creating paradox in terms of each dualistic explanation). This is what Ken seemingly fails to realize (which has radical implications for his treatment of evolutionary development).
When we realize that exactly the same principles apply to all polar opposites, we begin to recognize the significance of circular understanding for development (and of course envelopment).
Ken's failure to properly incorporate involution in the dynamics of experience leads equally to his failure to properly incorporate regression. The problem is that he insists in thinking in a linear asymmetric fashion, at the point where understanding needs to become circular and bi-directional. This has very practical consequences for the understanding of spiritual transformation. 1
"So, in terms of Wilber's model the cars are basically travelling in the same direction (even if one or two have broken down temporarily).
Now, Wilber's model states that there are many different streams of development. So we are really looking at many cars travelling in the same direction on a multi-lane highway. We can therefore switch between the relative positions of a car A, B, C, D and so on, not just two cars (Collins is obsessed by polarity). Wilber admits for example that it is entirely conceivable that one's cognitive development can exceed one's moral development, or one's sexual development exceed one's ego identity, etc. So from the perspective of the sexual development car it would appear that the ego identity car is going backwards. Whereas, in absolute terms it may simply be stationary, or moving forwards slowly. But so what?"
Again in re-iterating Ken's position, Ray is really showing how linear Wilber's intellectual understanding actually is.
This is even exemplified with Ken's use of the terms "lines of development" to refer to the various streams. Furthermore, he views these streams in a quasi-independent fashion (which again exemplifies the linear manner of thinking). Though he may well recognize that way these need all to be eventually integrated in experience in some way, he has no actual way of translating the manner of integration. Once again integration is effectively reduced to a multi-differentiated approach.
Ray quotes Wilber
"This means that this overall-self development might therefore be initiated by any
number of different lines during this process. At one point, the overall self might develop
– that is, increase its overall depth – through its cognitive growth; at another point,
growth in the affective line might take the lead; at another, its artistic growth might
explode and drag the self with it; at yet another, its spiritual growth; at yet another, it
might be the proximate self…" (12)
But this is all remarkably piecemeal. It provides us with no rationale at all as to why development might be initiated in one stream (rather than another). It says little regarding the limitations posed by the unequal growth of various "lines" for authentic spiritual realization. Also, it tells us nothing about how the various streams - then unequally developed - might somehow later be successfully integrated. It is simply viewing development as a hotchpotch of multi-differentiated lines, which certainly does not equate with an integral approach.
"(Note that Wilber distinguishes between cognitive, affective and artistic)".
Yes but this raises a significant problem. Affective and artistic for example are obviously not independent of each other. How could the artistic stream unfold without corresponding affective development?
So most of Ken’s lines are not really primary in any fundamental sense but rather arbitrary compounds of (undefined) primary elements. This does not assist clarification as to how they might be best integrated.
In my own approach, I identify the primary elements (which are synonymous with the three fundamental polarities). Then rather like in printing, where any number of compound colors can be obtained from three primary colors, likewise in development any number of secondary "lines" or "streams" can be obtained through interaction of the primary polarities.
Thus a coherent approach to integration is defined in terms of primary rather than secondary elements.
"Movement with respect to the exterior aspect of stages unfolds sequentially in a forward direction. Understanding of the world therefore progresses through a series of stages. In like fashion, the interior aspect of development unfolds sequentially in a forward manner. So self-understanding also progresses through a series of stages.
However when we consider these aspects dynamically in relation to each other, absolute notions of movement are no longer appropriate. Thus if development of the exterior aspect moves forward, then the interior (relatively) moves backward in the opposite negative direction. Likewise when we switch our frame of reference so that the interior direction of stages is now defined as positive, then exterior movement (relatively) is negative. Thus from a dynamic perspective, understanding of the world and self takes place in opposite directions. Once again, the (linear) analytic approach separates poles and treats movement in an unambiguous one-directional fashion. This is suitable for the differentiation of separate aspects of experience. However, the (circular) synthetic approach integrates these poles by treating movement in a simultaneous bi-directional manner. Its rationale is thus very different from the analytic."
The immediate error in this statement is that if interior and exterior development are both going forward (toward the same destination) and one is developing more slowly, then only one would appear to go backwards in relative terms, the other would appear to speed ahead.
There is no error in the statement. Rather Ray is attempting to view a circular relative manner of interpretation in a linear fashion (which misses the very point of the exercise).
Clearly nondual reality does not evolve. It has no direction. Therefore phenomenal notions of movement (which have direction) are ultimately illusory. So the very point of the circular interpretation is to create paradox in terms of any attempt to unambiguously assign direction to development and thereby wean us from such dualistic attachment.
So if we see both exterior and interior development heading to the same direction, we are like the two drivers in my example - who though traveling in opposite directions - are both going forward (in terms of their respective interpretations). However in an overall context this then creates major confusion where we require a means of expressing their movement (relative to each other) and this requires circular rather than linear notions of direction.
Remember exterior and interior are polar opposite terms. Therefore relative to each other they unfold in opposite directions. The linear view that both exterior and interior move in the same direction is therefore due to the (separate) positive fixing of poles for both aspects (like the two drivers who both see themselves as moving forward though traveling in opposite directions from each other).
"However, what Collins seems to ignore is what Wilber refers to as the 'Witness'. The Witness is
the point of view that we label as 'I'. The Witness is that which defines something as being
interior or exterior (as in Collins' example). And it is therefore aware of both. The Witness does
not take the exclusive point of view of either the interior or the exterior. As a quick example, as
you read this you are 'aware' of the exterior fact of the words. At the same time you are 'aware' of your interior reaction."
No! I do not ignore the Witness. However this is using Wilberian terminology which I do find especially helpful.
Introducing "The Witness" does not relieve us from the need to make consistent intellectual interpretation of the nature of circular as opposed to linear interpretation (and the subtle relationship between them). We are still talking about the interpenetrating nature of Spirit and phenomenal structures in experience and their relationship - insofar as is possible - needs to be translated effectively.
"Of course, the Witness can only be aware of what it is conscious of. But Wilber points out that
evolution is all about the process of becoming more and more conscious. The different levels are
defined by how conscious the Witness is – hence the spectrum of 'consciousness'.
Again this raises a major difficulty, for the process of growth is not just about the development of the conscious; it is equally about the development of the unconscious. And conscious and unconscious continually interact in the dynamics of experience.
So if we identify evolution with the progressive unfolding of the conscious in experience, then - relatively - involution relates to the progressive unfolding of the unconscious. In this context St. John of the Cross’s account of "higher" mystical growth relates to involutionary (rather than evolutionary growth).
Likewise if we identify the unfolding of consciousness as development, then - relatively - the unfolding of the unconscious is envelopment.
Once again, in dynamic terms, these are all merely relative terms. We could equally identify the unfolding of the unconscious as evolution (in which case the unfolding of consciousness is involution).
I have no special difficulties with the term "Spectrum of Consciousness" provided that one clearly understands that in dynamic terms, all stages involve the interaction of both conscious and unconscious requiring circular (rather than linear) interpretation.
"Frequently, "higher" transpersonal development operates initially under the refined
control of the (cognitive) mental self. This leads to a transcendent emphasis on the
Ascent where one attempts to integrate the "lower" emotions and body through the
"higher" spiritualized personality. This inevitably causes a degree of instinctive
repression and can set severe blocks to further progress. For development to continue
successfully, one later needs to descend and deal with the (affective) emotions and
physical body in terms of their own modes of expression. In other words, one is required
to switch from a transcendent to an immanent focus and then to embrace reality equally
from that "lower" context."
Here Collins is tending to confuse Wilber's 'Ascenders' with definition 1 of transcendence (see
above). Wilber's integral approach posits a middle way between the excesses of the Ascenders
and the excesses of the Descenders."
This is quite inaccurate. Ken Wilber's use of Ascenders is consistent with Ray's def 1.
Also, saying that Ken posits a middle way as between the excesses of Ascenders and excesses of Descenders is so vague as to be valueless.
I wish that Ray would carefully read what I say rather than knocking it before properly grasping its meaning.
I have no doubt that it is Ken's intention to provide a balanced approach. The point again that I am consistently making is that he does not translate the process of development (and envelopment) in a balanced manner.
I have already dealt with this in the last section where I demonstrated that - when properly interpreted - Ken's holarchical approach entails a transcendent approach to differentiation (transcend) and a transcendent approach to integration (include). Furthermore, the connections in both cases are portrayed as one-directional (rather than dynamically bi-directional)
When we attempt to approach development continually from this "higher" transcendent perspective, we inevitably repress "lower" levels.
Once again the relationship between "higher" and "lower" is bi-directional.
We differentiate the "higher" levels from the "lower" (forward); equally we differentiate the "lower" levels from the "higher" (backward).
Likewise we integrate the "lower" levels from the "higher" (top-down); also we integrate the "higher" levels from the "lower". In dynamic terms we integrate "higher and "lower" in a bi-directional fashion.
To emphasize just one aspect of this dynamic interaction (in terms of differentiation and integration) as Ken Wilber does, is unbalanced; worse still it could actually be unhealthy in terms of achieving integration.
"In which case how is this different to Wilber? Wilber would fully acknowledge that the cognitive stream might develop faster than the moral or affective streams. He would also acknowledge that one stream may act to repress another (indeed the affective may very well repress cognitive development). His integral approach is designed to specifically redress this imbalance. This is very clearly stated in Wilber's writing. Wilber criticizes some paths for being 'ascendist' and for not addressing or for repressing other streams. But this does not imply that 'one is required to switch from a transcendent to an immanent focus'. It merely means one must pay attention to all streams – this is the 'integral' approach."
If Ray actually understood what I am saying he would not even ask this question. The dynamic bi-directional approach I am suggesting, as a means of translating integration, is totally distinct from Ken's asymmetrical type understanding. The problem clearly is that Ray is simply attempting to interpret a very subtle dynamic approach in static dualistic terms, which is to render it meaningless.
Switching from a transcendental to an immanent approach (and likewise of course immanent to transcendent) is simply a specific expression, in this context, of the general need for bi-directional understanding, as a means of achieving true integration. By definition, when we emphasize just one aspect, development becomes unbalanced (as both poles are equally important).
Ken gives little or no indication in his writings as to how the various streams are related to each other. His integral approach is aspirational suggesting that we should try and incorporate the various streams on the menu of a development in a balanced manner. Any sane person would subscribe in general to such an aspiration!
However again this is to miss a very important difficulty.
The very process, which enables us to successfully differentiate streams in development, is - by its very nature - not suited for corresponding integration.
So we need to balance the desire to differentiate separate streams and their related activity with the corresponding need to develop the true capacity for integration.
Obviously authentic spiritual practice could be of great help here. However when the integral vision is not properly reflected in our intellectual manner of interpreting reality, a considerable discontinuity as between spiritual and intellectual experience can result leading to a marked compartmentalization as between both aspects. Thus it is possible to be have attained a certain mastery in spiritual practice which is not properly integrated with customary intellectual understanding. And when this is the case - though a person may have achieved as undoubted advanced level of intellectual and spiritual attainment - there can still be a lack of integration apparent in terms of the overall personality.
I would see this as a great problem in the West. Frankly I am amazed at how little true integration has yet been achieved as between intellectual and spiritual understanding. They are still to my mind remain greatly compartmentalized, even among many who advocate integration and who perhaps have even achieved a considerable degree of spiritual enlightenment.
"I also see the Christian theological bias here, which is a prime example of the 'ascender' camp.
Why, is one required to "switch from a transcendent to an immanent focus" when one has to
"descend and deal with the (affective) emotions and physical body"? You might if you view God as residing in Heaven above and coming down as the Son. You might if you view the emotions as
lower than reason and reason lower than knowledge of God as did St John. But if the Kosmos is
seen as the emanation of the Clear Light in the guise of samsara, the view is completely different.
And here I believe Collins is showing his ignorance of the subtleties of eastern thought -
particularly the non-dual schools"
Ray has a habit of switching from somewhat extreme dualistic positions (as in his attempt to clearly separate the immanent and transcendent aspects of Spirit) to equally extreme positions in relation to the nondual. This reflects for me the lack of a sufficient interface as between the dual and nondual (which is what my approach is about).
No! I am not showing my ignorance of eastern thought (though again this is not strictly relevant to the view I am expressing). However I would say that Ray is showing considerable ignorance of the normal dynamics of development if he believes that a person can instantly move to pure nondual appreciation of reality.
It is practical and indeed necessary - especially in earlier stages - to pay considerable attention to phenomenal dynamics while attempting to slowly incorporate them within a growing spiritual perspective.
So if one asks someone prematurely to dwell in the Clear Light, without paying sufficient attention to dualistic psychological elements, it could prove counterproductive. Once again we must in dynamic terms pay attention not just to the nondual but to the interpenetrating dynamics of dual and nondual.
While greatly respecting the wisdom of other traditions, I consider it far more authentic to speak from the background of my own religious tradition, especially when many of the people I am addressing come from a broadly similar background.
If Ray is happy with Buddhism I wish him well. However he should recognize the right of others to choose their own religious paths without letting his annoying presumption that "East is best" continually intrude on his deliberations.
"Personal evolution, as Wilber defines it, is the process of realizing our true nature – after the fact of creation. Involution is the process of creation prior to our existence, prior to samsara (see note10)."
I have illustrated at length why Ken's approach to evolution (and involution) is so unsatisfactory from a dynamic perspective. Furthermore, a psychological model of the kind Ken Wilber is proposing, should be capable of being stated without reference to the specific teachings of certain Eastern Schools. In the terms in which he defines it, his attempt to explain involution as a process prior to our existence, is very much culture bound and would strike little resonance with one - for example - from a Christian background.
I would see it as a significant weakness of a psychological model that depends so much on specific religious teachings.
As I have said Ken's somewhat convoluted manner of dealing with evolution and involution is rooted in the failure to properly appreciate their dynamic complementary nature. A much more coherent - and consistent - position results from true bi-directional interpretation.
"Once again, Spirit always exists in the nondual present moment. As phenomenal notions of progress require a moving forward in time (away from this spiritual center), corresponding regression is continually needed in order to return (to the center)."
Yes, Spirit exists in the nondual present moment. Yes, phenomenal notions of progress involve a moving forward in time. No, this is not away from the spiritual center. A movement away from
Spirit means that Spirit has become past, but Spirit is always Now. It is equally present in the past and future as Now. When we progress forward we still encounter Now. We don't have to regress to get back to Now. Isn't this painfully clear?"
What is painfully clear to me once again is how Ray switches too readily from extreme dualistic positions (where they are not tenable) to extreme nondual positions (which are also not strictly tenable).
He seems to forget that actual experience always involves - in varying degrees - the interpenetration of a nondual spiritual aspect (which is always present) with phenomenal dualistic aspects that are experienced within a relative framework of space and time.
From a nondual perspective, phenomenal movements are strictly illusory in terms of the continual now of Spirit. However we do not experience reality solely from this nondual perspective but are also aware - often strongly - of phenomenal events, which take place in a temporal framework.
So from a phenomenal dualistic perspective we do indeed have to regress (after any perceived progression) so as to reestablish deep contact with the nondual now. For when we become aware of time as moving forward - resulting from undue attachment to phenomenal events - we are thereby distracted from our realization of the now.
So we have to dynamically negate this attachment so as to restore consciousness of the nondual present moment. This inevitably creates regression in terms of former notions of phenomenal progress.
So once again Ray is attempting to interpret the interacting dynamics of dual and nondual from a (merely) nondual perspective.
"This necessary dialectic is well brought out in Christian mysticism. When the disciple confuses phenomenal progression with Spirit, attachment to secondary symbols necessarily takes place. So a corresponding (phenomenal) regression called purgation is required to undo this attachment, and return once more to one's deepest center."
Firstly, this statement reveals an appalling ignorance of eastern mysticism. For, if Collins understood eastern mysticism, he would understand that what he calls 'purgation' is very well known and more competently explained. It is called detachment. And all eastern traditions cite the importance of not getting attached to 'secondary symbols' - amongst many, many other things."
This is bordering on the ridiculous.
How does a statement about the nature of Christian mysticism indicate an "appaling ignorance of eastern mysticism"?
Of course I know that ascetic discipline is required in all mystical traditions but I am quite entitled to speak from the experience of my own tradition. Perhaps however, it is worth reminding Ray that "detachment" is not exclusive to eastern practice.
It is used for example quite frequently in the Christian tradition. The most famous passage of St. John of the Cross from "The Ascent of Mount Carmel" is on detachment!
"Secondly, this statement shows a profound misunderstanding of what is involved in purgation and detachment. Perhaps Collins is confusing the techniques of 'purging' and mortification with the concept of purgation itself. Purging may involve confession, prayer, contemplation, selfless work, or even more severe techniques such as flagellation, etc. All of which are evident in eastern mysticism as mantra repetition, meditation, seva (selfless work) and tapasya (asceticism), etc.
Purgation itself is the conscious decision to lead a life of detachment; it is the conscious application of detachment from moment to moment. Collins implies that one must undo previous attachments. But this is not so. One should not identify with secondary symbols AS THEY ARISE (or desires/moods/thoughts, etc). If one has an attachment to sweet food one has to deal with it as the desire arises in the moment. One cannot go back (regress) in order to recover a lost center (as if it were a thing that could be left behind). One's deepest center is Always Now - purgation (detachment) happens in the moment, Now."
Again this is just ridiculous.
It was not my purpose - as should be obvious in this passage - to give a detailed account of ascetic practices as it is quite irrelevant to my stated purpose.
Also once again Ray proposes an extreme nondual position (which I would consider untenable).
St. John of the Cross treats the issue very well when he distinguishes as between active and passive purgation.
Active purgation requires a conscious attempt (aided by spiritual desire) to undo habits that are harmful. Passive purgation, which generally typifies a more advanced stage of development, requires a greater surrender to the inner guidance of Spirit (though consciousness is still necessarily involved in an indirect fashion).
To correct Ray I did not imply (solely) that one must undo previous attachment (which would involve active purgation). I actually said that a purgation is required to undo attachment (which is fully consistent with either active or passive purgation).
If one has an undue desire for sweet food it may well require a conscious decision to avoid what is sweet in future. One will still have to deal to a degree with the temptation in the now when the occasion arises, but the very decision to abstain in advance can lessen the freedom of the decision in the now. In other words there is a dualistic element here to this active purgation.
Even with the purer form of passive purgation it would be mistaken to consider it as solely confined to now. The very need for purgation reflects the intrusion of phenomenal temporal notions. So by its very nature it necessarily entails conscious (dualistic) participation of either a direct or indirect kind. With purgation - even of the purest kind - there is always a conflict as between awareness of the nondual present moment and phenomenal notions (operating in a temporal framework). Indeed it is the deep clash of these rigid phenomenal notions with the ever-present spiritual present that constitutes the very pain of purgation.
If one were capable of experiencing fully in the nondual now, then purgation - by definition - would not be necessary.
So once again Ray is attempting to interpret the more subtle interpenetration of the dual and nondual in merely nondual terms (which is one-sided and mistaken).
"Can Collins possibly get it more wrong?
I'm afraid so."
I am not at all impressed by such obvious bluster. It seems to me a very poor substitute for effective argument (as Ray's next point clearly demonstrates).
The Dark Night
" Much of what Ken says in support of his position is inaccurate. He states on P. 141 of "The Eye of Spirit":
"Once images emerge for example, the individual has full and constant access to the capacity to form images".
"This simply is not so. The "Dark Night of the Soul" which represents a vital stage in the mystical journey is associated with the deep (temporary) deprivation of image forming capacity."
For a start Collins, as usual, takes this quote of Wilber's somewhat out of context. It also indicates that he neither understands the 'Dark Night' nor the deprivation of image forming capacity.
The Dark Night of the Soul as St John of the Cross defines it is nothing other than the spiritual
journey, the process of disidentifying with the mundane world (samsara) (14). It is a night
simply because samsara is the condition of the absence of the Light of God. St John expounds his
analogy of the Night in two works, 'The Ascent of Mount Carmel' and 'The Night'. In each he
examines the conditions and stages the spiritual journey takes. In very broad terms there are
two nights, a night of the senses and a night of the rational mind. And this is a process well
understood in eastern mysticism. It absolutely is not unique to Christian mysticism or to St John.
If Collins understood eastern mysticism he would understand that its analysis of the spiritual
path actually exceeds St John's (as good as it is). And Wilber largely basis his stages on eastern
No! I do not take Wilber's comment out of context. If Ray reads the relevant section from "The Eye of Spirit" he will see that Ken here discusses his position on the difference as between transitional and permanent structures.
If Ray now reads my article, he will perhaps recognize that I deal with Ken's comments precisely in this context, and give my own considered views as to why I find his position on the issue unconvincing.
In fact the stance that Ray takes here is ludicrous. He accuses me of not understanding the "Dark Night" nor the deprivation of image forming capacity and then goes on to say
"The temporary deprivation of images is a condition of the Causal level, which Wilber would
acknowledge and which is fully incorporated in his system."
Well if Wilber would acknowledge "the temporary deprivation of images as a condition of the Causal level, then how can we equate this state with "full and constant access to the capacity to form images"?
Ray then goes on to say himself "When one enters the causal stage one is literally enveloped by blackness and by the absence of images."
Again let me pose the obvious question! How can we equate this with full and constant access to the capacity to form images?
So Ray is actually saying that both he and Wilber substantially agree with my observation.
This in anyone's language shows inconsistency in terms of Ken's original statement.
Ray gets into a diatribe on the "Dark Night" though this is not all central to the actual point I was making. I used the "Dark Night" in this context simply for illustration purposes. I could equally have used a number of other examples.
He then gives me a somewhat unnecessary lecture on St. John of the Cross. I can assure Ray that I am well acquainted with his writings having been greatly influenced by them for the last 30 years. Especially at a time when I was going through a very deep and prolonged struggle with darkness in my own spiritual life I found his work of inestimable value.
The proper incorporation of the "Dark Night" into the mystical journey poses however considerable problems for Ken's holarchical model.
He rarely deals with this phenomenon in his writings (despite its considerable relevance).
It is mentioned however in "Transformations of Consciousness" where his treatment is both unsure and inaccurate.
In the context in which it arises on Ps.120-121, Ken is discussing "lower-level" spiritual crises and pathologies that beset the beginning practitioner of a contemplative discipline.
He identifies "The Dark Night of the Soul" with the psychic realm, which is very mistaken. When he returns to the topic on P.140 the first two references are to St. St. John of the Cross and Evylyn Underhill (with whom I am quite familiar).
St. John is especially interested in portraying the "Dark Night" in its most intense form, which he refers to as the passive night of spirit. This applies - as he states - not to beginners in the contemplative life but to proficients. Likewise it is clear that for Underhill, "The Dark Night of the Soul" is the final mystical stage before full union is attained. (It corresponds closely with St. John's "passive night of the Spirit").
So "The Dark Night of the Soul" in its classic Christian mystical sense does not refer to the psychic level but rather the subtle and causal levels.2
By attempting to confine it to the psychic level as if it was just some incidental problem relating to beginning practitioners, Ken can be accused of trivializing its important nature.
So strictly speaking, Ken misidentifies the very nature of the "Dark Night".
He says on P. 121
"The Dark Night of the Soul - Once the soul obtains a direct taste or experience of the Divine, with concomitant vision, ecstasy, or clarity, and that experience begins to fade (which it initially does), the soul may suffer a profound abandonment depression (not to be confused with borderline, neurotic, or existential depression; in this case, the soul has seen its meaning in life, its daemon or destiny, only to have it fade-that is the Dark Night). "
On the contrary, the reason why the initial experience of illumination fades is because it becomes unduly identified with secondary phenomenal symbols (which do not represent the pure light).
So the "Dark Night" does not in fact represent the loss of the direct spiritual vision, but rather an inner intensification of that vision. However because the very purity of this intensified vision then clashes with secondary phenomenal elements (with which it was formerly identified) this creates the need for intimate purification of ego desire.
So the darkness of the experience does not refer to the spiritual light as such, but rather the reflected imperfections in the personality, now deeply experienced as incompatible with that light.
So it is not one's true vision in life that is lost (i.e. pure Spirit) but rather the lesser manifestations under which that vision had formerly been identified.
Though the "Dark Night" may certainly represent a psychological crisis and be temporarily associated with pathological elements, in itself it is a very necessary and healthy development in the mystic spiritual life.
Also it is in no sense an arbitrary phenomenon.
It is fully essential to the unfolding and indeed enfolding of the spiritual personality.
On P.140, Ken refers to the fact that unlike other pathological disturbances, very few accounts of suicide are reported in the literature with its occurrence. He then says
"It is as if the Dark Night had a "higher" or purgatorial or "intelligent" purpose - and this exactly the claim of contemplative (see - for example St. John of the Cross, 1959).
Quite! However one must make the important correction that contemplatives like St. John firmly maintain that it is not a case of "as if" but rather that the "Dark Night" has a "higher" or "purgatorial" or "intelligent" purpose.
However the implications of this are clearly not compatible with Ken Wilber's asymmetrical model and his somewhat rigid interpretation of the pre-trans fallacy.
Ken has stoutly denied the necessity of "regression in the service of transcendence" for the proper unfolding of the transpersonal stages. He thus fundamentally misinterprets the essential mystical purpose of the "Dark Night" interpreting it wrongly as a pathology of the psychic realm whereas it properly represents authentic spiritual transformation of "higher" levels (which are increasingly experienced as dynamically complementary with corresponding "lower" levels). The "Dark Night" is indeed indirectly often associated with pathological symptoms but these represent secondary effects (based on temporary experiential misunderstanding of its true nondual nature).
So if one accepts the claim of St. John of the Cross - which I certainly do - then it is indeed necessary to "regress deeply" through the various nights in order to obtain enlightenment.
The fact is that one cannot reconcile the authentic experience of mystical development with any linear asymmetrical type model. The very reason is that as experience becomes increasingly dynamic at the "higher" levels, linear (asymmetrical) notions gradually give way to relative and circular notions of complementarity before ultimately fading to emptiness. In terms of pure spiritual realization, all dualistic distinctions have a merely relative meaning (which is reversed when we switch the polar frame of reference).
Because one begins to switch polar frames more readily at the "higher" levels e.g. from exterior to interior (and interior to exterior), one becomes increasingly sensitive to rigid dualistic notions which thus lose their validity.
The need for the "Dark Night" therefore arises due the initial identification of the realization of Spirit with progression to "higher" levels. However because "higher" and "lower" are merely relative notions, this rigid identification always requires a corresponding reversal or regression to "lower" levels. Furthermore, the "higher" the level one initially identifies with, the "lower" the level one must in turn regress to, in order to achieve true integration.
And this is the very point. The transpersonal levels are not directly about differentiation of discrete structures but rather the growing integration of all structures. This therefore involves increased bi-directional interdependence of "higher with "lower" and "lower" with "higher".
During the periods of illumination, one attempts to integrate in a top-down manner.
However with corresponding (circular) regression, one then must necessarily integrate from the "bottom-up". Ultimately, when dualistic rigidity is sufficiently eliminated, this very contrast between light and darkness ceases - which St. John refers to as "my house being all stilled" - and pure nondual awareness free of conflict emerges.
However if we are going to incorporate the dynamics of the process by which spiritual integration - as opposed to differentiation - takes place, we must move to a bi-directional (circular) manner of understanding relationships.
Ken Wilber's holarchical model, coupled with his pre/trans fallacy, is certainly not suitable in this regard. As we have seen, "The Dark Night of the Soul" cannot be incorporated meaningfully into Ken's model. And if we cannot deal with such an important issue as the "Dark Night", then the model is certainly not suitable as a description of transpersonal development.
This need to properly explain the "Dark Night of the Soul" has been central to my own approach.
Ray unfortunately again allows his eastern bias to intrude. Even St. John of the Cross - who is quite rightly an acknowledged authority on the "Dark Night" - is not allowed to be as good as the eastern understanding!
"It is truly a Luminous Dark Night, but not one in the sense that St John intends.
No! This is inaccurate as this stanza from his beautiful poem "The Dark Night" indicates
"O Guiding night!
O Night more lovely than the dawn
O Night that has united
The Lover with His beloved
Transforming the beloved in her Lover."
(The Collected Works of st. John of the Cross - translated by K.Kavanagh and O. Rodriguez, P. 296 )
There are certainly differences in the style of treatment of the "Dark Night" in both traditions.
More attention has been paid to the scientific aspects of physiological and psychodynamic changes associated with the phenomenon in eastern literature. However many of the accounts I have read were unduly clinical and were lacking an important human existential flavor. The more personal approach perhaps is characteristic of western approaches.
However it is important to stress that the "Dark Night" can manifest itself in many ways.
The intensity of the experience that typifies St. John's account would not be typical of all (even among this who achieve enlightenment).
Some time ago when studying the Enneagram, I came to the view that the characteristics of the "Dark Night", as expressed by St. John, would especially typify the personality type in the Enneagram that is a 4 with a strong five wing (or equally the 5 with a strong 4 wing).
If one looks at the Enneagram diagram, the only numbers not connected by a line are the 4 and 5. So a long night of faith is especially necessary for integration for this type. I have little doubt that St. John would be typified as a 4 (with a strong 5 wing). This enabled him to have an intimate personal understanding of the dynamics of the experience, while maintaining an objective dispassionate stance.
However the nature of the "Dark Night" could differ considerably for other personality types and this is an important area I believe for further research.
Also I am fascinated by the extent to which misunderstanding of the true dynamics of the "Dark Night" itself is a contributory factor to the psychological depression that is usually associated.
Finally, using the bi-directional integral approach I have been able to establish strong structural links as between the nature of the Black Hole in physics and the "Dark Night" in psychology. This finding itself typifies the integral approach where one establishes exciting linkages between phenomena, which previously had been considered separate.
"I have not examined the bulk of this section because it covers themes we have already discussed.
I pulled the above piece out because it reveals Collins' confusion and misunderstanding."
No Ray! It did not reveal my confusion and misunderstanding. Rather it reveals your own somewhat blinkered approach when it comes to Ken Wilber's statements.
For all your huffing and puffing, it transpired that you were actually in substantial agreement with what I originally stated. So once again you have chosen the wrong target.
Throughout his essay Ray acts as one determined to shoot the messenger who has brought him the "bad news" regarding Ken's approach. However because his criticism is so misdirected he succeeds only in shooting himself in the foot (metaphorically speaking).
1 In "Ken Wilber in Dialogue" Donald Rothberg conducts interesting discussions with three practitioners of spiritual practice - Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield and Michele McDonald-Smith.
Their reports of the nature of spiritual "progress" would not be in keeping with Ken Wilber's asymmetrical model. However they would be very much in keeping with the more circular dynamic approach that I am here suggesting.
2. The terms "subtle" and "causal" reams are not used in Christian mysticism and generally are not clearly distinguished from each other. Even in the case of St. John of the Cross - who is one of the most precise writers - the distinction is not clear. The term "Spiritual Betrothal" is however used by him to refer loosely to the causal level which eventually culminates in Spiritual Marriage (nondual reality).
Thus the "Dark Night" as portrayed by St. John is divided into a "night of sense" and a "night of spirit". Now if we identify with the subtle realm, the passive purifications in both cases would relate to direct conscious phenomena (of a sense and intellectual nature). However the causal ream would then relate to indirect conscious projections (that are deeply rooted in the unconscious). Thus the Dark Night would then extend into the causal realm - in reverse order - as a bright "night of spirit" and then once again a bright "night of the senses". (By this the very designation of "dark" or "bright" itself becomes inappropriate!)" If one reads "The Spiritual Canticle" carefully - where St. John deals with these matters, it fits in with this interpretation (though not formally made explicit). In order words, St. John never explains clearly why the spiritual disciple on the threshold of union should be so troubled by "lower" sense impulses (which in terms of his formal treatment would already have been largely resolved at an earlier stage). However this problem can be reconciled by recognizing that the "night" itself relates to direct and indirect conscious phenomena that extends it over the subtle and causal realms respectively (and where the sequence of "sense" and "spirit" is reversed in both realms). I deal briefly with this issue in "Return to the Womb" at