Advanced Superstructural Development
Like a moonlit shadow,
She quietly appears;
She leads me through a dawn
Radiant with beauty
and rich mystery
And with each word and movement
She reveals with new wonder
The secret of creation
And of eternity.
If I were to seek to capture her
In a warm embrace
And kiss her sweet lips
Would the spell be broken
Her fascination gone?
Would I then awake into a world
Turned empty and desolate
Lost without her presence?
For this longing so exquisite
In being fulfilled
Always remains unfulfilled;
This love that truly lives,
Also truly dies;
So I remain plunged deep
In such painful ecstasy.
The dynamics of the point level (i.e. causal realm) are rarely properly appreciated. Even in Eastern literature an unduly spiritualised account is often given concealing its true nature.
Therefore it is especially important from the onset to portray its key features.
As we have seen, the circular level involves the continual attempt to integrate the polar directions of understanding. Thus positive and negative directions (i.e. objective and subjective) are experienced throughout this level as increasingly complementary and indeed - in the transcendent void at the height of the dark night - as ultimately identical.
However, there are fundamental limitations in terms of this experience. One continually tries to operate out of the "higher" self. In other words, one attempts to keep the evolution of spiritual experience under the control of the rational mind. By the same token there is a deep mistrust of the "lower" self leading unwittingly to repression of physical instincts deep in the unconscious. Development therefore is unduly transcendent in quality, without proper integration of both the spiritual and physical aspects of the personality.
Intellectual development also suffers from a lack of balance. One overemphasises holistic or intuitively based thinking tending to identify it with the truth. By the same token one regards as inferior, former linear analytical type understanding.
Thus during the circular level, one is enabled to increasingly focus on the possibilities inherent in situations, while losing the ability to actualise them.
Perhaps, it is emotionally that one suffers most. Because of the high level of repression - mostly unconscious - of natural desires, it becomes increasingly difficult to preserve the normal intimacy of personal relationships. One tends to compensate by developing a very deep but somewhat austere direct personal relationship with God. However ultimately this involves much social isolation and is difficult to sustain.
This is not to question the immense value of what is achieved during the circular level. However as it operates predominantly from the "higher" conscious self, it represents only the transcendent pole of spiritual development. Full development requires equally operating freely from the "lower" unconscious self in order to develop the complementary immanent pole of spirituality. More importantly it involves the ability to harmonise the "higher" and "lower" parts of the personality so that these distinctions are no longer meaningful.
The point level therefore involves the mature exposure and understanding of this "lower" unconscious self which involves many different stages. It also involves the progressive integration of this "shadow" or "imaginary" self with one's former "real" or idealised conscious self.
Of course when this integration of conscious and unconscious is complete, distinctions as between what is "real" and what is "imaginary" themselves break down.
The power to integrate conscious and unconscious essentially comes from the centre of the personality which is the will.
Geometrically, the point represents the centre of both a circle and its straight line diameter. Therefore, this level of development which involves the central integration of earlier linear and circular levels I refer to as the point level. The linear level initially depends very heavily on the "imaginary" unconscious. However understanding of this level is largely reduced to "real" conscious terms, a bias which - as we have seen - continues through the circular level.
The lengthy transition to the point level involves returning to the unconscious and interpreting it in unreduced "imaginary" terms before attempting to integrate it with the "real" conscious.
Just as the circular level can be identified as the attempt to harmonise the two polar directions of understanding (positive and negative), the point level can in turn be identified as the attempt to harmonise the two polar modes of understanding (i.e. cognitive and affective).
Thus in the point level we have the continuing unfolding of "real" superstructures of the "higher" self guided by reason. In this sense it represents a post circular level. Indeed to distinguish these structures from the circular level, we will refer to them as the advanced superstructures.
On the other hand we have the complementary emergence of "imaginary" substructures of the "lower" self guided by instinctive feeling. In this sense it resembles a pre-linear level. To distinguish these structures from those of the linear level we will refer to them as substructures. However it is important to stress that whereas in the prerational period of infancy these are very much confused, now in this transrational adult stage they can re-emerge in a mature fashion.
In this context therefore, the most advanced substructures represent true differentiated understanding of earliest unconscious development.
Once again for convenience - in terms of superstructure development - there are phases which we can identify as rational, emotional and spiritual, though in truth there is considerable overlap involved. In complementary fashion substructure development can also be classed as emotional, rational and physical.
Emotional substructures involve projections in the spontaneous release of feelings indirectly attached to phenomena. Likewise rational substructures involve projections in the release of ideas and values again indirectly attached to phenomena. Physical substructures relate to pure instinctive response, totally immediate and unconscious, before phenomenal projection occurs.
Mirror structure development - of both superstructures and substructures - of course also takes place at this level in a more complete fashion than before. However - unlike the circular level - where it involves distinct stages, here mirror development is largely continuous with the unfolding of positive structures. This greater harmonisation of "positive" and "negative" directions in development reflects the harmonisation of directional experience due to purer involvement of the will.
In outlining the point structures, I will follow an approach similar to that of the circular level.
In the circular level, I outlined two main (real) stages - relating to sense and reason - with distinct positive and negative directions respectively. (The positive direction related to structures and the negative direction to mirror structures).
In the point level again there will be two main stages. These could be identified - as what Wilber refers to - as the low causal and high causal realms. In relative terms the first will be a more spiritualised stage. Though considerable substructure development is involved here it is not of equal strength to superstructure development. This still leads to undue rigidity in terms of spiritual experience and undue repression of physical instincts. Indeed this is a key insight of the point level in that superstucture and substructure development become so complementary. The superstructures depend primarily on the (conscious) cognitive mode of reason, whereas the substructures depend on the (unconscious) affective mode of feeling. Undue development of substructures leads to too much control being exercised by superstructures and a consequent degree of attachment and rigidity. Undue development of the superstructures on the other hand leads to an excessive degree of response in terms of the substructures involving attachment to phenomena in an unduly permissive fashion.
The second stage involves a far more intensive exposure to one's deepest physical desires paving the way for full harmony of nature and spirit. The tension as between the "higher" idealised and "lower" shadow self becomes increasingly apparent, heightening the mediating influence of the will
It is the increasing involvement of the pure exercise of will - the point or centre of personality - that enables both modal poles to be eventually integrated. Only then can complete development of the personality be realised when one can relate to spiritual and physical phenomena in full freedom without desire of possession.
As we have seen, the transition from the circular to the point level, involves linear development of an imaginary kind. In other words, as the result of projections from the unconscious on to conscious objects, one is again enabled to engage oneself in normal activities. However this experience proves very unstable and transient necessitating immersion once more in the unconscious, to get at the very root of all possessive desire. The point level then properly gets underway with a new spiritual transformation.
The dawning of this highly refined new spiritual light is almost imperceptible, resembling the awakening from a long sleep. Though the mind remains still largely in darkness, there is a lifting of oppressiveness and a renewed sense of spiritual freedom. During the trials and tribulations of the previous level one will have lost literally all sense of direction grimly carrying on in pure faith. Now, as it were, a psychological map is uncovered, charting out the strange terrain which has been crossed, bringing with it the wonderful realisation that far from all being lost, all has now been refound in a glorious and unexpected fashion. In this tranquil half-light one now experiences deep peace and contentment and a new sense of purpose and commitment.
Throughout the circular level one tries to find God without - as it were - in a transcendent manner, outside oneself and all creation. Despite the ardency of the search it ends in seeming bitter failure with the God of one's quest eventually disappearing completely from sight. Now, accepting this defeat and no longer even trying to find Him, God mysteriously re-appears without announcing His presence.
It is as if one walking down a road totally dark in front of one, now finds a light appearing as it were from behind. One is not able to see the source of this light, yet it is sufficient to greatly remove fear and afford a sense of direction. In Christian mysticism, this stage is sometimes referred to as "Spiritual Espousal or "Spiritual Betrothal". Indeed there is a beautiful description of its unfolding given by St. John of the Cross in his "Spiritual Canticle" (both verse and commentary).
This signals a decisive change in direction in terms of the spiritual journey. Using a geographical analogy this transcendent phase can be likened to a journey to the north pole. The height of the dark night (i.e. the climax of the circle level) represents the crossing of this pole. Continuing on one's journey naturally leads to a change in direction i.e. south. In like manner when one crosses the polar region of the mind there is a decisive change in direction. One spiritually is no longer moving in a transcendent, but rather in an immanent direction. Psychologically - as we have seen - this involves switching from a spirituality under the control of the conscious mind (i.e. reason) to a spirituality depending more on the spontaneous response of the unconscious mind (i.e. emotion). Of course at this stage, even though one has moved away from the pole southwards, one remains very far north. Thus, spirituality still is very much transcendent in quality, only gradually becoming more immanent.
Moreover, the awakening now is still only possible because of the development of the "imaginary" or virtual structures which have preceded this stage. Through the spontaneous emission of the unconscious in the form of projected phenomena, the unconscious is at last able to express and unburden itself, considerably easing built up tension and repression. In other words, one is able to relax more, which is what makes possible the dawning of this new spiritual phase.
However all is not sweetness and light. Whereas in the circular level, there is a definite division between purgative and illuminative stages, here - because of the considerable amount of mirror structure development preceding - purgation and illumination quickly alternate. Thus one becomes accustomed to sudden severe withdrawals where all consolation is taken away. The problem is that only very limited sub structure development so far having taken place, the shadow physical "lower self" is not able to properly complement the spiritual "higher self". Thus the attempt to sustain spiritual activity through rational control leads to the attempt by the shadow self to compensate in the direct physically instinctive behaviour of the unconscious.
This insufficient reconciliation of super structures and substructures is the key problem which characterises the whole point level. While clearly recognising this problem, there is an unfortunate tendency however among Christian writers on this phase to look on sub structure development in an unduly negative fashion. Thus, for example, St. John refers variously to it by terms such as "temptation", "disturbances", "afflictions", "the devil", "foxes" etc.
Also he suggests that the solution to the problem comes from eventually bringing the "lower" self under the control of the "higher" self. This is misleading and unbalanced and likely to involve continuing repression of physical desires. Rather, the solution is to value both super structure and sub structure development equally, integrating both eventually through the centre or point of the personality (i.e. will).
This is a time of a highly remarkable and subtle form of intellectual development. In some ways it resembles that of the earlier circular level but due to the extremely passive nature of experience in a far more refined manner.
Whereas conscious understanding is facilitated through exposure to mental light. unconscious understanding is facilitated through exposure to mental darkness. This enables one to screen out particular features, so as to better focus on an overall holistic pattern to reality. Therefore the less light that is revealed, the purer the nature of the unconscious inspiration involved. One is at that that stage where one habitually inhabits the dark and is finely attuned to uncovering its secrets.
There is now very little active striving for knowledge. A faint dim light is given occasionally to the mind which is ideal for passive development of a new form of intellectual structure. After each revelation, there is a renewed darkening of the mind and a return to the true source in the unconscious. Thus very little selfish attachment is involved and the subtle translations involved are understood as merely transient conveyers of something ultimately hidden and unknowable.
I will attempt to express the varied richness of this development in its various phases later. However for the moment I will outline its overall characteristics.
In brief it involves an attempt to integrate the earlier linear and circular levels. At the linear level one develops the rational capacity to differentiate and thereby recognise distinct polarities of experience (e.g. subject and object). I have referred to this as the separation of opposites. However due to rational over-specialisation one loses an intuitive sense of overall unity and integration. At the circular level one develops the intuitive capacity to integrate and recognise these polarities of experience as being ultimately identical which I have referred to as the complementarity of opposites. However due now to intuitive over-specialisation one loses rational recognition of the differentiation and distinctiveness of reality.
Thus the point level can be seen as the attempt to understand reality - not in terms of the extreme rational or intuitive paradigms - but rather as the relationship between both. Essentially it is neither based on the conscious (rational) or unconscious (intuitive) mind but rather on what is central to both (i.e. the will).
Whereas formerly - at both linear and circular levels - external and internal stages of development are clearly separate, here they are considerably intertwined and interpenetrate each other. This is possible due to the large level of mirror structure activity which has already taken place so that both directions are now largely integrated in experience.
This leads in turn to a spontaneous growth in an understanding of reality which is psycho-physical. In other words physical and psychological reality are now directly understood as complementary and mirrors of each other. In this highly evolved state it is clearly appreciated that the separation of physics from psychology is a grave distortion based on a reductionist view of reality. Now one realises the truly dynamic nature of reality with every physical relationship containing a mirror image which is psychological (and also every psychological relationship containing a mirror image which is physical). Thus at one moment based directly on psychological experience one can suddenly offer an exciting new interpretation of physical reality. Equally - in reverse - at another moment, based directly on the understanding of physical relationships one can see a novel pattern to the interpretation of psychological experience. Thus, at this level, the interplay between both sets of relationships is highly dynamic and rewarding.
I will now try and convey the richness and subtlety of this development through outlining eight interlinking phases. In the first four phases there is still a degree of separation as between external (objective) and internal (subjective) experience. In the latter four phases there is increasing interpenetration of these polarities.
This is external in direction largely philosophical where one is enabled to clarify and express the key features of the circular or holographic paradigm where reality at all levels is interpreted in terms of the complementarity of opposites.
Clear communication involves the ability to rationally differentiate various ideas which requires use of the linear level. Because of over specialisation of intuitive development during the circular level, one temporarily loses the ability to communicate one's insights to others. Now one is enabled to stand back as it were and view this development - and perhaps write about it - in a more detached manner.
However, though the format of presentation depends on renewed linear ability, the overall paradigm is still somewhat unbalanced. Though the rational paradigm - based on the separation of opposites - is implicitly involved, as a means of communication - explicitly reality is interpreted predominantly in terms of the holographic paradigm involving the complementarity of opposites. One is still more interested in potential rather than actual reality. In other words one is concerned more with the fundamental dynamics underlying processes of change rather than capturing actual reality statically at a given instant. Though the presentation of his own ideas - due to insufficient regard for the linear level - is often convoluted, the spirit of this process thinking is very well embodied in Hegelian philosophy.
One now discovers a more acceptable means of communicating this philosophical approach.
This phase is still external in direction, but of a more applied applied nature. Whereas the previous phase involves the outlining of a holistic philosophical view of reality, this involves a closely related scientific approach.
Indeed at this highly holistic level of understanding there is very little difference as between science and philosophy. The meaning of fundamental concepts relevant to science such as matter, space and time is obtained directly from previous philosophical understanding.
One adopts a dynamic evolutionary framework where matter and spirit are involved at all levels of being. In this sense matter has life, with human development representing a highly evolved form. As we have already seen at the circular level, Teilhard de Chardin exemplifies this perspective.
One also tends to be interested in the historical process by which the understanding of scientific "truth" itself evolves. This offers a useful corrective to any notion of absolute "truth". A great number of subjective criteria - mostly unconscious and often concealing deep rooted prejudice - are used in evaluating "good" science. Indeed the holistic approach based on the complementarity of opposites is especially useful here. When the scientific community commits itself to a particular theory, this represents an investment in a subjective direction sustaining the ego, as well as an "objective" view of reality. Not surprisingly, when with the advent of a major new theory, a long accepted scientific paradigm comes under threat, there will be a marked reluctance - despite the objective evidence - to alter existing convictions. Only when the psychological willingness to change manifests itself sufficiently can conversion take place with a new paradigm now installed as "truth". Scientific "truth" therefore is relative representing at any time an equilibrium between complementary objective and subjective poles. The prevailing theory is accepted as much for its ability to conform to conventional social attitudes as for its apparent validity to conform to the facts. When this equilibrium sufficiently breaks down, we have the beginning of a scientific revolution and the prospect of considerable paradigm shift.
Also the procedures in scientific methodology - whatever their merits - are certainly not strictly logical. For example Popper's falsification procedure is now widely accepted. Thus one is encouraged to hold on theories until they are falsified by the empirical evidence. Unfortunately there are major practical difficulties in getting people to recognise such evidence, when they already have a strong commitment to a particular theory. However, even apart from this problem, such a procedure is not strictly logical and not necessarily well advised. Because a theory has been shown to be faulty in a particular instance does not remove the possibility that it may be a good predictor of events in other circumstances. Also, by the same token, because a theory has not yet been falsified by the evidence does not necessarily entail that it will predict well in other circumstances in the future. Thus we have no logical basis for accepting as yet unfalsified over already falsified theories.
In science, as in life, it is perhaps best to keep an open mind.
We now have a shift to more internalised states of development.
In this phase, one tends to look back over one's personal psychological development in an attempt to form some perspective. In particular, one is able to form a retrospective map offering an interpretation of the baffling and obscure occurrences of the "dark night". One is now attuned to various contemplative states and readily able to appreciate why the "dim" contemplation now experienced - as opposed to the earlier "dark" contemplation - facilitates this exploration.
One also appreciates the extreme transcendent focus of this former development and how exposure to fantasies coming from the physical subconscious helps to address this imbalance facilitating a more immanent form of development.
In many ways one is still subject to similar trials. However there is now a greater sense of equilibrium. One thus not remain completely immersed in the unconscious, periodically being able to float to the surface of the mind, obtaining sufficient light to interpret what is happening.
This is still in an internal direction and represents an intensification of the previous phase. Whereas with the externalised phases one moves from an impersonal philosophical to a more personal scientific world view, here we have the opposite transition where one moves from exploration of personal experience to a more detached and impersonal view of the spiritually contemplative life. Putting it another way one can now view psycho-spiritual development in a more objective scientific fashion.
One manifestation of this is the desire to portray a distinct stages approach to the evolution of spiritual development. This in turn reflects the return of an implicit linear ability, though not yet very pronounced.
Thus we have now completed the full cycle of the earlier phases, where objective and subjective experience are somewhat separated. In the later four phases, these poles are considerably intertwined.
Again, there is the return to an externalised awareness of a holistic philosophical kind. In this sense it is similar to the first phase. However this time there is a far greater realisation of the existence in this philosophical awareness of a mirror image psychological system.
Fundamentally in the very instance of any objective awareness of phenomena, there is a corresponding subjective inner awareness, identical in format (though of opposite direction). If I am objectively aware of a phenomenon e.g. a car, this involves a dynamic relationship involving a dialogue between the external object and the internal self. Thus if the car is positive with relation to the self, then the self is correspondingly negative with respect to the car. In other words to experience or posit the car, we must temporarily lose experience of, or negate the self. In like fashion to posit the self in this interaction, we must temporarily negate awareness of the car.
Unfortunately, with conventional understanding, this inherently two-way dynamic relationship is misinterpreted so that we believe that objects are solely positive (i.e. statically exist of themselves). This means that little mirror structure development takes place and that we form rigid notions of objects and of the self.
However at this level, considerable mirror structure activity has already taken place so that one is continually aware of the truly dynamic nature of both external and internal phenomena. Both the world and self are created from moment to moment through mutual participation.
Though this awareness comes at the circular level, one is now able to explicitly formulate its structure in a detached manner recognising that for every externally formulated (physical) system of relationships, there is a corresponding internal (psychological) system which is exactly complementary.
This is again external in direction, resembling the holistic scientific understanding of phase 2. However, one now obtains deep insight into the manner in which scientific and psychological notions are linked. I have already referred to many of these, though it is only at this stage that one is able to explicitly formulate them. Properly interpreted, relativity physics is directly complementary with the whole circular level. For example - as already outlined - there are remarkable parallels as between the experience of "black holes" in physics and "dark nights" in psycho-spiritual development. In other words the external system of relationships underlying the behaviour of "black holes" is physics is exactly matched by a corresponding mirror internal system underlying the behaviour of "dark nights" in psychology. This is what I refer to as psycho-physical reality, understanding of which greatly accelerates during this time. Also the unlikely pairing of - from a conventional perspective - unrelated areas provides a highly fruitful and creative way of understanding both fields.
So just as superstucture development greatly complements relativity physics, we will see later how much of the substructure development of the point level complements the behaviour of particles in quantum theory. Furthermore the point level can be summarised as the attempt to integrate both superstructure and substructure development. This parallels the attempt in physics to integrate relativity physics and quantum theory. So by showing the nature of the translation required to achieve this psychologically, we will in complementary fashion be able to suggest the similar translation which is required in physics.
Also, one tends to moderate an unbalanced holistic interpretation of reality. With the completion of the circular level one has largely achieved a unity of complementary opposites. Now one tries to re-incorporate linear understanding into one's paradigm. In other words one sees reality fundamentally as the relationship between the holographic intuitive approach (based on the unity of opposites) and linear rational approach (based on the separation of opposites). One clearly realises that whereas the holographic paradigm facilitates the dynamic understanding of systems, the linear approach facilitates the immediate static understanding of relationships within such systems. Furthermore in an integrated approach, the dynamic long term approach would greatly facilitate the choice of suitable short term models. Likewise the limitations in the short term models would facilitate movement to a dynamic evolutionary perspective.
This approach would be particularly valuable in the understanding for example of a field such as economics. At present there is a continual tendency to try and understand problems in terms of fixed - and thereby static models - in the attempt to conform to a Newtonian view of science. This reflects the linear rational approach.
Far too little attention is placed on the need to acquire a dynamic long term understanding of how the ecological environment is itself affected by economic activity, and how historical change alters economic systems. This requires the complementary circular intuitive approach. Because of this imbalance - due to lack of emphasis on dynamic considerations - fixed theories remain the conventional wisdom, even when they have largely ceased to be of use. In other words there is a continual lag in choosing theories of contemporary relevance to model economic circumstances.
Now, intuitive (holographic) and rational (linear) paradigms are themselves seen as complementary.
However, there is still an unresolved conflict. Linear activity during the point level involves a high level of projection and is very transient being of a "virtual" or "imaginary" character. Because of this instability one is not able to properly integrate circular and linear levels at this time.
This is an internalised phase resembling the earlier phase 3. However one now sees a reverse mirror significance in the physical world to all one's inner psychological experience. In this sense the physical world in experience is simply a reflection of one's psychological state.
Most people think of changing physical reality through externalised activity. One realises here that physical reality will inevitably change also through internalised psychological activity. Due to one's highly passive state, this now appears as an altogether more attractive option.
Indeed we can now give a philosophical explanation of the religious belief in the power of prayer (esp. contemplative).
As the world is in continual dynamic relationship with the mind, any mental change necessarily involves physical change also. Thus, the more powerful one's internal prayer, the greater the inevitable consequent changes in physical reality. As one now has sufficient faith to genuinely believe that this is the case, not surprisingly, in experience it is the case. One largely mediates external reality through the inner power of mind.
This is the final phase, again internal and resembling the earlier phase 4. Now there is a more formalised understanding available. Whereas in phase 4, one was content to outline the various stages of psycho-spiritual development, now in drawing up such a schema, one is now conscious that these stages implicitly also involve mirror image stages of physical evolution. In other words, if one is personally evolving with respect to the world, then the world would necessarily be also evolving with respect to the physical self. Putting it yet another way, stages of psychological evolution equally involve stages of physical involution.
Indeed this also explains why one-sided transcendent development - as occurs during the circular level - is ultimately so unbalanced. One continually concentrates on evolution of the spiritual self, while attempting to ignore corresponding involution of the physical world. Thus at the very point when one reaches the end of one's spiritual quest, one simultaneously arrives back at the beginning of physical nature. Quite literally one's contact with physical reality, continually regresses during the whole circular level, until in total darkness at the height of the dark night, the natural world completely disappears (in experience).
One now realises that balanced development must be equally immanent as well as transcendent. In a direct sense, immanent development allows evolution of physical reality in experience (with corresponding involution of the self). Transcendent development allows evolution of the spiritual self (with corresponding involution of physical reality). Integrated development thus involves corresponding evolution and involution of the related poles (i.e. the self and the world).
This greater concern with immanent development raises new concerns. This could be described as a rediscovery of the feminine dimension which also entails a new ecological awareness. We will explore this shortly.
This completes again the more interactive cycle. In all it offers only a small glimpse into the richness of intellectual development that occurs at this time. It all occurs in a highly passive manner aided by a dim mystical light which ideally suits holistic insight. However even this gentle flame eventually burns itself out.
Largely in parallel with intellectual development occurs a new form of spiritual erotic development. Just as the intellectual phases represent a more refined version of the suprarational stages of the circular level, in many ways these emotional phases represent a more refined version of the supersensory stages of the same level.
However there are two main differences.
Firstly, positive and negative stages are not sharply separated. In other words illumination and purgation continue side by side. Therefore intense fulfilment is quickly followed by very sharp withdrawal symptoms. One cannot therefore hold on to feelings - however desirable - having always to be prepared to let go of what one most truly cherishes.
Secondly, at this stage there is very little involvement of the senses. One operates in a dim and highly refined subtle light that makes one deeply aware of the unconscious archetypal patterns implicit in all desire.
However there is a decisive split as between spirit and nature during the whole point level. Spiritual erotic energy gets progressively identified with "high level" experience operating under the control of reason. Physical erotic energy on the other hand becomes progressively more unconscious and instinctive being identified with "low level" physical response.
Thus during the point level cognitive and affective modes separate to an extreme degree. This extreme differentiation of modes parallels the extreme differentiation of directions that earlier took place during the circular level. It is the very means by which a high degree of specialisation of both modes can take place in preparation for eventual integration.
Thus on the one hand at the "higher level" spiritual progress takes place under a refined form of rational control that gradually becomes denuded of all emotional content. On the other hand at the "lower level", knowledge of physical nature takes place in reverse form under an instinctive form of emotional response that in turn becomes denuded of all rational content.
Thus the eventual goal of the point level is to simultaneously achieve a pure form of spiritual control (free of all "lower level" projections) and a pure form of physical response (free of all "higher level" control) which signals the freedom from undue repression. Only then - following complete differentiation - can true integration take place.
At this stage of the point level, the "higher self" is not yet free of affective content and thus we can trace various phases representing a highly platonic and refined form of erotic development. However, unfortunately - as we shall see shortly - this also means that the "lower self" is not free of undue rational control. In other words the "lower self" in sexual terms still remains somewhat repressed during this time.
We will now look at this high level affective growth once more in terms of eight phases which in many ways complement the intellectual development which we have just outlined.
The first phase is intensely personal in character, where there is a powerful reawakening of the feminine archetype experienced in a spiritually erotic fashion. With spiritual eroticism, though sexual feelings are necessarily involved, one does not seek their direct consummation physically. Rather one attempts to transcend any remaining selfish or possessive elements so as to arrive at a pure affective and holistic awareness of ultimate reality (i.e. God with a feminine face). With physical eroticism, again sexual feelings are of course involved. This time, however the focus is in the opposite direction in a highly specific immanent direction to reveal the pure instinctive immediacy of such desire. A fully integrated affective response to reality involves both poles in harmony so that one is able to be emotionally involved with the spontaneous present moment, yet remain sufficiently detached to preserve an eternal vision of reality.
For a man this spiritually affective phase, may involve a special friendship with a woman, which though essentially platonic will be very intense and meaningful. It is this very intensity which asks searching questions regarding one's emotional development. One may be pursuing a love free of possessive desire, yet due to such strong feelings for this special person, conflict inevitably arises. One therefore experiences deeply the paradox that despite moments of overwhelming joy, one is subjected to a degree of emotional longing that is often excruciating.
The key feminine archetype involved here is that of the Divine or Spiritual Mother. This archetype is so often represented in religion as a virgin. Thus, in Christianity we have the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and (spiritual) mother of all humanity. If Mary had not existed she would have had to be invented as in providing a key feminine religious archetype, she helps to redress the unduly male orientated understanding of Western religion. I find it striking, that historically we know so little about her. Though she plays a very small role in the Gospels (being only mentioned on a few occasions), subsequently she has inspired an extensive and intricate theology, accompanied by enormous levels of popular devotion.
Psychologically this can be explained as an important popular need for a feminine archetype of God.
For example when so many male saints speak so fervently about the importance of their devotion to Mary, it is quite clear that in their spiritual fantasies they have constructed a model of the perfect woman, providing an acceptable outlet for erotic development. Mary, psychologically speaking, is therefore not so much important as a real woman, but rather as an idealised feminine archetype.
And yet there are grave flaws in this whole understanding of Mary.
In Catholic theology, though enjoying a special privilege, Mary is not God, but rather one fully willing to serve her God. In other words, God is really understood as male, and Mary obtains her special position purely at His dispensation because of her obedience. Indeed this theological position parallels very accurately the orthodox view of the position of women within the Catholic Church. Here, power is essentially seen as a male preserve, where women are expected - like Mary - to obey and accept patriarchal authority. Many of the problems facing women in the world today find their roots in such deficient theological understanding. If we view the Supreme Being or God in male terms, it is in no way surprising that men assume the role - especially in religious society - as the dominant sex.
If women therefore are to be treated equally, it is very important therefore to reflect this equality in our theological understanding.
There is another huge difficulty with orthodox understanding, in that it involves a complete split of spirit from nature. Indeed the biblical feminine archetype of a physical kind is Eve, most often referred to as fallen woman. Thus, we have physical woman, who has fallen due to sensual temptation, and spiritual woman who has been raised up again due to completely transcending such temptation.
In other words this leads to a portrayal here of the feminine which is unbalanced. This problem is captured in the story of the virgin birth.
It has always been very important in conventional interpretation, to accept that Christ was literally born of a virgin. This strongly suggests that the universal means of conceiving a child by sexual intercourse, is deemed unsuitable for such a spiritually elevated person as Mary. The impact of this thinking is still strongly with us - for example - the continued insistence within the Church of the rule of celibacy for both male and female ministry. Celibacy certainly has a valid role. However to make it exclusively a condition for religious ministry is mistaken, and reflects this old mind-body split, where spiritual development is interpreted in an unduly transcendent fashion, often involving repression of the body rather than proper integration with it.
This split is also very evident in the conventional religious treatment of women by men. There is a tendency either to idealise a woman, placing her on a pedestal like Mary, or to unfairly suppress her seeing her like Eve as the temptress. In neither case is the woman treated as an equal. This is because psychologically men rarely manage to integrate these complementary feminine archetypes. A balanced feminine archetype therefore would require both the preservation of the spiritual pole (i.e. purity and beauty) and the physical pole (i.e. sensuality and earthiness) in mutual harmony.
This second phase is more detached. One is able to stand back as it were and understand the nature of one's feelings. One therefore realises that one is not so much primarily attracted to a human person as such but rather the feminine archetype which this person represents.
Indeed, what consciousness is involved is confined largely to the superficial aspects of the relationship. The real action occurs deep in the darkness of the unconscious under the powerful pull of these mysterious archetypal forces. This in turn sets limitations on the long term prospects for the relationship. Though initially it enjoys an external focus, its real purpose is to serve as a means through which feminine images can be properly projected before re-appropriation. In other words the purpose of this time for a man is to fully discover - in spiritual emotional terms - the feminine dimension within his own personality. When this is fully achieved, there is no further need for projection, and a man can relate on a basis of equality with women.
Due to increasing detachment there is a significant shift. One's affective understanding of the feminine has by now become very holistic being largely identified with a generalised appreciation of creation. Symbols of nature now radiate with a rich poetic meaning. This can be interpreted as an archetypal appreciation of the feminine aspect of God in creation.
However this perspective is in a dim rather than a brilliant light and is very rarefied involving very little use of the senses.
This involves continuation of the previous stage. However there is now a more personalised dimension to one's experience of nature, where one is at all times aware of a feminine dimension. This spirit, for example, is exemplified in the poetic writings of many of the Sufi mystics.
This development is also very important in terms of inspiring true ecological awareness. One of the great difficulties of contemporary economics is that nature is still treated from a degraded male viewpoint as something to be legitimately ravaged in the pursuit of gain. Indeed we routinely speak of "the exploitation of resources" and look on nature in a distorted impersonal fashion. However, nature is equally a person with whom we share an intimate dialogue. When we fail to treat this person with respect in an appropriate fashion, we ourselves become the victims. Much of the alienation of materialistic society is due to this imbalance. Quite simply, since we do not view nature as a person but rather as an object to be exploited, not surprisingly, we become depersonalised as a result.
Thus we move from a relationship with a special person, to a more detached experience of this relationship, to a detached holistic affective experience of nature, and finally to a more personalised holistic experience.
This completes the first cycle.
In this latter cycle there is growing interpenetration of one's affective experience mediated through a personal friendship and the wider natural environment. Increasingly both become mirrors of each other.
In phase 5, there is a resumption and intensification of a special friendship. Archetypal attraction is now purer and further denuded of sense involvement. The relationship now becomes even more directly an affective spiritual experience of God.
However this also causes great emotional strain in that there is growing conflict due to remaining selfish involvement. It is only natural that when a person evokes powerful feelings of wonder, beauty and joy that varying levels of erotic desire and longing will be involved.
Slowly therefore the realisation dawns that one will have to prepare for yet another painful surrender..
There is considerable overlap now with the feminine archetype in nature. Through one's beloved, all creation is experienced as a person in a rarefied and subtle sensual light.
This involves a more detached understanding of the previous phase. One is able to stand back and better appreciate the ultimate archetypal significance underlying one's emotions. Again this can be described as the Divine experienced in a spiritually feminine manner, mediated through the interplay of a unique person and holistic nature.
However this detachment necessarily involves painful withdrawal from possessive attachment.
Experience now switches once more to direct affective experience of nature. Previously one saw in the image of one's beloved the reflection of all nature. This time - in complementary fashion - one sees in nature the reflection everywhere of the image of one's beloved.
This mutual identification is beautifully expressed by St. John throughout the Spiritual Canticle e.g. stanza 14
" My beloved is the mountains,
And lonely wooded valleys,
And resounding rivers,
The whistling of love-stirring breezes"
However there is a somewhat artificial device used by St. John and other Christian mystic writers in talking about this experience.
Even though it clearly involves an affective experience of God, because of the cultural acceptance of God as masculine, there is a marked reluctance to now refer to God in feminine terms as "She". Thus in order to preserve the convention of the external God as male, they refer to the internal soul as feminine. However this involves a rather strange inversion which indeed spiritually, has homosexual connotations. Usually, for a man affective union is sought through erotic relationship - however refined - with a woman. If we insist on seeing God in male terms, then this creates a genuine difficulty for men in terms of realising this affective union. Put bluntly, the male God is simply an inappropriate archetype for heterosexual men in terms of this highly important affective stage of development. Of course, this is not to suggest that mystics such as St. John were homosexual. Rather, in striving to preserve conventional notions of God, they consistently mis-translated the true nature of their erotic experience.
Indeed, this also helps to explain why the Church has great problems in both understanding and accepting the reality of gay men. Wherever complementary poles (such as spiritual and physical) are involved in experience, if one pole is over-emphasised, then this inevitably blots out recognition of the opposite pole. Thus, precisely because in spiritual terms the Christian Churches advocate for men a theological form of homosexuality (i.e. in encouraging union with a male God), they are often unable in physical terms to accept a natural form of homosexuality (where men are sexually attracted to each other).
Human sexuality is in fact highly complex. Thus the failure to properly recognise the bi-sexual nature of God (as equally male and female) parallels the corresponding failure in society to recognise the inherently bi-sexual nature of all men and women. Greater appreciation of this important fact, would psychologically be very healthy and greatly facilitate understanding of the inclinations of those deviating from rigid sexual norms.
This is the final phase of the second cycle. Once more a more detached understanding of the archetypal significance of events unfolds.
However erotic experience by now has become so highly spiritualised, that it becomes impossible due to erosion of the natural senses to maintain an actual relationship with one's beloved any further. In other words her (finite) image has by now become purely sublimated into an (infinite) archetype which is inseparable from a direct feminine experience of God.
However this leads to a great intensification in withdrawal symptoms and the "deadening north wind" referred to by St. John.
Also, there is increasing difficulty now experienced in relation to "lower level" instinctive fantasies, which will lead us into the next interlinked stage.
The point level involves a highly subtle and passive form of intuitive development. Just as the circular level involves extreme differentiation of the polar directions of experience (i.e. objective and subjective), the point level involves the extreme differentiation of the modes of experience (i.e. cognitive and affective). Throughout the point level there is a progressive shift of the cognitive mode to the "higher" spiritual part of the personality identified as "real", and of the affective to the "lower" physical part of the personality identified as "imaginary". Thus the "higher" superstructures become ultimately denuded of all affective sense contact, while the "lower" substructures become equally denuded of all cognitive rational form. This separation of reason and emotion forces one to continually rely on the central mode of will in the attempt to achieve integration. This is the defining characteristic of the point level.
For convenience, the point level can be divided into two parts. We are here concerned with "higher" level development of the first part.
There is a new spiritual birth involving a very passive form of dim contemplation. Here - due to the already high level of mirror structure development - illumination and purgation are closely linked. Thus moments of intense joy and wonder, are usually followed by severe withdrawals and disillusionment.
Intellectual development involves a new kind of paradigm. It is neither the rational paradigm (of the linear level) nor the holistic intuitive paradigm (of the circular level), but rather the subtle interaction of both.
We have now the growth of a dynamic form of psycho-physical reality.
Physical and psychological reality are seen increasingly as being complements of each other. In other words every physical relationship is understood as having a mirror image psychological equivalent, and in reverse fashion, every psychological relationship as having a mirror image physical equivalent.
Emotional development revolves around the development of a special platonic friendship which acts as a mediator of a very refined form of spiritual erotic feeling.
Through this relationship one develops a feminine archetype of God, which increasingly is seen to pervade all nature. This greatly facilitates ecological concern, but brings one emotionally into sharp conflict with our culture which is unduly male oriented (esp. religious).
Due to the extreme spiritual focus of this phase, one experiences increasing conflict in terms of "lower level" physical needs. As the potential or purely archetypal quality in relationships takes over, any exclusive friendship becomes impossible to sustain.