Formless Spiritual Development



As we have seen the purpose of the point level is to harmonise the complementary cognitive and affective modes in the personality. This leads to an extreme vertical divide as between "high level" superstructures and "low level" substructures. In the former case a highly intuitive and spiritually refined form of reason operates. In the latter case a lowly instinctive and physically unrefined form of emotion is continually released. As there is seemingly no middle ground as between these two types of "real" and "imaginary" experience, reconciliation proves very problematic. As it becomes increasingly difficult to take rest in the phenomena generated at either level, the central mode of the will is brought increasingly into play. One becomes highly attuned to the incompatibilities involved and through the will becomes better at switching from one mode to the other.

Experience becomes so highly dynamic that one finds it impossible to hold on to phenomenal experience either of rational form or sense content. In other words one eventually reaches the point where one can no longer provide any structure to experience. All remaining rigidity is now removed from "high level" experience, which now, with phenomenal content removed is understood - like complementary "low level" experience - as "imaginary"

Once more the geometrical representation (i.e. the Argand Diagram) of the complex number system is remarkably apt.

The circular level can be understood as the attempt to harmonise horizontal opposites in the form of "positive" and "negative" real (i.e. conscious) structures. As long as phenomenal rigidity remains there is a tendency to identify the "positive" with objective and the "negative" with subjective structures. However ultimately these are entirely relative. Thus it is only when all directly conscious phenomena are negated in experience, can one truly harmonise these (|horizontal) complementary opposites, which takes place in a real transcendent void.

The point level can be understood as the attempt to harmonise vertical opposites in the form of "positive" and "negative" imaginary structures. I have constantly used this vertical terminology in referring to "high level" and "low level" structures respectively. In this case as long as phenomenal rigidity remains there is a tendency to identify the "high level" structures as "real" in opposition to "low level" structures which are "imaginary". Again ultimately these structures are purely relative. Thus it is only when all indirectly conscious phenomena are negated in experience, can one truly harmonise once again these (vertical) complementary opposites in both a transcendent and immanent void.

Thus the circular level involves the reconciliation of "real" (i.e. directly conscious) opposites in the personality. This corresponds to mathematical representation of the horizontal axis (positive and negative directions) in the complex plane.

The point level involves the reconciliation of "imaginary" (i.e. indirectly conscious) opposites in the personality. This corresponds to the vertical axis (positive and negative directions) in the complex plane.

We will see finally that the radial level involves the reconciliation of "complex" opposites (the central co-ordinating point of conscious and unconscious which is the will) in the personality. This corresponds to the diagonal axes (where real and imaginary are equal) in the complex plane.

Structures and Process

Experience at the various levels is accompanied by the emergence of new psychological structures. At the linear level the positive or conscious structures emerge. Due to lack of interaction with the unconscious, these tend to be somewhat rigid in format.

At the circular level the unconscious structures emerge. These can only be differentiated through indirect conscious translation involving complementary positive and negative directions. We now have both clearly defined structures and mirror structures in experience which tend to be subtle and flexible.

At the point level there is the attempt to reconcile both conscious and unconscious experience. Again this is done through indirect conscious translation involving complementary cognitive and affective modes. This now leads to the differentiation of "real" and "imaginary" structures in experience which tend to be even more subtle and elusive.

The development of structures - which by their nature are static constructs - is always against the background of a process which is dynamic and represents the interaction of conscious and unconscious in experience. As interaction increases, this dynamic process takes over altogether until ultimately phenomenal structures no longer exist. This represents in turn the pure activity of will.

So with the completion of the point level one enters what is a complete void in experience both of direct conscious and indirectly generated conscious (i.e. unconscious) phenomena. One undergoes another prolonged psychological death, which however in contrast to the crisis at the completion of the circular level, is a peaceful rather than an agonising time. This is the nada or nothingness of Christian mysticism. It is also commonly referred to as nirvana in Buddhism which literally means extinction. However despite appearances to the contrary, it is a pure spiritual state in which resides the potential for highly creative endeavour. In it there is also the birth of a new kind of structure which paradoxically is completely without structure. It is this to which we now turn.


The transitions bridging each of the major levels involve a decisive psychological transformation. These involve the direction, mode and process of understanding respectively.

The transition from linear to circular level involves the realisation that understanding has both a "negative" as well as a "positive" direction. This implies that experience involves a dynamic external-internal interaction. Thus if the objective direction (in relation to mind) is positive, then in relative terms the subjective direction (in relation to matter) is negative. Thus we have here the emergence of the mirror or negative (unconscious) structures to complement the already developed positive (conscious) structures of the linear level.

The transition from circular to point level involves the realisation that understanding now has an "imaginary" as well as a "real" mode. This implies that experience also involves a dynamic rational-emotional interaction. Thus if the cognitive mode of conceptual form (in relation to sense content) is "real", then the affective mode of sense content (in relation to conceptual form) is "imaginary".

Continuing with this mathematical terminology, the transition from point level to radial level involves the additional realisation that understanding is a "transfinite" as well as a "finite" process. This implies in direct terms that experience involves a dynamic conscious-unconscious interaction. Thus if the conscious process of visible physical reality (in relation to invisible spiritual reality) is finite, then the unconscious process of invisible spiritual reality (in relation to visible physical reality) is transfinite.

It is this latest transition that now requires elaboration.

Up to this stage there is a bias evident in understanding. Even though experience becomes considerably more refined and elusive, one is still intent on capturing it in ever more subtle phenomenal structures. Thus one keeps attempting to translate experience - that is increasingly spiritual and infinite - in indirect material and finite terms.

However with the completion of the point level this translation ceases where with the activity of will central, all phenomena are immediately erased in experience the moment they arise. In other words one goes temporarily beyond all material structures to rest in pure spiritual process.

This stage - which can be prolonged over several years - is necessary so as to finally become detached from possessive identification with conscious phenomena. It is only in retrospect that one again can attempt to translate this experience in phenomenal language.

Not surprisingly a high level of mystery will always attach to such translations. They can only be understood properly in the direct experience in which they are no longer relevant.

However this attempted translation can in its own way be fascinating and revealing, where, surprisingly, mathematical notions can be of great use.

I referred before to three basic personality types.

The first is the horizontal or "real" type. Experience for this type is largely confined to conscious actual understanding of the rational paradigm.

Generally, integration for this type can be achieved within the linear level.

The second is the vertical or "imaginary" type. Experience for this type is considerably influenced by unconscious potential understanding of the holistic intuitive paradigm.

Integration for this type generally will require considerable exposure to the circular level.

The third is the diagonal or "complex" type. Experience for this type is particularly influenced - not by the "real" conscious or "imaginary" unconscious minds as such - but rather by the essential interaction between both. Thus literally and mathematically these are "complex" personalities.

Proper integration for this type will probably require further development into the point level.

Let us visualise for a moment a right angled triangle where the horizontal line is real and the vertical line imaginary. Both lines are equal so that the real line is 1 and the imaginary line i (i = the square root of -1).

Using the Pythagorean Theorem the diagonal line (i.e. the hypotenuse) = the sum of the squares of the other two lines (i.e. 12 + i2) = 0.

Thus, though in one dimensional terms both horizontal and vertical lines have a finite length of one unit (in real and imaginary form respectively), the diagonal line of this triangle - in two dimensional terms - mathematically is zero.

Such lines of zero length are recognised in physics as null lines. Indeed one interesting development associated with Roger Penrose (i.e. twistor theory) is very close to this perspective. It makes heavy use of these null lines and complex dimensions in attempting to structure the fundamentals of physical reality.

Null lines are especially fascinating as to would appear to directly represent the nature of physical radiation (e.g. natural light). Phenomenal existence in physical terms is subject to the limitations set by the speed of light itself. As an object approaches this speed, there is considerable alteration in its phenomenal size, which disappears altogether at the speed of light. Pure radiation is strictly speaking two-dimensional and transfinite (nothing in finite terms). What we can know of this radiation or light is in reduced one dimensional terms where it interacts with finite matter. As we have seen - using the Pythagorean Theorem - this has two complementary aspects which are real and imaginary respectively. The real aspect can be seen as representing the particle approach with the imaginary aspect representing the wave approach to light. What it is in itself remains highly elusive.

Again in complementary psychological terms, null lines are equally fascinating in that they would appear to directly represent the nature of spiritual radiation (i.e. illumination or light). Phenomenal existence in experiential terms is subject to the limitations set by the dynamism of spiritual light. As the understanding of an object approaches the speed of light (i.e. as the dynamic nature of interaction in experience greatly increases), there is considerable alteration in perception with the phenomenon disappearing altogether as the interaction is maximised.

The true nature of spiritual radiation or light (i.e. pure intuition) strictly speaking is also two dimensional and transfinite (nothing in finite terms). What we can know of the spirit is in reduced one dimensional terms through its interaction with finite matter. Once again this has two complementary aspects which are real and imaginary respectively. The real "particle" aspect represents light as the contemplation of immanence with the imaginary "wave" aspect represented by the contemplation of transcendence. The true nature of spiritual light thus remains highly elusive and mysterious.

However, though a phenomenon has no finite existence, this does not exclude another class of existence. Indeed in many religious traditions the realm of the finite is considered only temporary and ultimately illusory. Concealed by the veils of phenomenal existence, lies the realm of the infinite or truly spiritual which alone is permanent and ultimately real. Unfortunately this perspective can be unbalanced as there is an essential complementarity as between finite and infinite realms which ideally should be maintained.

The role of the infinite is also very important in mathematics. Unfortunately, here it is treated with much confusion being basically reduced to an extension of the finite. Recently, following pioneering work by George Cantor, there has been a greater willingness to confront its nature with the apparent paradoxical discovery that there exist a whole set of infinite quantities. Indeed this set is itself infinite! Cantor introduced perhaps the more precise notion of "transfinite" to reflect this new varied appreciation of the infinite. It also suggests greater integration with "finite" notions than the infinite. Deep problems however remain. Most of the paradoxes of transfinite numbers in fact directly result from the attempted application of a rational mode of enquiry in an area, which is qualitatively different, requiring a high level of intuitive insight.

Spiritual Perspective

People with a genuine mystical perspective are deeply aware of the transfinite dimension involved in all perception of reality. Just as in natural physical terms light is necessary to see objects, likewise in natural psychological terms light is also necessary to "see" objects and relationships. This light arises from the dynamic interaction of conscious and unconscious. It provides an implicit intuitive recognition which always accompanies the explicit rational recognition pertaining to the conscious mind.

However it is customary to interpret this vital implicit recognition solely in explicit formal terms giving us a reduced rational explanation. Thus, though intuitive insight is always necessary - even in pure mathematics - to recognise and establish relations between symbols, this fact is often conveniently ignored so that propositions are interpreted in reduced (absolute) rather than dynamic (relative) terms. Not surprisingly, when this vital intuitive ingredient in understanding is overlooked, perception tends to become dull, rigid and literally uninspired.

As we have seen In spiritual terms, transfinite experience is expressed indirectly in two forms referred to as the contemplation of immanence and the contemplation of transcendence respectively. Both represent a highly refined form of intuition or enlightenment which greatly heightens the quality of perception.

The former is usually associated with the affective mode in a illuminative form of specific perception within nature. The latter is more associated with the cognitive mode in an illuminative form of general conception revealing holistic form in nature.

Conventional perception tends to recognise reality solely in its finite aspects. What this entails is a distinct fragmentation of reality due to the separation of the part and the whole. Here, to recognise an object is to give it a separate independent identity, with its partial existence thereby tending to exclude its relationship with the whole. Furthermore because of the weakening of this relationship with the whole, objects lose their uniqueness and literally become devitalised and impersonal. This tendency is especially evident in scientific perception. Here objects only have meaning as (individual) data which can be organised - according to some specified criterion - as belonging to a similar (collective) class. Their individual uniqueness is irrelevant, and not surprisingly is lost in terms of this approach.

Heightened perception - especially of the developed mystical kind - tends to recognise reality both in its finite and infinite aspects (both of which are intimately related). When a partial object is recognised, its relationship to the whole is thereby enhanced. This is because the finite perception is in dynamic interaction with a spiritual intuition which is universal.

We can take the famous line from Blake's poem

"To see a world in a grain of sand",

as an illustration of this latter type of enhanced perception. We have here the extreme example of the preservation of the whole and the part. The sense perception of the minute particle in "a grain of sand" is in the context of a heightened form of spiritual intuition providing a universal dimension to the experience.

However when this illumination or intuition is not present, only the partial aspect of the experience is manifest. One can still perceive "a grain of sand", but lacking any universal context it quickly loses its relevance and meaning. As a tiny fragment of total reality, it now appears unimportant and dispensable.

This clearly indicates why the transfinite dimension of experience in the form of mature intuition is so necessary. So many of the problems of modern life are due to the lack of any real sense of belonging to the world. Without authentic spiritual development, experience becomes increasingly fragmented and depersonalised creating an alien environment without ultimate meaning.

The heightened perception illustrated above is a good example of the contemplation of immanence. Here sense perception of the part within nature is against a background of illumination providing a linked holistic dimension. The whole of reality therefore is experienced as being contained within each part.

Contemplation of transcendence operates in reverse fashion. Here holistic intuition is primary as one literally transcends in experience all partial objects. However through this intuition, one is able to appreciate the intimate interdependence of all - apparently separate - parts of nature. Each part is now experienced - in complementary manner - as being contained in the whole of reality.

Whereas, in a direct sense, the contemplation of immanence is relevant as a universalising dimension to aesthetic or artistic type appreciation of reality, the contemplation of transcendence is directly relevant as providing a holistic or universalising dimension to scientific type appreciation.

Both of course ultimately are themselves fully complementary. Where this is the case, the void becomes a plenum-void or alternatively the darkness becomes a dazzling-darkness. Initially however, the void is experienced as pure emptiness - indeed - as psychological death.

This can be explained in terms of these two poles of transfinite experience. As we have seen, contemplation of transcendence involves the erosion of all partial phenomena so as to reveal in intuitive manner the general holistic pattern of all creation. It involves considerable internal fusion in what remains a hidden light which is experienced as darkness.

Contemplation of immanence involves by contrast, intense focusing on each unique part of creation. In the context of an intuitive holistic background one is thereby able to perceive its special uniqueness. Energy fusion is now externalised and experienced as light.

So in spiritual transfinite terms the transcendent darkness and immanent light are themselves fully complementary notions. Darkness is simply unseen light.

Before completion of the point level, the naked or transcendent void still dominates. However because of considerable preceding substructure activity, one now reaches a point of equilibrium where transcendent and immanent tendencies are harmonised. So just as the darkness of night slowly gives way to the light of day, in like fashion spiritual darkness is slowly transformed into spiritual light. In other words the empty void of pure detachment becomes a plenum-void full of light and intimate meaning. However just like the breaking of day this happens in an almost imperceptible fashion.

A fascinating matching pattern applies also to physical processes. As the black hole slowly radiates in the emission of virtual particles, it becomes less black and in relative terms a white hole. When it has fully radiated it is ready to be reborn as a star in an explosion of pure energy. So just as on a personal level one can be born again spiritually, likewise in impersonal terms the physical universe can be born again.

Physical Implications

Null structures have - in direct terms - a transfinite rather than a finite existence. They represent the potential for phenomenal existence rather than any actual phenomenon. They can be viewed simply as rays of light which involve the harmonisation of both the "real" and "imaginary" aspects of reality.

Literally, these lines can now literally throw light on the attempted unification of physics. We have already seen that the two key theories explaining physical reality i.e. The Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics belong to differing orders of reality which are "real" and "imaginary" respectively. There is an explicit aspect which is manifest through conscious experience which is "real" and an implicit aspect which arises from an unconscious ground - and only indirectly manifest through consciousness - which is "imaginary". Since scientific understanding is still based on the philosophical notion of "real" conscious theories, these two approaches cannot be successfully integrated within the present paradigm.

However we now can suggest a means by which this desired unification can be achieved.

The goal of the point level is in psychological terms to unify the "real" cognitive superstructures with the "imaginary" affective substructures. This directly complements in physical terms the goal of unifying the supertheory explaining global physical relationships at a macro level (Relativity Theory) with the response patterns of sub-atomic particles at a micro level (Quantum Mechanics).

In a certain sense the psychological problem is solved through an experience going simultaneously beyond and beneath all phenomena in a pure creative void.

As it is without phenomena it has no actual finite existence. However it does have a transfinite existence which represents the potential for finite existence. We can view this experience accurately as a pure form of spiritual radiation.

The physical problem is solved in precisely parallel fashion. At its most fundamental level, physical reality goes simultaneously beyond any connecting form (to matter) and beneath any phenomenal identity (as observable particles) in a pure creative void.

Again, as it is without phenomena it has no actual finite existence. However it does have a transfinite existence once more representing the potential for finite existence.

We could distinguish these by referring to transfinite reality at the fully evolved and differentiated psychological level as pure superfinite reality, and transfinite reality at the fully involved and undifferentiated physical level as pure subfinite reality.

This fundamental ground of subfinite reality can be looked on as a pure form of physical radiation.

In fairness some contemporary ideas in physics come very close to this approach.

At the conventional level of experience of physical reality, four forces are manifest viz. gravity, electromagnetic, strong and weak forces. Now it has already been established that at sufficiently high energy levels that the weak and electromagnetic levels are reconciled. Hopes therefore exist that at even greater energies - going greatly beyond what can be experimentally generated - that all the forces can be reconciled. Therefore ultimately, it is hypothesised, at sufficiently high energy levels, an original supersymmetry exists where only one force exists. However in the world of phenomenal existence, this supersymmetry breaks down, so that this original force now manifests itself as four separate forces. Actual phenomenal reality therefore represents a world of broken symmetry.

The degree of complementarity here with the authentic mystical experience of transpersonal psychology is truly startling.

Mystical transformation can be looked on as a form of high energy psychology. One becomes painfully aware early on in life of the broken symmetry of conventional experience, and through a process of intense spiritual transformation seeks that original supersymmetry of perfect union. One journeys through increasingly higher levels of spiritual energy in the linear, circular and point levels respectively before finally reaching one's goal of spiritual union in the radial level.

Though this unifying experience is immediately direct and without phenomena (i.e. mystical ecstasy) when one attempts to translate it indirectly in phenomenal terms it manifests itself in a four fold fashion which is perfectly represented by the complex number system. Number quantities (representing the horizontal rational aspect of experience) can be real or imaginary, and each in a positive or negative form. Likewise number qualities (representing the vertical intuitive aspect of experience) can equally be real or imaginary, with each in a positive or negative form. In other words experience - as phenomenally experienced - can be of a cognitive or affective mode, and in an objective or subjective direction.

Therefore in terms of the attempted unification of physical reality we can sum up our findings as following:

The goal of physical unification - properly understood - cannot be divorced from the complementary goal of psychological union. This is something which mystics of all ages have clearly understood.

In direct terms, unification involves an immediate experience of reality which in its purest form is entirely without phenomena. Mystical ecstasy represents the closest approximation to this reality. Here, we have union at a psychological level through complete personal fulfilment. However, what is not sufficiently emphasised, we also have union here at a physical level, in the union with all creation. The mystic in fact accelerates the process of cosmic evolution so rapidly that in ecstasy it actually realises - for a brief moment - its own goal or omega point.

The original void of undifferentiated primitive radiation is now utterly transformed in refined spiritual light.

Phenomenal translations of reality, can at best offer only indirect knowledge of what they represent. Indeed, without complementary psychological transformation these representations are inauthentic symbols lacking wisdom. Ultimately, truth resides not in abstract theories but in present direct experience. Insofar, as indirect translation has validity, reality is - in mathematical terms - "complex" involving both "real" and "imaginary" components each with "positive" and "negative" aspects. Thus, original union which is inherently dynamic, in static terms now manifests itself as four distinct poles.

The task now for science is to move from the paradigm of a positive real rational approach to a more refined complex rational approach.


The transition from point to radial level involves another profound transition. It is experienced as a void or death, but potentially represents a life of high creativity and energy.

As it is an experience devoid of identification with phenomena, it brings a temporary end to all indirect translations of reality. It is therefore represents the experience of pure process without structure.

Translations of reality are a necessary part of experience. Problems only arise when one identifies - through possessive involvement - the secondary translation with reality. Experience then becomes distorted and confused. However, when understood properly, they are a vital means of clarifying experience and keeping paths open to the ultimate.

There now takes place a highly paradoxical emergence of a new kind of structure, with no direct finite identity. In mathematical terms we could refer to this as the transfinite domain which represents the equality of "real" and "imaginary". This is turn represents experience with full and equal development of conscious and unconscious processes.

With finite and transfinite domains (i.e. conscious and unconscious) now properly differentiated, the task is now to seek their true integration.

This is achieved during the radial level.