So far, we have dealt with the differentiation of conscious structures in the personality. We have seen that there are several clearly identifiable stages involved.
Each stage represents a transformation in understanding. The limited perspective of the previous stage is transcended in terms of a higher vision. One gradually identifies with this new stage and learns to interpret reality through it. However, as development progresses, new conflicts arise, eventually leading to an even higher stage emerging.
However, whereas Western psychology explains well the means by which these various stages are differentiated in the personality, it does not deal convincingly with the equally important task of integration. If differentiation can be seen as the means by which forward development of new structures unfolds, integration represents the means by which backward development (i.e. harmonisation) with previous structures takes place.
I have already explained that this deficiency is due to the fact that whereas differentiation is based directly on specialisation of the conscious process, integration, on the other hand, is directly based on specialisation of the unconscious process. Unfortunately, at the linear level, little specialisation of the unconscious is possible. This in turn poses considerable problems in terms of proper integration of all (differentiated) conscious structures both at body and mental levels.
Thus, as a new conscious structure emerges and is differentiated at the linear level, considerable repression of the previous stage is likely to take place. Responses appropriate to the previous stage simply become blocked off and buried in the unconscious. In particular, the primitive physical instincts of the infant body ego, are rarely properly integrated with the mental ego of the adult. Rather, they are to a considerable degree repressed in the unconscious, greatly limiting true growth and freedom.
It is not that modern psychology is unaware of the problem. Much of Jungian psychology, for example, deals directly with this issue.
Typically, a person will develop a persona (or rather series of personae) which really is an inauthentic (conscious) "good" self for presentation to the world. This is complemented by a shadow or "bad" self lurking in the unconscious. This "bad" shadow self is often unrecognised and misunderstood. Instead of being integrated with the "good" self in a freer authentic personality, it is frequently projected outwards and is the real cause of so much evil in society.
The analysis of the problem is quite convincing. However, the attempted solution is less satisfactory. For example, in Jungian terms, integration of the shadow with the rest of the personality would be a key goal. However, it is hard to see this being achieved - except in a very limited way - without substantial specialisation of the unconscious process. And, in a society, where understanding rarely goes beyond the linear level, this is unlikely.
QUASI-INTEGRATION: The Centaur
In Western psychology, the highest level of development is the integration of body and mind. This has been referred to by Wilber as the centaur from the mythical figure, half human, half animal which symbolises well this integration in the complete personality of both mental and body ego. Thus, the self having differentiated all appropriate body and mental structures, now detaches from exclusive identification with them and integrates all successfully together.
What is not properly explained, is how this considerable task can be achieved.
Actually, this is where the third process i.e. the central or spiritual process is involved. True integration neither involves the conscious or unconscious, directly, but rather the balanced working of both through the will.
Now the personality will automatically strive to achieve this balance. However, it will not be possible to do so successfully, if the conscious is more developed than the unconscious process.
In fairness, much of the psychological literature on this stage, implicitly recognises this fact. Indeed, there is often a strong existential dimension involved.
The person - now on the threshold of adulthood, starts to seriously address the fundamental questions of life. The desire for freedom from role playing and greater authenticity of lifestyle, can become very important. One at last desires to step out both from one's own shadow and that of society at large, to pursue goals in keeping with true personality needs.
A period of disillusionment and restlessness can follow, involving considerable soul searching. One has to embark on the painful task of facing up to ones false self, and by coming to terms with this shadow self, learn to incorporate it in a more genuine persona. Also, if this task is successfully resolved, one learns to detach oneself from exclusive identification of one's ego with any particular stage of development. Thus one has greater freedom to now recognise the value of previous stages and achieve integration with them.
Thus the centaur implicitly recognises both the unconscious and central processes. Coming to terms with role playing and the shadow self, involves the former, whereas the emphasis on some ultimate life vision and a centre of authentic intentionality in the personality involves the latter.
The end product of this centaur stage seems quite convincing. A person will now have successfully integrated both the mental and physical self, thus achieving a balance as between emotional and rational pursuits. The ego, though all this detachment, will be more dynamic and flexible. There will now be a spiritual centre - the basis for authentic decision making - firmly rooting the personality in present reality. Linear space and time now flow out of, and continually return to the centre.
However, on closer examination, there are severe flaws in the ideal model of the centaur. It seems to be assumed that all this integration can be achieved, without significantly going beyond the linear level. So, at best, this stage can be represented as a means, by which the limitations of over-specialisation of the conscious process, can be modified. It does not really address explicitly the fundamental nature of either the unconscious or central (spiritual) processes. For example the relationship as between mature unconscious intuition, and primitive unconscious instinct is often greatly confused. Also the conflict as between the experiential spiritual vision and that of the formal scientific world is usually avoided.
Most of all it does not recognise that considerable further transformation of the personality beyond the centaur level is possible - and indeed necessary - for true integration.
In the next section, I wish to address, how the existential crisis - on completion of the linear level - can call so much into question the very validity of this level, that resolution requires proceeding onto to new 'higher' levels.
The centaur represents the successful integration of the (already) differentiated stages of the linear level. Essentially, it relates to a spiritual centre capable of smoothly co-ordinating all the diverse aspects of personality.
However, a key problem exists in that the linear level by its very nature is not suited to this important task. Further levels of development are necessary. It is to this that we now turn.