(Notes can be directly accessed by clicking on numerical links throughout text!)
"My model has often been accused of being based solely on the Eastern meditative traditions. A quick glance at charts 6a-c is enough to dispel misconception. I would in particular like to draw attention to the work of Evelyn Underhill. Her masterpiece, Mysticism, first published in 1911, is still in many ways an unsurpassed classic for the elucidation of the Western mystical and contemplative traditions. Underhill divides Western mysticism into three broad hierarchical stages (with numerous substages), which she calls nature mysticism (a lateral expansion of consciousness to embrace the stream of life), metaphysical mysticism (culminating in formless cessation), and divine mysticism (which she divides into dark night and union). These are in many ways quite similar to my nature mysticism, deity mysticism, and formless/nondual mysticism. These stages of spirituality are deeply important, whether they are East or West, North or South, and no account of spirituality is complete without them."

The above is a quote from Ken Wilber's "Integral Psychology" P.133.

First I would like to say before commenting on this quote that I find "Integral Psychology" a most readable, comprehensive and well presented account of Ken's overall model of psychological development. Also, I have derived great benefit from the study of his many books over the past 20 years (which are quite remarkable both in terms of their extensive range and high quality of intellectual endeavor).

However I would be concerned with Ken's claim that the approach of Evelyn Underhill is quite similar to his own, when in fact in several key respects it is radically different.

I can readily agree that "Mysticism" is still in many ways an unsurpassed classic for the elucidation of the Western and contemplative traditions. Apart from the thorough grasp of her subject, the sustained beauty of her wonderfully lyrical prose greatly enhances appreciation of the rich variety of experience she portrays from these traditions.

Unfortunately I would have to take strong issue with Ken regarding his remaining assertions.

He says that Underhill divides Western mysticism into three broad hierarchical stages (with numerous substages which she calls nature mysticism (a lateral expansion of consciousness to embrace the stream of life), metaphysical mysticism (culminating in formless cessation), and divine mysticism (which she divides into dark night and union).

This quite simply is not an accurate representation of her approach.

Firstly she consistently uses five stages (not three) which she defines in a distinctive manner (that bears little direct comparison with Ken's terminology). Also - strictly speaking - these do not have substages. Rather they are defined as broadly as possible so as to successfully accommodate a wide range of diverse mystical experience.

Secondly, her five stages are not at all hierarchical (or holarchical) in the manner of Ken's asymmetrical interpretation of development. Indeed her dynamic manner of classifying stages entails the very dissolution of such hierarchical notions.

Thirdly, what Ken refers to as nature mysticism, metaphysical mysticism and divine mysticism do not constitute separate stages for Underhill, but rather interdependent aspects of every higher stage (the precise emphasis on which is largely determined by personality characteristics).

Before dealing with each of these points in more detail, I will characterise what I see as the fundamental difference as between the two approaches.

Though Ken's elegant model is undoubtedly superb in its own right, it really constitutes a multi-differentiated - rather than a properly integrated - account of development. 1  In terms of his intellectual analysis he typically deals with development variables in a relatively independent manner. 2

He then attempts to explain integration as a multiple composite of the resulting partial asymmetric perspectives (which is to confuse integration with multi-differentiation). In fact, as we shall see later his holarchical approach is based on an arbitrary fixing of polar reference frames which leads to imbalance and inconsistency from an overall perspective. Though he is undoubtedly extremely well versed in the literature of the Eastern traditions - and conveys wonderfully well the nature of nondual experience in many poetic passages - there remains a marked discontinuity throughout his work in his treatment of the dual and nondual. In particular he greatly ignores the dynamic interpenetration of refined phenomenal structures (cognitive, affective and volitional) with emerging nondual spiritual understanding at the higher levels of development. As these very structures esp. cognitive, are required for an intellectual translation that is properly integral, this constitutes a major omission.

One may readily admit that a key merit of Ken's comprehensive treatment is its unrivalled precision and detail. However for all that, it is somewhat mechanical in nature and thereby not suited to deal consistently with the complementary - and inherently paradoxical - nature of all poles throughout development.

In marked contrast Evelyn Underhill adopts a much more personalised and diffuse open-ended style of writing that is greatly lacking in Ken's form of precision. However a major strength throughout is her exceptional appreciation of the truly interdependent nature of psychological dynamics especially where mystical development is concerned. Though Ken's approach is immensely impressive in its own right, I find Underhill's looser - but inherently dynamic - treatment more properly suited as a genuine integral approach.


Underhill does not attempt to deal with the full Spectrum of Development but rather with those stages that relate directly to the Mystic Way and its radical growth in authentic spiritual awareness. She adopts the standard (extended) Christian divisions of conversion, purgation, illumination self-surrender and unity. Though in very general terms these may be roughly identified with the classification of psychic, subtle, causal and nondual, they really reflect a cultural experience that is temperamentally quite distinct from Ken's account of Eastern traditions.

Stage 1 (The Awakening of the Self)

The transition to the genuine mystical experience (the first Mystic Life) usually culminates in a profound conversion.
Typically this event is preceded by a lengthy existential crisis. Here a new more authentic spiritual identity begins to incubate in the unconsciousness that contrasts sharply with the habits and desires associated with the restricted worldly ego.

Though in some cases it remains a gradual process, usually conversion is marked by a dramatic event. After months and perhaps years of anxious searching a decisive point is reached, when one willingly surrenders the old self and freely embraces a new spiritual identity. A feeling of great peace and an outpouring of illumination often follow this moment.

As Underhill makes clear the precise manifestation of conversion can vary and be identified with any of the four quadrants.
However whatever its form, it serves as confirmation of genuine spiritual progress and the attainment of a new higher stage of development.
A joyous honeymoon period frequently follows where everything is bathed in a new light. This helps greatly to consolidate this new identity in the Spirit.

However a serious conflict inevitably begins to emerge.
Continual exposure to the new spiritual light (i.e. the perfection of God) brings the shadow side of one's personality (still in darkness) into relief. In Christian terms this would be referred to as the contrast between the perfection of God and the imperfections of self. A much more sober - and even despondent - mood begins to emerge as a decisive shift in the nature of one's spiritual experience takes place.

Second Stage: The Purification of the Self

This is the first big swingback or dynamic regression in the spiritual life. As we will see later transpersonal stages are dynamically complementary with prepersonal (and prepersonal with transpersonal) and the interaction between them steadily increases as authentic spiritual motivation gains hold of the personality.

For one, who - in the light of the previous stage - believed that continual spiritual progress was assured, this can be an extremely frustrating and disillusioning experience. Everything seems to go backwards. Instead of light and joy, darkness and pain now fill the personal landscape. Emotional and intellectual life are considerably affected. Worst of all the growing penetration of the light reveals in stark fashion the moral poverty of the still unreformed inner self.
As one is led to accept the "darkness of sin" (i.e. self-centred desire in all its forms) as the fundamental obstacle to reception of the Spirit, a prolonged period of purgation usually follows. This involves a disciplined set of practices involving both mortification and detachment that are designed to root out the troublesome elements of self. (Its severity is directly related to the strength of the preceding illumination!) Such purgation is not yet fully comprehensive and is largely confined to the life of the senses (both affective and cognitive). When sufficient reform has taken place, so as to enable the exposed shadow to be successfully incorporated with the Spirit, this phase ceases and - like conversion before it - often takes place in a sudden manner.

So we now - while still residing at the "lower" prepersonal stage - have the mature interaction of both pre and trans (i.e. the reformed shadow self with the Spirit). This is usually associated with a growth in contemplative prayer (often referred to as the "prayer of quiet").

It is important to grasp the fully complementary nature of these first two stages, which Underhill is at pains to emphasise.
The purgative represents in direct terms the dynamic negation of the previous conversion stage. So the "higher" stage that is posited as transpersonal is then negated as a complementary "lower" stage that is prepersonal. In other words the purity of the spiritual light that shines in the "higher" trans stage reveals the corresponding shadow that was formed in the personality at the complementary "lower" pre stage. This necessitates in effect a return to the earlier stage so as to heal (through the light of the Spirit) the unresolved conflicts remaining from that time. This dynamic complementarity of "lower" with "higher" and "higher" with "lower" clearly entails therefore, that in a dynamic sense, the prepersonal necessarily remain continuous with the transpersonal stages throughout development.

Third Stage: The Illumination of the Self

With the problems of the "lower" shadow now sufficiently addressed, the Spirit is once more revealed in greatly enhanced fashion as a new "higher" stage of development. Underhill refers to this as "The Illumination of the Self" which represents the culmination of the first Mystic Life.
Though in some measure it already indicates a certain participation in Divinity it does not as yet represent a permanent attainment of that life.

It is important to appreciate that Underhill does not classify mystical stages - as Ken suggests - in hierarchical fashion as nature mysticism, metaphysical mysticism and divine mysticism.
She makes it very clear in fact that the distinctive way in which spiritual illumination is experienced will largely be dictated by natural personality preferences.

Therefore for the more immanent type, who experienced initial illumination in "The Awakening of Self" under the guise of nature symbols, that vision becomes considerably enhanced at this higher stage of illumination. Likewise the more transcendent type, whose illumination was earlier revealed through metaphysical symbols, will now experience a similar type of (metaphysical) vision that is purer and clearer in quality.

Also immanent and transcendent expressions are by no means exclusive so that the same mystic will often experience under both guises. Indeed ultimate unity entails achieving significant balance as between the two expressions (which are fully complementary).
Likewise of course, direct identification with the Divine (which really represents the integration of transcendent and immanent expressions) is possible at any stage.

So once we recognise the necessary interdependence of these various expressions of the spiritual, it makes little sense to clarify stages hierarchically in terms of nature mysticism, metaphysical mysticism and divine mysticism. From a correct dynamic viewpoint these are seen as various expressions of the Spirit which can be experienced at every stage. The key point is that a purer and more complete experience in every case can take place at the relatively higher stage. So in this sense, nature mysticism, metaphysical mysticism and divine mysticism all achieve their most complete expressions with the culmination of the Unitive Life.
Put another way from a correct dynamic experiential perspective there is no elevation of formlessness over form at the "higher" mystical stages. What Underhill would once again maintain however is that a purer more refined experience of the relationship between form and formlessness (dual and nondual) becomes increasingly possible at these stages.

For the majority on the spiritual journey, mystic life plateaus with this stage.
However for a significant minority, mere participation in the life of the Divine is not sufficient and the desire for a permanent more compete attainment remains.

This again creates similar - though more severe - problems than at the Awakening stage. When one dwells for a while in the pure light of the Spirit, the remaining unreformed shadow lying deep in the personality is slowly brought into relief causing considerable conflict.
So once more the focus begins to shift dramatically from the "higher" trans to an even "lower" pre stage of development.

Stage 4: The Dark Night of the Soul

This is the most arduous stage of all in the spiritual life. 3
It can only be properly understood through direct experience and causes such profound darkness and intimate distress that there are really no parallels in ordinary life. A truly severe "night" can last several years with little or no relief afforded during that time.

To appreciate Underhill's dynamic approach let us quote her own words!

Speaking of normal mystical development she says:
"it is an orderly movement of the whole consciousness towards higher centres in which each intense and progressive affirmation fatigues the immature transcendental powers and is paid for by a negation; a swing-back of the whole consciousness, a stagnation of intellect, a reaction of the emotions, or an inhibition of the will"

Of course she is writing before the advent of modern psychology. However it is clear that she is aware of the inevitable complementarity of pre and trans in development. Indeed she quotes Madame Guyon who reveals this state of affairs quite graphically.

"So soon as I perceived the happiness of any state or its beauty or the necessity of a virtue, it seemed to me that I fell incessantly into the contrary vice; as if this perception, though always accompanied by love was only given to me that I might experience the opposite. I was given an intense perception of the purity of God; and so far as my feelings went, I myself became more and more impure: for in reality this state is very purifying, but I was far from understanding this."

So we see here the complementary nature of Spirit and Nature with each growth in the "higher" Spirit throwing into sharp relief the shadow personality and the imperfections of the "lower" self. So the real task is to unite pre and trans.

As the Dark Night entails such a deep erosion of former structures, it is not surprising that it leads to considerable problems. Communication breaks down to an alarming extent and one finds it increasingly difficult to cope with either worldly or spiritual reality. The profusion of trials that inevitably follows is the means however through which the soul is humbled and the faculties cleansed.
Health also frequently suffers during this time. As the body is a psycho-physical organism, dramatic change in psychological terms inevitably will have physical consequences resulting frequently in ill-health.

One weakness of Underhill's account however is a failure to properly distinguish as between the Subtle Realm (characterised by erosion of conscious phenomena) and the corresponding purgation of the Causal Realm, relating to short-lived imaginary phenomena projected from the unconscious, where purgation and illumination largely coincide.
Thus the Dark Night of the Soul is characterised in her account as leading directly to Union where - more accurately - it leads initially to a new refined form of deep spiritual awareness or dim contemplation (referred to by St. John of the Cross as "Spiritual Espousal").

Stage 5: The Unitive Life

I find Underhill's account here especially impressive as she conveys in a very balanced fashion both its human and divine aspects which are expressed in a joyous affirmative fashion.

Whereas a weakness of Western mysticism is the lack of proper clarification of the states that characterise the Causal Level, its major strength is the wonderful way in which the final stage (representing the culmination of previous stages) is conveyed.

The reason for this is quite interesting. Perhaps because of historic influences, traditionally more emphasis has been placed on form in Christian - and indeed Western - traditions. Thus the Christian mystic is typically reluctant to divest experience of all form (even in the state of union).
Indeed in dynamic terms this emphasis is quite valid as form and formlessness are complementary. Therefore strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a purely formless experience. More correctly when the relationship between form and emptiness is extremely refined, phenomena arise and are negated in the moment of their creation and maintain little hold over memory. However it would not be strictly correct to refer to this as "nondual reality". Rather it is both dual and nondual representing the very subtle interaction of form and formlessness.

This leads in turn to an interesting distinction as between the Eastern and Christian description of unity.
Though some writers such as Eckhart come close to direct identification of the self with God in union, this is not typical of the tradition where an essential separation - even in union - is maintained. Again, in dynamic terms, this makes considerable sense for - as long as one remains in the flesh - union necessarily entails the psycho-physical apparatus of the body and total spiritual attainment cannot thereby be obtained. Neither can peak experiences of union be permanently sustained without the interaction of dualistic phenomena. So in the last phase the Christian mystic inevitably returns to the world to seek its spiritual transformation.

Once more the personal self cannot be ultimately separated from the wider world. Spiritual transformation, in individual terms, always entails a corresponding transformation of society. So the Christian mystic who has largely achieved the goal of personal transformation, realises dramatically in this last phase of development that wider society is still in need of that same spiritual transformation. Thus the Unitive life is typically characterised by an intensely creative and practical involvement in worldly affairs. Here the mystic willingly becomes the servant of others in a burning desire to transmit the same Spirit through which s/he has been transformed.

A weakness of Ken's account (based largely on Eastern traditions) is that he fails to properly distinguish this - often - intensely active final phase, where activity and contemplation harmoniously interact, from the more narrowly defined state of Union (characterised by peak contemplation). Clearly it is not satisfactory to continue to refer to this life as Nondual Reality - which is even inaccurate in the narrow contemplative sense - as it now entails considerable immersion in dualistic affairs.

Rather the Unitive Life is characterised by the balanced interplay of form and formlessness where form has both bi-directional and one-directional aspects.
The bi-directional aspects of form - through which the paradox of dualistic distinctions is revealed - directly support contemplative activity (in the same way that the flames of a fire feed on the interaction with a material substance).
The one-directional aspects of form directly support the dualistic understanding that inevitably informs all practical involvement in affairs.
These one-directional aspects of form in turn provide the material out of which the subsequent bi-directional activity that facilitates spiritual contemplation, can take place. So in this way there is a ceaseless interplay as between (dualistic) form and (nondual) emptiness, both of which are increasingly experienced as dynamically interdependent.

Transitions between Stages

As stated before Underhill does not define sub-stages as such, but rather attempts to incorporate a wide range of diverse mystical experience within broadly defined stages that are applicable in all cases.
However she does make an interesting observation regarding transitions between mystical stages which again serves to illustrate the dynamic nature of her understanding.

"Rapid oscillations between a joyous and a painful consciousness seem to occur most often at the beginning of a new period of the Mystic Way: between Purgation and Illumination, and again between Illumination and the Dark Night."

Once we accept the inevitable dynamic complementarity as between trans and pre (and pre and trans) respectively, this is easy to appreciate.
For example while Purgation is taking place (in the cleansing of the more superficial elements of the shadow), the Spirit remains largely confined to the "lower" pre stage (that complements the previous "higher" trans stage). However once this purgation is largely completed (i.e. when the bottom of the pre stage has been reached), the inhibiting influence of the shadow on the spiritual light loosens, enabling once again reception of spiritual illumination at the peak of the complementary trans stage. (This peak then marks the starting point for the next trans stage!) So while one is still testing one's security in the Spirit, there is a continual return to the purgative activity of the pre stage in an attempt to consolidate the cleansing of the personality already achieved. However when shadow elements no longer pose a serious barrier, the Spirit begins to reside more and more at the "higher" level, enabling further progress in illumination through the next (trans) stage.

The dynamics are similar in reverse fashion in moving from Illumination to the Dark Night. Here, as deeply rooted imperfections of the psyche are gradually brought into focus, one finds it more difficult to remain at the illumination stage. So instinctively the Spirit keeps switching to the complementary - and now even "lower" - pre stage in an attempt to root out these imperfections. However because of the depth of this shadow a quick cleansing of the faculties is not possible. So oscillation between both "high" and "low" stages continues to take place before one can accept that total attention needs to be devoted to the purgative task.
So there is a gradual letting go of "high" illumination before corresponding "low" purgation can be fully accepted.


Broadly speaking I would see three types of translation of development that need to be carefully distinguished.

1) The (linear) partial asymmetric method. 4 Variables here are typically treated in a relatively independent manner, which is directly suited for interpretation of the differentiated aspect of development.
In terms of his intellectual analysis, Ken Wilber very much typifies this approach e.g. his holarchic treatment of levels, quadrants and lines.
However in attempting to translate integration as a multiple composite of partial asymmetric perspectives, in effect he largely reduces the integral to a multi-differentiated approach.

2) The (circular) holistic complementary method. Here the dynamic interdependence of variables is emphasised. In a fundamental sense, all development is based on polar opposites which are related to each other in a complementary fashion. Such understanding - which is circular rather than linear in nature - creates paradox in terms of the partial asymmetric approach, and is directly suited for interpretation of the integral aspect of development.

Evelyn Underhill's style - though looser and more diffuse than Ken's - typifies very well the integral approach through demonstrating an exceptional grasp of the true interdependence of psychological variables at the mystical level of development (where they become increasingly complementary).
However - though of course it is not her intention - her approach does not provide a detailed analytic treatment of development.

3) The comprehensive method - which I term radial - attempts to combine both (linear) partial and (circular) holistic approaches in a coherent fashion. Development necessarily entails both differentiation and integration at every stage (though the precise combination can vary greatly). It is important therefore in translation to interpret both aspects - which are qualitatively distinct - without reducing one to the other. So a key concern here is the provision of the proper translation interface connecting the two aspects (of differentiation and integration).

Before dealing with these points further, I will show how differentiation and integration, in each case, require very distinctive interpretations of the stages of development.


Discrete (Differentiation)

Maintaining an appropriate distinction as between differentiation and integration intimately affects the very way in which stages of development are defined.
When we wish to differentiate it is appropriate to define stages in a discrete (i.e. relatively independent) manner.
This can be illustrated easily by confining ourselves initially to the broadest definition of stages.
Ken Wilber does this by treating development in terms of prepersonal, personal and transpersonal stages.

For Ken, development proceeds from prepersonal to personal to transpersonal in a holarchic manner. As we can see the direction is here asymmetric. The transpersonal stages are unambiguously the highest and the prepersonal the lowest in development (with the personal being in the middle). Also he strongly emphasises the fact that transpersonal and prepersonal should not be confused with each other (which again requires a discrete method of interpretation). Indeed this is the basis of his pre/trans fallacy which he has consistently used - and indeed frequently misused - in criticism of other writers. 5

However as we shall see clearly later, when we try to approach integration in an asymmetric manner, it leads to considerable inconsistency.

Continuous (Integration)

When we wish to integrate development, it is appropriate to provide a continuous interpretation of stages (so that all are understood as being interdependent with each other).
This interdependence is achieved by recognising the dynamic complementarity of polar opposites. So from this perspective, prepersonal and transpersonal (and equally transpersonal and prepersonal) constitute polar opposites, which are dynamically interdependent. The interdependent pre/trans (i.e. both pre and trans) are then in turn complementary with the remaining personal stages (which are neither pre nor trans).

From the alternative integral perspective - where by definition stages are interdependent - it makes little sense to separate pre and trans (and trans and pre).
So initially in development, both pre and trans interact in a very dynamic but also very confused manner. Strictly speaking therefore it is inaccurate to portray an infant's experience as residing in a first prepersonal stage (as discretely defined). Properly understood this experience is initially all over the Spectrum (though in a very confused manner).

Likewise at the "higher" stages it becomes increasingly inaccurate to portray experience as belonging to a particular discrete stage, as once again it becomes extremely dynamic interacting with all stages of the Spectrum (though this time in a mature fashion).

Now in a correct integral approach it is of course recognised that differentiation necessarily takes place (which culminates with the middle personal stages). So early development is then seen as the movement away from a totally confused notion of integration, to a largely differentiated state culminating in the middle stages. Indeed the only place where the discrete interpretation approaches accuracy is at these middle (personal) stages, especially where considerable specialisation of its structures takes place. Unfortunately - and this is an extremely important point - the very analytic techniques (including vision-logic) that are typically used to translate development, are largely the product of the middle level. Therefore considerable misrepresentation of the true dynamics of development (at the other stages) inevitably takes place when using such techniques.

As the task of differentiation is very distinct from that of integration, one must then return in the later stage to achieve proper spiritual integration where polar opposites are no longer confused with each other. So once again in the "higher" stage, pre and trans (and trans and pre) become increasingly interdependent, however this time in a mature manner.

Now in dealing with Underhill's treatment of the mystical life we can see this latter interpretation clearly at work.
Because trans is necessarily complementary with pre, each "higher" illuminative stage (where transpersonal spirit is revealed) is followed by a complementary "lower" purgation (where prepersonal shadow is uncovered). When in the spiritual light the shadow darkness is concealed; when in the shadow darkness, the spiritual light is concealed.

So the initial stage of "higher" illumination (The Awakening of the Self) is followed by its negation in the "lower" purgation (The Purification of the Self). We then have the return to a new even "higher" illumination (The Illumination of the Self) which in turn is once again followed by its own even "lower" negation (The Dark Night of the Soul). Only when the soul is no longer attached to secondary phenomena ("higher" or "lower") can a fully stable spiritual equilibrium be achieved. This occurs with the onset of the Unitive Life.

Now, because of deep centredness in the Spirit, one can more freely interact with all levels of the Spectrum while maintaining constancy in this primary equilibrium.

Combining Discrete and Continuous

As the discrete and continuous interpretations operate on distinctive logical systems, which are paradoxical in terms of each other, it may help to further illustrate their distinctive nature.

Imagine two drivers A and B starting from the same point heading in opposite directions.
If we separate the polar frames of reference for both drivers and look at their movement in a relatively independent manner, then we get an unambiguous notion of direction. In other words each driver - taken separately - will report movement in a forward direction.
Now if we use a multiple perspectives approach, by combining each driver, we will say that both are moving forward. So once again the direction of movement appears unambiguous.

However when we look at the movement of both drivers in interdependent terms, the direction of movement is no longer unambiguous but paradoxical.
Thus if A is deemed to be moving forward (relative to B) then B thereby moves backward (relative to A).
Likewise if B is deemed to be moving forward (relative to A), then A thereby moves backward (relative to B)

So depending on the frame of reference adopted (which is merely arbitrary), both drivers can be viewed as moving either forward or backward (relative to each other).

This illustration is deeply relevant to the very nature of development, which is always fundamentally based on the interaction of opposite poles.
If we arbitrarily fix polar frames of reference and view development variables within each partial perspective - like our isolated drivers in the above example - the direction of movement for each perspective will appear asymmetric and unambiguous.
If we then attempt to combine various perspectives (as with our two drivers) based on such arbitrarily fixed reference frames, then the direction of movement for these multiple perspectives will again appear unambiguous and asymmetric.
Ken Wilber's intellectual approach to development is based through and through on the multiple application of this partial perspectives approach (and is thereby deeply unsatisfactory as a proper integral method).  6

However when we view polar reference frames in a simultaneous manner (as befits integration) the direction of movement for all development variables is rendered paradoxical.
Once again let us return to our two drivers. When viewed simultaneously, direction can only be defined by arbitrarily choosing one reference frame (even though the other is equally valid). So when we choose the forward direction of A (as our reference frame), then B is seen to be moving in a backward direction (with respect to A).
However when we switch reference frames (now taking the forward direction of B) then A will be seen to be moving backward (with respect to B). Then depending on which reference frame is adopted, movement can always be viewed in either direction.

Again the implications of this are enormous for appreciating the nature of development. We are accustomed for example to a (linear) asymmetric interpretation of stages where development moves in a forward direction. However once we appreciate that the poles of development necessarily interact (e.g. exterior and interior aspects) then this makes little sense from a dynamic integral perspective.

Therefore if development of the exterior aspect of stages moves in a forward direction (with the exterior aspect as reference frame), then the interior aspect moves in a backward direction (with respect to the exterior).
Equally if development of the interior aspect takes place in a forward direction (now with the interior aspect as reference frame), then the exterior aspect takes place - relatively - in a backward direction (with respect to the interior). Therefore - when viewed in simultaneous terms - the exterior and interior aspects of development move forward and backward (and backward and forward) with respect to each other.
Of course the implication of this paradox is that integral - as opposed to differentiated interpretation - is ultimately nondual, and that we approach its inherent nondual nature through circular rather than linear understanding.  7


As we have see, when we look at relationships from a dynamic interactive context, which is the nature of actual experience, then equally valid opposite interpretations for behaviour are always possible in a partial asymmetric context.

Let us apply this finding now to the important relationship as between the prepersonal and transpersonal.
As these constitute opposite poles they dynamically interact with each other in experience.
Therefore when we attempt to explain this interactive relationship between pre and trans in a partial asymmetric fashion, two equally valid opposite interpretations are possible.

Ultimately the relationship between pre and trans points to the complementary aspects of Spirit (i.e. immanence and transcendence). As transcendence is typically understood as going beyond the physical to find the spiritual (i.e. without phenomena), from this perspective the spiritual is higher than the physical domain. By contrast immanence is typically understood as going inside the physical to find Spirit as its inherent nature (i.e. within phenomena). From this perspective the physical is higher than the spiritual domain (as spirit now depends intimately on matter for its revelation).

So when looked at from a partial asymmetric perspective, we can give two equally valid interpretations for the development of stages (in the broadest sense).

1) We can - by taking forward movement in the direction of transcendence as our reference frame - define development as moving unambiguously from prepersonal to personal to transpersonal stages.
Most development theorists - including Ken Wilber - misleadingly take the direction of transcendence as the unquestioned norm. So development here is seen as moving beyond the merely instinctive physical self (characterising the prepersonal stages) to the rational self (characterising the middle stages) on to the higher transcendent spiritual self (characterising the transpersonal stages).

However as we saw from Underhill, that this interpretation breaks down in terms of the dynamics of mystical development and that every positive spiritual must be balanced by a complementary negative physical stage (revealing the shadow personality).

2) So we can alternatively - by taking forward movement in the direction of immanence (as our reference frame) - define development as moving unambiguously from transpersonal to personal to prepersonal stages.
What this entails is that the earlier stage is equally transpersonal (as well as prepersonal), though necessarily in a greatly confused manner. So therefore in this interpretation, early development is seen as the movement away - through differentiation - from the confused transpersonal understanding that characterises this stage.  When this reaches completion with the personal stage, development is no longer transpersonal (i.e. in a confused manner). The higher stage is then prepersonal, this time in an increasingly mature immanent integrated fashion where the shadow personality - preventing full reception of the spiritual light - is addressed. It takes very deep immersion in the spiritual unconscious before the most primitive instinctive desires (remaining from earliest development) can be fully erased. Therefore though the Body-Self is first to be differentiated in development, proper integration of the Spirit with this Body-Self can only take place at the final stage (preceding unity).

Of course when we view reference frames in a simultaneous fashion, both asymmetric interpretations - from a partial perspective - now become dynamically symmetrical in relation to each other.
Thus if development moves forward in transcendent terms, then - relatively - it moves backward from an immanent perspective.
Likewise if development moves forward in immanent terms, then - relatively - it moves backward from a transcendent perspective.
Thus the process of development in dynamic terms necessarily involves continual progression and regression. However this must be understood in circular rather than linear fashion. Using a simple analogy, the problem with Ken's partial asymmetric approach - based on the transcendent direction - is that overall development is viewed in the context of movement along a single road. So one differentiates new stages by moving forward on this road and then integrates by moving backward on the same road to achieve incorporation with earlier stages. However this inevitably leads to a merely top-down approach to integration (which is very unbalanced).  9

However in dynamic terms both immanent and transcendent directions are required, which entails moving along two roads simultaneously (in opposite directions from each other).
Here all asymmetric understanding is balanced by complementary mirror interpretation. So if development moves forward in transcendent terms (along one road), then it thereby moves backward along the parallel road in immanent terms.
Likewise if development moves forward in immanent terms (along the parallel road) then it thereby moves backward in transcendent terms along the other road.

Now once again in dynamic interactive terms - which represents the very nature of experience - movement takes place simultaneously along both roads. So all unambiguous notions of direction break down and are rendered paradoxical. We can therefore only temporarily fix direction by arbitrarily choosing one reference frame (while bearing in mind that interpretation in terms of the alternative frame is equally valid).  10

Despite its many undoubted merits the main weakness in my opinion of Ken Wilber's work is that it is greatly lacking in any real dynamic appreciation. This is why I would contrast his approach so much with writers such as Underhill and Jung. They may indeed be looser and less precise and even inconsistent and perhaps confused on many points. But fundamentally they interpret development in an inherently dynamic manner. For me, Ken Wilber does not. He is absolutely superb in the sophisticated detailed use of asymmetric type analysis. However true dynamic interactive understanding requires a very distinctive way of dealing with reality (which ultimately undermines all such partial asymmetric notions).

The problem however is that Ken certainly in many places seems to be dynamic, with a great taste for paradox (especially when conveying from his great knowledge of Eastern traditions the nature of nondual understanding).
However there remains a marked discontinuity as between his partial asymmetric treatment of development on the one hand, and his descriptions (often beautifully poetic) of the nature of nondual understanding.
In other words the implications of such nondual understanding are never properly incorporated with his intellectual analysis, for if they were, they would fundamentally change the nature of such analysis.

This point can be appreciated with reference to the way that Ken attempts to deal with the "higher" transpersonal stages of psychic, subtle, causal and nondual which seem for example largely devoid in his treatment of their own distinctive - and increasingly refined - cognitive structures. However appropriately understood, the dual and nondual increasingly interpenetrate at the higher levels, leading to the emergence of extremely refined interpretation where spiritual intuition and cognitive understanding are dynamically combined. This leads to a marked transformation in the very nature of such understanding and I stress again that this is what is required for a proper integral - as opposed to a merely differentiated - intellectual account of development.

So one implication of adopting a proper integral approach is that we need to move - in cognitive terms - significantly beyond the use of vision-logic. In fact, for all its sophistication, vision logic - as used by Ken - constitutes the use of partial asymmetric understanding that is applied in a multiple contextual fashion. By its very nature it is not appropriate for proper integral translation. Once again there are vast terrains of subtly refined cognitive understanding - operating in a a very distinct manner from Ken's use of vision-logic - that only fully unfold at the "higher" transpersonal levels. These are properly suited for such a task.

When we look carefully at Ken's holarchical model we can see that it is based on a merely partial asymmetric interpretation using isolated reference frames. He consistently defines development unambiguously in terms of its transcendent direction (though the immanent is equally important).  11 Therefore - even in differentiated terms - his treatment here is very one-sided.
Furthermore because he does not adopt a bi-directional approach (i.e. where every partial asymmetric is balanced by an equally valid mirror interpretation), there is a great absence in his treatment of paradoxical integral understanding (based on the complementarity of opposite poles of development).


As we have seen, the stages approach adopted by Evelyn Underhill in her portrayal of mystical development is fundamentally at odds with that of Ken Wilber. It is based on a strong dynamic appreciation of the complementarity of polar opposites in experience, especially where advanced spiritual development is concerned.
The attempt by Ken to accommodate the mystical stages to an asymmetrical holarchical model of development considerably distorts - to my way of understanding - the very interpretation of such development (especially where Western - and more specifically Christian - mysticism is concerned). In fact, properly understood, mystical development represents the very undoing of such holarchical notions.

This can be better appreciated by going now in more detail into other noteworthy aspects of Underhill's approach (which pose considerable questions for Ken's treatment of the four quadrants).

Using the detailed autobiographical accounts left by several Christian mystics she manages to trace in a very impressive manner the unique course in each case through which development unfolded. So rather than attempting to contain mystical growth within a uniform impersonal mould (amenable to precise classification) she is at pains to portray its rich diversity.

What is fascinating - when we look at her descriptions - is that she implicitly provides the firm basis for a four quadrant approach. However once again this is not the partial asymmetric approach to the quadrants that Ken adopts (suited solely to their differentiation) but rather a more dynamic appreciation that is properly integral.

Underhill points to the fact that mystical conversion can take two forms:

1) Expansive and Transcendent and 2) Personal and Immanent

Also she makes clear that - though both these aspects necessarily co-exist - that conversion follows the line of least resistance taking just one of these forms. This makes a great deal of sense. Though the attainment of unity would necessarily imply significant development in both aspects, it would be unrealistic to expect that proper balance would already exist at the beginning of the mystical stages.

The first type of conversion is more impersonal and holistic in quality where one strives to move beyond the limitations of the phenomenal world to find God (i.e. pure Spirit). Rather than intimate affection it tends to evoke a more detached type of devotion i.e. feelings of deep awe and respect.
Underhill quotes many Christian conversions of this type e.g. Suso, Rulman Merswin, Brother Lawrence and Richard Jeffries.

The second type of conversion is more personal (in contrast to the cosmic holistic form for the transcendent type). It is generally affective in quality characterised by those of an emotional disposition. The emphasis here is typically on wounded love and Supreme Beauty (as the perfection of those desires for fulfilment on the normal human level).
Underhill quotes here the conversions of such mystics as Catherine of Genoa, Madame Guyon, Richard Rolle and St. Francis of Assisi as belonging to this type.

Now if we refer back to Ken Wilber's holarchic approach, we see that it would theoretically cater only for the first transcendent type (as his model is one of transcendence and inclusion).
Secondly, holarchical understanding in any case is now utterly misleading as the task for all mystics - irrespective of which direction they start from (i.e. transcendence or immanence) - is to achieve through development a satisfactory synthesis of both aspects. This of course entails growing appreciation of their complementary dynamics. And - by definition - this cannot be achieved within a partial holarchical approach based on transcendence.

However when we look more closely at her accounts, we find that both transcendent and immanent types have exterior and interior expressions.

An example of an exterior expression of the transcendent type is given in her account of the conversion of Richard Jeffries.
"I was not more than eighteen when an inner and esoteric meaning began to come to me from all the visible universe".
"I now became lost and absorbed into the being or existence of the universe...and losing my separateness of being, came to seem like a part of the whole".

So here the Spirit is revealed in a somewhat impersonal manner as a meaning filling the whole universe.

A corresponding example of the more interior type is given by Rulman Merswin. He was a wealthy merchant who had retired from business to devote himself to God. While strolling in his garden and meditating on a crucifix, his conversion came.
"Lifting his eyes to heaven he solemnly swore that he would utterly surrender his own will, person and goods to the service of God"
This act of surrender was followed at once by the onset of pure mystical perception.
"The reply from on high came quickly. A brilliant light show about him and he heard in his ears a divine voice of adorable sweetness. He felt as if he were lifted from the ground and carried several times completely round his garden".

God is now revealed - though again not in a directly personal fashion - as the true meaning of the individual self.

Immanent types have also exterior and interior expressions.
The exterior expression is very common and related in some manner to a new-found beauty in nature. Underhill quotes William Blake who possessed this type of insight to a high degree.
"The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the Way."
Another unnamed person speaking of his own conversion sums up the nature of this experience very well.
"It was like entering into another world, a new state of existence. Natural objects were glorified. My spiritual vision was so cleansed that I saw beauty in every material thing in the universe. The woods were vocal with heavenly music".

So when seen with the light of the Spirit every object becomes a symbol or archetype of the divine.

Finally as an interior expression of the immanent type we have this passage from Richard Rolle.

"In the beginning truly of my conversion and singular purpose, I though I would be like the little bird that for love of her lover sings, but in her longing she is gladdened when he comes that she loves. And joying she sings, and singing she longs, but in sweetness and heat".

This personal revelation is all sweetness and light. However Underhill makes the valid observation that sometimes conversions of this type - as in the case of St. Catherine of Genoa - evoke a deep feeling of unworthiness in the recipient greatly accelerating the onset of purgation.


Though I would fully accept the importance of properly differentiating the four quadrants, once again I would be at pains to emphasise that differentiation is not integration. Ken's all-level all-quadrant approach - where he attempts to achieve linkages as between (differentiated) fragmented quadrant notions - at best renders a very reduced notion of integration (which is full of inconsistency from a dynamic perspective).

If it is to have any true meaning the notion of a holon must be properly understood in dynamic terms where all four quadrants interact.
Any holon by definition belongs to all four quadrants. It is therefore somewhat futile, dynamically speaking, to attempt - as Ken then does - to identify particular holons with one quadrant. So for example - properly understood - mystical spiritual development does not reside in the UL quadrant but in all quadrants.
And as we have seen when we examine Underhill's treatment of such development it is implicitly fully consistent with this dynamic understanding.
Now if we are to see how to move from Ken's somewhat static treatment of fragmented quadrants to a more dynamic understanding, we need to bi-directionally extend his holarchical notions of development in both horizontal and vertical terms.

Looking first of all at the horizontal quadrants of exterior and interior, we must recognise that these are polar opposites, which are thereby complementary in dynamic terms.
Whatever is included in a higher stage in development (from the perspective of one pole) is thereby dynamically excluded (from the perspective of the other complementary pole).
So in dynamic terms we can only include in an exterior by excluding in an interior sense; likewise we can only include in interior terms by excluding in an exterior sense.
Therefore if we temporarily decide to fix our frame of reference with the exterior direction (in the Right-Hand quadrants), then the holarchy associated with this aspect will be one of inclusion; likewise the holarchy associated with the complementary interior aspect will then be one of exclusion.

Looking at the vertical quadrants in terms of transcendence and immanence again gives us two complementary directions of movement. We can only make transcendent in a positive vertical direction (i.e. moving to a "higher" stage) by making immanent in the opposite (i.e. moving to a "lower" stage); likewise we can only make immanent in a "higher" by making transcendent in the complementary "lower" stage.
Once again, if we temporarily fix the positive direction with transcendence in the Upper quadrants then movement to "higher" stages in these quadrants will be associated with transcendence, and thereby corresponding movement in the Lower quadrants will be associated with immanence.

So now - given our arbitrary temporary fixing of horizontal and vertical frames of reference we can unambiguously define the four quadrants (which are now associated with a uniquely distinct holarchy).

So the UR quadrant will be defined by a holarchy of transcendence and inclusion
The UL quadrant will be defined - relatively - by a holarchy of transcendence and exclusion

The LR quadrant will be defined - relatively - by a holarchy of immanence and inclusion
The LL quadrant will be defined - relatively - by a holarchy of immanence and exclusion.

Now in a dynamic interactive sense, we can only attempt to single out a quadrant by arbitrarily fixing our frame of reference in both horizontal and vertical terms. However the other three quadrants are still involved in our understanding (with complementary interpretations in horizontal and vertical terms).

Likewise as we are fully entitled to change our frames of reference (in horizontal and vertical terms) this means that we can generate four distinctive interpretations of the relationship between quadrants.

This of course entails that all holarchical types - depending on initial frame of reference - can be associated with any of the quadrants.

Now if we look at Ken's treatment of the quadrants, it is greatly lacking in this dynamic appreciation (which is essential to move to their true integral interpretation).

Firstly, though a holon necessarily entails all quadrant locations (in dynamic interaction), he then tries to identify various holons as having fixed quadrant locations (e.g. all "ITS belong to the Right-Hand quadrants). This is clearly untenable in dynamic terms and can be easily shown to lead to numerous inconsistencies (which I have identified on several occasions).
Secondly, his holarchical approach to development is very biased. Though two directions are involved in all dynamic interactions in horizontal terms, Ken really only recognises one in this approach (i.e. inclusion). The implications of this are quite considerable. For example Ken would say that where a transformation in development takes place, the lower holon is thereby included in the higher. For example conop (lower) in included in formop (higher). But equally in another equally valid sense, the lower holon is excluded. So from this perspective conop is excluded from formop.  12

This more subtle understanding opens the way for the realisation not only does the "new" structure of formop emerge but equally important that the very nature of conop thereby qualitatively changes. This in turn opens the way for two-way linkages as between formop and conop (leading to balanced transcendent and immanent interpretation). So in science from one perspective i.e. the deductive theoretical approach the lower (conop) is included in the higher (formop); however equally from another valid perspective (i.e. the inductive empirical approach) the higher (formop) is included in the lower (conop).

So likewise two directions are involved in vertical terms (i.e. transcendence and immanence). Yet Ken only recognises one (i.e. transcendence).
We have already seen the problems that this bias leads to in Ken's hierarchical approach to the mystical stages of development. Ken tends to portray normal mystical development as a progressive transcendent ascent through somewhat discretely defined stages (psychic, subtle, causal, nondual). However from a dynamic perspective, where transcendence and immanence are experienced as complementary this makes little sense. Rather as Underhill shows, each "higher" progressive trans must be balanced by a corresponding "lower" regressive pre stage (which must be understood in circular rather than in linear terms).
So the failure by Ken to properly realise the complementary nature of transcendence and immanence in development is exactly the same problem leading to his failure to recognise the complementary nature of pre and trans.

So the first step in moving to an integral as opposed to a merely differentiated treatment of the quadrants is the need for bi-directional appreciation of holarchies (in both horizontal and vertical terms)


The essence of the dynamic approach is that complementary directions (in both horizontal and vertical terms) are necessarily involved in all quadrant relationships.

As these directions continually interact, the fixing of their positions with specific quadrants is purely arbitrary. Thus for example it makes little sense in dynamic terms to unambiguously identify the Right Hand Quadrants with the exterior and the Left-Hand with the interior aspect respectively, as every holon necessarily entails the interaction of both aspects in each quadrant.
Likewise it makes little sense in dynamic terms to unambiguously identify the Upper Quadrants with the individual and the Lower Quadrants with the collective aspect, as again every holon necessarily entails the interaction of both aspects in each quadrant.

If we arbitrarily fix the UR quadrant in holarchical terms with transcendence and inclusion, then the UL is defined in terms of transcendence and exclusion.
The LR is then defined in terms of immanence and inclusion and the LL in terms of immanence and exclusion.

Designation 1

UL (transcendence and exclusion)        UR (transcendence and inclusion)

LL (immanence and exclusion)              LR (immanence and inclusion)

However because of the interaction of polar directions we can arbitrarily fix each quadrant in four ways. So we have three other equally valid designations for quadrants.
So by switching in horizontal terms we obtain

Designation 2

UL (transcendence and inclusion)          UR (transcendence and exclusion)

LL(immanence and inclusion)                 LR (immanence and exclusion)

By switching in vertical terms we get two further options

Designation 3

UL (immanence and exclusion)              UR (immanence and inclusion)

LL (transcendence and exclusion)         LR (transcendence and inclusion)

Finally we have

Designation 4

UL (immanence and inclusion)              UR (immanence and exclusion)

LL (transcendence and inclusion)         LR (transcendence and exclusion)

This four-fold dynamic configuration of quadrants in turn provides the appropriate means to give an adequate explanation of the nature of mystical development for the four types identified by Underhill.

Type 1 - Designation 1

Let us start first with the transcendent type of the exterior kind: (Reference Frame UR - Transcendence and inclusion)

As we seen Underhill points to the fact that conversion for this type (as with Richard Jeffries) will typically involve holistic metaphysical symbols of a spiritual archetypal nature.
The problem that then arises is that a degree of rigidity is involved in this experience, where the Spirit becomes unduly identified with the secondary symbols. This implies a lack of proper recognition of the complementary negative direction.
So where the initial identification is of an exterior kind, insufficient attention will be paid to corresponding interior development.
So the second stage "The Purification of the Self" will be largely concerned with detachment from this exterior identification with metaphysical phenomena.
Thus when illumination returns (The Illumination of the Self) a far greater interaction as between interior and exterior directions will ensue (though the exterior may still dominate slightly).
So as Underhill explains, for this type the stage will typically be characterised by a purer more spiritually refined form of metaphysical appreciation.
However though dynamic integration of the horizontal poles (i.e. exterior and interior) is now achieved, an important imbalance still remains in that experience will be still unduly identified with the Upper Quadrants (which are defined in terms of transcendence).

This then necessitates a further purgation to achieve greater balance with the more personal immanent aspect, which entails a return to the earliest stages of development, with a view to the disentanglement of their shadow elements (i.e. the Dark Night of the Soul). This initially requires a profound negation of all conscious attachment to secondary phenomenal symbols (that mediate the transcendent spiritual light).
With the completion of this stage and the attainment of unity, a significant degree of integration of all Quadrants can take place.
Underhill indeed makes this very clear by showing how in all of the great mystics with the onset of the Unitive Life, regardless of starting point, that refined metaphysical (transcendent) and personal (immanent) expressions of the Divine inevitably are merged.

We can now briefly deal with the dynamics of development for the three other three types.

Type 2 - Designation 2

Transcendent type of an interior kind (Reference Frame UR - Transcendence and exclusion)

In the metaphysical type of an interior kind (e.g. Rulman Merswin), a more introverted experience of the Divine results with the corresponding danger of an undue degree of withdrawal from external reality. So initial purification (The Purication of the Self) is largely concerned with the negation of this attachment to interior symbols.
Therefore with the onset again of illumination (The Illumination of the Self) a more balanced integration of interior and exterior transcendent poles is possible. However spiritual metaphysical symbols - now of a more refined character - will still tend to be associated with one's - relatively - stronger interior aspect.
However once again imbalance will still remain in that the transcendent aspect will dominate over the immanent. So "The Dark Night of the Soul" will again be devoted to the profound negation of such secondary attachment culminating with the Unitive Life where significant dynamic integration of all quadrants is obtained.

Type 3 - Designation 3

Immanent type of an exterior kind (Reference Frame UR - Immanence and inclusion)

In the immanent type of an exterior kind (i.e. the nature mystics) the initial problem that arises during the "The Awakening of the Self" is undue attachment to the secondary symbols that mediate the Divine through nature.
So "The Purification of the Self" is largely devoted to the negation of this secondary exterior attachment.

This again enables a more balanced immanent integration of both exterior and interior directions at "The Illumination of the Self".
This enables - as Underhill suggests - the more refined expressions of nature mysticism at this stage.

However the imbalance that now remains, relates to insufficient recognition of the corresponding transcendent aspect.
So "The Dark Night of the Soul" here entails the profound negation of secondary attachment to all immanent symbols. This serves as the preliminary to a return to the earliest stages of development, with the uncovering of the shadow in the disentanglement of the immature transcendent aspects of those stages.
So whereas the problem for the metaphysical type at this stage is insufficient acceptance of the (naked) Body, the corresponding problem for the immanent type is insufficient acceptance of the (naked) Spirit.
Once again with the Unitive Life proper integration in dynamic terms of all quadrants results so that now refined immanent type expressions of the Divine are balanced by their complementary metaphysical expressions.

Type 4 - Designation 4

Immanent type of an interior kind (Reference Frame UR - Immanence and exclusion)

Finally with the immanent type of an interior kind undue (e.g. Richard Rolle) emotional attachment to secondary phenomenal symbols (mediating the Divine) will inevitably arise during "The Awakening of the Self".
This necessitates the negation of such detachment during the following stage "The Purification of the Self".
Then with the onset of "The Illumination of the Self" a significant degree of integration in experience of both the interior and exterior polar directions emerges (though the interior will slightly dominate).
However insufficient recognition of the transcendent aspect will remain. So "The Dark Night of the Soul" is necessary to profoundly negate remaining rigid immanent type attachment to phenomena with the uncovering of the shadow transpersonal self.

So again with the Unitive Life, dynamic integration of all quadrants becomes possible so that immanent type expressions of the Divine can be balanced by their complementary transcendent equivalents.

So from a dynamic integral perspective, it is vital to understand holarchies in an appropriate bi-directional fashion where - from a dualistic perspective - development takes place simultaneously, both horizontally and vertically, in two opposite directions. The reconciliation of such paradox is directly intuitive and spiritual and associated with the erosion of attachment to unambiguous partial asymmetric notions. The growth in intuition in turn facilitates greater recognition of paradox in bi-directional terms, which in turn enhances spiritual recognition. So spiritual intuition and bi-directional understanding are dynamically interdependent in experience and mutually serve each other.

As we have seen reconciliation is first achieved at a horizontal level so that both the exterior and interior aspects of understanding are largely harmonised (as expressions of the underlying Spirit).
Following the approach of Underhill, vertical integration then follows in the reconciliation of transcendent and immanent aspects (which requires very flexible interaction as between the "highest" and "lowest" stages of the Spectrum).

Once again Ken Wilber's treatment of quadrants is quite unsatisfactory from an integral perspective, being based on unambiguous asymmetrical notions of direction. Understanding the quadrants in this way would thereby encourage maintenance of rigid attachment to dualistic notions and be therefore incompatible with the actual process of authentic mystical development.
Indeed, the role of purgation in mystical development always entails the undoing of rigid attachment to unambiguous asymmetrical notions. This greatly facilitates the simultaneous integration of opposite complementary interpretations for the same event in nondual spiritual terms.


I will briefly mention here just one more aspect of Underhill's work, which implicitly throws interesting light on the dynamic relationship between the structures and states of development.

To develop this point further some relevant terminology will need to be explained.

We start with an extended version of the basic stages (i.e. the levels of development).
These levels can be defined equally in terms of two related aspects i.e. fundamental structures and states that dynamically interact with each other, representing respectively the discrete and continuous aspects of stages. 13

Because of the inherent complementarity of both these aspects it is important to define the levels with matching structures and states.

In a basic model, I use 7 levels which culminate in Radial Reality (which is itself defined in terms of two phases).

Also - as I have already stressed - it is vital in a comprehensive approach to allow for both the discrete and continuous interpretation of stages (allowing in turn for balanced interpretation of both the differentiated and integrated aspects of development).

So using the simplest terminology the stages in linear asymmetrical form are L3, L2, L1 (L0, H0), H1, H2, H3.
These then culminate with Radial Reality (R1 and R2).
So development in linear asymmetrical terms starts with the lower stages defined in relatively discrete terms i.e. L3 (archaic), L2 ( magic) and L1 (mythic). We then have the middle stage which is equally the culmination of the lower and start of the higher levels L0, H0 (rational). The higher stages of development then follow i.e. H1 (subtle), H2 (causal) and H3 (nondual) culminating in Radial Reality R1 (Unitive Life 1) and R2 (Unitive Life 2).

However we can equally give these stages a dynamic circular interpretation suited to appreciation of the integrated aspect of development.

So the lowest level L3 is dynamically complementary with the highest H3. The second lowest L2 is complementary with the second highest H2; L1 is complementary with H1 and finally the middle level is complementary with itself i.e. L0 with H0. This effectively explains why complementary notions are redundant within the rational paradigm of understanding associated with this level.

Also H1 and H2 are complementary with each other and in turn complementary with L1 and L2. H3 in fact results from the complementarity of H1 and H2 (as likewise L3 from the complementarity of L1 and L2).
Finally L0, H0 are complementary with L3 and H3 (which of course equally embraces L1 and L2 and H1 and H2).
This explains why complete interaction of activity and contemplation only takes place with the Unitive Life.

So briefly development unfolds from the complementarity of L3 and H3 i.e. where pre and trans interact in a greatly confused manner embracing the Spectrum, gradually achieving a more discrete differentiated interpretation, which culminates with the middle personal stage (L0, H0). Then with the higher stages there is a movement to a - now - mature notion of integration, so that ultimately harmonious dynamic interaction of higher and lower (and lower and higher) can take place. Finally we have both the mature differentiation and integration of levels with Radial Reality.

Now each of these levels can be defined in terms of both structures and states.
The most fundamental manner of interpreting the structures comes from using holistic mathematical terminology where each level is defined precisely in terms of a unique configuration of linear and circular understanding paving the way in turn for the unique interpretation of reality at each level.

We can then in turn define the states precisely matching a unique state (or in dynamic terms interaction of states) with each level.
So starting with the middle level in linear terms L0, H0 (gross) can be defined as the waking state, H1 (subtle) can then be defined with the dream state, H2 (causal) with the sleep state and H3 (nondual) with the eternal (or ultimate) state.
We can then define the lower levels linearly in terms of the confused counterparts of the higher states.
So therefore L3 (archaic) represents the confused eternal, L2 (magic) the confused sleep and L1 (mythic) the confused dream state.

The primary states can equally be fruitfully expressed in more psychological terms representing in each case a certain configuration of the conscious and unconscious.
So the eternal state corresponds with the ultimate source and goal of both (conscious and unconscious).
The sleep state relates to the dynamically formless unconscious i.e. where virtual conscious phenomena exist but exercise no permanency.
The dream state relates to the interaction of conscious and unconscious (entailing both phenomenal forms and spiritual emptiness).
The waking state relates directly to the conscious (entailing more rigid phenomenal forms).
Once again apart from the waking (conscious) state - which is complementary with itself - the other states have both "lower" confused and "higher" mature expressions.

Thus for example L1 (mythic) represents the interaction of (conscious) form and (unconscious) emptiness where (material) form and (spiritual) emptiness are always to a degree confused with each other.
The complementary H1 (subtle) again represents the interaction of (conscious) form and (unconscious) emptiness where - by contrast - form and emptiness now interact in a largely mature integrated manner.

The close correspondence as between states and structures can no be more easily appreciated by matching conscious with linear and unconscious with circular respectively. So the various conscious/unconscious configurations as states can be directly matched with corresponding linear/circular configurations as structures (of understanding).

So of course in dynamic integral terms, we have the same complementarity as between levels in relation to both the structures and states of development.

Incidentally as the actual experience of levels, in relation to both structures and states, necessarily involves the psycho-physical interactions of the body - more correctly body/mind - we can in turn define the relationship between structures and states in relation to the various levels in terms of corresponding bodies. So each level in this sense is characterised by a unique body/mind i.e. psycho-physical interactive dynamic and of course the interaction of levels involves a very varied mix of possible psycho-physical dynamics.

In brief though the precise balance as between structures and states (both within and between levels) can vary considerably, they are of course dynamically interdependent. Therefore it is somewhat futile to attempt to establish any definite causal relationship as between both (i.e. whether states determine structures or structures determine states).

The structure of each level supports the corresponding state of the same level; equally the state of each level supports the corresponding structure of that same level.
So for example rational (linear) understanding supports the exercise of the conscious (waking) state of the middle level (L0, H0); equally the conscious (waking) state of this level supports the use of rational (linear) structures.
In turn both are mutually supported by the body/mind dynamic of this level and in turn support this same dynamic.

It is not strictly correct therefore to suggest - As Ken does - that the waking state supports the structures of several levels.
This only appears to be so, as in dynamic terms the waking state interacts with other states (e.g. confused earlier dream and sleep states). So in fact the dynamic interaction here of several states (loosely referred to as the waking state) supports the structures of the corresponding levels; of course equally - in this dynamic sense - the interaction of these several structures supports the corresponding interaction of states.

Ken tends to deal with the mystical stages in terms of states to the exclusion of meaningful structures.
For example he suggests that one can have a temporary peak experience of higher mystical states from the experience of a lower level. I would agree with this! However equally one can have a temporary peak experience of corresponding higher structures from a lower level.

However I would again agree with Ken that such temporary experience of a higher level should not be confused with permanent attainment of that level.

He then deals with the task of converting such fleeting temporary states into permanent structures.
However strictly speaking, states are not converted into structures.
For example the middle personal (or rational) level is characterised by the waking state. It also has its own appropriate structures such as conop and formop.
However such structures - though obviously associated with the corresponding waking state - cannot be directly identified as this state.

So in this case we have very important cognitive structures that provide the intellectual translations of reality appropriate to this level; equally it is true for the higher mystical levels.
Thus associated with the spiritually intuitive dream state of the subtle level are corresponding appropriate structures - cognitive, affective, volitional etc. which provide the means for refined phenomenal translation of the level. This indeed is true of all the "higher" levels - where in dynamic terms - form and emptiness are interdependent in an increasingly refined manner.

Especially important here in terms of intellectual translation are the refined cognitive structures of the mystical stages.
However we never obtain any information from Ken as to the identity of such structures. Rather there is a strong bias in his treatment of mystical stages to deal with them in terms of states and then to confuse the permanent attainment of these formless states as corresponding structures.
The extremely important implication of all this is that that there is great lack of any meaningful structures in Ken's treatment of all the "higher" mystical stages. In effect it suffers from considerable imbalance in relation to the dynamic treatment of form and emptiness. Ken tries to treat these stages in terms of their merely spiritual i.e. formless characteristics (states) whereas experientially, both form (structures) and emptiness (states) continually interact, serving to enhance and support their mutual development. 14

Once again as the intellectual translation that is required for a dynamic integral approach to development is intimately based on the refined bi-directional cognitive structures of the "higher" mystical levels, this constitutes a major omission. Not only are such structures not used in Ken's interpretation but their very identity is not even recognised!

Peak Experiences

In dynamic terms all peak experiences require the interaction of structures and states (though the precise balance between both can vary considerably).

Peak experiences can be defined in different ways.

When operating within a level of development, there are peak experiences that characterise that level.
So for example with "The Awakening of the Self" (psychic/subtle), initial conversion is often characterised by a peak spiritual experience, entailing an especially lucid expression of the stage, which then serves to confirm commitment to its consolidation.
So where a sudden conversion is involved, the initial peak will be largely in terms of the appropriate state (in this case the mature dream state characterised by spiritual illumination). Subsequent development though the stage then entails the interaction of this state with its corresponding bi-directional structures (i.e. emptiness and form) leading to the refinement of both aspects.

Where a less dramatic entry to the stage is involved, development may be led by initial access to its specific structures, gradually interacting more with the appropriate spiritual state. Thus a gifted artist - destined for mystical type development - may express in affective symbolic form, insights associated with the subtle level. Subsequent development could then involve the refining of such insights through greater development of the spiritual illumination characteristic of that stage.

There are also peaks where one can temporarily attain to the experience of a much higher stage than that of one's existing level of development.
So, for example, one whose customary experience is of the mythic stage, could temporarily attain a peak experience of say the subtle level.

Now these peak experiences can be of two kinds

(a) confused (i) i.e. where the higher state is largely interpreted in terms of the phenomenal structures of the lower stage (ii) where the higher structure interpretation is in the context of the lower spiritual state.
In either case undue reductionism in the experience takes place.

(b) lucid (i)) where the higher state predominates and is balanced to a degree - while the experience lasts - by appropriate structural interpretation.
(ii) where the higher structure predominates and is balanced to a degree by the appropriate spiritual state.

In the first case one will be aware primarily of a peak spiritual state successfully mediated through appropriate phenomenal structures (which may remain largely implicit).
In the second case one will be primarily aware of a peak phenomenal insight (e.g. of a cognitive, affective or moral kind) against the background of appropriate spiritual illumination.

For those who are destined for sustained mystical development, lucid peak experiences - even at a comparatively young age - are very likely.
It is important however to distinguish between the actual experience of a "higher" stage, which is lucid while it lasts and subsequent recollection and interpretation of the trigger event.
Now - given the return to the experience of the "lower" level - this will inevitably be somewhat reduced.

However when one has had - even briefly - an authentic lucid mystical experience, one will realise to some extent that this "lower" level interpretation is inadequate. This in turn can lead to an increased desire for a more permanent stable attainment of that stage (to which one had temporary access) and be a major catalyst towards sustained spiritual development.

Valley experiences

In a balanced approach - which is bi-directional - it is important to emphasise the importance of valleys - as well as peaks - in development.
Because the "lower" stages are - in dynamic terms - fully complementary with the "higher", a degree of confusion and integration always necessarily characterises experience in both cases.
The crucial distinction is that in early development the balance is largely in terms of confused access to "higher" levels. However - as we have seen - the fact that some degree of integration is necessarily involved, this enables the possibility of temporary lucid peak experiences of "higher" levels (while customary experience remains at a "lower" level).

However the reverse is equally true. Therefore someone whose customary experience is in terms of mature access to the "higher" levels can - on a temporary basis - have confused valley experiences of "lower" levels. Indeed this is very likely in most cases. Frequently - even renowned - mystics suffer crucial imbalances in relation to some aspects of their development. Thus while being extraordinarily gifted in a spiritual manner yet they have the capacity to behave in some respects in an unusually self-centred and infantile manner.
Even the most balanced mystics are likely to maintain - especially when under stress - some attitudes and opinions that betray the confusion of early development.

However there is another possibility here that is extremely important. Just as a strong lucid peak of a temporary kind can act as a major catalyst towards healthy mystical development, equally a strong confused valley - albeit of a temporary kind - could in certain circumstances act as a major catalyst towards the unhealthy orientation of mystical powers already developed.  15

So it is eminently possible that someone who has indeed in many ways attained a remarkable degree of mystical development, could - due to the influence of a confused valley experience - use such gifts in an extremely unhealthy and even diabolical fashion.
Indeed we see this in the manner in which many religious cults operate. Very often they are led by charismatic figures who have undoubted spiritual gifts. However such gifts are sometimes exercised in a very damaging manner (caused by unreformed "prepersonal" aspects of personality that are greatly accentuated through misleading identification with the Spirit).

States-led Development

However Underhill does point to the fact that in some mystics, development can be largely led by states.
Where this is the case an unusual degree of oscillation as between levels can take place with little evidence of permanent residence in any one level (as discretely defined).

For example she points especially to the extremely fluid nature of the mystical development of Madame Guyon (who really represents an extreme in terms of this experience). She also singles out Rulman Merswin and indeed to a lesser extent Teresa of Avila.

Now the reasons in each case are very interesting and worth examining in greater detail.
Underhill points in the case of Madame Guyon to her feeble surface intelligence. So here, the lack of structure seems to be have been due to insufficient cognitive development, which prevented consolidation of experience.
However she does concede that her intellectual insight did eventually improve enough through development to sustain a Unitive state (though not perhaps in such a creative manner as other great mystics).
So if the emotional (affective) is not sufficiently balanced by the rational (cognitive) aspect, then mystical experience is likely to be unusually fluid. This represents the rapid interaction of states, together with insufficient structural support available to consolidate development at any level (as discretely defined).

The case of Rulman Merswin is somewhat different. It seems to indicate the interesting case of a personality with manic-depressive tendencies giving a natural tendency to the experiencing of significant highs and lows. Indeed mystical development from one perspective, can be seen as a courageous and even desperate attempt to seek a long term solution for such a disorder, so that in the deep security of the Spirit, such variations in mood - even of an extreme nature - can be embraced with equanimity.
So again in this case, mystical purgation represents the gradual detachment of identification with extreme oscillating states throughout the Spectrum enabling the more stable structures (associated with each level) to be developed.

St. Teresa of Avila also seemed to be subject to extreme variation in states though in this case it seems to have been due to an exceptionally sensitive and empathetic emotional disposition. Here, psychological and physiological reactions can be very closely associated requiring an especially deep purgation of personality to achieve harmonious equilibrium. She especially represents the dynamic problems of integration of the respective "bodies" throughout development, reflecting in turn extreme sensitivity to any imbalance as between the appropriate structures and states of a given level. Not surprisingly, she suffered a great deal of ill health throughout her development.

However if these extreme problems of body/mind integration can be successfully resolved, such persons then can have a remarkable capacity for intense and creative activity in practical affairs, that is continually sustained through an unusual degree of spiritual commitment.
So with the attainment of the Unitive State, St. Teresa became amazingly productive, and acting with superhuman energy within the final years of her life, transformed the spiritual landscape of Spain.  16

Though Underhill does not specifically address this issue, the reverse situation is also true - and indeed - all too likely and helps to explain why mystical development often plateaus at a relatively "low" level.

Indeed this is the very reason why modern culture is so overwhelmingly defined in terms of the experience of the middle level of the Spectrum. Because of the unusual level of emphasis on the cognitive structures of this level e.g. science, little creative interaction with the states or structures of other levels can take place.

I find the great philosopher Hegel especially interesting in this respect. Undoubtedly his initial intuitions flowed from the experience of authentic states pertaining to the higher mystical levels and were initially expressed in religious terms. However the attempt to develop the intellectual structures associated with these levels led to an unfortunate form of reductionism i.e. where Spirit became unduly identified with indirect philosophical forms. This seems to have impeded in his case the development of a purer contemplative level of awareness. So Hegel, in many ways did successfully develop - in intellectual terms - the bi-directional structures properly associated  with the subtle (and even higher) levels of understanding. However because of insufficient emphasis on the corresponding spiritual states, he unfortunately offers a reduced interpretation.

Another good example - of a more spiritual variety - is provided by Nicholas of Cusa who shows unusual intellectual insight into the nature of mystical experience without perhaps evidence of sustained contemplative attainment.

To illustrate this dynamic relationship between structures and states let us briefly refer to Underhill's first stage i.e. The Awakening of the Self.

The initial awakening in conversion is generally characterised by plentiful illumination. This represents the direct experience of the appropriate state associated with this level (i.e. the dream state). However the attempt to consolidate the experience of the level requires equally the development of underlying bi-directional structures creating a paradigm or worldview appropriate to the level. However the very interaction of structures and states that ensues typically leads to secondary problems of rigid attachment.

As we have seen there are two main possibilities. Undue attachment to the state of illumination - in the absence of sufficient shadow development - can lead to a great deal of instability, with the rapid swing to the opposite confused state (where one becomes solely conscious of ego imperfection). We saw this tendency especially marked in the experience of Madame Guyon.
On the other hand undue attachment to structures can lead to over identification with the level (as discretely defined), reducing healthy interaction with other levels and creating a tendency for mystical development to plateau at that level.
So purgation in both cases is required to erode this rigid attachment.

In the former case such purgation serves to reduce the degree of continual oscillation between states, enabling a greater degree of identification with a specific level facilitating the opportunity to develop the supporting structural framework of that level.

In the latter case purgation serves to increase the range of dynamic interaction by forcing one to identify for a time with a "lower" level.

All going well when the next stage unfolds, though experience of (formless) states may still dominate for the first type, it will be balanced by a greater appreciation of the need for (phenomenal) structure. In the second case, though the appreciation of (phenomenal) structure may still slightly dominate, it will in turn be balanced by the need for the appropriate (formless) state.
The Dark Night of the Soul will then be later required to address the remaining imbalances as between structures and states.
So ultimately Unity involves, for both types, the harmonious balance of form and emptiness (and emptiness and form) though approached in a different manner.


I have pain at pains to demonstrate - with reference to the respective approaches of Ken Wilber and Evelyn Underhill, that differentiation and integration - though necessarily related - are very distinct aspects of experience that require in turn very distinct processes of intellectual translation.  17

Whereas Ken's holarchical approach represents a superb example of a comprehensive multi-differentiated interpretation of development, it is not at all suited - in my opinion - as an appropriate integral translation (especially where the complementary dynamics of mystical development are concerned).

By contrast though Underhill's more diffuse approach does not provide a detailed model of overall development - which in any case is not her intention - it does however represent a valid integral interpretation of the mystical stages.

In conclusion, I would say that "Integral Studies" in all their varied forms are being greatly hampered at present though very reduced intellectual notions of integration. This is a central issue that urgently needs to be addressed.


1 Here is just one relevant quote from "Integral Psychology" (pages 72-73) which amply illustrates Ken's identification of integration with multi-differentiation.

"What is required then in extremely bold generalizations, is to take the enduring truths of the perennial traditions (namely, the Great Nest of Being), and combine that with the good news of modernity (namely, the differentiation of the value spheres), which means that each and every level of the Great Chain is differentiated into at least four dimensions: subjective or intentional, objective or behavioral, intersubjective or cultural, and interobjective or social-each with its own independent validity claims and equally honored forms of truth, from science to aesthetics to morals, as suggested in figure 6 (and simplified in fig. 7). This would take the best of ancient wisdom and integrate it with the best of modernity, while avoiding the downside of the ancient outlook (its lack of differentiation, pluralism, and contextualism) and the downside of modernity (its catastrophic collapse into fIatland).
And that marriage would allow us to move forward to the bright promise of a constructive postmodernity: the integration of art, morals, and science, at every level of the extraordinary spectrum of consciousness, body to mind to soul to spirit. That integration, I am suggesting, would involve the very best of premodernity (which was all-level), the best of modernity (which was all-quadrant), and the best of postmodernity (which, as we will see, involves their integration)--"all-level, all-quadrant."

So Ken stresses the need to combine the Great Nest of Meaning with the good news of modernity (which he himself identifies in terms of the differentiation of the four quadrants). He then says "This would take the best of ancient wisdom and integrate it with the best of modernity" but quite clearly in view of what Ken has already said should be more correctly expressed as "This would take the best of ancient wisdom and differentiate it with the best of modernity".
He then reiterates this reduced notion of integration (where it is directly identified with mult--differentiation) by finishing
"That integration, I am suggesting, would involve the very best of premodernity (which was all-level), the best of modernity (which was all-quadrant), and the best of postmodernity (which, as we will see, involves their integration)--"all-level, all-quadrant."
Once again integration is not multi-differentiation. So it is not enough to differentiate relatively discrete stages of development (all-level) and combine them with (relatively) discrete quadrant notions. Indeed strictly speaking, from an integral perspective development entails a no-level, no-quadrant approach. In other words integration is fundamentally a nondual process so that the very task of a dynamic integrated approach is to show the limitations of such independent dualistic notions in moving to embrace the nondual experience.
Of course a comprehensive approach - which I term radial - would entail both differentiated and integrated aspects that are properly harmonised with each other i.e. be both all-level, all quadrant and no-level no-quadrant simultaneously.

2. Firstly Ken defines his stages (levels) in a relatively independent asymmetrical discrete fashion. So for example in his approach prepersonal are sharply distinguished from transpersonal stages.
Secondly he identifies his quadrants again in a relatively independent asymmetrical manner where in effect he attempts to locate holons with specific quadrants e.g. all "ITS" belong to the Right-Hand Quadrants. Also the direction of movement in Ken's four quadrants is positive and unambiguous (representing in each case solely transcendence and inclusion).
Finally he identifies his lines of development again in a relatively independent fashion.
Indeed the very use of the term "lines" indicates his linear asymmetrical approach.
Whereas this approach is initially suitable for the task of differentiating experience it is not tenable as an integral approach where we need to demonstrate the dynamic interdependence of levels, quadrants and lines.

3. The Dark Night of the Soul - or more simply "The Dark Night" - is used in Christian mysticism typically to refer to the period of intense purgation i.e. cleansing of the faculties that divides the culmination of the first mystic way in illumination from complete mystical attainment in the life of Union.

However it has to be said that a certain vagueness attaches to its use.

The symbol of the dark night is used to refer broadly to the spiritual development of the unconscious. Just as there is complementarity in natural terms as between day and night, likewise it is similar in psychological terms with day referring to the conscious and night to the unconscious respectively.
Indeed further divisions can be made by referring to the fading of natural light at dusk (onset of mystical development), midnight (the darkest period in the spiritual life) and dawn (onset of unitive life).
Indeed in one place St. John proposes three dark nights to refer to each of these periods.

Because in psychological terms the shadow personality is rooted in the unconscious, deep healing of the shadow must take place before spiritual union is possible. The shining of the spiritual light therefore on this unreformed shadow - initially hidden in the unconscious - causes darkness and distress (and the deeper the light penetrates the more intense is the perceived darkness).

St John of the Cross is perhaps the best known - and most precise - in his use of the symbolism of the Dark Night.

He distinguishes firstly as between active and passive nights. The active nights refer to conscious acts - motivated by spirit - designed to reform the imperfect ego.
These can take on positive or negative aspects. The positive aspect - referred to as detachment  - is a willingness to face into specific circumstances that are desirable in terms of the authentic development of personality but which one naturally tends to avoid. For example an introvert who shies too much away from social relationships might find it necessary to address this issue through going against nature. So detachment here always implies a willingness to embrace pain where considered appropriate.
The negative aspect referred to as mortification is the willingness to give up some pleasurable activity again in the overall interests of authentic personality development e.g. fasting from certain types of food. So mortification implies a corresponding willingness to deny "lesser" pleasures as spiritually appropriate.

The active nights can also be classified in terms of "sense" and "spirit". As used by St. John sense refers to the more superficial affective and cognitive regions of the personality based on perception.
Spirit refers to the deeper conceptual and volitional regions of personality (relating directly to the will).
Though sense and spirit are ultimately interdependent, purgation in conscious terms initially tends to be largely confined to the senses and later to the spirit (though these are reversed from an unconscious perspective, where they are represented through indirect conscious projections)

St. John lays more emphasis on the importance of the passive nights for the attainment of perfection.
Consciousness is always based on motivation which in part is unconscious. No matter how well intentioned one may be in rooting out faults, conscious activity can never get to grips with imperfections which are really rooted in the unconscious. Here direct passive activity is required whereby the spiritual light focuses intensely on these imperfections, slowly revealing them before disentangling and consuming them in the same pure light. (Light which reveals inner imperfection is concealed as darkness!).

Again St. John distinguishes as between the passive night of the senses and the passive night of the spirit.
The passive night of the senses - which is more superficial in quality - is related largely to the personal unconscious. It would coincide with the stage that Underhill refers to as "The Purgation of Self"
The passive night of spirit - which is much more severe and deep-rooted in quality - refers directly to what Underhill refers to as "The Dark Night of the Soul"

However one interesting way in which Underhill departs from St. John's treatment is in her emphasis on active as well as passive purgation during this period. Though her treatment is not nearly as profound as St. John's it is crucially more balanced in this important respect.
Indeed she provides graphic evidence from the account of the Dominican monk "Blessed Henry Suso" of the importance of continued active purgation during his "Dark Night of the Soul".

However it has to be said that there is one important respect in which Christian writers generally do not deal satisfactorily with the mystic life. This is the failure to distinguish clearly as between directly conscious activity and indirect or projected conscious activity (and the associated type of purgation required to deal satisfactorily with both forms).
There is therefore a considerable blurring as between - what would be referred to in Eastern terms as - the subtle and causal realms in Christian literature. Really insofar as we con compare treatments in Christian terms the causal is simply a continuation of the subtle (and not really distinguished from it).
This failure in distinguishing direct from projected (involuntary) consciousness coincides with another major difficulty which is a failure to deal frankly with the very important psycho-sexual dynamics that unfold throughout mystical development. So sexual erotic fantasy is unduly treated in negative terms as "temptation", "promptings of the devil", the "weakness of the flesh" etc. which unfortunately is of little assistance in understanding its true nature or in assisting proper incorporation of the body with the spirit.

In terms of the direct and indirect (or projected) consciousness an important complementarity exists.
Therefore what is achieved first in terms of purgation at a conscious level i.e. the senses is the last to be satisfactorily achieved at the involuntary level of projected conscious activity.

Indeed when one reads St. John carefully there is strong implicit recognition for what I am saying as his poetic treatment of the Dark Night in his "Spiritual Canticle" is substantially very different in some respects from his corresponding formal treatment in the Dark Night treatise.

In dealing with the period he calls "Spiritual Betrothal" which precedes union we see that its is again made up of illumination and purgation. However the illumination is not of the type which characterises the "illuminative way" but rather like a tranquil night that is gently illuminated by moonlight (referred to in the literature as dim contemplation). Now this illumination period really refers to the causal realm (whereas "illumination of self" which precedes "The Dark Night of the Soul refers to the "subtle realm").
Also St. John beautifully describes how this peaceful spiritual illumination (i.e. dim contemplation) frequently gives way to the purgation of one's deepest impulses (and it is clear that he is mainly referring to intimate erotic desire).
So the period which preceded union for St. John is again a "dark night of the senses" but here we are dealing with intimate involuntarily projected phenomena rather than directly conscious phenomena of the early stage.

So if we are to give a full account of the illuminations and "dark nights", which properly incorporates St. John's treatment in his Spiritual Canticle, we need much more comprehensive picture where subtle and causal realms are properly classified. This requires in turn distinguishing as between "real" activity that is directly conscious and "imaginary" activity that is indirectly conscious (i.e. as the projection of unconscious desire).

Transition to Subtle Realm

Active night of "real" sense - first serious attempts at reform of ego-based conscious desires concentrating on affective and cognitive perception.

Subtle Realm


1. Positive - The Awakening of Self

This follows on conversion representing the first real dawning of the mystic life

2. Negative - The Purgation of Self

This would combine both active nights of "real" sense and of "real" spirit leading in to a passive night of the "real" senses


1. Positive - The Illumination of Self

This represents more deep rooted spiritual illumination and the culmination of the first mystic way

2. Negative - Dark Night of the Soul

This would represent the first phase of the Dark Night relating largely to a passive night of the "real" spirit i.e. deep rooted cleansing of direct voluntary consciousness relating to the conceptual and volitional regions of personality.

Transition to Causal Realm

By this time considerable erosion of direct conscious activity has taken place facilitating a deep - and automatic - contemplative type awareness (i.e. dim comtemplation).
However now "imaginary" involuntarily projected phenomena tend to cloud the landscape troubling the self with fresh desires.

In contrast to the previous "dark nights" we now have "bright nights" which refer to the very gently illuminated activity (that is at source unconscious in origin).

Though the return of this "imaginary" consciousness in some respects helps to reorient one towards the world restoring a degree of balance as between form and formlessness, its involuntary nature requires a new round of purgation (which interpenetrates to a considerable degree with illumination)

The active nights of  "imaginary" sense and reason would now take place

This entails the refined conscious attempt to order reactions to phenomena at both a perceptual and conceptual level, that are themselves indirect expressions of unconscious desire.

Causal Realm

Causal Realm 1

Here pre and trans stages significantly interact in vertical terms i.e. positive and negative stages interact.
However in the early stages supersensory and suprarational elements would still to a degree dominate corresponding subsensory and subrational elements.
This calls therefore for a passive "imaginary" night of the spirit to remove this "higher level" bias.
Greater freedom from involuntary attachment to the refined spiritual phenomena of the "higher" levels enables greater exposure (without repression) of "lower" level desires.

Causal Realm 2
Whereas the balance in the previous phase was in favour of trans over pre recognition, here the position is reversed with the most intimate exposure of one's personal -  which is also the universal - shadow.
This leads to a passive night of the "imaginary" senses (though as active and passive are complementary this will also to a degree mean the continuation of an active night also)
Following comprehensive purgation of both a "real" conscious and "imaginary" unconscious (i.e. indirect conscious phenomena projected from the unconscious) kind, unity can take place.

Null Level
We can even identify a further stage which involves the simultaneous purgation of both a "real" and "imaginary" kind in relation to both sense and spirit (at both an active and passive level).
This entails the continuing maintenance in the midst of normal activities of a genuine detached attitude, receiving extremely little - yet wanting little stimulation in phenomenal terms. This represents in turn the direct purgation of the volitional aspect of personality (i.e. will)

Of course the unitive life does not mean the end of purgation. What it does mean however is that such purgation of whatever form it takes is now accepted willingly as an integral aspect of development (whereas earlier - without perfection of the will - it was always experienced as somewhat of an intrusion)

It should be said in conclusion that there are remarkable structural similarities here as between this outline of the "dark night" and an influential hypothesis on "spinning" black holes by the astronomer Roy Kerr.
These similarities are no by no means accidental. Indeed understanding physical Black Holes and psycho-spiritual Dark Nights in appropriate terms reveals their remarkable structural similarities greatly enhancing appreciation of both realms.

4. Of course the adoption of a linear approach does not entail that development necessarily takes place in a smooth linear fashion. What it fundamentally relates to is the treatment of time. Here asymmetric connections between development variables are viewed in a sequential fashion where the arrow of time is one-directional i.e. moves unambiguously forward in a positive direction.

The circular approach is symmetric in the sense that every asymmetric interpretation of development moving in one direction has an equally valid opposite (mirror) interpretation that moves in the opposite direction. Thus the simultaneous balancing of both perspectives is thus symmetric in a dynamic sense.
Of course this entails that time itself in development is now treated in a relative bi-directional fashion i.e. as simultaneously moving in both positive and negative directions. The reconciliation of such paradoxical notions of time leads to nondual notions of the continual present moment.

 There is a fascinating psycho-mathematical connection here with the binary digits (1 and 0) with form relating to the holistic interpretation of 1 and formlessness (i.e. emptiness or nothingness) relating to the holistic interpretation of 0 respectively.
In the major Western religions there is a greater emphasis on form with a corresponding emphasis on One God (1).
By contrast in the more intuitive Eastern esoteric traditions there is a greater emphasis on formlessness where ultimate reality is seen - devoid of phenomena - as a creative void (0).
There are also intimate holistic connections as between the geometrical notions of the line and circle and the binary digits (1 and 0) respectively. 1 as a symbol is literally a straight line and  0 (with minor modifications) is in fact a circle.
Thus the dynamic translation of the relationship between form and emptiness at all stages of development entails the dynamic relationship of both linear and circular understanding respectively. This in turn entails the dynamic holistic interpretation of the binary system (1 and 0) i.e. where all transformation processes can be encoded by  these two digits.

5. Ken's pre/trans fallacy makes little sense from a dynamic integral perspective where in experiential terms transpersonal always entails the interaction with prepersonal, and prepersonal with transpersonal respectively.
This is the same recognition that in experience the transcendent aspect is dynamically related to the immanent and the immanent to the transcendent respectively.
The task then is to distinguish confused from the more mature integral notions.

In terms of the differentiation of experience, Ken's approach - based on a discrete interpretation of stages - does have validity. However - as we have seen - even here it is a partial interpretation as it based solely on the transcendent direction of development (where the direction of movement is from pre to trans notions). However it could equally be based on the immanent direction (where the direction is reversed from trans to pre).
Once we recognise that every level of development entails a unique configuration of both differentiation and integration, then a distinctive pre/trans fallacy is associated in each case.
So Ken's own interpretation represents just one partial interpretation based on the interpretation of the middle level of the Spectrum.

6. Ken consistently defines his holarchies in terms of transcendence and inclusion.
However inclusion must dynamically be balanced by exclusion. So we can equally define holarchies in terms of transcendence and exclusion.
However - as mentioned when dealing with the pre/trans fallacy - development is equally about immanence (as well as transcendence) so we could equally define holarchies in terms of immanence and inclusion and immanence and exclusion respectively.
Finally however the relation between whole and part is itself bi-directional so every holarchy - where development is viewed in terms of the progressive movement to more collective wholes - is balanced by a corresponding partarchy (where development is viewed in terms of the progressive movement to more unique parts)
So in a comprehensive eight-sectoral approach we have eight (linear) asymmetrical interpretations which serve to properly differentiate experience.
Then because of dynamic (circular) complementarity of opposite interpretations (i.e. inclusion and exclusion, transcendence and immanence and holarchy and partarchy)
we can achieve dynamic integration.

7. The attempt to approach integration through a (linear) asymmetrical approach leads to considerable inconsistency from an overall perspective. I give here just one evaluation - in relation to the four quadrants - which illustrates this point.

The linear (one-directional) approach is also very evident in Ken's treatment of the four quadrants.

In attempting to define each quadrant in unambiguous terms he himself uses a surprisingly reduced philosophical perspective. Indeed this is a fundamental problem with his general approach. So often he attempts to analyze reality as if it were somehow independent of the interpreting mind. For example in describing his Right-Hand quadrants he says in "The Marriage of Sense and Soul", P. 117;

"All Right-Hand events Ė all sensorimotor objects and empirical processes and ITs Ė can be seen with the mononological gaze, with they eye of flesh. You simply look at the rock, the town, the clouds, the mountains, the railroad tracks, the airplane, the flower, the car, the tree. All these Right-Hand objects and "ITs" can be seen by the senses or their extensions (microscopes to telescopes). They all have simple location, you can actually point to most of them".

This is a very emphatic statement of the "myth of the given".

However Kenís description of Right-Hand events is untenable from an experiential perspective.

Objects do not just exist "out there" but always in relationship to the observer.

Thus if I see a rock a bi-directional interaction is involved where the rock is in relation to self (and the self in relation to the rock). The actual perception of the (individual) rock has both exterior and interior aspects (which mutually interact).

Thus identifying the perception solely with the Right-Hand is very one-sided.

Likewise the (individual) perception of "a rock" has no meaning in the absence of the corresponding (collective) concept of "rock". Thus Upper and Lower quadrants are likewise necessarily involved in the experience.

So in dynamic terms all four quadrants are involved in the perception of an object.

We could equally start with Kenís other rigidly defined quadrants and likewise show that in dynamic terms all four quadrants are involved.

There is in fact a basic confusion with his approach. He claims that every holon has exterior and interior aspects (in horizontal terms), and individual and collective aspects (in vertical terms). So by definition a holon belongs to all four quadrants.

However he then tries to compartmentalize these same holons in terms of (horizontal) Right-Hand and Left-Hand, and (vertical) Upper and Lower quadrants.

A rock for example is clearly a holon that dynamically belongs to all quadrants. However Ken would try and identify this holon in static terms with just one quadrant i.e. the Upper Right.

A true integral approach requires much greater subtlety. First of all we accept that a holon does indeed belong to all four quadrants. Therefore in reduced linear terms, we can only identify locations by arbitrarily fixing our frame of reference. We can then consistently define quadrant locations (in relative terms).

By switching our frame of reference, we can give four equally valid quadrant explanations for any experiential event.

These explanations are paradoxical in terms of each other. However, they provide the very basis for an integrated approach.

In other words through balanced paradox, we move from an either/or logic (where quadrants are differentiated) to a both/and logic (where they are integrated).

Thus when we differentiate the quadrants in horizontal terms, an event is either Right-Hand or Left-Hand. (Depending on how we fix our frame of reference, we can give two equally valid asymmetrical interpretations of the event).

However when we integrate these same quadrants (simultaneously using both frames of reference), the event is understood as both Right-Hand and Left-Hand.

In a direct sense these complementary opposites are reconciled through intuitive awareness. However bi-directional paradoxical translation itself greatly facilitates this intuitive awareness.

Ken clearly does not provide an integral interpretation of the quadrants.

Also, insofar as he differentiates the quadrants he does so in a rigid absolute - rather than a balanced relative - manner. Not surprisingly this leads to a considerable amount of inconsistency.

For example perception is associated with the Right and interpretation with the Left. However this makes little sense from a dynamic perspective (where such distinctions have a merely relative meaning).

He then identifies his Right-Hand quadrants in "it" terms as the home of (empirical) science. However, in dynamic terms, scientific perceptions are meaningless in the absence of corresponding conceptual interpretation. So we could equally identify the quadrants in "it" terms as (theoretical) science. As Ken places mental concepts in his Left-Hand quadrants, then the theoretical aspect of science would be Left-Hand, and the empirical, Right-Hand respectively.

Likewise he identifies a value such as compassion with the Left-Hand quadrant. However again in dynamic terms, an (interior) value has no meaning in the absence of an (exterior) objective context. Thus - in dynamic terms - the sight of a suffering child might well be associated with compassion. However in reduced linear terms this has two equally valid interpretations. We could say that the sight of the child (exterior) causes the compassion; equally we could say that compassion (interior) causes one to notice the child.

In other words, in dynamic terms the value cannot be exclusively identified with either quadrant.

There are other obvious inconsistencies. He tries to identify the Right-Hand quadrants with "it" and the Left-Hand with "I" and "We".

As he considers Mathematics to relate to the interior aspect this would be placed in his Left-Hand quadrants.

However mathematics is considered a supreme expression of "it" understanding (though he identifies the Left-Hand as "I" and "We")

Likewise his attempts to identify morality with "We" makes little sense. Morality has certainly a (collective) "We" aspect. However it equally has an individual "I" aspect (as with existential morality).

Morality also has an important "it" aspect. The programmatic approach of the institutionalized churches to moral behavior is based on a strong belief in "objective" morality.

He also identifies beauty with "I" which is very one-sided. There is a strong cultural "We" component to our notions of beauty. Indeed modern marketing and advertising have conditioned aesthetic perspectives to an unhealthy extent.

Beauty clearly also has an "it" aspect where it is identified directly with (exterior) object symbols.

Once again, by definition a holon includes all four quadrants. So as science, mathematics, morality, and beauty are holons, it makes no sense to try and exclusively identify them with just one quadrant. However it requires a dynamic relative treatment to preserve this balance.

Ken then represents the disaster of modernity as the collapse of the Left to the Right. However if we associate the rapid growth of Mathematics with modernity (which he identifies with the Left), this position is not strictly tenable (even in his terms).

The real problem is that he fails to distinguish true interactive from (merely) absolute notions of the relationship between quadrants.

So properly speaking, the disaster of modernity represents the collapse of dynamic notions of Left and Right to (merely) reduced static interpretations (which can be identified with either Left or Right). Indeed in this respect, Ken's attempt to use an analytic approach, as a means of translating integration, is itself a reflection of the true problem of modernity.

Thus because of a lack of a true dynamic approach, he continually comes down in favor of one side of a polarity (when the other is equally valid). From an integral perspective, his rather compartmentalized treatment of the quadrants is very confused, as he reduces dynamic interactions to rigid static interpretation.

It must be remembered that Kenís four quadrant approach deals solely with horizontal and vertical polarities (in an absolute fixed manner).

A more comprehensive approach would also require the inclusion of diagonal polarities leading to an eight sectoral approach. These would then be interpreted in accordance with both the (linear) logic of form and the (circular) logic of emptiness.

Looking more deeply at the manner he identifies his four quadrants I would have further reservations about Kenís treatment. For example, he would identify physiological reactions in the brain as the (exterior) aspect of (interior) thought processes. He is thus treating these in terms of horizontal polarities. However I would see them more accurately described in terms of diagonal polarities (where physical and psychological aspects directly coincide).

8. As the transcendent and immanent aspects of development are not properly differentiated in early infancy they are directly confused with each other.
Because the infant is still operating through primitive impulsive desire s/he is unable to properly transcend or go beyond immediate symbols (in any meaningful sense). Likewise because of this lack of transcendence, the Spirit is directly confused with the physical world (immanence).
So the dynamic confusion of pre and trans in early infancy can equally be described as the dynamic confusion of the transcendent and immanent aspects of development.
When one reflects on it this confused nature of immanence and transcendence is readily observable in infant behaviour. On the one hand the infant suffers from a grossly inflated ego and an immature sense of omnipotence (undifferentiated transcendence).
Likewise impulsive desire is directly invested immediately in the physical phenomena that arise in experience (undifferentiated immanence).

So the deep healing of the shadow that takes place through authentic mystical development relates to both repressed primitive prepersonal (i.e. confused immanent) and repressed primitive transpersonal (i.e. confused transcendent) elements.

What I am suggesting here is that - relatively speaking - whereas repressed prepersonal (immanent) confusion is likely to be the major problem for the metaphysical type, that repressed (transcendent) confusion is likely to dominate with the more affective personal type.

9. Insofar as Ken attempts to recognises the immanent aspect in development he directly confuses it with transcendence.
So in his approach each lower is transcended and included in a higher stage (Ascent).
Then from this higher perspective one achieves integration with lower stages (Descent).
However this reverse process does not properly represent immanence but rather the transcendent aspect of integration.
Thus what Ken is really attempting to describe - in (linear) asymmetrical fashion - are the transcendent aspects of differentiation (Ascent) and integration (Descent) respectively.
However the proper incorporation of immanence and transcendence requires a (circular) bi-directional approach.

10. Heraclitus is perhaps the earliest Western thinker to have a clear grasp of circular understanding and the bi-directional nature of all dynamic processes. Not surprisingly he exercised a considerable influence on the great philosopher Hegel who is perhaps the most comprehensive proponent of such understanding.

Interestingly Ken Wilber entitles one of the Chapters in SES on the famous phrase from Heraclitus "The way up is the way down" It is also commonly translated as "The way up and the way down are one and the same". This indeed is an emphatic statement of the nature of bi-directional (circular) understanding.
However having read this Chapter on numerous occasions I can find no clear evidence of appropriate dynamic understanding in Ken's interpretation.

Indeed on P.337 in discussing the system of Plotinus he refers directly to this quote when he says "The Path of Ascent or Reflux thus traces, in reverse order, The Path of Creation or Descent or efflux, for as Heraclitus had pointed out, "The way up is the way down, the way down is the way".

However though this may seem to indicate that Ken indeed adopts circular understanding, when we examine closely we find that this impression is mistaken.
In fact Ken, in maintaining that the Path of Descent traces in reverse order the Path of Ascent is using standard unambiguous linear understanding. And this is not at all what Heraclitus means.

Nor is this just an isolated instance. For example in the way that he deals with regression in development (which is so essential to an understanding of Underhill's stages), Ken repeatedly provides a linear - rather than a dynamic circular - interpretation.

For example in "Integral Psychology" p. 142, in criticising the Romantic notion that the deeper ground or potential that is lost through development of the analytic ego can be regained through enlightenment he says
"This ground is said to be the same ground one regains in enlightenment, but if so, why would anyone ever abandon it? If this ground is regained, why does this system do something it does in no other system, namely start running backwards? Would a chicken regress to an egg in order to find itself".

Now if we need a statement to show how foreign true circular understanding is to Ken's actual mode of thinking we have it here.
His stance is totally at variance with that of Heraclitus whose central insight was that all developmental processes run in opposite directions. It is also totally at variance with the approach of Underhill who adopts a very strong bi-directional approach in her interpretation of mystical development.

Because of the importance of this issue I will attempt to properly clarify what Heraclitus really means with his famous statement.

Imagine two people who meet at a point along a straight road say in a desert. Now if they are to obtain an unambiguous notion of direction they have to arbitrarily fix our frame of reference. So if pointing in one direction they agree to designate that as "up" then the opposite direction will be unambiguously
"down" the same road.
However they could equally have pointed in the other direction initially designating it as "up" the road in which case the opposite direction would be now "down". So therefore what is "up" in terms of the first reference frame is "down" in terms of the second; equally what is "down" in terms of the first is "up" in terms of the second reference frame.

The vital point here for development is that relationships are fundamentally based on opposite poles e.g. interior and exterior, whole and part, form and emptiness, progression and regression etc.
Now because in dynamic terms these opposite poles are always interdependent we can only attempt to understand these relationships in analytic terms by arbitrarily fixing the reference frame with just one pole. So for example with popular science the reference frame is commonly taken as the exterior pole so that the world is typically investigated as if it were independent of the observing self.
However going back to our simple road example illustrating Heraclitus, we are always entitled in such situations to fix our reference frame with the opposite pole which will give us an equally valid opposite interpretation for the same dynamic event.
Once again the implications here are truly enormous for they apply to all developmental relationships (which are necessarily conditioned by opposite poles).
If Ken properly appreciated both the nature and importance of circular bi-directional understanding then he would readily appreciate - As Underhill does - why running forwards necessarily entails - in development - running backwards.

11. Though I have not mentioned it in the main text for a more complete approach to integration we need to extend the four quadrants to an eight sectoral approach.
In geometric terms these would be represented through drawing horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines (equidistant from horizontal and vertical) through the centre of the circle to the circumference thus giving us eight sectors of equal area.
These geometrical notions of centre point, circle and lines are then given their appropriate holistic mathematical interpretations.

So the first task in mystical integration is the reconciliation of the horizontal (interior, exterior) polarities. This leads to the clear understanding that in dynamic terms inclusion always implies exclusion and exclusion implies inclusion.

The next task is the reconciliation of vertical (whole, part) polarities. This lead to the clear understanding that holarchy (increasing collective wholeness) always dynamically implies partarchy (decreasing part uniqueness); likewise partarchy in dynamic terms always implies holarchy.
The great problem with asymmetrical notions of holarchy is that lower partness is predefined in one-way terms as part of a higher holon.  However the relationship of part to whole (and whole to part) is two way so that equally in asymmetrical terms the higher whole must be pre-defined to establish the identity of each part. Thus development is not just a journey towards a more collective whole identity (holism); equally it is a journey towards a more unique part identity (partism).
Of course in dynamic bi-directional terms, holarchy and partarchy (and partarchy and holarchy) are necessarily complementary and interdependent.

The third task is the reconciliation of diagonal (transcendent, immanent) polarities.
This could equally be described as the simultaneous reconciliation of both horizontal and vertical polarities. So transcendence always implies immanence and immanence always implies transcendence in such diagonal terms.
So development is not just a growth in transcendence; it is equally a growth in immanence (and these two aspects are complementary).

So to characterise all development in terms of holarchies of transcendence and inclusion is extremely one-sided and unbalanced from a dynamic perspective.
Development in fact entails both holarchies and partachies; transcendence and immanence and inclusion and exclusion.

So instead of one asymmetrical interpretation we have eight (all with an equal partial validity).
However integration is in fact dynamically symmetrical where we pair opposite asymmetrical interpretations in horizontal, vertical and diagonal terms.

12. If we maintain that conop is transcended and included in formop in a qualitative sense, then thereby conop is transcended and excluded in a quantitative sense.
Thus whereas conop understanding relies heavily on concrete perceptions (quantitative), by contrast formop is much more general and conceptual (qualitative).

So the nature of conop changes with the emergence of formop (becoming less dependent on rigid concrete perception).
This enables new creative two-way linkages as between conop and formop.
So from one perspective the conceptual understanding of formop is seen as a "higher" stage transcending conop and used as the means to structure and integrate "lower" conop perceptions (the deductive approach).

However now equally the transformed conop understanding (through exclusion of rigid concrete interpretation) is seen as a - relatively - "lower" stage through which the - relatively - "higher" formop is made immanent.
In other words from this perspective concrete data are creatively used to suggest an organising conceptual pattern.

Science very much depends on both approaches. Einstein's Theory of Relativity is a very good example of the first where a conceptual "higher" formop structure was used to structure "lower" conop empirical data (top-down).
Curiously, Ken Wilber's account of how derived his four quadrants is a good example of the second. Here a wealth of - relatively - "lower" holarchical empirical data was used to suggest the "higher" organising conceptual pattern of the four quadrants (bottom-up).
So in the first case conop is transcended in formop; in the second formop is made immanent in conop.

13  Both structures and states have both primary (fundamental) and secondary (phenomenal) expressions.
The primary states relate to a basic way of seeing reality that ultimately relates to a characteristic form of spiritual light.  So just as with the electromagnetic spectrum we have energy of various wavelengths likewise in terms of states.
So for example the waking state corresponds closely in holistic terms with the band of  natural light. However beyond that we have bands of more passive energy (i.e. of longer wavelength and lower frequency) that would characterise dream and sleep states.

What seems to be missing from most approaches is the recognition that the states associates with lower levels cannot be subsumed under the waking state

L3 (archaic) movement from confused eternal state

L2 (magic) movement from confused sleep state

L1 (mythic) movement from confused dream state

L0, H0 (rational, personal)

H1 (psychic/subtle) movement to mature dream state

H2 (causal) movement to mature sleep state

H3 (nondual) movement to mature eternal state

R1 (radial 1) mature interaction of eternal, sleep, dream and waking states (with some rigidities remaining)

R2 (radial 2) mature interaction of all states (with little rigidity remaining)

However the experience of reality entails both a manner of seeing and a manner of (phenomenal) interpretation which dynamically interact.
The primary structures relate to this manner of interpretation that provides an identifiable holistic pattern of organisation that uniquely characterises each level.
Though there many approaches which may be used to clarify the nature of such structures I personally find the holistic mathematical approach the most rewarding.
In this approach the underlying structure of each level is defined as a unique configuration of linear and circular understanding. This indeed represents the dynamic holistic interpretation of the binary system. So just as the (analytic) binary system can be used as a means to potentially encode all information processes, the (holistic) binary system can be likewise used to potentially encode all transformation processes.

To give some insight into this holistic binary approach to structure I will give a brief outline associating each level with its corresponding binary configuration.

Now we have three fundamental polarities, which determine all relationships

Diagonal - form and emptiness
Vertical - whole and part
Horizontal - interior and exterior

Now in development the diagonal polarities are first to be differentiated i.e. where the infant learns to distinguish the world of form as opposed to nothing.
Next the distinction between wholes and parts are differentiated and finally the distinction between interior and exterior.
So the middle then represents the successful differentiation of all three polarities.
The higher mystical stages then relate to the corresponding integration of these same polarities first in relation to interior and exterior, then in relation to wholes and parts and finally in relation to form and emptiness.

L3 (archaic) - greatly confused complementarity of diagonal, vertical and horizontal polarities

L2 (magic) - differentiation of diagonal polarities; confused integration of vertical and horizontal

L1 (mythic) - differentiation of both diagonal and vertical polarities; confused complementarity of horizontal

L0, H0 (rational) - differentiation of diagonal, vertical and horizontal polarities

H1 (psychic/subtle) mature (complementary) integration of horizontal polarities; differentiation of both vertical and diagonal

H2 (causal) mature (complementary) integration of horizontal and vertical polarities; differentiation of diagonal polarities

H3 (nondual) mature (complementary) integration of horizontal, vertical and diagonal polarities

R1 (radial 1) mature differentiation and integration of polarities (with some divisions remaining)

R2 (radial 2) mature differentiation and integration of polarities (with no divisions remaining)

In this approach there is full balance as between matching states and structures, which befits a dynamic based on matching complementarities.

Finally we could list the dynamic body/mind interactions - loosely referred to as bodies

L3 state - confused eternal; structure - confused binary 3; body/mind- confused archaic

L2 state - confused sleep; structure - confused binary 2; body/mind -confused magic

L1 state - confused dream; structure -confused binary 2; body/mind - confused mythic

L0,H0 state - waking;   structure- differentiated binary; body/mind - gross

H1 state - dream; structure - integral binary 1; body/mind - subtle

H2 state - sleep;  structure - integral binary 2; body/mind - causal

H3 state - eternal;  structure - integral binary 3; body/mind - nondual

R1 states - mixed; structures - mixed; body/mind - mixed (with some rigidity)

R2 states - mixed;  structures - mixed;  body/mind - mixed (with little rigidity)

Equally we can have secondary states and structures representing particular phenomenal manifestations

For example we can experience from a wide variety of secondary states often characterised by emotional feelings e.g. joy fear, delight, anxiety etc.
However a state can also relate to a cognitive or spiritual discipline e.g. s state of alert, a state of awareness etc.

Also we can experience in terms of a wide range of secondary structures. For example within all the great religions there will be a whole set of teachings, practices, symbols, cultural and social understandings through which the fundamental structures of the mystical stages (that are broadly) universal will be mediated.

One observation I would strongly make is that far too much attention is paid to these secondary structures rather than to proper clarification of their common universal features.
I find that it is especially true in terms of a proper scientific appreciation of higher levels (and their associated world-views). My own energy therefore has been largely devoted to this task.

14  I will briefly illustrate the dynamic as between form an emptiness (structures and states).
Entry to a new "higher" mystical stage is often associated with an outpouring of spiritual illumination. This can be directly identified with the mature state that characterises this level.
Now this new way of "seeing" reality (provided by the appropriate state) is associated with a new way of interpreting reality, which entails the corresponding unique structural pattern that characterises the level.
Thus for example H1 (the subtle level) is characterised by a characteristic spiritual illumination (dream state) which facilitates the archetypal appreciation of symbols.
The structural pattern is then characterised by increasing dynamic interaction in experience in relation to the horizontal polarities (exterior and interior) leading to enhanced appreciation of the complementarity of opposites with respect to this aspect.

Now both aspects are interdependent.
The dawning of the new light (state) enhances appreciation of the paradox attaching to dualistic interpretation (structure). The desire to resolve this paradox leads back to an enhanced spiritual illumination (state) which in turn further enhances appreciation of the paradoxical features at a phenomenal level (structure).
So both structures and states are dynamically interdependent enhancing overall appreciation of their corresponding levels.

15. Actually this is brought out very well in the Christian Gospels. When Christ was led into the desert for his final purification (40 days and 40 nights) he was tempted by the devil with worldly power and riches.
This can be interpreted as a temporary valley experience of the kind I have mentioned representing the temptation to use one's considerable gifts in a self-serving manner.
We know of course that Christ did not succumb but rather took the much harder truly integral route that led to his extremely painful death.

However when we look at the way many religious sects operate we find that their leaders have indeed succumbed in many ways to this temptation.

16  Padre Pio - is an extremely interesting modern example of this same phenomenon.
He showed extreme body/mind sensitivity throughout his development. Indeed while training to be a priest he could not stay in the seminary due to repeated whenever he attended.
He also represents perhaps the best known example of the phenomenon of the stigmata where the wound of Christ became represented for many years on his own body.
It becomes much easier to understand this phenomenon when we realise the extreme psycho/physical sensitivity, leading to remarkably close connections as between psychological and associated physical experience in some individuals.

Thus some subjects through the power of suggestion are able to reproduce what they imagine directly in physical bodily symptoms. Thus for the Christian mystic the passion and crucifixion of Christ would often serve as a powerful source of mediation.
Thus some mystics through intense concentration on Christ's sufferings are able to reproduce his wounds (or what they imagine were his wounds) on their own bodies.
Of course the ability to reproduce the stigmata is not in itself necessarily a healthy barometer of mystical development.
Indeed some times it can indicate a desire to seek attention in a somewhat unbalanced individual (with an extremely sensitive psycho/physical disposition).

17. Though I have concentrated mainly in this article on the nature of an integral - as opposed to a differentiated approach - any comprehensive approach must entail both aspects.
Now I refer to this approach - where differentiated and integral aspects are both successfully incorporated - as a radial approach.

In a radial context there would of course be a place for the superbly intelligent and detailed work that Ken Wilber has contributed to development.
However without proper recognition of the uniquely distinctive features of the differentiated and integrated aspects of development respectively, any attempted radial approach will be significantly reduced to just one aspect. And in Ken's case the bias is certainly towards differentiation (rather than consistent integration).

The very problem with our culture is that integration is generally defined in a manner where it is not properly distinguished from differentiation.
Thus what I refer to as a radial approach would in popular understanding be referred to as an integral approach. And I am sure that Ken would maintain that his "integral" approach refers to the radial approach (as I define it).
However - as we have seen - if we do not properly distinguish the integral aspect -
And the uniquely distinct intellectual translation required to do it justice, then inevitably in any comprehensive (radial) approach, the integral will be reduced to the differentiated aspect of development and the model will be deeply inconsistent from an overall perspective.



Underhill, Evelyn

1993. Mysticism: The Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness:

Oneworld Publications Ltd;

Mysticism - full text on web

Wilber, Ken

1995. Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The spirit of evolution. Boston: Shambhala

1997. The Eye of Spirit: An Integral Vision for a world Gone Slightly Mad:


1998. The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion:

Random House

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Rothberg, D & S. Kelly

1998. Ken Wilber in Dialogue: Conversations with Leading Transpersonal

Thinkers: Quest Books

2000 Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy: Shambhala

Ken Wilber Web Links

Ken Wilber (Official site)

Boomeritis: States and Stages

A Summary of My Psychological Model

Kavanaugh, K.  Rodriguez, O

1979. The Ascent of Mount Carmel in the collected works of St. John of the Cross,

ICS Publications

Collins, P

Holistic Mathematics

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