On singular uniqueness of Integral

Those who insist on multiplicity and diversity often forget the existence of unique singularity. They tend to devalue this unique singularity or singular uniqueness. For instance, there is a widespread habitual proposition that attempts to equal Wilber et al.’s Integral vision with some other emergents in the diversity of things. Such an assertion loses understanding of the possibility for the uniqueness of the message. The message itself comes from a different tier of consciousness than 99,9% of other approaches; it is uniquely flavored with what arises at transpersonal altitudes and in causal/nondual states of consciousness (to which it itself nondualistically refers). There is a whole world of differences between a second- and third-tier Integral vision and first-tier integrative approaches. One has to respect the uniqueness of this manifestation without attempting to conflate it with other emergents. In my opinion, if one has tasted Integral in a more or less consummate fashion, he or she needs to understand and elaborate that Integral vision should be compared with other third-tier emergents (if any), not with first-tier integrative endeavors (although cross-altitudinal comparisons can be made). To conflate Integral vision to some earlier-stage emergents means to lose the clarity and groundedness of one’s own sight; it would be akin to saying “oh there are many spiritual approaches in the world: folk magical beliefs, New Age, shamanism, Vajrayana—they’re all the same.” This would amount to ignorance and total lack of pragmatic discernment.

What is an Integral Obsession?

I read Matthew McConaghey’s words about his preference for characters with obsessions. (McConaghey is an Oscar-winning actor who played in Magic MikeDallas Buyers ClubThe Wolf of Wall Street and the recent breakthrough TV series True Detective.) He enjoys getting into new characters who are obsessed with something. When it appears that their life intensity is burning with fire of obsession (sometimes with a mystery, sometimes with the ugly, and sometimes with the beautiful).

So, then I thought that obsession (not necessarily compulsive-obsessive disorder, but Obsession) is something that has guided many geniuses. In fact, it is some kind of brightly burning demonic power of intensity, daimonic really. We see in Ken Wilber this kind of quality of obsession in writing. In many people who encounter Wilber’s work, they become obsessed with the realities that are disclosed by it (while others sometimes get afraid of it, especially if they’re more conventionally inclined). We see the same in Dostoevsky. In Nicola Tesla. In Bruce Lee. In David Lynch. In Eric Thompson and his beautiful iAwake biofield and brainwave entrainment inventions. In fact, some feats of transpersonal yogic transformation require geniune obsession (as Caroline Myss told about her relationship/communication with Teresa of Avil)—not stupid persistence, but spiritual and transpersonal obsession, really.

The question is, what does an Integral obsession look like? How do we understand it? When do we feel this erotic drive of obsession, of spanda pulsating ourselves in unison with the universal heart? How do we allow our Higher, Truer Self to possess us, obsess us, enchant us, entrain us, entrance us? How do we let go of those lesser ego defenses and let more sophisticated protective mechanisms emerge? How do we let this Ariadne thread lead us into our deepest potentials, without getting lost in self-amnesias of roadside picnics?

The words “roadside picnic” come from Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s novel under the same title (based on which Andrey Tarkovsky filmed his Stalker masterpiece); I like to interpret the metaphor of a roadside picnic in a somewhat unusual way: when you walk down the road of your Life, there is a temptation to have a picnic on its roadside, and then you look at a beautiful yet partial flower there which enchants you, and you stop seeing anything else. You become enchanted by this single flower, and you forget about the whole panorama of being and where you were actually going. The paradoxical quality of Transpersonal Obsession is that it burns your heart and hurts your butt in a way that never allows you to stop and be lost forever in the amnesia of a roadside picnic.

Life as a bardo dreamscape

In one of the private Integral forums we discussed the nature of discrete states of consciousness (that we often “become consciously aware” of a state only after the state was experience—in between one state and another there is often “blackout”).

My friend L. said beautifully: “I wonder if for most people life itself is a state that’s only experienced after the fact? Like in “Our Town” by Wilder.”

This triggered the following reflection in me:

I haven’t read the book, but that’s a nice comment. The way I understand it, Tibetan Buddhists view it this way.

First, the point of contemplative training is that in bardo (right after the moment of physical death) you, by identifying with pure transcendental awareness, learn to superconsciously choose your future—so now, instead of chasing after (gross, subtle and very subtle) objects of clinging which pulls you unconsciously towards new rebirth in order to satisfy some clinging (attachment or aversion), you emanate as radiance and spontaneity of Kosmic consciousness. This identification with transcendental awareness and its wisdom aspect allows to recognize the true nature of all forms manifesting in bardo (a fluctuation of intermediary states).

Second, as far as I understand, it is often advised to contemplate your entire life as a kind of dreamscape in which all objects of the dream are dream-like empty phenomena generated by your innermost Mind (which is always already identical with Buddha Mind). For advanced-stage practitioners it is said that, of course, ontological objects are real and not productions of your own individual mind (or, as Nagarjuna would put it, they are neither real nor unreal nor both nor neither), but it is practically useful to have this view and then abandon it.

In Kashmir Shaivism reality is not considered to be maya or illusion—maya itself is treated as a shakti-manifestation of Shiva (Blissful Transcendental Awareness, the Ultimate Reality). Still, the point is in letting go of lesser identifications in the locus of awareness and becoming able to witness as Emptiness or Shiva and then arise as the nonduality of Emptiness and Form or Shiva-Shakti.

But still, in some sense we are already in a bardo state, since we’re constantly fluctuating through intermediary realms between one moment and the next, and whatever bardo visions happen after death, they’re ultimately available here, under the veil of our human-conditioned perception. So this transcendental perspective is ingrained in the immanent fabric of arising, and we can use certain upaya, or skillful means (which are actually there and available for adequately prepared practitioners), that would allow us to disclose these potentialities as actual realities—not only in peak experiences, but also in plateau experiences turning into structure-state fusion at transpersonal stages of consciousness.

Today’s Integral Reflections

Integral is good at including pre-Integral worldviews (so-called 1st tier), but sometimes this inclusion excludes a genuine Integral perspective itself (that is, Integral is not merely a sum of all 1st-tier views, it is something novel which has its own unique modus operandi). If such a thing happens, this needs to be amended, and Integral needs to include itself on its own terms.

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It is a common misunderstanding and misreading of Wilber’s work to treat AQAL as a mental-rational map. It’s an inclusive paradigm (an injunction that asks for enactment—actual practice) that includes transrational realms and practices (transcendental awareness and objects) as much as rational realms and practice (mental awareness and objects) and prerational realms and practice (sensorimotor awareness and objects).

Integral Revolutions of 21st Century

First real integral sociocultural revolutions are only going to happen in the twenty-first century. These revolutions will be grounded in the evolutionary and complexity paradigm and the understanding of the processes of unfolding on all levels. They will be preceded with decades of preliminary preparations. These revolutions will be based on the interests of not merely and primarily power structures and power constellations but more integrated structures of consciousness.