A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality (book)

The notion of an objective, hierarchical path of personal growth makes many today feel uneasy because the dominant ideology of our time is that everything is subjective and based on power dynamics. American philosopher Ken Wilber argues that humanity has become stuck in this post-modern knowledge system, which has captured much of the political, media and academic class, but inhibits humanity’s ascension into higher developmental levels.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Growth hierarchies, for Wilber, should be differentiated from dominance hierarchies which are indeed based on power and privilege; for example, those higher in a workplace hierarchy may in fact be lower in the growth hierarchy than someone at the bottom of the organization.

Human advancement occurs in a spiral pattern within individuals and wider cultures, with a culture the product of the growth level of most of the individuals within, and where each of the lower levels spiral into the “green level”: the subjectivist, relativistic, post-modern level humanity is currently stuck on. The human at the each of the first 6 levels acts within the thought and action framework dictated by a set of internal rules. For example, In contrast to the anti-hierarchical green mind, we find lower levels of advancement such as the “red level” which is more feudalistic and based on intense and all-encompassing dominance hierarchies both in political arrangement and in thought: think empires and vengeful and jealous gods. 

Wilber makes the case that the green level is the natural departure lounge for a new kind of human, who integrates and accepts all the levels of growth that precedes it. However, when the green level society is unable to integrate other growth levels it eventually rejects and ostracizes all philosophy, spirituality, and groups of people deemed connected with previous levels. In a strange twist, the supposedly caring, pluralistic society then turns on others who they deem evil rather than holding elements of truths that need to be integrated. Obvious recent examples are calls to abolish the police or ban Dr Seuss books because they demonstrate aspects of the older growth cycles. 

Wilber perceives that the key to ascension resides in the ability to integrate competing ideas and ways of being into something more profound and developed. He calls this ‘nested hierarchies’, or ‘holarchy’, in which the ‘holons’ become part of a greater whole, such as cells within the human body. This development comes through the process of differentiation followed by integration.

I would argue that the process of dialectical tensions leading to integration is fundamental to ascension psychology, not just Wilber’s. It was articulated brilliantly by Hegel, whereby individuals and society grow through the competing tensions of opposites, which grind against each other, ultimately giving birth to a superior concept or person. However, the ascension process goes beyond ideas and politics, and can give birth to a new kind of spiritual human, who is as different from the bulk of humanity as they are from mineral life. 

One of the most fascinating accounts of the ascension from homo sapiens to the spiritual human is found in the work of G. I Gurdjieff (G) as outlined within In Search of the Miraculous. For G, most people are a multitude of ‘I’s each holding prominence at different times of the day, week or year. One part of the individual is truthful and the other a liar; one part believes in a certain political philosophy; the other couldn’t care less. Ascension can only occur once all these individual persons are integrated into an overarching “I” that has crystalized to such an extent that it has become a being of its own. Until this happens, humans are merely machines acting out scripts:

“We regard the actions of an individual as originating in himself. We do not imagine that the “masses” may consist of automatons obeying external stimuli and may move, not under the influence of the will, consciousness, or inclination of individuals, but under the influence of external stimuli coming possibly from very far away.” 

For G, the planets and the moon are living, energetic entities that are evolving and use human energy for their own purposes; with wars and mass catastrophic events facilitating the release of energy the moon feeds off:

“The influence of the moon upon everything living manifests itself in all that happens on earth. The moon is the chief, or rather the nearest, the immediate, motive force of all that takes place in organic life on the earth. All movements, actions, and manifestations of people, animals, and plants depend upon the moon and are controlled by the moon…Man, like every other living being, cannot, in the ordinary conditions of life, tear himself free from the moon.”

Only through the realisation and acceptance that one is a machine being pulled around by psychological pressures and planetary forces can one begin to free oneself and develop an “astral body”. Once one accepts this, and begins to change, then growth can occur. After great effort and suffering, a person can break through the barriers of control and begin to act as an autonomous being outside of the energetic influences that use humanity like puppets. Not only does this lead to a better type of life, but the crystallised astral body can live beyond the death of the physical body.

G’s particular method is what he calls the Fourth Way. This involves surgically using the various tools of different ascension traditions to the maximum benefit without any superlative or superstitious practices. These are the way of the fakir (mastery of body), the monk (mastery of the emotional body and renunciation to God), and the yogi (mastery of knowledge). Knowledge without mastery of body and emotions leads to inaction, while without knowledge there cannot be a correct notion of how to act. 

Knowledge itself cannot bring a person to an ascended state unless their crystalized astral body is in charge, operating outside of the mechanical natural processes and energetic influences. Knowledge always reflects being, and if an individual is not able to integrate a set of knowledge then he may think he understands something in its entirety, while a person at a higher level of growth perceives that information in a different way; to understand something one must have emotions and sensations in line with the knowledge. This rings true: how many times have you thought you knew something only to realize 10 years later you didn’t have the slightest clue, although the information hasn’t changed?

We are in an age in which many claim humanity is ascending into a higher vibrational level. This clashes with G’s suggestion that it is not in the interests of the great planetary powers to allow such an ascension. Ascension, according G's system, is only possible on the individual level as the loss of a small group of energetic slaves would not impact the life of the moon or any other planet. Alternatively, more optimistic types argue we are at the end of a cycle (yuga) and the next will be more amenable to ascension. The exact manner in which this will play out is unclear, yet a multitude of spiritual and philosophical traditions tell us that ascension is available, and every individual that ceases to be an automaton becomes a daring guide. 

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