Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ken Wilber Knows "The Secret"

I find it interesting how the spiritual 'map-maker' Ken Wilber (Integral Theory) and his loyal Integralites, seem to be campaigning for relevance by denouncing other spiritual ‘map-makers.’ This campaign is no different from the current U.S. political beliefs-bashing we’re witnessing today (even though the integralists attach disclaimers that they are not really being "mean-spirited")

The Integral theory is a smart, esoteric package of beliefs, or an intellectual “map of the territory,” that is relevant in many ways to many people. However, I wonder if this denigration of other ‘maps’ may result in a backlash against the Integral Theory. Last time I heard it was Deepak Chopra. Poor guy, I’ll bet he didn’t see it coming, but alas, he was victim to the infamous “pre/trans fallacy” attack. (I wonder if he felt the blow?).

The pre/trans fallacy has relevance, yet it seems easily applicable to any spiritual state of mind that does not fit Wilber's own spiritual "map." In fact, through this reductionistic method it seems likely that all transrational states (beyond normal everyday consciousness) can be interpreted as prerational childish babble. But that argument is old, so I'll spare you.

However, now it seems the Integralistas are going after “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrnes and company. I read “The Secret” (and watched the DVD) several years ago and, although I found many flaws in the presentation and missing links to the theory, I thought that on the whole it was quite an empowering message. Sure, there was a lot of glitz and glam about it (and bit too much object obsession) but if it helps to empower an engagement with Spirit, and if that engagement leads to an experience of greater abundance, then all the power to it.

What we really want is NOT an abundance of things, but an experience of abundance.

I just can’t understand why Ken Wilber would feel the need to criticize these formats. Does the immense popularity of these belief systems cause him jealousy or, like ‘government,’ does he feel the need to protect us from ourselves?

This dialogue was posted on Integral Naked so I thought I would talk about some of the points made.
As with any “you create your own reality” schema, The Secret fails what can be called “the Auschwitz test.” According to The Secret, everyone who was murdered at Auschwitz—or Rwanda, or Darfur—created that reality for themselves, and therefore they are to blame for their fate. For obvious reasons, this position is an unconscionable as it is untenable.
This commingling and convergence of the collective and individual mind-consciousness is one aspect “The Secret,” and much of the current “law of Attraction” literature, does not extensively address (certainly not to the extent Wilber expounds on his own spiritual theory, which is literally mind-boggling to put it mildly). However, if you read the works of Thomas Troward, an early 20th century intellectual and prolific advocate of this “law of attraction,” (LOA) you will understand that the Divine Mind or Universal Consciousness is a composite of both individual and collective thought-substance. Therefore, both modes of “attraction,” or reality-creation, are in operation-all the time.

If 10 million minds believe fear and anger justified, then the results of that collective thought patterning will be manifest and we can, and do, see that manifestation worldwide. However, the collective does not cancel out the individual as both are expressions of Spirit or, as Wilber would state, "Kosmos."

What “The Secret” proposes is that on some level (which implies “quantum”) we create our reality, individually and collectively. However, the convergence aspect of individual and collective consciousness is NOT ruled out, its just that the focus of The Secret is the individual component.

Auschwitz, Darfur, Rwanda and all present day and historical atrocities are an amalgamation of a collective consciousness addicted to fear and the manifestations of fear. This can be curtailed, and even completely alleviated, through the collective-mind when each individual consciousness seeks to experience an abundant life devoid of fear. Fear obstructs the Joy of Being in any consciousness, including the collective.
By teaching that the world quite literally revolves around you, The Secret encourages and entrenches narcissism. In developmental psychology, narcissism doesn’t mean an unhealthy obsession with thinking only about yourself, it means you can’t think about yourself. The capacity for self-reflexive awareness just isn’t there. The entire world and everyone in it is simply an extension of your-self, and you are literally unable to take the perspective of another human being. This is not mystical union; this is pre-rational fusion, and without the ability to take the perspectives of other sentient beings, the entire foundation for ethics evaporates.”
Good grief, how KW loves that concept of "narcissism"! My friends, when you hunker down into your lotus to meditate your way to enlightenment, make no mistake the goal of that moment is narcissistic, since YOU desire enlightenment for YOURSELF. However, it seems KW has cherry-picked his own version of narcissism that he ascribes to the field of developmental psychology. For KW narcissism is when you “can’t think about yourself” and the entire world becomes an extension of yourself, in other words the narcissism of an infant, undeveloped ego-self. I don’t know why he took a clear and concise psychological term like “narcissism” and twisted it into a distorted concept he calls “pre-rational fusion.”

Essentially, for Wilber, “The Secret” promotes sociopathic narcissism in which we selfishly ignore others in our quest to manifest material possessions, all others be damned. The very idea that one who adheres to the Law of Attraction, as promoted by “The Secret,” fails to take in the perspective of others or even realize others exist except as an extension of self, is a reductio ad absurdum.

Clearly, most of the reputable “law of Attraction” theorists emphasize that “attracting” from Divine Mind, “universal consciousness” or Spirit must be aligned with the collective good of said named “universe.” Obviously, if I want my mother-in-law dead this is not aligned with a loving and rational universe or Divine Mind and, in fact, may negate or nullify that universal quality or substance. I may terminate my mother-in-law, but most likely this will only bring up and reinforce the reality of my more dormant "shadow" elements from the depths of consciousness right up into my face and into my everyday experience. I will in fact, “attract” or manifest a reality most disturbing and not advantageous to me in any way. I would suggest that all you sociopaths out there NOT seek change your lived-experience through the "Law of Attraction."
Actually, you are creating the universe moment-to-moment, but it’s not the “you” that you think. According to the great contemplative traditions, every person has at least two “selves”: the finite, temporal, egoic self-sense, and the infinite, transcendental, unqualifiable Self, or I-AMness. Your Self, your I-AMness, is indeed giving rise to the entire radiant Kosmos in this and every moment, but The Secret teaches that your separate self has the power to personally manifest a new car, win the lottery, or cure cancer… and this simply isn’t how things work.
Hmmm…but both “selves” are in fact “you” as an expression of that universal wholeness, since nothing is excluded or left out of the Oneness Equation. There is no clear cut partition. Even Wilber contends that “the self is all over the place” (Eye of Spirit) so why shouldn’t those who achieve a greater organization of the self-psyche reap the rewards of that escalated or higher correspondence with the universe, "Universal Consciousness" or Spirit.

It seems that Integral Theory does not seek to integrate the two selves (or transcend and include), but counter-productively denigrates and excludes the “self” that desires and wants. The Buddha proclaimed self is suffering, but only from a belief of incompleteness.

Does everyone have to be an 'enlightened master' in order to correspond with Spirit? (even in some small way). The contemplative traditions overemphasized detachment from egoic self for a reason. This is because the exterior world is a reflection of a seemingly all-encompasing, compulsive addiction to ego-self desires. In other words, if I re-program your passive personality to attain the extreme of aggression, you most likely will settle into an assertive center as your new baseline functioning, but you will not attain the extreme because your current personality baseline is against it. If taken to the extremes your natural predisposition will be to find the center.

Nevertheless, the more you attempt to break free of egoic mind the more strongly it clings to you. Maybe instead of breaking free we must first learn to harness or, more specifically, manage it (and this is a Wilber principle!).

There seems no reason to me why a mind corresponding with Spirit through a deep and abiding sense of gratitude for Being, should NOT generate an experience of abundance. Notice I emphasize the 'experience of abundance' and not necessarily a 'manifestation' of abundance, which would be relative to the individual mind accessing Spirit. Whether or not that abundance is objectified or results in physical manifestation is not the point. Yet, the EXPERIENCE is always the point.

From an experience of completion why should you not “attract” abundance, possibly even in terms of "objects" within consciousness or manifest physical abundance? When one is synchronized with the universe, coincidences do NOT happen and often ‘things’ have a way of just showing up because their supposed to.

But you must first seek synchronization and many claim that involves a consistent experience of love and acceptance. Possibly, the greater the synchronization with this "Universal Consciousness" the greater the manifest abundance and this seems congruent with the law of cause and effect in which a greater cause will generate a greater effect.
"The Law of Attraction” is true—as far as it goes. The problem is that The Secret takes this one relatively small piece of the puzzle and makes it the entire puzzle. A positive outlook will change your life and your intentions will co-create your reality, but so will brain chemistry, interior level of development, family relationships, natural disasters, cultural trends, language structure, environmental toxins, and, basically, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
I agree, “The Secret” only gives a “piece of the puzzle,” but I don’t feel it advocates this as the whole puzzle. Notice how Wilber equates “the Secret,” and the The Law of Attraction it promotes, with simply having “A positive outlook.” KW is so deeply entrenched in his "quadrants," he will allow only the most enlightened of minds to converge the left and right quadrants or, more specifically, allow the interior world of individual experience to alter the exterior experience of consciousness as manifest.

Wilber lumps aspects of our empirical, objective facticity with his concept “interior level of development.” Like that can be studied! No, but the interiors of awareness can be self-formulated, regulated and built upon to create incredible experiences through the interior unfolding externally. It's your experience, do what you will to enhance it
Developmentally, if one uses a scale ranging from archaic to magic to mythic to rational to pluralistic to integral to super-integral, The Secret teaches the magical thought structures that were humanity’s leading edge several hundred thousand years ago. As Ken explains, The Secret encourages childlike “primary process thinking,” which can be in the form of “the law of attraction” (e.g., if one black thing is bad, then all black things are bad) and “the law of contagion” (e.g., if this particular man was powerful, then a lock of his hair must be powerful too).
Yes and many claim this childlike “primary process thinking” is less stifled and obstructed by fear (conditioned) than the supposed evolved minds of the developed ego. What may be interpreted as “magical thought structures” of time long past, can now be re-interpreted as miraculous forms of thought-consciousness, which can create wonderful experiences for those who can “pray ceaselessly”(correspond with Spirit) and thereby reformulate the experiences of their life.
The importance of understanding how unconscious psychological shadow elements color and affect one’s experience, and how The Secret can agitate, alienate, repress, or—perhaps even more worrisome—act on these disowned elements of consciousness.
Yea, and for $250 you can purchase Ken’s enlightenment package (which is glamorously presented), which will, after many decades of hard work, identify your “shadows” and free you up to become an enlightened master. Obviously, Shadow elements will obstruct the crystal clarity of consciousness and the experience thereof. Nevertheless, The LOA advocates claim that the exterior experience will require a more mindful awareness and, hence adjustment of these interior shadow elements. Fear and anger will obstruct not only what you might manifest, but how you would experience that manifestation.

The exterior world is a reflection of an interior state, collectively and individually. Therefore, if the exterior is not an experience to your liking, seek to change the interior. Even cognitive psychology tells us this much, “it’s not reality that disturbs you, but your interpretation of reality that disturbs you” (Aaron T. Beck, MD, paraphrased).

The genesis of the pre/trans or pre/post fallacy, and how The Secret is a perfect example of elevating pre-rational childish impulses to trans-rational spiritual glory. Simply because both categories of experience are non-rational, they can easily be confused, and often are.
The impulse to attain an experience of joy and abundance in your life is most likely not childish and can even be considered a return to a consciousness less ego-formed (preconscious?), and thus less stifled, through the experiences of an external world. Yet, Ken would chastise you for being prerationally childish and immature in this joyous "state" since you have NOT evolved to a "stage" where it could be correctly interpreted as useful.

The Reality Creation Hypothesis, which includes the LOA, has been around for centuries in every culture and on every continent. From the Gnostic interpretations, to Plotinus and Parmenides. It can be observed within the Buddhist and Advaita Vedanta traditions. In the western 20th century we can find it in everything from Shirley Maclaine, the Seth books, Abraham-Hicks, Conversations with God, A Course in Miracles, etc, etc. Even theoretical physics, or quantum mechanics, often seems to inadvertently imply a veiled correspondence between thought and physical manifestation (although scientists are loathe to admit as much and if they do they are resigned to the lunatic fringe).

Obviously, we have no objective, empirically studied accounts of any consistent reordering of the quantum level of time and space. Nevertheless, the evidence seems to be mounting in favor of our ability to redirect and possibly even control the objects of consciousness or, more succinctly, our experience of an exterior manifest world. “The Secret” merely opens a door for many to actually consider that potential.

As opposed to Wilber’s critique, I don’t necessarily believe “The Secret” attempted to give the whole picture (unfortunately, not even Wilber can do that, although he may think he does) but maps out a direction that is understandable to many (as opposed to Wilber's ideas). Like the teachings of the “ancient masters,” it only serves to remind us of Spirit too long ignored and the benefits of an enhanced awareness.

The Law of Attraction has helped many to, at the very least, alter their experience from one of deprivation to one of abundance. It may not get you a Porsche or a mansion on the Riviera but, if by focusing on your experience of Being-in-the-world (Heidegger hyphenated to denote unity), you experience an increase of love peace and joy, isn’t this the internal essence of an engaged life that we all seek to experience (and who knows, maybe even a Porsche). Besides, if you shoot for the stars, but merely land on the moon, isn’t that in itself an amazing feat?

I don’t want to be an enlightened master. Rather, I just want to embrace a greater conscious experience of joy in my life. And I aim to do just that employing every scrap of information that I find useful (including Integral Theory, The law of Attraction and, yes, even “The Secret”).

I would suggest that those who have experienced a feeling of empowerment through the ideas as touched on by "The Secret" read the original theorists (Troward, Holmes, Haanel, Behrend, etc, etc) who first postulated these ideas and presented them to the world. There is a secret that "The Secret" failed to unveil. I wonder if Ken Wilber knows, but isn't telling?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Surrender or Accept?

Most of the personal development blogs I often read seem to emphasize that surrender means the letting go of, or release of, pain and suffering. I contend that surrender confirms loss, while acceptance asserts that you have nothing to lose.
The need to surrender confirms loss or failure. Therefore, you have not released yourself, but further bound yourself to a belief in your own inadequacy and littleness. Choose carefully the words you use to define yourself since what you think you ARE, is what you will maintain yourself AS.
Acceptance identifies and asserts that what was once fought against is no longer deemed worthy of battle. You do not surrender and thus admit defeat, but rather you accept and admit freedom from conflict. You cannot win nor lose, conquer nor surrender, since neither is applicable to a life of acceptance.

Many might contend that this is exactly what “surrender” means. However, if you surrender to your depression, you essentially concede that it has controlled your life, thus might it not have that power to do so again? Does your surrender give it that power? Are you now subordinate to your depression, since you have surrendered to it, and does this requires that you no longer resist being defined by it as opposed to your defining yourself in anyway you choose?
Acceptance means that you can now define IT.
I believe "surrender" is a western perception and you will rarely encounter this concept in eastern philosophy or spirituality. This relates to the western ideology of control through conquest. It reinforces the idea that conflict, battle and the waging of war are the chief components of overcoming your "defects." Surrendering to the conflict asserts that the conflict has won and you have lost.
Acceptance demonstrates that there never was a battle nor is there anything to win.
The American Heritage dictionary defines surrender as “to relinquish possession or control of to another because of demand or compulsion” and “to give up in favor of another.
When you surrender to your depression, you allow IT control. However, if you accept your depression, you allow it an equal presence in your life along with all other parts of your whole. As such it loses power to control.
"Does this mean I should not seek to alleviate my depression?"
No. What you fight against and surrender to, reinforces the need to conquer it and the worthiness of the battle. Yet, what you accept needs no resistance and need not be conquered. What you resist must persist, what you accept merely becomes a part of the experience we call Life.
This is difficult to comprehend through the western paradigm of overcoming or conquering, rather then joining with or unifying. We demand war and rarely admit defeat. We demand the world conform to our expectations and, rather then closely examining the validity of what we expect, we continue to blindly demand it acquiesce.
You hold yourself hostage to these same standards.
"But if I “accept” my addiction do I not give it power to define me?"
If you accept your addiction, it will recede from view. It only HAD power because you resisted it. If you surrender to it, you assert it once had power over you, thereby making it that much harder to accept and alter.
"But isn’t detaching a form of surrender?"
As the dictionary defines, to surrender is to "relinquish control to another because of a demand." Therefore, what is surrendered TO must then assume control. These are the spoils of war.
Make no mistake, the mind is conditioned to differentiate between power and powerless. Acceptance immediately equalizes the playing field. Surrender emphasizes loss of power and imbalance. In your surrender, you may experience a brief feeling of relief because you are no longer waging war. But make no mistake the judgment of loss is upon you and will dog your steps from here on out.
To accept is to join with and make One. Your addiction is you and in accepting, you MUST see it differently and in that way IT must recede in importance and control. If its no longer important and no longer compels your behavior, how can it be considered an addiction?
To surrender to adversity means you were once pitted against it. Now the opponent has grown in size and power. Therefore, In surrendering will you really forget that you were once at war and that you have lost?
Hardly, in fact, does not surrender simply reinforce your littleness and set the stage for future battles requiring additional surrender? Although you deny this, the fact is that essentially you define yourself by the struggles that have been won or lost. Your life is a series of overcoming or being overcome, winning or losing, “the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.”
"Nothing clings to the mind like the past" and therefore, nothing is as powerful in defining the future. If all is accepted, what power does it have to define? Surrender defines loss, acceptance defines that there has never been anything to lose. The future is easily and effortlessly accepted simply as it unfolds.
God does not require your surrender, only your acceptance.
Many would argue that I merely engage in hair-splitting, semantics. Yet, I respond that we live by the concepts and beliefs of our mind. Words have power simply because words, even more then images, define who and what we are. Surrender is a concept that defines you as defeated by your suffering, while acceptance defines you as embracing all, even the suffering. There is nothing to surrender TO as all is accepted.
You can only surrender to that which controls. Acceptance nullifies control and asserts equality. The more you accept suffering, the less you suffer (strange how that works!). You can accept everything and in so doing, you make it part of you. Never surrender, always accept.
"This is the ever-present Tao, never resisting or surrendering, but accepting, flowing with and Being."