The Fourth Turning – Part 5 – Shadow Work – Ken Wilber

The Fourth Turning – Part 5 – Shadow Work – Ken Wilber March 12, 2014

Ken is in the process of creating a new teaching called “The Fourth Turning – Imagining the Evolution of an Integral Buddhism.”  This teaching is being published as videos and an E-book this year and a new hardcover book in 2015. This blog post is the fifth excerpt of a summary of this new teaching. 

Roger Walsh, M.D., PhD, is a psychiatrist, philosopher, and Buddhist teacher.  He recently told me that in the meditation retreats in which he has participated, of the questions he is asked by mediators during their meeting sessions, approximately 80% of his responses are psychotherapeutic in nature, and 20% are directly meditative.  And neither Buddhism, nor any other of the great meditative systems, have hardly any teachings on the nature of the repressed unconscious and its “shadow” material.  There is much very useful information on the affective emotions, how to handle dysfunctional states, what we would today call “positive psychology,” and so on.  But as for material that is explicitly forced out of consciousness and into unconscious areas of the mind, from there to be displaced, denied, projected, or otherwise repressed—leaving in their place painful neurotic symptoms—we have very little.  And meditation does not necessarily access this material, although in some cases it can certainly help.  But it can also make matters worse as well.  Many neurotic symptoms come from a dis-owning and dis identifying with unwanted impulses or desires; yet much of meditation is a type of “dis identifying” or letting go of personal identity, and if that attitude is taken directly with material that has already been dis-owned, the result will only make matters worse, and the dis owned material is further dis-owned.  This material must first be re owned, then integrated with the psyche, and then—and only then—let go of, dis identified with.

But of this type of action, we find little in the meditation literature.  A few simple psychotherapeutic techniques—such as identifying repressed material, re-owning it, integrating it, then letting it go—would help to handle that nearly 80% of the problems that seem to arise during meditation.  But until then, the only advice most meditation teachers have for their students is, “Intensify your efforts!,” exactly what is not needed.

3.  Meta-theory of Spiritual and Scientific

The Magic and Mythic levels of spiritual development all deny the importance or even existence of scientific theories and ideas.  The Rational and higher levels are all open to scientific notions, but not always in the sanest or best ways.  The religion of the future, it is clear, will be on friendly terms with science, as the Dalai Lama has emphasized, and thus a decent “meta-theory” of the relation of science and spirituality is a good item to include.  Unlike structures, which can be directly, empirically, and “scientifically” investigated among groups of people, this type of meta-theory is merely speculative and philosophical, but there are a few items that can be highlighted in general.

The first is perhaps the over-zealous use of some (often quite weird) views of Quantum Mechanics to effect a marriage of science and spirituality.  The main problem here is the nature of the interpretation that productions like What the Bleep Do We Know? offer.  The central issue is what is known as “the collapse of the wave packet” or the “measurement issue.”  This refers to the Schroedinger wave equation, which is used to determine the location of sub atomic particles.  The problem is that, until the particle is actually measured, the wave equation won’t let you say whether the particle exists or not; some interpretations (although very few by most physicists) therefore suggest that it is the measurement itself that brings the particle into existence.  This is made to order for mystical speculation if ever a notion was.  Most physicists (such as David Bohm) believe that the simple fact that you can’t say if the particle exists or not doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, just that you don’t yet know its location.  But many popularizers (e.g., Fred Allan Wolf) maintain, not even that measurement brings the particle into existence, but that your own consciousness brings it into existence (“qwaffs” it into existence, as he puts it).  So if you look at an ashtray, he maintains, you are actually bringing that ashtray into existence, just like all the world’s mystical traditions claim.  But what they claim is that the One Self/One Spirit spontaneously manifests all existence, not that your awareness alone does so.  If you and I are looking at the ashtray, which one of us is doing the qwaffing?  And if I walk into the room and the ashtray is already there, does that mean somebody was there before me and qwaffed it in?  If  you’re looking at it, and I start looking at it, too, why don’t we get two ashtrays?   I’m afraid the Quantum Mechanical elements are simply made to order for a Me Generation convinced its own ego brings everything into being.

Much more believable are spiritual theorists who, like Michael Dowd, believe that one can see in the miracles of evolution an Eros, or Spirit-in-action, that is indeed miraculous.  One thing for sure about evolution is that, as the Intelligent Design folks have aptly pointed out, it cries out for a spiritual explanation (though not for one taken only from the Bible).  To get one species from another requires several mutations.  It’s well known that the vast majority of mutations are lethal, so we would have to have several extremely unlikely mutations all occurring at once in the same animal.  But even more unbelievable, the exact same number and type of mutations would have to occur in another animal of the opposite sex, in order for them to procreate and pass on the new mutations.  And even more unbelievable yet, these two would have to find each other—what if one is in Siberia and the other in Mexico?  The odds of all of those happening is basically zero.  At the very least, as people like Stuart Kaufman have suggested, there is a fifth force in the universe (in addition to strong and weak nuclear, electromagnetic, and gravitational), something like a drive to self-organization (in other words, an Eros) that is actively winding the universe up.  That would at least give the likelihood of the emergence of new and higher levels of complexity a fighting chance.

My own meta-theory includes items such as, in addition to Eros, something called “the four quadrants.”  All that means is that any phenomenon can be looked at from both the inside and the outside, as well as in singular and plural (or individual and collective) forms—putting these together gives us 4 major perspectives or dimensions that every event has: the inside and the outside of the individual and the collective.  The inside of the individual is a subjective view, an “I” space; the outside of an individual is an objective view, a “scientific” view (an “it” space).  The inside of a collective is culture, or the shared values, meanings, language, ethics, and so on shared by any group (a “we” space); the outside of that group is how that group looks in an objective, “scientific” fashion (its money system, its economic system, its legal forms, its ecological surroundings, its birth and death rates, etc.; an “its” space).  This is similar to the Good (we space), the True (objective truth, the two “it” spaces), and the Beautiful (the beauty in the “I” of the beholder).  Or Buddha, Dharma, Sangha—I space, it space (Thusness, Itness), and we space.

The claim is that these 3 or 4 spaces emerge together, exist together, evolve together, decease together—that they are, in fact, simply 3 or 4 views or perspectives of the same thing.  Thus, where the outside of the individual view (the “it” space) gives us the objective body, the brain and its neurotransmitters, various brainwave patterns, and so on, the inside of the individual gives us various experiential states of consciousness, meditative states, consciousness states, and so on—or brain and mind.  Collective brains exist in particular geographical locations—families, towns, cities, states, nations; and collective minds come together in values groups, educational systems, belief systems (various sciences to various religions), and so forth.  None of these can exist without the others, and thus, for example, the causal state of consciousness (in the “I” space) corresponds with a delta brainwave pattern (in the “it” space), and if a person is meditating with their local group, they come together in a particular location and their meditation system has a collective set of beliefs, practices, and ideas.  The inside or interior or subjective spaces are particularly those covered by things like psychology, spirituality, morals, values, and so on; and the outside or exterior or objective spaces are particularly ones covered by things like individual sciences, environmental or ecological sciences, techno-economic modes of being (foraging, farming, industrial, informational), and so forth.  The point is that there is not only room, but a demand, for both science and spirituality in every event (and this certainly includes an ongoing integration of the rapidly growing sciences of neuro-functioning and brain physiology with studies in psychology and meditative development.   A meta-theory of the relation of science and spirituality isn’t just an idea of how to do so, but to also actually do so).

But whatever meta-theory one adopts, it is clear that any religion of the future will have to have, as part of its dharma, dogma, gospel, or teachings a formal statement on the relation of science and spirituality, and thus a meta-theory of one sort or another would be a likely item in any new Turning of Buddhism.

In the next blog post Ken will offer his conclusions for the Fourth Turning of Buddhism!


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