Journal
What We Are, That We See. Part II: What Is the Real Meaning of This?
June 11, 2006 19:16

This is Bill Maher on the type of awareness that pervades this country—and, of course, its blogosphere.

I wouldn’t ever say there’s censorship in this country. But there’s a lot of peer pressure. Because when anybody says anything that’s the least bit feather ruffling, everybody just goes nuts. If anybody in this country is forced to undergo a single moment of discomfort, the person who caused it just must go away.

Maher is probably right about perhaps 98% of this gosh darn country, and its blogosphere, where, if feathers are ruffled, out come rants that are depressingly predictable in structure, tone, and form. But the reason I love the blogosphere is for the 2% that are not predictable, that do not merely rant against the moment of discomfort (and its cause), but rather stand above the herd mentality and post from second tier. I’ll come back to that 2% in a moment. Because if you are in that 2%, I’d really like to speak with you.

But first, it’s time for Part 2 of the “What we are, that we see” post. I’ll go over how and why that post was written, and the feedback that I got from over 200 people I sent it out to before I posted it. I’ll show you some of their responses to the first drafts, both positive and negative, and then how those helped to fashion the final post, the aim of which was to ruffle as many feathers as possible, within certain limits,... so that when the dust settled, several good things would emerge. (All I can say is that so far, the first part has certainly succeeded; as for the second part, we’ll see….)

I have engaged in this type of polemic about 4 or 5 times in my thirty-year career. The most obvious was an entire book of this kind of satire called Boomeritis. Another time, and perhaps the most notorious, was a series of endnotes in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality. Those endnotes were not in the first draft of SES. As I sent the MS around, however, readers said that the important issues raised would be ignored by the people who needed to hear them the most, unless I really got their attention. So I added some polemical endnotes, which certainly seemed to work. The book was a massive best-seller, and yes, in part because it ruffled so many feathers, but with truly important issues.

To state it in a dry sense, the aim of polemic is to propagate a message through a particular population that otherwise wouldn’t lift a finger to help it. But they can’t stop talking about it, and thus up go the sales and out goes the message. The same weird effect works even more on the net: something that ruffles feathers gets blogged to high heaven, thus gets into google and a hundred other tracking and multiplying devices, and thus out goes the message in a multiplier fashion, where, however weird it might seem, it will reach the audience that actually resonates with that message.

Especially the more rage and indignation it arouses, the more it activates the shadow elements of those who get their feathers ruffled and have their buttons pushed. The polemical message is like a virus that propagates through the shadow elements of those who despise it. This is poetic blogospheric justice, I suppose, but more to the point, it’s still the 2% that rise above all of this that really interests me….

Before I posted it, I sent out the first draft of the blog to about 200 people, both inside and outside of I-I (and to a lot of DAs). The response to that first draft, which was edgier than the final draft, was about 70-30. That is, 70% were strongly in favor of posting it, and 30% were strongly against it. Virtually all of them, however, agreed with the 3 or 4 major points the blog was making, but 30% felt that it was disastrous to send it out in that form (too many feathers ruffled). Here are some of the negative responses (with personal details taken out):


Hey Ken,

I trust you know who you’re dealing with and how to deal with them ...

But good god, this is rough, with all the pissing and sucking. First I found myself wondering who I was working with. I’ve seen you be powerful and clear and vajra, all in ways that have been completely effective, and thrilling to boot. But NEVER in over two years have I witnessed anything like this. THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU ARE REALLY LIKE. I repeat, I have NEVER seen you act like this.

Second I found myself hoping my sister, who’s getting interested in your work, never sees it. Then I thought of [ ], and the seminar people and ... and ...

Again, I’m glad to know you first hand, where I’ve seen you be exquisitely cutting when necessary, but mostly just amazingly magnetic and stunningly appropriate. Maybe from where you sit this is appropriate. Just wanted to give you my $.02.

Much love,

[ ]



That was a common theme in the 30% that recommended not posting it. The following is a prolonged response, incredibly thoughtful, and really well reasoned, and it concluded that to put this blog out in this form would greatly hurt Integral Institute, especially in its sensitive areas of outreach, like sustainability at the UN, where we have several initiatives in play.


Ken,

From a second-tier perspective this potential posting is great play. Please consider this feedback I offer, from a practical perspective. I trust you've already considered the following potential impacts, but I feel a responsibility to myself and my Director colleagues to voice these concerns.

A posting like this may actually work against what we're trying to do with the Integral Sustainability Center and the Integral International Development Center. I can't speak for any other centers, but my sense is that it may not profoundly serve them either.

It's not always easy to sell Integral. We have to communicate across a broad audience with our papers and marketing material to find second-tier folks, or at least those with second-tier cognition, and get them interested in this. Part of bringing Integral to the International Development and Corporate arena includes talking about Ken Wilber. If people are going to sincerely buy into our approach, even if the ideas beautifully stand on their own (as they do), they'll do their due diligence. Especially those in the United Nations community or those seriously involved in corporate strategy and considering changing their approach. When we present at the UN (like Gail, Paul, and I), or at Harvard (like Michael and Sean), or to foreign government ministers (like John and Bert), or at major Corporate conferences (like Cynthia, David, Brett), we point to you and to I-I, as well as the ideas. If we've done a good job, people turn to look closely.

Those whom we are attempting to influence, or those who are advisors to people in power, may come across this posting (and its responses). In turn, they may unfortunately link the communication with the ideas themselves. I see this happen all the time, people confusing the medium with the message. If they dismiss the communication or its style, they may dismiss the ideas. It thus can create more of an uphill battle for us, especially if there is a meta-issue people have about you personally, due to a misinterpretation of a posting like this. In an age of massive competition for people's attention, I'd prefer not to have to fight against one more dynamic, this one from our own team.

That's a lot of "maybe this", "maybe that", I realize. But I'm just pointing out that I don't think publicly displaying this posting will actually help to get Integral embraced by those who have influence and power to effect positive global change. It might damage the effort.

You've always taught us that to clearly sell an idea in a paper, we need to not present ideas that the audience can't fully agree with before getting to the main point, but rather to have a clear path to the key idea, a path made up of "yes, I agree and understand that" along the way. A series of small "yeses" building up to the big Yes for the big Integral idea.

In this case, the main point is Integral, the ideas. You potentially block the path to people fully buying those ideas with this communication because they have to first buy this communication, in order to buy you, in order to buy the ideas. People won't just focus on the ideas, they'll look at the ideas and the man. While I admire this communication on many levels, there are too many perspectives through which it may not be seen as admirable, as currently crafted.

So, my concern comes from a very practical side. We're trying to influence thought leaders and in many cases playing a very delicate diplomatic game, especially in the United Nations. I assume my Director colleagues are doing the same. And we are doing a good job so far. A posting like this may make it harder, unnecessarily so in my opinion.

Unleashing this posting into a largely first-tier world in a permanently public way, just doesn't seem to help our larger cause. I don't think it will bring more membership to the Integral Multiplex, inspire more people to come to seminars, trigger more sign-ups for the degree programs, and, more importantly, I don't think it helps us achieve large-scale embrace of these ideas by those in positions of power, influence, and authority worldwide.

Those are my thoughts, offered with deep respect. I trust the meta-vision you see of human and social evolution, and if this posting as is serves the Kosmos, then so be it. I'm still on board….

Take care,
[ ]



I resonated with each of those points; they made a great deal of important sense. Other negative responses were much shorter and to the point:


Ken,

This seems like one of those notes we write to let things out and then crumple up and toss away. It's not dignified, and you are a man of dignity. You are your own man, you make the call, but my preference would be to see you kill them with kindness.

[ ]



The two most often-repeated negative responses were that (1) this blog is not what I am really like; and (2) it is a second-tier message dropped on a mostly first-tier world, and they won’t get it. The negative criticism was sincere and strongly put. And I resonated with all of those concerns. Obviously, in my connection with I-I, there are many responsibilities I have and certain things I can and cannot do, say, etc., and these were definitely part of the issues about the form of the final draft.

By far the most controversial aspect of the draft was one sentence, something to do with suck. And at this point, you start to weigh other issues. Are we that uptight? Is Big Mind not big enough for any of this? Does stiffness and lack of humor and choking manners equate with integral anything? And if something as fluffy and goofy as this post (Wyatt Earpy?) is going to ruffle feathers, please let me see those whose feathers are ruffled, because I’m pretty sure I don’t want to work with them.

We have never tried to hide the fact that we engage in transformative practices, and transformative practices help you move or transform to higher levels of consciousness, care, and concern. We are therefore interested in vertical growth, and especially in second- and third-tier growth and development. We have developed a lot of very sophisticated means of growth and transformative practices, and we gladly offer them to whoever wants them.

And we have promised those who do so that they are getting turquoise quality. We have promised to those who want to become members, or join seminars, or purchase a product: we make every attempt to guarantee that all of our products stem from at least the turquoise (or second tier) levels of growth and development. So we have always been completely transparent about that. We are, or try our very best to be, a turquoise gathering or club or organization. There are hundreds of green clubs out there, there are hundreds of orange clubs out there; there are hundreds of amber clubs out there—but there are no turquoise clubs, no communities and organizations of people who are at, or try to be, flying at a truly second-tier altitude. So we try to guarantee turquoise, second-tier, integral quality in everything we do. We are open to those who want to fly at that altitude. And if somebody doesn’t want to fly with us, that is truly fine.

As the responses came in to the first draft, the majority (70%) were in favor of posting it (possibly in a slightly toned-down way). The reason that most of them stated is that despite all the ruffled feathers—and the 98% predictable response it would get in forums—second tier would resonate with it. That 2% would get it, and get why it was done, and why it was done now. They would also get the humor, which was a telling point.

I got about one dozen spoken or written responses like the following, which emphasized that second tier would get it, and that is who it was meant for, so definitely post it:


Ken,

Just to add my thoughts on this: I really appreciate what you have said. It needed to be said, and I like how you have done it! It includes an excellent, useful explanation of why these critiques are invalid, some of which I have already used in a meeting this morning!

I do thank [the author of the previous long email] for considering how this will reverberate in our field. It may require some triage in certain cases (!!) But, while I do understand, I don’t entirely share his concerns.

I couldn’t list all your third-tier reasons for this, but I deeply know that Integral resonates with, and works for, those who are ready for it. It is a truth that doesn’t need a prop to stand. Branding definitely helps peak people’s interest, but it won’t stabilize them at that stage. Nor can such a post limit them from accessing that stage. Point being: I just can’t see that this post will have lasting damage with the forums of people we work with. Perhaps some will be turned off by the language and delivery, but many others will nevertheless resonate with the ideas and the altitude from which they originate. And nothing can really stop them from that resonance.

Thanks, [ ]



The reason many responses were in favor of posting it was that they felt its core messages need to be stated, and the web is a good place to at least go on record. The sentiment seemed to be that those who get their feathers ruffled, get their feathers ruffled and virally spread the message, which second tier will get.

Many responses simply felt the ideas needed to get out there, period, because the ideas were right on the money. I got an awful lot of these:


Dear Ken,

Your criticism of these people is right on. For instance, at his request, I read Meyerhoff's MS a couple of years ago. There were some interesting points here and there, but even these I assumed you would be capable of rebutting with little problem. I said as much to him, but then asked: What is the point of writing this document? If Wilber is as misguided as you think, why would any press bother publishing the MS? In other words, if the target is so pathetic, what's the point? And if you have turned the target into a straw man, then again--what's the point of publishing the document? (As you note, Meyerhoff can't get this turkey published.) I then asked him: What is YOUR, Meyerhoff's, alternative contribution? What do YOU have to bring to the party? And having brought up all sorts of (reductive) psychological explanations to explain why Wilber says what he does, YOU (Meyerhoff) now owe it to the readers to explain the PERSONAL PSYCHOLOGICAL MOTIVES THAT HAVE COMPELLED YOU TO TAKE ON KEN WILBER. What is the psychological, personal, subjective PAYOFF for this attack, Mr. Meyerhoff? As you can imagine he didn't have anything useful to say in answering these questions.

If I were you, and I'm not, I would back off a bit on the comments such as "suck my dick," but I can certainly understand; in any event, it’s a go.

All the best,

[ ]


Some straddled a little bit, but still wanted to go. This was one of the funniest (the reference to “red flags” is because I asked every single member of I-I if they saw any red flags against posting this):


Hey Ken...

No "red flags," but note a few items...first, I agree with your assessment of the level of scholarship. In fact, I was just telling [ ] that I thought Visser’s site had become to integral theory and methodology what "Letters to Penthouse" is to the study of human sexuality. Frank seems to benefit from pandering largely to people who have to set up a fantasy that they can become central to, rather than people who are genuinely curious. But the second pays no attention to the first. I guess what I'm wondering about is the potential tar-baby that the first group insists on being. Granted, Frank at least used to straddle the line a bit more gracefully...but does telling a group of mental masturbators that they're off the mark actually legitimize them in a way? If their intent is simply (!) to fantasize, they are unlikely to have the decency to be embarrassed at being caught once again with their pants down around their knees.

I can also, of course, see the advantage of a well-placed snarl when the nonsense starts to get distracting -- I've been in more than a few third-grade classrooms -- but I'm wondering if a more precise killing blow might not be to let them know the one thing that they really don't want to hear, which is that no serious inquirer has really been paying attention to them for quite some time, although I for one would appreciate it if they'd at least close the door.

All that being said, fire away, Wyatt...

all love,

[ ]


Some were positive but worried that it was a losing battle, because the only people that tend to post on the blogs and forums are exactly the ones being criticized, so of course the response would be overwhelmingly negative. It was a losing battle in the blogoshere, so why even try? But this overlooks that 2%, and it was their response I was looking for.

By far the most positive feedback came from numerous writers and spiritual teachers who had been branded as “kw minions.” I got over a dozen responses like this:


Holy Shit!!!! You really let them have it and I'm glad :)
I agree the criticisms have gotten out of hand. Yes I was pissed off about IU hosts being referred to as minions...fuck the crazy critic.
I do appreciate genuine Integral theory critics but not the "Wilber and his minions" critics.

On a personal note, sounds like the bullshit criticism still hurts.....very understandable. Hey- You know I love you man. And fortunately there's a slew of us that are in love. :)
Let me know if there's any asskicking you need. :))
[ ]



I got several calls from spiritual teachers around the country, and they all said almost exactly the same thing: “I wish I had the nerve to do this.” That was a very common response, and many teachers went on to lament the “green swamp” their own sanghas seemed to be, “and what can I do about it?” One of them added, “You’ll get slaughtered in the forums, but not in the real world.”

I took all of this feedback into account, crafted several more drafts, and again sent them out to around 200 critics. Stuart Davis gave by far the most common response to that round:


ken,

it's fantastic, it's overdue, and i feel it is appropriate and proportionate in tone and content. i laughed out loud half a dozen times, and it's right on the money. how fucking LONG are you supposed to sit back without comment while these toxic, petty fuckers make preposterous attacks on work that's ten years old? and only one in a hundred even knows what the fuck they're talking about, because like it or not YOU'RE RIGHT TO SAY it is a cross-altitude issue. these green shits take pot shots at 2nd tier morning, noon, and night, and they are literally not capable of registering the content, the locations, the addresses, the altitude of 2nd tier. it's insane, and i'm relieved to see you calling a spade a spade in this way.

personally, i would not change a word.

and kudos. stu


Several responses spotted the hooks for second and third tier, the hooks I had added for that 2%. As it turned out, that 2% did rise to the surface. Here are three second-tier responses to show what is involved.


i'm with ken on this one. there is so much misinformation on wilber critic sites that i can hardly get much past the first sentence on any of them. the rule of criticism, imo, is first understand the point of the person whom you are criticizing. frank visser's site, for example, explicitly disagrees with that. if there is such a divergence at this core value, it's tough to get rational without dialoguing for months probably.

the thing with lots of Wilber critics is that they have their own valuable (shadow?) baby that they don't like to have inserted into a bigger picture, a mosaic, such that their baby (their "part") is no longer front and center and the most important baby. rather it becomes (with integral eyes) a part of a larger picture with other equal babies, and they HATE that.

when you have this attitude about your "baby", it's too easy to call someone else's unattached attitude (integral) to your baby as skimming. 2nd tier is all about creating a bigger picture for its own sake, it's all about fitting as many perspectives as possible into your line of sight. it is almost by definition a view that describes the world from a 50,000 foot level. what other single perspective can include as many truths as possible?

let's say someone describes a view from an airplane from 50,000 feet: "look how flat that part of the state is and over here the mountains look rocky and pointy."

someone who lives in the mountains (read "embedded") might say "that is so untrue! if you lived here you wouldn't say that. you are an uninformed skimmer. you have a shallow understanding of mountains and you describe it only in one sentence. i happen to live in the mountains and i know a lot about mountains. There are beautiful evergreen trees, there are babbling streams and cool breezes and the vistas are breathtaking. it's a garden of eden and you know nothing about it. you call that ‘integral’? you gotta be kidding me. it's more like ignorant egotism if you ask me."

the point is: from a 50,000 foot level, the mountains, in fact, DO look rocky and pointy. it IS accurate from that level. saying that they are rocky and pointy DOES NOT say that they can't also be breathtaking to someone living there.

the most important point is: the person embedded ONLY in the mountains doesn't know what they look like from 50,000 feet. so, while they are convinced they have the truth (after all they LIVE THERE and wilber has only flown over it), they do not know that from 50,000 feet "rocky and pointy" is very accurate.

i also rather agree with wilber's frustration at many critics' failures to appreciate this integral perspective and, while it may appear harsh and sarcastic, his purposeful baiting of the green meme (e.g. "suck my dick") is a sadistic pleasure i sometimes succumb to practicing myself.

later,
gene



What makes that post second-tier is not that it agrees with me (as we saw earlier, you can be at second tier and disagree with me!—and I gave several powerful examples of just that), but the number of perspectives it takes into account and its general altitude of complexity of perspectives and degrees of consciousness, which is striking. (The only point I respectfully disagree with is the statement that I have “only flown over” some of the terrain, whereas in many cases I have crawled along that terrain as well; as I said—and I’m definitely defensive on this one—I have studied some of this material and know it as well or often better than said critic. The reason AQAL works is that in many cases I have done both, crawl and fly over that terrain, and that is why AQAL gives the 50,000 ft view, but it also works in incredible detail and in very specific apps; watch the papers and research from IU when it opens this fall.)

Here is another posting with similar strong second-tier characteristics, made even more obvious because this person then applies his own points to himself (this is incredibly impressive), and he’s doing so in a forum (nyc integral) that, I’m sorry to say, has some of the just plain nastiest of the MGMs I’ve ever seen:


Hi Lewis, Hi Gary,

I just read your messages. What's encouraging here is that you've opened up some space, it seems to me, for us to engage--not in argument--but in a dialogue about something that really matters to many of us.

First, I think it's best to dispense with your header. That's not the header Wilber chose, and for good reasons, I think it's safe to say. In fact, if we pause to consider his header [“What We Are, That We See”], we may be able to begin to intuit what he is about here--and it's apt to make most of us fairly uncomfortable, because the point is, and this comes from Emerson, that our reactions to this blog speak alot more about us than about Wilber. It's a little like a dream: all those nasty characters inhabiting our dreams can be looked at as just parts of our own psyche. Wilber may be providing the dream material in this case, but we're creating the dream out of it.

The header has another, equally important interpretation. The dream material he provides is his hilarious (I think) caricature of the crazy dreams some of his critics seem to have about him, the implication being that they unconsciously imagine themselves dueling with Wyatt Earp. That he wants to be serviced by them is a projection of what they want from him, given how exploitive some people can be of generosity.

Is that a fair caricature of his critics? For my own part, I've yet to read a criticism of Wilber that showed any real understanding of what he is doing (not that there aren't any), including Mark Edwards, who Wilber has befriended in spite of the veiled gun slinging. It looks like this blog could suffer the same fate, but hopefully at least not here.

My previous two missteps are embarrassingly revealing of the psychological mechanisms at work here. They clearly show that I wanted to be Wyatt Earp and shoot the hell out of Wilber's critics, something I've been aware of for some time, but haven't yet resolved, and not preventing me from jokingly blaming Wilber.

I hope this does justice to your voiced concerns,

Ralph


Those two posts are pretty definitive in my mind. One email that was circulated among teachers seemed to get right to the heart of the “self-test” that the final draft in particular had become.


…. his blog also allows second- and third-tier responses to surface and be seen. the vast majority of responses to his blog so far are green, but mostly even blue/amber and red, really low stuff all egging each other on; it’s sad the hostility they display. worse, its their shadow material that is everywhere. they seem to think they are hurting wilber and integral institute, but they are mostly just parading their own shadows for the world to see. and once their entries are out there, they’re out there and they’re stuck with them. ouch! they might read the shadow chapter in wilber’s book no boundary: it points out that you react negatively to those things in others that you secretly hate in yourself. reading their responses, it’s obvious what their shadows are.

the value of his blog is that it flushes all that into the open for everybody to see. it’s what the blog itself said it would do. up to this point, the blog and forum rants had nobody to challenge them and make what they were doing obvious. K’s blog did that. all we have to do now is send people to that blog and watch their response. if it freaks them out, it’s unlikely they would do very well in any type of second-tier work. so at least we know. the thing is, K loves these people, I’ve seen him work with them because he’ll work with anybody. but until they acknowledge what everybody else can see, they won’t easily handle integral anything. that’s the great value of this blog.

btw and imo, don’t people realize that K didn’t just blurt this blog out? he spent days going over it and sent it out to a lot of people for feedback, and he kept changing it and changing it. i know i got copies twice. he is 100% capable of making the same points in a completely normal tone, which is how he always writes anyway, so why do you think he wrote it like he did? don’t people get that he crafted this thing for a reason??? he caught them in an unbelievable trap for showing the world their own shadows……


(As for that “trap,” I almost gave it away in the final draft, because right before I posted it, the first sentence still said: “The following is a test,” and the last sentence said, “p.s. Now think very hard, because here is the test: how much of the above did I really mean?” But I pulled those two sentences out at the very last minute because they gave too much away. I should mention that when IU opens we will be having specific classes, for those who want, where we analyze various forum responses for their altitude, their levels and lines, and their shadow elements.)


Several of the email responses were simply thankful for defending integral so strongly:


Hey Ken,

I wanted to thank you for your post. Sometimes the most compassionate thing one can do is to cut down dangerous and terrorist egos, and that was certainly the case here. It is compassionate to the community, to everyone in it, and even to the cut-down ego itself. Thanks for being an exemplar for REAL compassion and REAL skillful means.

Also, thanks for defending everyone at Integral Institute against being “Wilber minions.” We’re here to use AQAL, to carry it forth into the future, to feed people in whatever way their level hungers, to liberate self, culture, and nature, to make enlightenment open to everyone. You really hit this nail on the head, and we truly appreciate it.

My favorite was “And even a bald bastard with ambition, I might add, instead of even being able to lay blame where it in fact belongs, which is on its own sorry-ass, first-tier, lame-brain case of arrested development, a two-bit, no-fit, nobody-quoting, self-promoting, gas-floating, over-bloating, no deposit, lame composite, really lost it, never had it, wanna bees, felled at the knees, first-tier fleas, flick ‘em off his back and never look back: ‘Holy mackerel! let’s go get a slurpee,’ says lonesome rider, Wyatt Earpy.”

Woo-hoo! Slam Dunk. Saul would be proud of that one.

Again, thank you. And keep on ridin’….

[ ]


Part of the lesson—for you, for me, for any of us—when it comes to integral (second tier, vision-logic, centaur, turquoise) in today’s world especially relates to the difference between what Trungpa Rinpoche called compassion and idiot compassion. Idiot compassion is compassion minus depth. That is, idiot compassion is flatland compassion. Or, idiot compassion is compassion minus wisdom.

The Bodhisattva of wisdom is Manjushri, who is always depicted with a sword in one hand and a book in the other hand. The sword is not symbolic, even less is it peaceful. It is the sword of discriminating wisdom, or wisdom that discerns depth. In order to possess wisdom, one must be able to judge greater depth from lesser depth, such as more inclusive from less inclusive, second tier from first tier, and integral from partial. The more inclusive, the more depth, the greater the embrace, until your embrace includes the entire world and every perspective in it—which is the ultimate wisdom of Big Mind.

Being more inclusive means being able to reject less inclusive, reject those perspectives that marginalize others. Extending compassion to that which marginalizes is not real compassion but idiot compassion: in our understandable desire to be compassionate, we extend compassion to that which actually hurts somebody. Not being able to tell the difference is idiot compassion. And the green meme operates all too often with idiot compassion, compassion without judgment of depth, compassion without a sword. The green meme version of Manjushri probably has him carrying not a sword but a wooden spoon. Not the sword of wisdom but the wooden spoon of idiot compassion, so that not only does he not lop off dualistic heads, he won’t even ruffle a feather.

So in your own responses, you can look to whether it was with compassion or idiot compassion, whether second-tier depth or first-tier flatland—what was your own response? How many perspectives can you include? It’s a simple challenge. A challenge to: what altitude are you, what are your own levels and lines, and most of all, what are your shadow elements? So, if I may respectfully suggest, look at your response to that first blog and ask yourself those questions.

Because I can tell you, looking over the blogs and forums of the last few years or so, including those labeled “integral,” there is an enormous amount of shadow material flying everywhere. And when that amount of shadow material is in a dialogue, people contract and sink back into first tier. And that’s what I see, and in huge amounts. So this and the previous blog were meant, in part, to make this obvious, so that it could at least start to be worked with, by individuals who are sincere about their own healing and growth. If not, fine, go back to blogging and posting in forums, shadow-boxing away per usual. But if you’re serious about getting whole and getting real, we will be having, as I mentioned, a series of classes and discussion groups that will be looking at forum posts for just this reason, and if you are one who has perhaps activated your shadow in any response, or if you’d simply like to learn about projections and other shadow elements and how to integrate them, then you are more than welcome to join us. But we are getting ready to launch membership in Integral Institute, and frankly, if there is that much shadow material running around, we’d really like to try and deal with it, because otherwise it will be a real nightmare for so many people, and a simple and honest look at oneself, and at any possible shadow elements, is a good thing to do in any event. Please stay tuned to this website and integralinstitute.org for more information on “The Shadow Challenge.” In the meantime, I want to pursue one of the key problems that occurs once you project your shadow, and that is that we get deeply caught in idiot compassion…..

To help unfold it, here’s a simplified version of the Path of the Great Liberation, which actually has two paths united in it. Start by noticing that you have two basic arenas of awareness: that which is seen, and that which is the Seer, the Witness, your True Self.

Now, you can see your ego, you are aware of it right now. You are aware of the ego or self-contraction, you can feel it in this moment. And you can feel your self-contraction because, in reality, it is an object, not a subject. It is not a real subject or True Self at all. Yet we tend to always be identifying with the ego or self-contraction, which is what I am not, and forget to rest as the Witness, which is what I am. We are the feeling Witness, not the felt ego.

It’s a classic case of mistaken identity, a mistake called samsara, maya, sin, illusion, etc.—and probably given its best, shortest definition by Patanjali, founder of yoga: “Bondage is the identification of the Seer with the instruments of seeing.”

Now both sides of awareness are necessary—the phenomenal or manifest or relative realm of objects, and the ultimate or absolute or nondual realm of the one and only Subject or True Self—the One Self in us all, and the Self of all that is. YOUR True Self is the same True Self in all sentient beings, so by resting in the Witness, you will know the entire Kosmos from within….

(We will come back to this, and I’ll give a very effective experiential exercise for contacting your own True Self right now….)

The True Self is marked by a radical inclusiveness, so radical it is sometimes hard to understand. It embraces everything that is arising with no exceptions whatsoever—ozone hole, car crash, beautiful sunset, terrorist attack, Bach music: all the same. This is why it is often called Mirror Mind. If something good arises, it impartially reflects that with complete nonattachment. If something bad arises, it impartially reflects that, with no aversion at all.

You can notice that part of your awareness right now: clouds float by in the sky, thoughts float by in the mind, sensations float by in the body, sounds float by as well—there is an aspect of your awareness that simply Witnesses or Notices, without judgment or condemnation, everything that is arising. The Mirror Mind is always there, even if we forget it. It witnesses Hitler in precisely the same way it witnesses Mother Teresa. Again, radical inclusion.

On the relative plane, however, judgments are made and should be made. This is the plane where they are relatively real. As Buddha said, “Choose good, avoid evil, this is the path”—the path, that is, in the relative realm of objects.

In the relative realm, more inclusive is better than less inclusive, more depth is better than less depth, more love is better than less love, second tier is better than first tier, more compassion is better than less compassion. In the absolute realm (of your own impartial Witness of all that is arising), all of those are absolutely equal. (As we said, the Mirror Mind reflects Hitler and Teresa equally). But in the relative or phenomenal realm, Teresa is better than Hitler, and so on.

Here is the point: idiot compassion is a confusing of relative and absolute paths. Idiot compassion is not only afraid to ruffle feathers, it is afraid to make judgments and rankings and holarchies and gradations and so on, because it confuses total nonjudgmentalism (which applies only to Mirror Mind) with the realm of objects where judgments should be made. What is supposed to happen is that, resting in Mirror Mind, and reflecting everything equally as it arises, relative judgments arise within that space and are made about things that are better or worse, good or bad, true or false, and so on. So you should feel both a radical impartially (or total inclusion) as the ground of everything arising in your own I AMness or Witness, and some things that arise within all space are definitely judged better and worse than others.

So, both the self-contraction and idiot compassion are cases of mistaken identity, and you can feel—and overcome—this mistake in this very moment, if you follow a few pointing out instructions (which I will give in a moment). As we saw, the ego or self-contraction is merely and actually an object, it’s not what you really are, it’s not even a real subject, it’s just an object, it’s seen, it can’t see anything. Objects can’t see, only subjects can. But we mistake the seen ego for the Real Seer, the True Self—we mistake the temporal ego for our timeless I AMness.

That’s the first mistake of confusing the relative, objective, phenomenal ego for the absolute Self that I AM.

The second mistake is to similarly confuse the radical nonjudgmentalism of the Real Self (or Mirror Mind) with the phenomenal world where judgments should and must be made. Thus, on the relative plane the path is “Do good, avoid evil, this is the path.” On the absolute or nondual plane, however, the path is choiceless awareness, beyond good and evil, reflecting each impartially, or simply resting in the pure Presence of this moment, the simple feeling of Being, the Witness of this and every moment, and let it all come rushing through in radical nonattachment and purest equanimity—the vast and infinite Mirror Mind that, Chung Tzu says, “grasps nothing, seeks nothing, receives but does not keep.”

Both paths are to be practiced together in the genuine nondual Path of the Great Liberation—a Great Liberation that occurs each and every moment—right now—that one’s identity shifts from a false self (the seen ego, the self-contraction) to the True Self (Big Mind or Mirror Mind, the infinite I AMness in each and every sentient being), embracing all that arises in the brilliant clarity and luminosity of the infinite shine of Mirror Mind. That is the aim of the nondual paths of Liberation, and the aim of Integral Life Practice as well.

In ILP, with regard to the relative path, we follow the Prime Directive: work diligently to protect and promote the greatest depth for the greatest span. But in the ultimate or nondual path, we allow everything to be exactly as it is. Choiceless awareness, without judging, condemning, condoning, grasping, or keeping—no accepting or rejecting, no judging or not judging, all in the timeless Now of Mirror Mind.

But to confuse the two paths (as opposed to integrating them) is to wind up missing the truths of both. You apply relative traits to the absolute and end up dualistic (e.g., a realized sage embraces just heaven but never hell) and then both truths actually go to hell. This is the world of idiot compassion, and unfortunately, the very characteristics of the green meme make this confusion extremely common: a spiritual path with Manjushri carrying a wooden spoon instead of the sword of discriminating wisdom (prajna), whereupon depth disappears from the world almost immediately, leaving in its place a placid sea of the herd mentality, holding its breath lest it speak too loudly, ruffle a feather, and find that “the person who caused it must go away”—and in green, everybody is afraid of going away, of uttering a single thing that sets in motion a judgment of real wisdom or compassion.

I will come back to this, as I said, and give those pointing out instructions for the Great Liberation. But I want to quickly point out that, with reference to idiot compassion, I put a few sentences in the post that carried its real message, knowing that those who had eyes of wisdom and compassion, not flatland wisdom and idiot compassion, would see the few sentences in the blog that called to them: “People will make up their own minds. I just wanted them—wanted us—wanted you—to have some other facts and perspectives to take into account when making up your mind… which I hope will be to include both sides, all sides, in a larger picture. I already have moved to do so in my own mind, and I hope that you will too, because there is room for all in Big Mind, in a third-tier embrace of the entire Kosmos. Things float by as clouds in the sky, with effortless ease in the all-inclusive Presence that is witnessing this screen, and this room, and this world, arise in luminous clarity and radiant splendor… and that is why it all rolls off the back so easily, when all is said and done, for all are textures of your very own Self, alone in the Alone….”

There were those who responded to that, which was the central message, and there were those who instead duly ranted and raged about wilber and I-I, and believe me, we got the message: you don’t like us, you hate us, you hate I-I, you hate wilber, you hate this and you hate that—we heard you loud and clear. And we saw you. And now we know each other, don’t we? But was that you or your shadow responding?

But for those who heard the real message: you know who you are, don’t you? You have already seen the radiant luminosity of your very own depth, where integral clarity thrills your awareness, enlightens your mind, charges your consciousness, and electrifies your soul… and does so in spite of a world that cares not one iota for you, or who you are, or what you see and know.

You’re in the closet, aren’t you? Because if you express actual integral thoughts or ideas then the herd descends on you with a vengeance, yes? If you are in that 2%, your life is a living hell, in so many ways, isn’t it? Because the first-tier rants are all around you, aren’t they?

Integral Institute is a sanctuary for second- and third-tier consciousness. And this means, a sanctuary for anybody who can rise to their own highest potential. That 2% really means the highest 2% of your very own being. Absolutely every single person is capable of rising to their own second-tier awareness (and third tier as well in this Great Liberation), rising to their own greatness, and that is what I-I is all about, rising to your own highest 2%, your own highest Self, and meeting there your own extraordinary greatness. Do you want to be part of the herd, or part of your own greatness? Every single one of you can rise to your own genius, every single one of you can do this….

If that interests you, and if you want to act from your own highest being—and help us act from ours—then please come and join us, play with us, give us a hand. If this and the previous post offended you, then by all means blog about it and let’s see more of those exquisitely original posts. But if you got the central message, please come and join us at I-I. It’s an elitism to which all are invited, including you, if you’ll live up to what you can be. So you can blog in the same herd mentality with ruffled feathers, or you can rise to your own highest occasion, meet your own greatness, and from there, change the world.

Mark that well. You say that you want to change the world? You’ll have to change yourself first, otherwise it will never happen, I promise you. So come and join us in just that extraordinary adventure, and decide for yourself what the fuss is all about. How could you possibly know, unless you give it a try?.......

(As for how to become a founding member of Integral Institute, please see this secret blog post)

Now, as promised, here are some pointing out instructions for realizing I AMness, or the perfect Mirror Mind, the infinite Self that is your own True Self, and the Self of this and all the worlds.


Notice your present awareness. Notice the objects arising in your awareness—the images and thoughts arising in your mind, the feelings and sensations arising in your body, the myriad objects arising around you in the room or environment. All of these are objects arising in your awareness.

Now think about what was in your awareness 5 minutes ago. Most of the thoughts have changed, most of the bodily sensations have changed, and probably most of the environment has changed. But something has not changed. Something in you is the same now as it was 5 minutes ago. What is present now that was present 5 minutes ago?

I AMness. The feeling-awareness of I AMness is still present. I am that ever-present I AMness. That I AMness is present now, it was present a moment ago, it was present a minute ago, it was present 5 minutes ago.

What was present 5 hours ago?

I AMness. That sense of I AMness is an ongoing, self-knowing, self-recognizing, self-validating I AMness. It is present now, it was present 5 hours ago. All my thoughts have changed, all my bodily sensations have changed, my environment has changed, but I AM is ever-present, radiant, open, empty, clear, spacious, transparent, free. Objects have changed, but not this formless I AMness. This obvious and present I AMness is present now as it was present 5 hours ago.

What was present 5 years ago?

I AMness. So many objects have come and gone, so many feelings have come and gone, so many thoughts have come and gone, so many dramas and terrors and loves and hates have come, and stayed a while, and gone. But one thing has not come, and one thing has not gone. What is that? What is the only thing present in your awareness right now that you can remember was present 5 years ago? This timeless, ever-present feeling of I AMness is present now as it was 5 years ago.

What was present 5 centuries ago?

All that is ever-present is I AMness. Every person feels this same I AMness—because it is not a body, it is not a thought, it is not an object, it is not the environment, it is not anything that can be seen, but rather is the ever-present Seer, the ongoing open and empty Witness of all that is arising, in any person, in any world, in any place, at any time, in all the worlds until the end of time, there is only and always this obvious and immediate I AMness. What else could you possibly know? What else does anybody ever know? There is only and always this radiant, self-knowing, self-feeling, self-transcending I AMness, whether present now, 5 minutes ago, 5 hours ago, 5 centuries ago.

5 millennia ago?

Before Abraham was, I AM. Before the universe was, I AM. This is my original Face, the face I had before my parents were born, the face I had before the universe was born, the Face I had for all eternity until I decided to play this round of hide and seek, and get lost in the objects of my own creation.

I will NEVER again pretend that I do not know or feel my own I AMness.

And with that, the game is undone. A million thoughts have come and gone, a million feelings have come and gone, a million objects have come and gone. But one thing has not come, and one thing has not gone: the great Unborn and the great Undying, which never enters or leaves the stream of time, a pure Presence above time, floating in eternity. I am this great, obvious, self-knowing, self-validating, self-liberating I AMness.

Before Abraham was, I AM.

I AM is none other than Spirit in 1st-person, the ultimate, the sublime, the radiant all-creating Self of the entire Kosmos, present in me and you and him and her and them—as the I AMness that each and every one of us feels.

Because in all the known universes, the overall number of I AMs is but one.

Rest as I AMness always, the exact I AMness you feel right now, just as it is, which is Unborn Spirit itself shining in and as you. Assume your personal identity as well—as this or that object, or this or that self, or this and that thing—resting always in the Ground of it All, as this great and completely obvious I AMness, and get up and go on about your day, in the universe I AM created.

And if you want to change the world, change yourself first of all, resting in that great and ever-present Mystery of I AMness while working with the arising world of objects, knowing that ultimately they are not two. Resting in your own I-I, come and join us at I-I, and help that One and Only Self evolve a world that gets better and better, while ever-present I AMness itself remains ever the same. By uniting both the relative and absolute paths, that Great Liberation is yours right now, the birthright and realization of every sentient being since time immemorial, and the Great Liberation that is resting this moment right in the palm of your hand.



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The Wyatt Menu: Related Posts:

What We Are, That We See. Part I: Response to Some Recent Criticisms in a Wild West Fashion.

The Unbearable Lightness of Wyatt Earpy. Follow-Up #1.

On the Nature of Shadow Projections in Forums. Follow-Up #2.

What Would Wyatt Do? Follow-Up #3.


The Shadow Series:

The Shadow Series. Part 1: How to Spot the Shadow.

The Shadow Series. Part 2: Integrating the Shadow.

The Shadow Series. Part 3: A Working Synthesis of Transactional Analysis and Gestalt Therapy.

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