What are world views?
Why are they so important?
What are the transformations in World View that led to the development of Integral Deep Listening?
The World View of Integral Deep Listening
“I believe that if we really want human brotherhood to spread and increase until it makes life safe and sane, we must also be certain that there is no one true faith or path by which it may spread.” – Adlai E. Stevenson
This wise quote indicates an awareness of the need for multiple world views, or what is called “multi-perspectivalism.” Anyone who has experienced Integral Deep Listening (IDL) interviewing knows first-hand just how powerful and important the ability to access a variety of different perspectives is for healing, balancing, and transformation. The problem is that most people at this point in time in human development are stuck in just one perspective, or world view, that of their waking identity. That’s a problem. Why?
Quoting Ken Wilber in Integral Spirituality (p. 107), “…a person can have a profound peak, religious, spiritual, or meditative experience of, say, a subtle light or causal emptiness, but they will interpret that experience with the only equipment they have, namely, the tools of the stage of development they are at. A person at magic will interpret them magically, a person at mythic will interpret them mythically, a person at pluralistic will interpret them pluralistically, and so on. But a person at mythic will not interpret them pluralistically, because that structure-stage of consciousness has not yet emerged or developed.” What this means is that your stage of development partially determines your world view, and also the breadth your world view partially determines your stage of development. A narrow world view will limit your development; the broader your world view the more support you have for growth. This is why becoming aware of your world view and learning how to expand it is so important.
IDL is a powerful tool for expanding your world view because it constantly exposes you to perspectives that represent world views that transcend and include your own. Despite that fact, IDL is very foreign for many people because it suspends assumptions that most people take for granted. Psychologists want to interpret, the religious want to make moral judgments, the emotional want unquestioned spontaneity, the spiritual don’t want the non-spiritual, New Agers want happy thoughts and quantum everything, the insecure want a soul and karma, scientists and meditators don’t want fantasy, and most people don’t want to think, give up their world view, or work. With so many reasons to dismiss IDL, it’s a wonder it has any students at all.
Your world view isn’t everything, but it’s close. The assumptions that you make about what’s real, why you’re alive, and how you should relate to other people tell who you are, determine who you will be and what sort of a mark you’ll make on the world. Your world view is that important. Most of us are so subjectively embedded and enmeshed in our world view that we have trouble articulating it. We haven’t thought it through; we can’t tell you where it came from or why we chose it. This is because for most of us, we haven’t developed a world view; rather, who we are is an expression of the world views of others that we have internalized. This is true even for those who take pride that they have “rebelled” and formed opinions different from those of their parents, teachers, and communities. Generally, such world views bears a remarkable similarity to those of our peers, implying that rather than figuring out who we are, we have simply substituted one form of mindless groupthink for another. We not only see this in adolescents, but in corporate careerists, true believers, and politicians of all stripes.
While we all change jobs, spouses, friends, and geographical locations, such changes are relatively minor when compared to a shift in our underlying world view. Your world view sets the context in which you see and experience everything. Your reality is conditioned by your world view, and most of us cling to ours as the foundation of our security and our mental stability. Therefore, it is unusual for anyone, even today, to change their world view more than once. Historically, most people never question or outgrow the world view they grew up with. They think like their parents, family, and culture do. Blessed is the person who is not only allowed, but encouraged, to question their world view. This is what education, and university in particular, is supposed to do, and which succeeds in some cases.
However, society does not have a lot to gain by you doing too much questioning. If you do, you may question its legitimacy, which threatens the prevailing social order. Therefore you will find many tacit and implicit barriers to questioning your current world view, both externally and internally. One example that comes to mind is the role of “independent journalism” in promoting and enforcing the status quo world view. No one has to tell corporate journalists that if they take certain “third rail” positions in their writing or reporting, they will be fired. At present, you can, for example, survey the mainstream press for criticism of Israel. Where is it? Why is it absent? Is it because Israel has done no wrong or because of the consequences of reporting same? We have Islamophobia, but Judeophobia? The first makes you someone who fears terrorists; the second an anti-semite. Both Brexit and the US Presidential election of 2016 laid bare the gaping avoidance of the economic struggles of the middle class in theWest by the ruling elites of Labor and Tory, Democrats and Republicans for decades. A world view was being promulgated that ignored a primary driver of both voter anger and social stability.
Even those who pride themselves for their independence from the world view they grew up with are often merely reactionary; instead of thoughtfully and carefully considering many possible alternative world views, they simply either embrace the current definition of rebellion (smoke, drink, get tattoos and piercings; endorse Pepsi (Democratic candidates) instead of Coke (Republican candidates) or simply do the opposite of what their culture wants (drop out; take up pursuits that annoy people; go avant-garde with new age, art, or music). Another option is to accept and make one’s own the world view of whomever pays your salary. Almost everyone does this to some extent or another because it is generally a requirement if you want to advance at work. You had better convince your superiors you are “on the team” by thinking and acting like they do. If you go to work for the government, you had better not question the underlying assumptions of your position if you want to keep it. If you are in the army, you will accept and follow the nationalistic, black and white, good guy-bad guy world view that is required, or be severely punished.
The ability of these social, cultural, and financial forces to generate not only conformity, but groupthink is not to be underestimated. As Upton Sinclair famously said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” When we add fear of social ostracism to financial incentives the result is that most people have few genuine opportunities to escape their world view, even if they want to. They must be independently wealthy, supported by parents or society, and in extraordinarily insulated and permissive cultural sub-groups that protect them from the usual pressures. Families, schools, universities and monasteries are supposed to supply such freedom, but each imposes its own world view and enforces conformity with it.
We are extraordinarily fortunate today to have the internet, because for the first time in history we have easy, immediate, and inexpensive access to ideas that constantly challenge our present world view by questioning our assumptions about who we are, what is real, right, and important. The internet presents us with remarkable first hand testimony of alternative realities and amazing possibilities that can change our lives. If you put up an opinion on a blog, prepare to have it challenged, regardless of your education, status, or income. The internet breaks down these traditional insulators and defenders against assaults on our world view. This is the basic reason why the internet is one of the most revolutionary, transformative, and positive developments in human history and why so many established social forces want to censor or control it.
World views are notoriously difficult to change. When confronted by new information, we fit it into our world view. As Thomas Kuhn has shown in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in order to change a paradigm we must experience strong cognitive dissonance that comes from being confronted with experiences that our current world view just doesn’t explain. For most people, this doesn’t happen. They either ignore the discrepancies or incorporate them into their world view. An excellent example is the continued ability of science to ignore and discount the consistently statistically significant findings that shows that minds can know and alter data and events at a distance. The statistical probability is well under 1% but it is consistently above chance. Another example is the denial of the failure of austerity economics by many of the brightest minds in economics and business. Somehow, massive inequality and a reduction of buying power by the majority is made better by reducing government spending on common social “goods” when the data shows that it has broadly lowered the quality of life and stifled opportunity. In the realms of relationships and mystical experiences, including near death experiences, people either conclude what they want to believe or what they are afraid is true, in either case validating their world view.
What can be done about this? Transpersonal approaches, notably that of Ken Wilber, building on an idea from Charles Alexander out of the Transcendental Meditation tradition, tend to believe that meditation causes world views to transform and expand. Wilber has said that adults, who normally do not advance much in developmental levels, can move ahead two or more developmental levels with regular, genuine meditation. While this may indeed be the case, our world view is an important determiner of our developmental level, and world views are remarkably resistant to change.
I had a good friend, Mike, an intelligent and generous fellow, who illustrates this point. Mike was a millionaire retired investor who spent his time meditating and going to meditation workshops. He was a lucid dreamer and something of a yogi. He experienced altered states of consciousness of various types and was a long time devotee of Ram Dass, Hanuman, and Ram Dass’ guru, Maharaj-ji. Mike grew up in a family of brokers and investors. His father lost his bakery in the ’40’s and blamed it on Roosevelt and The New Deal because the government appropriated the bakery premises for the war effort. His father and grandfather were very determined economic Republicans, meaning they were against taxes, government intervention, and welfare, but were more or less neutral on social issues. Mike also believed in Reaganomics, the Laffer Curve, and Trickle-Down economics. He did not believe in global warming, seeing it as a way for liberals to justify more governmental regulation and intrusion into private lives; he was against a minimum wage, believing that the market would find its own balance, and if that meant that people were willing to work for less than a living wage, so be it. Essentially a libertarian, Mike was a social Darwinist who believed in predatory capitalism and viewed its subsequent social inequalities as natural and acceptable. As a successful professional gambler (he would find that term misleading and disparaging and saw himself as an “investor”), he had life experiences that divided the world into winners and losers, with no sense of social responsibility for the latter. Despite his serious commitment to “spiritual” practices and constantly rubbing up against the associated liberal/progressive culture, he had no problem with a model that emphasized the maximization of profit. He felt like his financial success, which the liberal and progressive meditators envied, validated his world view. It had worked for him and there was real world data, that is, money in his bank account, to support it. The implication was that it would work for these others too, so they really had no excuse for not having money. In fact, in his last years, Mike was focused on finding a way to teach meditators to trade stocks in order to generate the money that could support a life of meditation retreats. He wanted to turn meditators into gamblers in the financial markets, but in service of spiritual ends.
Mike’s world view at its roots was not changed by years of meditation, as taught by Tibetan lamas, and various other talented and experienced meditators. If his world view remained unchanged, how much less likely is it that others, like you and me, who do not meditate four hours a day, or who are not so exposed to radically different world views, will change theirs? The answer is, “Highly unlikely.”
The funny thing is that everyone regards themselves as the unique exception to this rule. Other people may be sleepwalking, lost in the delusional dreams of groupthink, but not me. “I am free. I know who I am; I have a well-thought out world view. I only believe like some others because I choose to surround myself with similar minds; I am not a victim of groupthink.” The question that arises then is, “If you were a victim of groupthink, how would you know?”
What looks like a change in world view is generally far less than it at first may appear. Most people think they have changed their world view when they have changed some part of it. For example, when you discover the opposite sex in your adolescence, find Jesus, meet a genuine psychic, have a great teacher in college, learn a new profession, or have a mystical experience, your world view can change radically. But on closer examination, the change is partial or temporary. Only part of your world view changes or else you have a temporary change of your entire world view. Typically, you enjoy an altered state for minutes, hours, days, or months before crash-landing back into the same old same old. This is typically what is experienced when we take vacations or meet a new love. A permanent change of your world view is much less likely. Why?
To change your world view, you first have to be significantly uncomfortable with the one you have, not just with some part of it. For example, most adolescents are not rebelling against the way they were raised and the sense of self associated with it so much as against some particular restraints on their freedom or particular abusive behaviors of their parents. Secondly, you have to be open to the possibility that there are other, more encompassing world views. While most people will tell you that they are, and theoretically, in abstract, this is true, the truth for most of us is that entertaining and adopting a revolutionary world view is profoundly threatening. Third, you have to be exposed for an extended period of time to a genuinely transformative alternative world view. How likely is this? How often do people choose to do so? Fourth, you have to be personally secure enough to deal with the threat that a new world view always poses to the assumptions on which you have built your life. Fifth, you have to be in a culture of friends, associates, and influences that are supportive of your change, or at least are not opposed to it. How likely is this, short of joining a commune, utopian community, or monastery? Sixth, this change in world view has to be a lasting change, or else you have a temporary opening, like a love affair, a near death experience, drug high, or religious conversion experience, and simply snap back into your habitual world view. Mike, for example, while open to the possibility that there are other, more encompassing world views and exposed to several, was not unhappy with the one he had nor was he personally secure enough to deal with the threat that a new world view would pose to some of the basic assumptions of the culture of his childhood. So while Mike fulfilled some of the above conditions for adopting a new world view, he didn’t want or accept all of them.
How often does anyone find themselves in circumstances that fulfill all these criteria? Generally if it happens, it is either by accident or because of good luck, because our waking sense of who we are is generally a fierce defender of the status quo. We think our world view is better than all the alternatives, or we would change. The major exception to this involves career. Education can change our world view, and then the groupthink customary for the profession that we pursue validates that world view. For example, studies have shown that economics majors tend to value profit over human welfare. It is unknown whether this is because such people are attracted to economics or because this is the emphasis of both economic professors and textbooks. However, it is safe to say that while some students already have such a world view, for others the groupthink associated with that professional specialization, combined with the prevailing value system of corporations, strengthens, validates, and demands the adoption of that world view. Therefore, one fairly dependable way of changing your world view is to choose a profession. If you do not already have that world view, consistent emersion in the groupthink of your employers and peers will almost guarantee that you will adopt it.
An Autobiographical Account of How World Views Can Change
If there is anything special about my life that can benefit others, it probably comes from the fact that my world view has been overturned not once, not twice, but three times in profound ways. Each time my world view has been transformed, the result has transcended and included my previous world view. Each change set the conditions and provided the foundation for the next change in my world view. In retrospect, I think this is why it has often been difficult for me to bridge where I am to others: there are a number of intermediate transitional steps that a person needs to have taken or be willing to take for another world view to make sense to them or to have any relevance at all. This is because we invariably assess information in terms of our world view. For Freud, a personal level rationalist, all higher level phenomena, such as mystical experiences, could only be outbreaks of pre-personal, pre-rational regressive delusion. For Jung, a late-personal pluralist and egalitarian, all lower level phenomena, such as schizophrenia, tended to be interpreted as mythic and symbolic expressions of the sacred. Similarly, New Agers tend to either view IDL as a spiritual discipline or dismiss it as a rational dismissal of the spiritual. Scientific humanists, including most therapists, tend to dismiss it as Gestalt role-play or simply telling yourself what you want to hear and what you already know. True Believers find too many areas that do not match their world view, and so feel threatened.
Everybody has a ground zero world view, the one that they grew up in. As most people do not learn from their personal history, they spend their lives repeating it. They remain stuck in the world view unconsciously assimilated in their childhood and youth – their religious, culinary, national, racial, friend, and recreational preferences. Traditional therapy spends most of its time and energy uncovering and reframing assumptions of that basic life script that still haunt people years after they have left their family of origin. Mine was typical, at least for middle American society. I had grown up as a loved, introverted, fairly spoiled child of “Ozzie and Harriet” ’50’s reality. I don’t remember once seeing my mother or father scared, and anger was a very rare thing. I only remember seeing my father sad once, when I was in my 20’s. My parents were both natural optimists and positive thinkers. They were true children of the “think positive,” “your thoughts create your reality” world of the Fillmores, Ernest Holmes, Norman Vincent Peale, and all the “New Thought” advocates of the first half of the twentieth century. As a result of growing up in such a subjective context, which I never recognized, named, or questioned, I have never had many problems with anger or sadness, but I have had plenty of problems with other people who grew up with those feelings around them, because I never learned how to deal with such people as a child. I never experienced or had to cope with anyone who had a serious addiction or trauma when I was a child either.
I felt loved unconditionally by my mother, my father, my two sisters, and Sadie, the black maid who was a surrogate mother to me. To this day, when I see a black woman, I have feelings of nurturance and warmth. Still, I was not particularly gifted and was self-critical. I was not good at sports, got my feelings hurt easily, was emotionally reactive, and felt a lot of guilt. I was lazy, an undisciplined student, and my inability to do math was a thorn in my side throughout my school years. I did not fit in and didn’t know how to. The worst part of all that was that I thought I was the only one with such problems! I didn’t realize that everybody else was experiencing most of these things too. Such is the nature of childhood narcissism, grandiosity, and personalization.
Because I had everything I wanted that money could buy, it was clear to me that making money or having financial security was not a solution, because I had the possessions I desired and I still did not particularly like myself. I was going to have to figure out who I was if I was ever going to like myself. I was intellectually curious and did a lot of reading about history and animals. The Bible stories in the Presbyterian Sunday school that I attended probably scripted me to be interested in dreams like my namesake, Joseph, who interpreted dreams for Pharaoh. God was loving and Jesus was a loving parent figure.
I had the enormous good fortune of having a mother and father who were open to all things metaphysical, largely because my father’s mother was a fan of Unity and had a large metaphysical library. I grew up with them having prayer/Ouija board sessions weekly in our living room. There was a belief in life after death and the ability to contact deceased people. While I don’t remember metaphysical ideas being discussed, I grew up in a culture that was quite open to such possibilities. I had no idea what an extraordinary circumstance that was at the time, particularly since my father had a professional mainstream education, first as a dentist and then as an orthodontist. My parent’s willingness to be open to new ideas was a great advantage, in that it made me view the world and its meanings in a broad way; it was a disadvantage because my friends didn’t share these experiences and didn’t know what I was talking about.
In retrospect, because I wanted to be liked, I tried too hard to be nice and came across as superficial and phony. Because I was afraid of failure, I didn’t take many risks. I didn’t ask many questions in class, I didn’t challenge my peers, I didn’t go out for sports. I kept my head down. It was probably the biggest mistake in my life. If I had it to do over, I would be a big risk taker, pester teachers with questions, show a lot more interest in others, fail a lot more, learn from my mistakes, and try again. Also, I would know that it takes hard work to be good at anything and be much more determined and persistent.
Basically, my childhood world view was that if something went wrong it was probably something I did or said. Carl Jung would call this being introverted; I would later learn that it is also called having an “internal locus of control.” The advantage of this perspective is that you take responsibility for what happens to you. The disadvantage is that you take responsibility for far too much – you personalize things that people do or say or that happen in the world that have nothing to do with you. I now view taking responsibility for everything in an entirely different way, as narcissistic and grandiose.
The three world views or perspectives that sequentially transformed this childhood world view were those of the Edgar Cayce readings, Nagarjuna’s Buddhist Mahayana Madhyamika, and that provided by many, many perspectives of dream characters and the personification of various life issues of others and myself that I have interviewed over decades. Other major influences were my encounter with Transactional Analysis, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and the integral approach of Ken Wilber.
My first, “New Age” shift in world view
My world view was overturned for the first time when I was thirteen, in 1963, when I was plunged into the world view of the Edgar Cayce readings for five weeks while on a trip to the Middle East with Hugh Lynn Cayce, the son of Edgar Cayce, and about forty-five New Age intellectuals, most of whom were professionals, like Ida Rolf, the founder of Rolfing, and Bill and Gladys McGarey, founders of the ARE Medical Clinic in Phoenix Arizona and the American Holistic Medical Association. There was a man that gave “readings” on that trip, similar to what Edgar Cayce had done. There was also a Texan who claimed to have successfully dowsed oil wells and made a lot of money. A ten-year old girl on the trip could accurately read my mind, which was pretty embarrassing for an adolescent boy!
This five week immersion in a holistic, psychic but professional culture was followed by much reading of books about Cayce’s trance readings, and the attendance of many ARE workshops in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Texas, and Kansas City, Missouri. All of this taught me a number of core principles that became part of my world view. The first was that the healer or physician, that we need and which knows best what we need, is within, and that we can access it through our dreams. This was an inner, divine intelligence that heals and guides us. The Cayce world view taught me that dreams preview life events. Because dreams deal with repetitive patterns, they are indeed predictive, and this predictiveness can be and sometimes is precognitive. At the age of thirteen or fourteen I decided that by looking at my dreams I might be able to find out what career path to follow or how to avoid problems that would arise in my life. Another assumption that I learned and accepted was that from the perspective of spirit, there is no death. Yet another was a belief in reincarnation. Your present circumstances are largely conditioned by choices made in past lives. While one can learn a lot about themselves by studying who they have been, both in formative years and in past lives, I learned from the readings and Hugh Lynn Cayce that my focus needed to be on who I was now and where I want to become, not on who I was in some past life. It also taught me that the universe is a loving, supportive place and that my destiny, as that of all people, is to become one with the divine. Central to the readings was the concept of “Christ Consciousness” as an ideal to strive for, and Jesus as the example to follow. It also taught me that the purpose of life was to be of service to others. Regarding meditation, it taught me the importance of a daily practice and a devotional, “I-Thou” approach to transcending my thoughts with a loving, prayerful heart.
After absorbing these concepts throughout my adolescence I could never go back to a sectarian conception of God, sin or the idea of a personal savior. I was now a believer in precognition, medical clairvoyance, astral travel, karma, reincarnation, and the ability of the mind to create reality. In other words, I became a committed New Ager from the age of thirteen, in 1963, before the term became commonly used.
The consequence of my immersion in the Cayce world view during my adolescence was that I did not have much in common with my peers. I wasn’t comfortable around most of them and the friends I had liked me as a person but didn’t understand who I was. When they did start to perceive the genuine differences, they faded away, because our lives were based on different assumptions. I did not have a group of like-minded thinkers around me in the years from 1963 to 1969, with the exception of my family and friends I made at ARE conferences and camp. This was a lonely time for me, but I was filled with the conviction that I was on the right track, because I had felt so validated by the many smart and successful professionals I had met through the ARE. My adoption of this world view was not the result of rebellion against anything or a forced immersion; it was a slow, self-initiated pursuit in an entirely different mental-emotional culture, based on very different premises, but one that was a natural extension from some of the possibilities of my childhood. It was an exciting, different escape from a “normalcy” in which I felt awkward and unable to compete, into a magical world where I could feel special and in control. In retrospect, if I were to do it again based on what I know now, I would have faced my fears and openly asked for the opinions of others about my ideas and assumptions.
My second, Buddhist, shift in world view
I have known many people who have made the shift I just described. It has been a common cultural broadening of world view for people of my generation; I just didn’t know it at the time because mine preceded most of the other similar shifts in world view that I later encountered. But I now know that many people were undergoing a similar shift at about the same time. Starting in the late’70’s and increasingly in the ’80’s and ’90’s I found myself surrounded with entire cultures that embraced many portions of this world view, which I would now summarize as “New Age.” However, I already began leaving it in college, when I experienced the second major transformation in my world view. It occurred when I was nineteen, during my sophomore and junior years in college at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, in 1969-70.
I studied philosophy, psychology, and comparative religion in college, rather than pursue some “practical” course of study, because I was very clear that I needed to understand the world views of the wisest people who had ever lived if I wanted a firm foundation for whatever I did with my life. To me this was very practical; from the point of view of making money in the world, it was not. I did not experience myself as an intellectual, although I know now I very much was. I was not much of a conversationalist – I did not talk much about these concepts with others, nor did I seek out others to discuss or debate these ideas with. I lacked confidence in myself and in my ability to express these ideas clearly to others. For the most part, this was a dialogue between myself, books, and teachers, except when I actually taught these concepts in seminars, or classes, or refined them through meditation. In my studies of comparative religion I encountered the world views of Hinduism and Buddhism, and in particular the world view of the great Mahayana Buddhist mystic and philosopher of India in the 3rd century AD, Nagarjuna. What I learned about Hinduism put the world view of the Cayce readings in a broader perspective for me. I now saw it as a form of Christian Vedanta with a large hunk of Blavatsky and subsequent related occult schools thrown in: a belief system that made sense once you bought into its basic assumptions. Advaita Vedanta is the metaphysical position developed by the Indian philosopher and mystic Shankara who taught the unity of Atman (the eternal soul) and Brahman (God).
I still had no doubt that Cayce was an extraordinary medical clairvoyant and that the loving heart of the readings raised the level of awakening of just about anyone that came in contact with any part of them. However, once I was able to get outside that world view and put it into the broader context of advaita vedanta humanism, theosophy, and the New Thought zeitgeist that was being born at the time Cayce started giving his readings, I saw that many parts of the readings were conditioned by the assumptions of the cultural context in which they were embedded. The Cayce Readings shared the same basic world view as most things New Age, so in contextualizing or objectifying the Cayce material by adopting the Buddhist world view I was also no longer embedded in most of the beliefs common to New Agers.
From my perspective, most people associated with the Edgar Cayce readings, as well as most New Agers, did not “get” the full implications of the Buddhist world view. They attempted to integrate Buddhism into their world view by convincing themselves that Buddhism really was theistic, or because it believed in reincarnation and souls, that functionally it believed in a Self (Atman in Hinduism) that was One with the divine. What happened for me was different. I asked, “What if I take the Buddhist claims of difference at face value? What do they imply?”
The result for me was a transformative world view that was not deistic or theistic or built around the concept of an eternal self. To get there I had to suspend disbelief and consider what it meant to say everything was impermanent, including the self, and that consequently, there are no such things as real “things,” in the sense of lasting, permanent substances or beings. I did not become a Buddhist, but I did subscribe to a number of basic Buddhist teachings. I agreed that everything was impermanent. I agreed that everything was interdependent in its existence and that therefore there were no individually existing beings, only things that appear to be so, but which, on closer examination, are not. This included the concepts of soul and God. I agreed with the Buddhist teaching that what we call soul or self is comprised of five categories of experience: form or matter, sensation or feeling, perception or cognition, volition or intention, and consciousness itself. These are all interdependent, and when they dissipate, there is no more self-sense. I accepted the ideas that there is no permanent, absolute, or real anything, including an eternal soul or a permanent, unchanging God. I accepted these ideas because they made sense, and I didn’t want to base my life on a belief system that was irrational. I knew that if I was ever going to get to a belief system or life perspective that was trans-rational, it would have to be built on beliefs that were rational. The idea of the interdependence of all things seemed to me to be much more satisfactory than the idea of a dying-resurrecting savior god.
In addition, the direct experience of sunyata, or emptiness, in meditation, was very important for me at that time. From Nagarjuna I learned how to silence my thoughts with his four-fold negation. The result, when put into practice, were states of mental clarity I had never experienced before. Here is how the four-fold negation works.
Ask yourself, now, the following questions:
“Am I my body?”
The answer is, “No. I can observe my body, so I am not just my body. I am also my feelings and my thoughts.”
Am I not my body?
The answer is, “No, my body is an undeniable part of who I am right now.”
Am I both my body and not my body?
The answer is, “No. I cannot be both my body and not be my body at the same time.” (Because there cannot be both something and not that same thing at the same time.)
Am I neither my body nor the absence of my body?
The answer is, “No. I cannot be neither something nor its opposite.” (Because there cannot be neither something nor its opposite at the same time.)
This is a process of analytic reasoning about your experience that you can do with any feeling, thought, or concept, such as causation, as Nagarjuna did. If you do so, you will thoroughly, completely demolish any rational reason to believe anything, to feel anything, or to do anything. However, you will as thoroughly, completely demolish any rational reason not to believe, feel, or do anything. The result is not nihilism, but a shifting of your brain into a neutral or “formless” reality. You aren’t A. You aren’t the absence of A. You aren’t both A and its absence. You aren’t neither A nor its absence. A doesn’t exist; neither does non-A. Both A and non-A do not exist and neither do A nor non-A. This is Nagarjuna’s interpretation and the application of “the Middle Way,” the central principle of Buddhism, not just to meditation but to understanding the nature of experience.
If you practice this four-fold negation with whatever comes up into your awareness, whether or not you are meditating, you may find your mind shifting into what Nagarjuna called sunyata, or “emptiness,” which is a state without own being (a sense of self or identity) and of complete interdependence. I practiced doing this in my university years and it revolutionized my experience of the world.
The process I just described undercuts belief in Magic Pony Dust, the sparkles you put on your Magic Pony to make it fly. This is because this practice of Nagarjuna’s fourfold negation was not about belief, but about rational analysis of experience in a way that I later learned was phenomenological. It kicks the baby bird of awareness out of its nest of scripted assumptions, causing it to learn that it can fly, or live without them. It now seemed to me that anything that can’t get through Nagarjuna’s middle way, through the eye of this needle, isn’t real and won’t last. I concluded with Gautama that if I based my life on things that I thought are real and permanent but are not (think relationships, financial security, health, and mystical experiences), I would experience pain and suffering when they one day vanish. I saw this very, very clearly, because I had an amazing, astounding teacher in Fredrick J Streng. I discovered that not only do most people not grasp this concept, of a clear space within and between their thoughts and feelings, they don’t want to and have no interest in doing so. It was not so much a belief system as an injunctive reality – a world view that exposed itself through what one did, not what one thought.
By this time I had been teaching both dream interpretation and meditation for two or three years to small groups of people involved with the Edgar Cayce readings. I found that most of what passed for meditation was something else: prayer, affirmations, positive thinking, visualization, mindless repetition, or zoning out in some type of trance state. It became very clear to me that calling these things meditation and teaching them as forms of meditation was a disservice because it merely confused and misled people. At the same time, I did not agree with the extreme position of Zen, which viewed all of these things as Makyo, or useless delusions, to be discarded. I saw them as important aids, just not helpful tools for teaching meditation. Yet my opinion was clearly in the minority, and neither accepted or understood by the meditation practitioners I knew. All of this caused me to live in the world of ideas and mystical experiences, a world most people dismissed as impractical if they had either the time or inclination to consider it at all, which few had.
Neither Cayce nor Nagarjuna gave me confidence or got me past introversion, self-criticism, self-doubt, and guilt. In retrospect, it is fair to say that a lot of my introspection was out of fear of going out; I could be safe and feel secure working in these inner dimensions; outside it was a wild and scary world with a lot of rejection and failure that I didn’t know how to deal with. Also it fed a lot of narcissistic specialness; I could feel I was unique, even “better,” because I knew all this shit others didn’t. Now it’s amusing to me to look at how narcissistically self-absorbed I was. I still had a lot of that profile into my early and mid-twenties.
I had rational, intellectual reasons why the Cayce/New Age world view no longer worked for me, and I also had an experiential grounding of a broader world view than what I had accessed through my previous one, due to my meditation experiences of formlessness. While the Cayce/New Age world view emphasized a devotional I-Thou relationship with the divine, an approach that is associated with saintly mysticism, Buddhism accessed formless or sage mysticism and the non-dual, or integration of the secular and the sacred in ways that I had not learned or experienced from Cayce/New Age. Because my network of friends from the ARE were either not familiar with the Buddhist world view or were basically new age Vedantists of one stripe or another, I drifted away from the A.R.E. Both Cayce and New-Age oriented people I encountered tended to experience Buddhism and formless meditation as life-denying, nihilistic, passive, and self-centered. My basic assumptions about life were now different, although I still shared with my Cayce compatriots a core belief that the universe is loving and supportive and that our destiny was to become one with it. We also continued to share a common belief that the healer is within, and at this point I was still a strong believer in positive thinking, souls, life after death, and reincarnation.
At the time of this writing, many people, particularly those in the integral world, have experienced and adopted some version of the Buddhist world view. They may have entered it through Alan Watts and Suzuki, or Zen, the Theravadin teachings of Vipassana meditation by the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism, or Ken Wilber’s integral philosophy, psychology, and spirituality. These people often combine Buddhist meditation, Buddhist philosophy, and New Age energy medicine and quantum everything. This Buddhist and formless perspective was the third major world view that eventually became contextualized, meaning that it was absorbed into a world view that included yet transcended it. That happened beginning when I was about thirty and discovered Dream Sociometry.
Immersion in the world view of Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis in my mid-twenties was also very important for me. It slowly leveraged me out of the majority of my self-criticism, guilt, personalization, and self-absorption. It did this by my adaptation of its choice-based approach to health and growth: the idea that you get to choose what you feel, what you think, and who you think you are, but in order to do that you have to make different decisions than the ones that you have been scripted into from your youth. I found this approach liberating, and in my subsequent years as a therapist, I found it beneficial for many people. It changed me from a psychodynamically-rooted therapist in the tradition of Freud’s psychoanalysis, Jung’s analytic psychology and Carl Roger’s “client-centered” therapy to a choice-based, solution-focused approach. While I was never much of a hand-holder, Transactional Analysis made me into more of a short-term therapist, encouraging people to look at the choices that they had made. helping them to make healthier ones, and then helping them to follow through in their daily lives. This is not a particularly warm and fuzzy approach, and I could have made a lot more money as a therapist over the years if I had adopted approaches that encouraged “reparenting” and supporting the wounded child.
Part of the problem was that I was a natural believer in clear thinking. Taking a course in logic in college reinforced that, as did the study of philosophy in general. As apparently was the case for Socrates, I found that many people took questions about their feelings, motives, or reasons to be threatening. Instead of being happy to have the opportunity to think through their assumptions, they felt attacked. Why? Most people identify with their feelings and thoughts; they are their feelings and thoughts. Therefore, if you question their assumptions, how they feel or why they think what they do, they may very well feel attacked. What this does is make any conversation of any depth taboo because it is too threatening. The result is that most people live very superficial lives, surrounded by people who rearrange their own prejudices and call it thinking, who move from one drama to another and call it living. Most therapy, with its emphasis on a return to “normalcy,” simply encourages this escape from freedom, because what is “normalcy” but a pathologically dysfunctional state of delusional groupthink? If you doubt the truth of this statement, look back on your own life. You can clearly see that much of what you assumed was true at the age of ten is now more accurately seen as immersion in groupthink. If that is so, how are you likely to view your current level of understanding twenty years from now?
My third, IDL, shift in world view
My third transformative world view began when I was thirty. It could not have happened if I had not been by nature an eclectic thinker that had not already explored so many different approaches to philosophy, religion, and psychology. I had taken training in both hypnotherapy and Gestalt and found them both too directive. I was very wary of the need of others to give their power away to parent figures and how seductive and corrupting that power was for those authorities themselves. A psychic had once told me a story – I don’t know if I can give it any more credence than that – that both identified and then attempted to explain the origins of this tendency within me. He said that I had been a fire-and-brimstone preacher in 1800’s America but had come across an early English translation of Hindu scriptures. I had been so taken by the concept of reincarnation that I started preaching it from the pulpit. The result was that I was tarred and feathered and carried out of town on a rail! This experience had so humiliated me that I was compensating for it this time around, swinging far to the other extreme of not wanting to be an authority to anyone about anything. Whatever the truth of this story, it is true that I was searching for a non-interpretive, non-authoritative approach that would allow people to find their own truth and their own path forward.
By this time I had finished my clinical training in social work, which provided me with a recognized professional foundation for making a living, counseling any population of my choice and getting paid for it by insurance companies. As far as I was concerned, my professional credibility was validated by that training and already by four years of professional experience in community mental health in-patient, out-patient, and day treatment settings functioning as both an administrator and an individual and group therapist. An opportunity for additional education arose while I was setting up and administering pain treatment programs for a community mental health center in northeastern Arkansas, in 1979 and 1980. I put together a health-risk assessment and reduction program for seniors, which focused on improvements in exercise, diet, smoking, and stress-reduction. I found an institution that would accept this work, as well as my interdisciplinary work in developing pain treatment management programs, toward a Ph.D. This was through Columbia Pacific University, a non-traditional and non-certified program in California, that allowed people to submit proposals for projects, life experiences, and studies that would lead to a degree. There were cheaper and easier ways one could have gotten, and still could get, a PhD if they were simply after the title. I knew that involving myself with a non-traditional, non-certified degree program would undercut my professional credibility in the eyes of some, but I had confidence in the value of the work I was doing, and still value what I did for that PhD as more valuable and relevant, in terms of actually impacting positively on changing people’s lives for the better, than most PhD programs provide their students. In addition, I did not have a very high opinion of professional credibility, based on the amount of deceit and outright damage I had already seen in my life perpetrated in the name of it. Because of the non-traditional nature of the program, I chose “Wholistic Health Sciences” as the field in which the degree was granted, to clearly indicate that my degree was not traditional. That PhD work was actually in the area of health education and interdisciplinary health care, which are indeed traditional academic specializations.
Professional groups naturally form guilds which, under the banner of protecting the public, attempt to exclude competition. Two notorious cases of this have been the longstanding fights by the AMA to reduce the credibility, and therefore the financial competition, of osteopaths and chiropractors. In this context, some years later, Columbia Pacific University was shut down as a “diploma mill” by the state of California due to pressure from accredited schools. However, I am still of two minds regarding my PhD. If I had to do it over again, I would have still gotten that certification, which I am proud of, and I would have also gotten a second PhD from Saybrook, where my friend and co-author Stanley Krippner was academic dean. Long after I am forgotten, Integral Deep Listening, or some version of it, will be evaluated based on how useful it is at improving people’s lives, not on my academic credentials. But part of me does hate the thought that some people have used the fact that I have a non-traditional PhD to question the credibility of the method itself, which stands or falls on its own merits. By doing so, they may only be giving themselves a reason to dismiss perspectives that might threaten their own predispositions and habitual world views.
When one of my graduate school teachers exposed me to the psychodrama of JL Moreno in 1978-9, I was not so impressed or interested, although I took trainings, including one from Moreno’s wife, Zerka, and learned the method. I also learned a lesser known methodology designed by Moreno, called Sociometry, which was a specialization of that professor, Dr. Joe Hart. In sociometry, students or group members are asked to list their preferences regarding some task: “Who would you most like to study math with?” The idea was to take those preferences and use them to reconfigure groups for optimal performance. Dr. Hart asked me if I could write a paper for him on pain management, one of my specializations, and sociometry. I thought for a moment and said, “No, but I can write one on pain management, sociometry and dreaming.” I asked myself, “What if I treated the characters of a dream as members of a sociometric group?” “What if I became them and figured out some way to collect their preferences?” “Might I not then be able to get an overview of the group’s preferences and perhaps see ways it could be reconfigured to produce a higher degree of internal functioning?” So I began creating Dream Sociomatrices and Dream Sociograms and becoming the infinite menagerie of dream characters – clouds, spit, dogs, chewing gum, tables, monsters – whatever showed up.
A Dream Sociomatrix
A Dream Sociogram
Although I had worked with dreams for years from Cayce, Jungian, and Gestalt approaches, the results of this new approach astounded me. I had never come across anything like what I was experiencing. I was amazed by how autonomous these various perspectives were. Their responses and perspectives differed from my own and from those of other characters in the dream that I “interviewed.” These characters, perspectives or “emerging potentials” had no problem disagreeing with me and could defend their views in ways which I often found more persuasive than my own. At the same time, contrary to what I had been taught about “ego strength,” all of this identification with different perspectives did not produce any indications of personality fragmentation. On the contrary, the more I became these perspectives, the more they became parts of a more expansive but thinned out “me.” As I suspended my disbelief and became toasters and turnips I incorporated their perspectives. My sense of who I was slowly thinned as it expanded.
Most of these perspectives accepted me a lot more than I did myself. What was I to make of that? Were they trying to make me feel good? While I was skeptical, I continued the process. Slowly I grew in self-acceptance as I recognized that most of these perspectives just didn’t have any reason not to accept me. This growth in self-acceptance was something that my previous world views and my exposure to many different forms of therapy had not accomplished. Becoming these various perspectives produced a fundamental healing and balancing that was life-changing for me, in a totally unexpected way. I wanted to know why and how this had occurred.
I experimented with this approach for several years with myself and hundreds of my own dreams to try to understand how it worked and to decide if it was reliable enough to use with others. All of this research has been collected into two books, Dream Sociometry and Understanding the Dream Sociogram. When I did start using Dream Sociometry with others I found that it was not suitable for all clients or all issues, but there were some for whom it made a huge difference. I found that it was in particular very effective at eliminating nightmares, reducing anxiety, phobias, PTSD, exogenous depressions, providing direct experiences of meditative states, and helping those who wanted to “find their path.” One lady, with chronic agoraphobia and who had tried so many methods she wrote a newsletter on agoraphobia for others, was able to resume a normal social life after some five or six sessions. Another lady, in Israel, who had recurrent flashbacks and PTSD nightmares of a terrorist attack, eliminated her PTSD in one session, just with instructions by email. Another young man, who had been attacked by guard dogs in his workplace, overcame his PTSD in about four sessions. A US Iraq war veteran who had sustained a head injury from an IED explosion, was able to stop yelling at her kids and accept her condition, allowing her to advance with cognitive speech and language therapy.
I also discovered that the personifications of life issues, like the bolt of lightening from “it hit me like a bolt of lightening,” the dark cloud hanging over a depressed person, or the “wire” from a stressed out, “wired” person could be interviewed just like dream characters. I came to understand that from the perspectives of these elements there was no difference between night time dreams and waking dramas. I could also interview the tunnel or light from near death experiences and wrote a book on interviewing the experiences of near death experiences.
This was by far the most profound of the changes in world view that I experienced in my life, for several reasons. It was intrinsic and internal; it didn’t rely on some external belief system like Christianity, Cayce, New Age, Hinduism, or Buddhism. Integral Deep Listening, as I now called it, provided multiple sources of useful objectivity, even though it was highly subjective. It was practical, in that it produced recommendations that I could use to test the method. It was not dependent on me or any other authority; anyone could decide its value for themselves. It produced real changes in people’s lives that could be objectively measured. It could not be outgrown, in that these perspectives presented options that were challenging but appropriate to the current circumstances and level of development of each unique individual. It was not ideological, in that it did not require belief so much as experimentation. What I and my clients received was continuous access to perspectives that had qualities that were emerging into awareness and that were important for healing, balance, and transformation. Therefore, I called both interviewed dream characters and personifications of life issues “emerging potentials.”
Contributions from Ken Wilber’s Integral
A few years after I first created Dream Sociometry, starting in about 1983. I encountered the AQAL model of Ken Wilber’s integral psychology and spirituality. I immediately saw that his work was exceptional and read everything I could find by him at least twice. I would not say Wilber’s model changed my world view as much as it provided me with a model by which to determine the relative value of world views. Is a world view balanced? How inclusive is it? How transformative is it likely to be? IDL is not based on Wilber’s writings or the integral AQAL model. It’s based on the sociometric methods of JL Moreno, as mentioned above. However, Wilber’s model is the best around today to explain what it means to wake up in a developmental sense. I consider familiarity with his model a pre-requisite for any intelligible conversation about philosophy, psychology, or spirituality. It’s that important. Consequently, I have since attempted to evaluate my own evolving world view, those of others, and those of the perspectives that I interview, in terms of Wilber’s AQAL model. Here are the basic concepts from Wilber’s writings that have been most important to me.
A world view needs to be integral. “Integral” refers to addressing body, mind, transpersonal, and interpersonal life domains. More specifically, it addresses prepersonal, personal, and transpersonal stages of development, various states of being, including waking, sleeping, and dreaming, different levels of development in areas like thinking, empathy, communication and artistic abilities, and the four quadrants of every situation: interior individual thoughts and feelings that create our consciousness, interior collective values and interpretations that create our culture, external individual behaviors that create our persona or outer personality and life, and our external collective interactions that create our social relationships.
A world view needs to avoid the pre-trans fallacy. Most people think they are more highly evolved than they are. They reduce higher stages to their level or lower because they cannot conceive of higher stages because they haven’t yet attained them, regardless of what states they have experienced. They think they have the “right” world view, even if they are egalitarians and think everyone else does too. “Pre” refers to prepersonal levels of development that are pre-rational, irrational, faith-based, belief based, and generally the product of environmental and cultural scripting. All animals and children are at prepersonal levels of development. This is because a conceptual mastery of language is required to objectify experience enough to witness one’s body and emotions. Language acquisition is therefore is a pre-requisite to being able to think about one’s body, feelings, and thinking. Without a conceptual mastery of language we lack the necessary tools to objectify these aspects of ourselves; we remain subjectively enmeshed and fused with them. To the extent that our adult beliefs are products of our childhood scripting, they are anchored in the pre-personal and are pre-rational. Transpersonal levels of development are trans-rational or arational, and are based on, but transcend and include, clear thinking, logic, objectivity, and rationality, and are empirically repeatable.
A world view needs to have some means of verification. Any belief that is based on rationality is at least personal and may be transpersonal. Any belief that is not rational, that is, not based on clear thinking, logic, objectivity, rationality, and is empirically repeatable is prepersonal. Astrology, tarot, psychic statements that cannot be verified, religious beliefs in the virgin birth, the trinity, the previous incarnations of Buddha, the vision quests of shamans, lucid dreaming, and most types of mystical openings are all prepersonal. Homeopathy is prepersonal, as are beliefs in nationalism, liberty, justice, capitalism, democracy and most economics. Some things like astrology and economics masquerade as personal and rational by using rational methods, but are based on self-validating systems of belief. The key here, as Wilber lays out in The Eye of Spirit, is empiricism, or the method by which you know what you know. There are three different varieties of empiricism, one for things (science), for ideas hermeneutics or interpretation and theory), and for transpersonal experiences (yogas). Each of these share these three elements: instructions or “injunctions” that say what you have to do (to make a cake, see the rings of jupiter, interpret research results, do literary criticism, or meditate); requirements that you actually perform the experiment, generally under supervision; and finally, verification by experienced peers in the method. The problem with pre-personal forms of knowing is not that they do not reveal truth; they do! It’s not that they cannot be helpful and life-transforming; they are! It is that they do not pass the test of duplicatability by peers in the method. For example, when professional astrologers are asked to construct criteria by which they would have astrology assessed by others, and these measures are used to assess charts by professional standards, there is no consensus. This is the problem with all things pre personal, which are notoriously non-repeatable and non-verifiable. For example, psychic phenomena, such as telepathy, have been shown to occur at a frequency that is above chance, but it is so slightly above chance as to be extremely difficult to duplicate. Therefore, while it exists, it does so in a way that is functionally the same as random chance. Your chances of consciously, predictably creating a psychic experience of your choice at a time of your choice is extremely low.
A world view needs to differentiate between states and stages. Most people assume that because they had a transformational experience that they have attained a higher stage of spiritual development. They are then confused and depressed when they find they are just as stuck as ever. In fact, it is thereafter often worse, because they are now much more aware of how stuck they are than they were before the experience. Just because you experience a state does not mean you are at a particular stage of development. Just because you remember past lives, have lucid or precognitive dreams, or practice meditation does not mean you are at a transpersonal level of development. Children and criminals can do these things. This confusion and misunderstanding is pervasive in both classical religious traditions and New Age everything.
Understanding the AQAL model does not mean that you are transpersonal anything. You can teach the AQAL model to smart children and most adolescents. While they will be most fortunate to learn it, all they have is a heuristic tool by which to understand their experience at the level of development that they are at. It is a conceptual model that does not equate to any particular level of development. Consequently, just because I or anyone else understands the model, that does not imply any developmental advantage. Wilber likes to point out that the cognitive line precedes development in the others. This means that understanding integral is a very helpful but insufficient cause for higher levels of development.
Therefore, don’t jump to conclusions about your level of development or that of another person. Just because a person is highly developed in one line (say empathy) does not mean that they are developed in other lines or at any particular stage of development. Similarly, because a person is an idiot when it comes to mathematics or is a social introvert does not rule out the attainment of some high level of development. The world has recently had a very painful learning experience in this regard. Just because a person is charismatic, a genuinely nice guy, extremely smart, Ivy-league school educated through graduate school, and a constitutional scholar does not mean that he will function as President at a late personal, pluralistic, egalitarian level of development. What you are most likely to get is a product of the prevailing world view of the power structure in which that individual is embedded. In the case of Barak Obama, that was a late pre-personal culture which is egocentric, narcissistic, and grandiose, built around nationalism, exceptionalism, “indispensability,” and “might makes right.”
All four quadrants need to be considered and balanced in any healthy world view. For integral, all interiors have exteriors and all individuals are parts of collectives. This produces four fields of experience, the individual interior realm of consciousness, states, thoughts, and feelings; the collective interior realm of meanings, interpretations, values, culture, and world views; the individual exterior realm of observable behaviors; and the collective exterior realm of interpersonal relationships, society, social systems, and networks. IDL attempts to take all four into account because if only one of the four lags the others, it stops development to the next level. You need to take into account and nurture all four in order to advance in your level of development.
Contexts determine enlightenment. Culture matters. The broader and more inclusive your cultural context, the greater the possibility of an expansive awakening and higher-order integration. Consequently, take a default position that you are not growing because your perceptual context is too limited in certain key ways that you are blind to. Most people attempt to address this by joining some group that immerses them in a culture they believe is positive and transformative. What they usually find is that it is restrictive; they are spending their lives living someone else’s dream rather than finding and pursuing their own. IDL addresses this issue by accessing subjective sources of objectivity that know you at least as well as you know yourself, yet provide perspectives, and therefore a culture, that transcends your own. These interviewed perspectives see where you are blind and make practical, realistic recommendations for getting unstuck.
Development requires an integral life practice or yoga. An integral life practice is about putting a world view to good use. It can be built around your career (called dharma marga in Hinduism), your relationships, or your physical health. An integral life practice focuses on getting out of your own way, becoming transparent, and waking up. It is therefore a yoga. IDL is a dream yoga in that it views development and awakening as predicated on the clarity of your world view. Its integral life practice is coordinated not by your waking preferences and goals but by a consensus of preferences of high scoring interviewed emerging potentials.
In self development, the cognitive line leads; in collective development, the moral line leads. This is not a principle from Integral AQAL but one I came to myself. Most of us don’t question our morality because we know our intentions. We justify what we do based on our intentions. However, that is not how others judge our morality. They ask, “Does he/she respect me?” “Does she reciprocate?” “Is he trustworthy?” “Is she empathetic?” It is not enough to get concurrence from our fellows who have a vested interest in telling us we are wonderful. What we need to do is to consult various out-groups – members of cultures and groups who have very different experiences and worldviews from our own. How moral do they think we are? By this test, we are confronted by the fact that we are enmeshed in an amoral and exploitive economic system that puts profit before people, and an immoral political system that is exceptionalistic and enforces it through “might makes right.” Because we are members of those groups, while we may sail ahead in cognitive, musical, or the line of spiritual intelligence, our overall development is blocked.
Developments in meditation
Around the same time I was researching Wilber’s integral I started observing my breath and noticed that it had six distinct parts, and that each of these involved a different process and quality. These different qualities became the source for the self-scoring in confidence, empathy, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and ability to witness that is a unique feature of many IDL interviewing protocols. I reasoned, “If these qualities are embedded in our relationship with life in the most intimate and reliable of ways, then they are fundamental characteristics of waking up, or enlightenment. I can use them to find out how awake, enlightened, and balanced in these qualities these different interviewed characters are.” This is called “IDL Pranayama,” and I wrote a book about it.
With IDL anyone can access perspectives that are awake, alive, balanced, detached, free, and clear in ways that they are not. You will become many perspectives that do not do drama and know how to avoid getting caught up in it. They often will be found to represent perspectives or world views that you have not yet grown into. By listening to them you will defuse interior conflicts that contribute to disease and suffering while supporting the birth and growth of your potentials. Meditation is high-octane fuel for these perspectives; when Integral Deep Listening and meditation are combined, growth is speeded up in a profound, natural way.
Non-reliance on a “self”
Because these interviewed characters exist in a state of neither definite existence nor definite non-existence, it is impossible to give them a definite ontological status. By becoming them you will have multiple experiences of what Buddhists call anatta – the absence of any real self. Consequently, IDL does not find much use for the term “soul,” and it does not emphasize reincarnation, which it views more as dreamlike stories we tell ourselves to validate certain world views. These “stories” can involve inheriting physical wounds from a past life, or having accurate memories of places and relationships from a previous existence. In other worlds, many such stories are “real” and contain “truths.” Still, they remain dreams, only dreamed by a larger sense of identity that still lacks permanence. Direct experiences of the lack of both reality and non-reality of interviewed emerging potentials has not made me more of a Buddhist, but it has validated the idea of “no self.”
This is because as the self becomes more transparent, it loses its value as a source of orientation, a center of meaning and value, and a source of security as you practice taking multiple perspectives. Because identity is as strong, yet arbitrary in a toilet brush as in yourself, your attachment or identification with any stable, permanent sense of who you are recedes. Your sense of who you are is objectified and seen for what it is: a temporary tool, whose sole purpose is as a vehicle through which life can more completely wake up to itself.
Non-reliance on a concept of karma
Hinduism and Buddhism do not question the legitimacy of reincarnation and karma. These concepts are tools that teach morality and maintain social order. Buddhism used it to motivate monks to meditate and the laity to provide food and services to the monasteries. Without the concept of karma it is difficult to imagine the Buddhist monastic system surviving. India as a whole used it to create long-lasting and deeply entrenched social stability, but at the cost of massive discrimination. You are born into the caste your karma dictates and it is where you “should” be. Your spiritual development is best supported by working out your karma within that caste. Consequently, the doctrine of karma generates social stability as a side-effect of spiritual development. This is both very clever, in that it allows people to accept discrimination and massive inequality without complaint, and very useful, in that it increases social order and compliance. If rebellion against your ruler is a rebellion against your own karma, does social rebellion become more or less likely?
The other function of karma which undermines its validity is its grandiosity, which is a byproduct of the morality it teaches. If I am responsible, in some way, through current actions or those of past lives, for everything that happens to me, then I must take responsibility for whatever occurs. Subsequently, if you abuse me, I have done something to deserve that abuse. This belief is going to teach me to be a morally responsible person. However, in addition to causing me to put up with abuse without complaint, the concept of karma is extraordinarily grandiose because it makes me responsible for everything I experience. If there is too much rain it must have been something I did or a lesson I need to learn. If there is no rain it must have been something I did or a lesson I need to learn. If as a child I am sexually abused by a priest, it must be my karma, because “everything is in divine order.” This effectively allows responsibility to be shifted from abusers to the abused, from persecutors within the Drama Triangle to victims.
The world view disclosed by IDL does not depend on these concepts, although it does not reject them as impossible or inoperative. They simply do not have the central place for IDL that they occupy not only for Hinduism and Buddhism, but for most people in the New Age movement. This is because interviewed emerging potentials do not explain their beingness nor their intentions in terms of karma, and therefore do not need a mechanism by which to transmit it. While providing a wake-up call can be understood in terms of generating good karma or avoiding bad karma, this is not the understanding or approach generally taken by interviewed emerging potentials.
Why don’t most interviewed emerging potentials use the concept of karma? Although they recommend a yoga, in the sense that there are recommendations to follow and that these are causes that have effects, you are not building up “good” karma by doing them or working off “bad” karma. It is simpler than that, more like an off-on switch that has nothing to do with the past or future or temporal reality. The questions are, “Do you want to be more alive now?” “Do you want to be more transparent, more out of your own way now?”
Everything is not in divine order
This brings us to another way that IDL provides a clear break in world view from religious and spiritual perspectives on development and life’s meaning. While the concept of a divine plan or universal law is central for most spiritual teachings, most interviewed perspectives do not present in terms of universal law, dharma, or order. They do not present in terms of accidents, either. This is another example of how IDL charts an indeterministic middle way between law and chaos. How do these perspectives avoid one position or the other? Regarding chaos, it is obvious that even interviewed floor mats are well organized and clear; they are hardly chaotic, regardless of what they may contain or how they are used. Regarding universal law, interviewed mushrooms do not seem to need life to be either divinely ordained or organized according to some overarching plan. This is not to say that there are not principles at work. For instance, IDL interviews disclose a persistent intention toward greater wakefulness. Is this a universal law? One could see it as negentropy, as opposed to entropy, but this does not seem to be the way that interviewed emerging potentials view it, since many do not. That implies that seeing the intent to wake up as universal law is most likely a projective interpretation of a waking value system onto the interviewed perspective.
The importance of reason
Another way that IDL differs from the vast majority of approaches to religion and spirituality is that it is rational. While all approaches claim to be rational, to actually be so, we have seen that there are criteria to be met. Belief and faith-based claims have to yield when there is either no evidence or evidence points in another direction. For example, creationism has to give way to evolutionary theory and the belief that Jews or American Indians are descended from ancient Hebrews has to give away to DNA evidence that indicates they are not. If you do a survey, most world views put emotion, belief, and faith, on the one hand, at war and in conflict with reason. Instead of viewing doubt and reason as supporters of transpersonal development, as Buddhism does, prepersonal and pre-rational world views tend to fight it. Intuition is preferred to reason; divine promptings are preferred to logic. Prepersonal belief, faith, worldviews, and state openings are declared to be transpersonal stable level attainment. It is wise to view such claims with the utmost suspicion.
Once the decision has been made that reason is the enemy of religion or spirituality, believers come down on the side of emotion, belief, and faith almost every time. There are many reasons for this. One is that reason is based on questioning, which involves doubt, skepticism, and objectivity. These are intuitively experienced as undercutting trust in God, dharma or some divine conception of universal order. Another is that reasoning has criteria for what is rational and not rational. This violates principles of oneness, universal acceptance, love, and egalitarianism. It creates a hierarchy of exclusivity, and that intuitively rubs the wrong way those fighting for inclusiveness. Another reason believers do not trust reason is that rationality creates priesthoods and therefore in itself becomes a religion called secular humanism that is indeed at war with traditional religions. Modernity wars with pre-modernity. The priesthoods of modernity are those who decide what research is worthy to be published and who decide if something is duplicatable or not. Duplication is a core criteria of rationality, but not for a pre-rational and spiritual world view, which tends to value spontaneity and miracles over duplication. Another factor is that because reason is intrinsically objective, it is relatively non-empathetic and therefore experienced as non-caring and non-loving. This is indeed true for much of scientific humanism; the problem is when the spiritually minded equate scientific humanism with reason, empiricism, or science. This is throwing out the baby with the bath water and a mistake that a lot of people do with AQAL and Ken Wilber. They conclude that because the system is rational and that he is an intellectual that both must have deficits in compassion, empathy and interpersonal awareness. In my experience this conclusion is much more a projection on the part of people uncomfortable with reason.
Wilber makes a very persuasive argument about the necessity of reason. If there are indeed three basic developmental stages of prepersonal and pre-rational, belief, faith, and emotionally-based preferences, personal level reason and belief in universal laws, and transpersonal experience of oneness with nature, love, and formlessness, then how do you tell the prepersonal and pre-rational from the transpersonal and trans-rational? The only way is evidence that personal level developmental stages, which are rational and require verification, have been included and transcended. That means that if some spiritual or mystical experience or claim does not pass the tests of reason and logic it is prepersonal and pre-rational, not transpersonal or trans-rational. Try this criteria out for yourself. Take anything you want that claims to be transpersonal. Ask, “Does it make sense?” “Is there evidence?” “Is it duplicatable?” If it answers with some version of “God told me,” then it’s not transpersonal; it’s prepersonal.
The importance of objectivity
For IDL, objectivity, or witnessing, is no more important than confidence, empathy, wisdom, acceptance, and inner peace. However, religion tends to value commitment over objectivity. You need to be a sheep and not a goat; you need to be a member of the flock of believers. Spirituality values objectivity, but generally only of the abstract, formless variety: you seek “clear” consciousness, without thoughts, feelings, or interfering sensations. Interviewed emerging potentials manifest both conditioned, issue based, and formless objectivity. They thereby provide a bridge between mundane, everyday experience and states of mystical unification that most approaches to religion and spirituality leave out. Tibetan Buddhist dream yoga comes closest. Most interviewed emerging perspectives do not make distinctions between commitment and objectivity or between the spiritual and non-spiritual. Instead the intention is, “Does this help you wake up?” “Does it make you more transparent?” Because objectivity is important in order to achieve these objectives, it is a core quality of enlightenment.
To repeat what has been said above: One of the many major contributions of Wilber’s integral model is that it makes a compelling case that transpersonal and trans-rational levels of development by definition include, yet transcend, both the emotionalism, spontaneity, belief, and faith of the pre-personal and pre-rational, as well as the reason, doubt, skepticism and questioning of the personal and rational developmental stages. What this does is create a clear and decisive test for anything that claims to be transpersonal. It has to be rational. That means it has to be duplicatable and it has to be willing and able to subject itself to an empirical method that includes peer review. Because this is largely a development of human evolution since Bacon, traditional religions, shamanism, and spiritualism, as well as almost everything psychic does not and cannot pass this test. This means that regardless of how these noble and important traditions perceive themselves, almost all are pre-personal and pre-rational.
This is not a popular thing to say. Everybody claims that their path is the unique exception to this rule. Most claim to be “scientific.” Are they? How can you tell? Simple. Are their claims duplicatable? Do they allow for doubt, questioning, and challenges to their truth claims or not? Are they willing to revise their truth claims based on new evidence from experiments, or are they based on unassailable scripture and divinely mandated truth that is true “just because?” Beware of appeals to energy medicine that asked to be taken on faith and quantum anything. People can wrap their work in scientific jargon to impress those who have not learned to ask the above questions.
To their credit, both Transcendental Meditation and various forms of Buddhist meditation have welcomed scientific studies and validation. These forms of meditation actually increase brain coherence and demonstrable improvements of individual and social functioning. However, Transcendental Meditation generalizes these conclusions, using them to validate Ayurvedic medicine, Hindu dream analysis, Ayurvedic architectural theory, and Ayurvedic astrology. Notice that this does not logically follow. Because TM meditation has been shown by research to be highly beneficial it does not follow that Ayurveda is beneficial. Buddhists do the same with research that confirms many benefits for its meditation practices. It often goes on to use this to validate the mythological superstructure of Tibetan Buddhism or the teachings of Buddha. Such leaps of faith are not supported by either reason or the data of studies of meditation. In fact, they represent errors of logic, such as category error, non sequitur, and “red herring.”
From a collective perspective, rather than one of personal development, that doesn’t really matter. For collective development the criteria is, “Am I loving?” “Do I respect others?” “Do I reciprocate?” “Am I trustworthy?” “Am I empathetic?”
Does not rely on “energy” or quantum anything
Another way that IDL differs in its world view from many contemporary conceptions of spirituality is that it does not seek validation in quantum anything or “energies.” These explanations are basically attempts to make the pre-personal scientific and rational. It is the equivalent of dressing a pig in a tux so it can come to the party. Uncertainty on a quantum level is used to imply that anything is possible, providing a miraculous escape hatch to explain whatever belief system is popular at the time. I can avoid both reason and cause and effect because physics says I can. I can be spiritual without first learning to think or hold myself to standards of duplication and peer review.
The experiments by Heisenberg and others that created the scientific consensus that quantum level phenomena function in a non-causal world of “uncertainty” have now been called into question by subsequent experiments. Data is now indicating that causal processes are in place even at a quantum level. However, even if uncertainty exists on a quantum level, duplicated research has shown that psychic phenomena, which operate at a quantum level, is statistically significant at only some very small portion of a percentage above random chance. The impact of quantum uncertainty on life is extremely tenuous and problematic and not at all likely to show up in the world of Newtonian physics in anything approaching the level that most approaches to New Age and spirituality imagine that it can. For IDL, energy fields and quantum mechanics are beside the point, because interviewed emerging potentials do not seek to explain or legitimatize themselves. They simply desire to be listened to, which does not imply that they expect to be agreed with. What is required is listening, not agreement; what is required is listening, not validation. You and I desire validation; IDL as a method desires validation. Emerging potentials themselves do not.
IDL does not claim to be scientific, because to do so requires controlled studies that have not yet been performed. However, IDL does claim to provide a duplicatable, empirical method. Briefly stated, it says, “Take this or that perspective and do an interview; operationalize the resulting recommendations and follow them; confirm your results with the feedback of both external (IDL Practitioners) and internal (subsequent interview) sources of objectivity. Use your common sense.
The importance of dreaming
Dreaming is a regular, dependable shift into another state of consciousness. Although it is relatively subjective in relationship to waking awareness, it remains relatively objective in its themes and perspectives. We know this because they are not our own. If they were we could predict them and easily understand them. Most people would agree that we do neither and consequently, choose to ignore them as irrelevant. What this decision does is deprive us of an important source of objectivity that we need in order to find internal balance and make better decisions.
IDL interviewing expand our definition of what it means to dream. It becomes quite clear that from interviewed perspectives there is little difference between dreaming and waking realities; they are equally real and equally delusions. Similarly, dream and waking entities and selves are disclosed as being equally real and equally delusional. What this does is dissolve both ontological and epistemological distinctions, not because they are unimportant or not useful – they are. It is because they are seen to be contextual. The result is that assumptions about reality stop being primary drivers for belief and action in the world.
The importance of drama
Drama is a non-metaphysical approach to karma and suffering. It is operationally defined as immersion in one or more of the three roles of the Drama Triangle, persecutor, victim, and rescuer. While drama exists at all levels of development, it is worst at pre-personal levels, where waking identity is identified with emotions. Drama is generated mostly by the world views of your waking identity; it is remedied through identification with perspectives that are not stuck in drama as you are, such as the perspectives of characters interviewed using IDL. This is not the only way to eliminate drama, but it is an effective and relatively easy one. The first step is to be able to identify the Drama Triangle in the three realms of your relationships, ongoing process of thinking and feeling, and dreaming. The next step is to not accept invitations into the Drama Triangle.
When most interviewed emerging potentials are asked, “Do you do drama?” Their response is generally something like, “No. I don’t have interest. Why should I?” The elimination of drama and learning to recognize and stay out of the Drama Triangle are part of the yoga of IDL because drama gets in the way of waking up. It generates emotional filters that keep you asleep, dreaming, and sleepwalking – trapped in your world view.
Recognizing and eliminating cognitive distortions
Cognitive distortions are irrational and/or delusional ways of perceiving yourself and others. They generate both the feelings associated with depression, powerlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness, and the fear that is associated with anxiety. They fall into three categories: emotional, intellectual, and perceptual. Recognizing your cognitive distortions and substituting healthier ones is part of reducing unnecessary filtering. While your interviewed emerging potentials will generally have fewer emotional, intellectual, and perceptual cognitive distortions than you do, they still have them. They aren’t gods.
Not so “into” positive thinking and affirmations
Positive thinking is a pervasive aspect of the substrate of both New Age and spirituality of all kinds. Who can criticize the value of positive thinking? Barbara Ehrenreich, a PhD in immunology, has made a persuasive case that the culture of positive thinking keeps people out of touch with their fears and feelings of anger, guilt, and sadness. It puts people at war with whatever there is within themselves or others that is “negative.” This breeds unnecessary conflict and can hardly contribute to health. On a corporate level, the tyranny of positive thinking teaches employees to feel inadequate if they don’t see the “opportunities” in being laid off or demoted.
IDL views affirmations as a way to talk oneself into believing that the world is the way they want it to be, rather than accepting the world for what it is. Positive thinking assumes that the way we want the world to be is how it “should” be or how the world itself wants to be viewed. How do we know that? Have we asked the world how it wants to be viewed? IDL does this. If you, using IDL, interview the world, you will probably discover that the world is not necessarily positive or optimistic. It can be realistic and disagreeable. The world does not need to avoid conflict or to pretend that everything is “all better” if it is not. At the same time, it is incorrect to therefore conclude that interviewed emerging perspectives are pessimistic or not “happy.” Questioning the function and value of positive thinking is another way in which IDL sounds a discordant tone in relationship to the prevailing coaching, spiritual zeitgeist of the second decade of the twenty-first century.
Does IDL distinguish between the sacred and the profane? IDL goes beyond the Shamanic, most religious and Buddhist world views by not differentiating between the sacred and the profane. It is true that theoretically and philosophically, Buddhism points out that the non-dual is the integration of nirvana and samsara. However, in practice, Buddhism makes many distinctions between sacred and impure space, attitudes, actions, and dreams. IDL notes such distinctions when made by this or that interviewed emerging potential, indicating that what is impure to one is sacred to another. Due to its fundamental commitment to multiperspectivalism, IDL provides an experiential window into the non-dual that otherwise is only available through long practice of highly rarified types of meditation.
While the world views of both Hinduism and Buddhism honor multiperspectivalism, essentially as avatars and Bodhisattvas, and even practice mergence with these personifications of the sacred through bhakti yoga or Tibetan deity yoga, they do not merge with bricks or toadstools. To its credit, Buddhism does have a famous meditation on corpses, but this is not primarily to become a corpse and to see the world from its perspective, but in order to more fully grasp the impermanence of life. IDL multiperspectivalism is different. It actively attempts to become whatever wake-up call arises, regardless of what we think of its importance or reality. It treats the personification of fear as a two-headed snake with the same respect and objectivity that it does a meeting with Jesus. The consequence is an experiential awareness that the ontological, ethical, and meaning distinctions that we make are not inherent to life itself. They are projections by humans, based on human scripting and the human condition.
Which is more important for IDL, balance or transformation? Because interviewed characters provide genuine and ongoing transformation of a specific and more relevant sort than is generally provided by drugs, altar calls, sex, religious rituals, or even mystical experiences, IDL does not emphasize transformation as its goal or purpose. Transformation occurs in almost every interview, to the extent the student is willing to adopt the perspective of the interviewed emerging potential. Interviewed characters are generally of the opinion that promoting aliveness is superior to promoting spirituality and transformation. Transformation is taken for granted; if a person is doing IDL, they are getting more than enough transformation all the time. This is something of a difference from many approaches to spiritual development and even meditation, where transformation is the expected payoff. Instead, IDL emphasizes balance and stabilization in order to have your life flow in the here and now so that the maintenance of a higher order transformation is possible. A sufficiently broad and strong platform is necessary to sustain transformation, and so most attention, most energy, must be spent on the building of such a platform. To use Wilber’s terminology, this is an emphasis on “translation” over transformation. IDL also emphasizes multiple ongoing transformations that arise from becoming characters at particular times during waking activities, meditation, dreaming, and sleep, as well as from following mundane recommendations, day by day. This replaces the relatively impractical process of accessing perfectionistic states that cannot be maintained, whether mystical, hypnotic, trance or drug-induced. To attempt to do so merely generates acute reminders of the chasm between where you are and where you wish you were but are not. This is no favor but rather a curse, because it takes you out of living fully in this moment. Something like this commonly happens for many near death experiencers, and it can create an insurmountable gulf between the sacred and the secular, in which everyday life is relatively meaningless and a constant reminder of where one is not.
A similar problem can arise with IDL. When you become a perspective that scores all tens in the six core qualities, the implication is that there exists a large experiential chasm between your world view and that of the interviewed character. If there are no concrete recommendations to be followed that provide a way to bridge that gap, the interview is of little practical use and is generally quickly forgotten, along with the perspective it promotes. The gap between your world view and that of the perspective is simply too great to be realistically integrated. This is a major reason why IDL is primarily a yoga rather than a philosophy or a teaching.
Why is there little use of “spiritual” and the language of spirituality by IDL? This expansion of world view is disclosed by IDL experientially, not as a teaching. It is something that is not normally encountered in religious and spiritual teachings because it is an a-spiritual and as well as an a-religious perspective. IDL is also different from Buddhism and other sacred/spiritual world views in that it does not talk about spirituality or becoming more “spiritual.” Why not? Again, while the language of interviewed emerging potentials is always dependent on the language and concepts available to the student, and will therefore tend to validate their world view in many ways, interviewed emerging potentials generally do not present their perspectives in such terms. If the student thinks in terms of God, soul, and spiritual, then these will indeed show up in the language of interviewed emerging potentials. However, this should be thought of as an artifact of the nature of emerging potentials. They include your own perspective because they are a part of you. Their perspective transcends yours because they are more than you. So you will always see parts of yourself in these perspectives and you will always find ways of looking at yourself, others, and your life challenges that are not typical for you.
How can I test this theory? To test this theory all one has to do is look at interviews that don’t use “spiritual” language. Are they less powerful? Less useful? Less meaningful for the student? If they are as powerful, useful, and meaningful as interviews which use such language, if not moreso, that strongly implies that the language is not intrinsic to IDL but is instead a projection of the world view of the student.
Why don’t interviewed characters speak more about spirituality or spiritual development? They are more centered on waking up than on spirituality. This indicates an emphasis on getting out of your way and out of the way of life, so life can use your life as a way to wake up to itself. From the perspective of life, this is not a “spiritual” process. This is a life process of negentropy that is seen at every stage of evolution. It has nothing to do with spirituality, unless you want to frame the ability of a bivalve to better filter its lunch as a spiritual process, or the ability of a pliosaurus to attack and kill its prey more effectively as a spiritual process.
Is IDL a moral or ethical world view? Another major way that the world view of IDL is a radical departure from spiritual world views, such as that of Buddhism, is that it is largely amoral. This is a very frightening concept to most people, since the teaching of morality and ethics is central to religion, parenting, and spirituality. If you don’t teach morality, isn’t anything justified? No. Still, this is not an easy concept to understand. For example, empathy is one of the six core qualities of IDL, and it is understood as identification with the identity and point of view of another. The assumption is that higher scores in empathy are “better” than low ones, which are equated with selfishness and actions that are therefore immoral and unethical. However, many, perhaps most, interviewed emerging potentials score themselves very low in compassion. Why? They do not explain this as a statement of selfishness, but generally in terms of an inability or unwillingness to relate to life in terms of morality or ethics. Instead of low scores representing selfishness or immorality, as might be expected, they generally represent a general detachment from questions of self-based action.
Intrasocial groups are different from human societies in this key way. Humans require social norms and laws to regulate their relationships; emerging potentials do not. Humans require respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy; emerging potentials do not, although relationships with them improve, and the waking and dreaming states are integrated when subjects demonstrate these qualities toward emerging potentials.
Why don’t interviewed characters care more? Why do they tend to be detached? Interviewed characters aren’t selves in any permanent sense. They cannot die because they are not alive in a material sense. They are what we call “imaginary,” generally implying not only non-reality but worthlessness. Because they cannot die interviewed characters are intrinsically selfless. There are exceptions; you will meet perspectives that insist that they are selves and that they are real. However, even these selves are not alive in a material sense, and therefore cannot die in the same way that you and I can die. Their self-sense is not anchored in rules and norms that serve to maintain survival, which is basically what morality and ethics provide. Rules of the game are designed to enhance survival and improve adaptability. But interviewed emerging potentials do not need to survive or adapt.
For example, the sun cannot die or be hurt in any scale that humans experience. Functionally, the sun doesn’t care if you live or die. It isn’t going to develop sun spots because you get mad or humans kill humans. To do so would condition its life and base its function on petty dramas. To do its job, to be itself, it has to transcend all that. From one perspective that approach looks both uncaring and heartless; from another it generates a completely selfless definition of empathy. But most people do not relate to selfless definitions of empathy; its very nature is to be selfless in intention and service. But these interviewed emerging potentials do not need to be selfless or strive for selflessness like you and I do, because it is already their intrinsic nature. Again, they have no self. This way of thinking is alien to most people, because it does not involve ethics, morality, or spirituality. The sun does not shine for any of those reasons. It shines because it is alive! The consequence is not immorality or a lack of ethics, but the development of a world view that is not built around morality or ethics. Interviewed emerging potentials do not treat you as they wish that you would treat them; what they say to you and what they recommend is based on the perspective that is intrinsic to their world view. While that may be a moral world view, it does not have to be. There is nothing about IDL interviewing that forces interviewed emerging potentials to be ethical or moral.
Don’t the six core qualities imply an ethic or morality? Yes, they do. It is a best guess at lasting, impersonal values based on the nature of the cycle of breathing, not on ideology, religion, or spirituality. However, interviewed emerging potentials are not requested or required to respond to those qualities in any particular way. As we have seen, low scores in empathy are common. It is not unusual for interviewed characters to score themselves high on some of the qualities and low on others. Does this mean they are mature and morally advanced in some ways and immature and immoral in others? Judge for yourself, but viewing these preferences through a moral lens or from an ethical perspective generally seems to be a projection of one’s waking world view rather than an intrinsic characteristic of the world views of most interviewed emerging potentials.
What value seems to be most important to interviewed perspectives? There is, however, one understanding of morality that does indeed appear to apply to the intrasocial universe of interviewed characters and that is respect. Providing every interviewed character with the respect you desire is not so much moral as rational choice, because to the extent that they represent aspects of yourself, you are merely respecting yourself. Most people would agree this is a wise choice, regardless of its morality.
Is there one right or best world view? I try on other world views regularly, every time I do an interview of a dream character or a life issue of my own, or with someone else. There is no one right or best world view. If there was, the world would be a stagnant place. However, some world views transcend and include other world views. Some world views are more adequate to the process of waking up than other ones. Your world view largely will determine how much you can grow, how awake you will become before you die.
Wisdom and empathy involve the ability to see, shift into, and use the appropriate world view for the particular task or situation. This is not the same as shifting into this or that role; it is about shifting into the world view that any particular perspective embodies, and staying away from those that do not support an internal consensus for your developmental path.
My world view at the age of sixty-five is about incorporating seven octaves of awakening, associated with the round of breathing, into my everyday experience, and to do it in a balanced, effective way. It is about living an integral lifestyle that attempts to respect macrocosmic, microscopic and intrasocial sources of authority and weigh them using whatever degree of common sense I possess. It is about smiling at the drama of my thoughts and emotions and of not taking anything personally. It is about appreciating the amazing abundance of life. It is about working hard to get out of my own way so I can hear others more clearly and be more alive in the present moment. I see worries about other people, money, health and sex as not only a waste of time, but pretty funny, with the joke on myself. No one else cares and none of it matters in a cosmic sense, although it matters quite a bit in terms of maintaining a stable foundation for functioning in the world. The challenge is to get over myself and enjoy today so I can be someone and something that benefits others.
How can I expand my world view? You can support and encourage the expansion and transformation of your world view by interviewing your dream characters and the personifications of your life issues, many of which have world views that transcend and include your own. If you do, over time, you will evolve a broader world view than the one you presently possess, one that is uniquely yours and uniquely appropriate for who you are in the world and what you have to give to the world. This is what is amazing and relatively unique about the world view of IDL. It is multi-perspectival, which means that it incorporates any and all world views. As such, it can be considered a meta world-view, or a world view that transcends and includes other world views, in that it acknowledges and respects them all, yet offers something more than the totality of all world views. However, it is not, as Adlai Stevenson stated, a “one true faith or path.” On the contrary, IDL is an antidote to the authoritarianism of world views.
As I expand my wold view, what is likely to happen to my beliefs? I have become increasingly aware that when I do interviews the perspectives I access tend to have very few beliefs. That has caused me to wonder, “How many of my beliefs, assumptions, and expectations do I really need? When I access these perspectives I don’t seem to need many of my beliefs! Is that true? How many of them can I live without?” The result has been a conscious effort to become aware of my beliefs and to wonder if this or that one is necessary or not. These beliefs could be anything, from a desire to eat, to a need to speak or to keep silent, or a need to not believe in something. This is an ongoing experiment; the result so far is a continuing experience of lightness and expansion and an increasing ease at thought stopping and clearing my mind when I want to. None of this implies not having beliefs that are good and helpful, such as the belief that wearing a coat out when it is cold or obeying traffic rules when driving. It is more a movement to an awareness that beliefs are optional rather than necessary or required, but that in order to move to that position I first have to bring into awareness all sorts of beliefs that are assumptions of my life. That is an ongoing process.
It remains to be seen if the dream of my life will be fulfilled or not: to empower many others, particularly children, by teaching them how to find and listen to their own life compass and to follow it. Whether I succeed at this or not, I know that the tools associated with what I call IDL are components of an evolving broadening of human awareness, and I feel fortunate to have stumbled upon, as many others have and will do under various guises, such an important, timeless doorway for myself and to be able to share it with others. If IDL falls into oblivion, others will rediscover something similar, popularize it, and bring it to the world. I honor and thank them. If I could stumble upon this yoga, others far better at communicating these perspectives will do so as well. The developmental arc of life, awakening to itself through humanity, persistently supports that intention.
Joseph Dillard, LCSW, PhD
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Dillard, J. (2019). Comparing Cognitive and Experiential Multi-Perspectivalisms. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2019). Integral and Human Rights: What Integral Can Learn from Russia and China. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2019). Re-imagining Our Evolutionary Future: Placing Self-Development in the Context of Overall Development. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2019). The Importance of Mundane Relational Exchanges for Integral Development. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2019). Social and Intrasocial Tools for Establishing a Global Commons. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2019). Integral and the Dynamics of Bubbles. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2019). Why Integral has not Gained Broader Acceptance and What Can be Done About It. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2019). Exceptionalism: Integral’s Blue Pill. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2019). Integral’s Overton Window: Opening or Closing? Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2019). An Integral Journey: From Hubris to Humility. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2019). Some Problematic Aspects of an Integral World View. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2019). Are We Clever Apes With Guns? Limitations of Self-Development and Evidence for Overall Development. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2019). Integral Groupthink. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2019). Assumptions of Integral Dream Analysis: A Critique of Wilber’s Understanding of Dreaming and Dreamwork. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2020). Self-Development and Overall Development: Their Differences and Why They Matter. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2020). Toward an Integral Response to Coronavirus. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2020). Why Ken Wilber Isn’t Second Tier and You and I Aren’t Either: How to Tell Phony Claims of Enlightenment from Real Ones. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2020). Moral Intelligence, Ethical Intelligence, Moral IQ and Integral AQAL. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2020). The “Lesser of Two Evils” Fallacy and Wilber’s Basic Moral Intuition. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2020). Why Do We Suffer? Theodicy and Integral AQAL. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2020). China’s Contribution to an Integral World View 1: Chinese Humanism, Integral AQAL, and Integral Deep Listening. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2020). China’s Contribution to an Integral World View 2: Shamanic and Taoist Origins of Chinese Traditions. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2020). China’s Contribution to an Integral World View 3: Core Concepts of Confucianism. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2020). China’s Contribution to an Integral World View 4: Important Implications of Chinese Humanism for Humanity. Integral World.
Dillard, J. (2020). Why Humanity Remains Locked in a Mid-Prepersonal Level of Development, Part I: Why We Do Not Recognize that Our Development is Fixated.
Dillard, J., (2020). Why Humanity Remains Locked in a Mid-Prepersonal Level of Development, Part II: Ways Integral AQAL Supports the Thesis That Our Development is Fixated at an Early Developmental Stage. IntegralWorld.Net.
Dillard, J. (2020). Integral Closet Ethnocentrism.
Dillard, J. (2021). Moving Toward a More Integral Integral. IntegralWorld.Net.
Dillard, J. (2021). Blind Spots in the Integral Worldview. IntegralWorld.Net.
Dillard, J. (2021). Dreaming as Viewed Through the Prism of Wilber’s Theory of Art Criticism. IntegralWorld.Net.