Ken Wilber’s Integral AQAL and Integral Deep Listening



This is a chapter from the book, Dream Yogas, by Joseph Dillard.  It asks, “What does Ken Wilber’s Integral AQAL say about dream yoga? How does it compare and contrast with the Integral Deep Listening, in particular, one form of dream yoga?

The Importance of Integral

Until quite recently in history there has been no model that has been broad enough to look at dream yoga from the perspectives of shamanism, Tibetan Buddhism, science, and contemporary spirituality simultaneously. Without such an overarching, integrating context we are so many blind men pronouncing on the true nature of an elephant. Wilber’s Integral AQAL allows blind men to put their heads together and come out with a closer approximation. We are still blind, but we grope forward with more information and a considerably broader understanding than we had before.

Wilber’s integral AQAL model sets the terms for rational discussion of human development in the twenty-first century. Those who are not familiar with it and who do not address its implications largely take themselves out of the evolving conversation regarding human development. While that undoubtedly sounds elitist and exclusivistic to some, knowledge marches on. Awareness of important common assumptions creates a foundation for discussion; without those shared understandings people talk past each other because one party doesn’t understand the context out of which the other one is speaking, because it is broader than theirs. Other examples are the difference in conversation regarding childhood education among childhood educators who are also parents, on the one hand, and among parents on the other; laypersons concerned with health issues and medical professionals; new agers interested in life energy processes and physicists interested in questions of spirituality. The point is that while all are concerned and have something to contribute, the depth of both conversation and contribution is going to be predictably deeper and broader in one group than the other, because knowledge, context, and underlying assumptions matter. Unfortunately, this is rarely grasped. People hear this as elitism and the marginalization of perspectives that are not shared by the “initiates,” pointing out that those who are not provide necessary objectivity and creativity often stifled or overlooked by the narrowness of specialization. This boils down to the argument that it is important to listen to children when designing childhood education, and to take their needs into account. Cannot one do this and still recognize the need for childhood educators? Is it rational to have the children design their own curriculum and provide their own supervision? Such experiments have been tried; something resembling Lord of the Flies eventually results.

This is because none of us are aware of contexts that transcend and include the assumptions of our particular world view. This is the predicament for communication that Wilber’s model has generated for well-meaning people across the human development spectrum. Their remarks generally reveal rather quickly whether or not they are aware of AQAL, what they think of it, and how they address its issues. IDL assumes that when you learn AQAL your cognitive line of development tends to rise toward multi-perspectival vision-logic, the level bridging the personal and the transpersonal realms. This is an impressive and amazing achievement if true. It may not be. It may be that you only rise to rational and think you have a multi-perspectival level of cognitive development. This is probably the healthiest assumption to make, considering that almost everyone at a late prepersonal level of cognitive development is sure their perspective is multi-perspectival because it is pluralistic and egalitarian and they do not know the difference between the two because their world view does not rise to the multi-perspectivalism of vision-logic. Therefore, they literally cannot see the differences between the two and reduce multi-perspectivalism to a late personal worldview, just as Freud’s rational mid-personal world view reduced all transcendent experiences to his level or below. We simply cannot perceive that which transcends our own context.

What Wilber’s integral AQAL allows us to do is to imagine, contemplate, and consider that there are higher and more transcendent levels than our own even if we cannot perceive them. It gives us a model in which they can make sense and exist theoretically, if not in actuality for us. This is an important start, because we will never perceive something that we cannot even entertain the possibility of existing.

IDL supports the understanding of higher and more inclusive levels of development by providing access to perspectives and experiences that validate their existence. These are both rational and trans-rational statements that only make sense within broader contexts than our own. These are accessed through state openings into transpersonal perspectives provided by repeated experiences of becoming interviewed emerging potentials. This is because these perspectives have the degree of waking awareness that you do plus the awarenesses intrinsic to their own unique perspective. The result is receiving the benefit of perspectives that are more integral than your own.

What “AQAL” Means

“AQAL” is short for “all quadrants, all lines, all levels, states, and all types.” “Types” refer to the style in which you develop. For example, developmental “levels,” alternate between male and female developmental emphasis or “styles.” Levels build on each other dialectically. They involve a thesis sub-stage, which is a consolidation of the status quo. This is primary consciousness and action, and it often looks like nothing much is happening, for instance in learning to walk or talk. Thesis involves generating a broad foundation and maintaining balance among various lines of development. Wilber differentiates over twenty different developmental lines, but the most important are the cognitive, self, moral, empathetic, and interpersonal lines. Others include kinesthetic, artistic, musical, and mathematical. Your level of development on the core lines determines your over-all level of development. This means that the weakest of your major lines is most important because it acts as an anchor, or “fixation,” which limits your development. If you ignore it and try to run off and leave it, as we most often do, you will become imbalanced. You will find it harder and harder to maintain your altitude and you will either crash repeatedly or crash profoundly. Integral emphasizes stable, gradual, cumulative stage development, with emphasis on your lagging lines, not the ones that are most fun and easiest for you.

There are four basic states of consciousness, waking, dreaming, sleeping, and non-dual. However, there are plenty of other intermediate states, such as shamanic trance, drug-induced torpor, coma, and various mystical states. In addition to non-dual, these include energic, devotional, and formless experiences of unity. States may be intense and liberating, but they also are relatively short-lived and generally quickly forgotten. They are also notoriously difficult to duplicate.

“Quadrants” refers to the four core aspects of “holons,” wholes that are always parts of some larger holon. Holons have four quadrants and together they represent the entirety of human experience. They co-evolve, which means that just as level development depends on the co-development of core lines, so the four quadrants evolve co-dependently. Humans are one type of holon, so you are a holon. What does that mean? Do you have an interior? Yes. Have you ever seen, does one ever see, an interior without an exterior? No. Have you ever seen, does one ever see, an exterior without it possessing an interior? No. Therefore, all holons have both interiors and exteriors. Similarly, you are an individual, correct? You are also a member of a number of groups, such as a family, community, state, occupational category, correct? Have you ever seen a collection that did not have individual members? No. Similarly, there are no individuals that are not members of larger contexts, called collectives. Therefore, all holons have both individual and collective aspects. These are the four quadrants: interior individual, exterior individual, interior collective, and exterior collective. These correspond to your personal consciousness, including your thinking, feeling, and level of development as a self; your behavior; your values, interpretations, and world view; and your relationships as well as the various systems in which you are embedded. The importance of these four is that once you understand that they are irreducible aspects of every experience, they will cause you to think in a multi-perspectival way about everything and everyone. The result is that you will see more, make better decisions, and grow quicker. They will be explained in detail below.

Integral Deep Listening encourages its students to use AQAL to examine their waking lives, dreams, mystical experiences, deep sleep, and life after death as well as the actions of others, whether alive today or historical. Every interviewed emerging potential is a holon that possesses these four aspects. They can be found in any and every IDL interview. Awareness of the four quadrants of holons strengthens the cognitive line of development in students of IDL, which provides a powerful and broad multi-perspectival map to make sense of any and all life experiences. IDL encourages the development of an integral life practice that addresses these four quadrants, as well as lines, stages, states, and types, and taking that integral life practice into the dream state. It also focuses on two other extremely important lines of development in addition to the cognitive and self-lines. These are the lines of empathy and moral development.

You Don’t Need to be an Intellectual to Understand and Profit from AQAL

People who find value in AQAL are often thought by people who do not to put too much value on thinking. They are not just intellectuals, but over-conceptual eggheads, remote elitists who do not value relationship and emotion. This is made worse by the tendency of some who find value in AQAL to view those who do not as developmentally limited: they do not know how to think; they have not learned to objectify their emotions; they place connectivity over transcendence instead of attempting to balance the two. Such conclusions confirm suspicions of elitism and lead to cultural wars among people who should be natural allies. This is similar to the traditional schism between conservatives and liberals, with liberals viewing conservatives as making fear-based decisions that limit growth while conservatives tending to view liberals as foolish elitists who do not respect traditional values. The funny thing about AQAL is that many of these liberals suddenly transform into conservatives when assessing AQAL. Their inclusiveness, egalitarianism, and pluralism magically melts away as they are challenged to consider that hierarchies really are real and that structures matter and produce important differences. One way to get integral AQAL across to both conservatives and liberals is to start with a human interest story that they can relate to. Fortunately, Wilber has written just such a book, Grace and Grit, the autobiographical story of mortal struggle by Ken and his wife Treya with her breast cancer.

IDL is not built for people who can think or talk AQAL; it is created with the mothers of children with nightmares in mind, with young adolescents who are trying to figure out they are in a world that pulls them between the expectations of parents, teachers, peers, and their own self-critical expectations. All of the conceptual information in this chapter and indeed, in this entire book, is designed to add depth to practice for those who desire it. For those who do not, IDL will allow anyone to develop in their own way at their own speed. None of this information on Wilber’s integral AQAL is necessary or essential to being an effective IDL Practitioner; it is merely useful. The assumption is that the more familiar you are with the conclusions of those who have been immersed in spirituality, integral, or IDL the less you have to learn through the trial and error process of your own life. The human intellectual heritage exists to create support where there was none before.

AQAL is Hardly the Last Word

Wilber views AQAL as provisional, a model that is meant to be tested and superseded. It is itself developmental and one more perceptual cognitive distortion. However, like Napoleon the pig in Orwell’s Animal Farm, some perceptual cognitive distortions are more equal than others. While Napoleon’s privileged status follows Thrasymachus and “Might makes right,” Wilber’s integral is privileged because it respects, takes into account, includes, and thereby transcends, many models developed up to the present time. This is the appropriate function for hierarchically contextual holons, and one contribution of Wilber’s is to show how hierarchies can and do co-exist with heterarchies without repressing community, connectivity, pluralism, or egalitarianism.

Is Wilber’s Integral AQAL a Dream Yoga?

The dream yoga milam, is only one of Naropa’s six dharmas or doctrines within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Like the others, it is dedicated to a broader purpose: waking up in all states of consciousness. It is in this sense that integral AQAL is also a dream yoga. Its basic function is enlightenment, or the awakening of human consciousness, but it uses many methods and approaches to do so.

In What Sense is IDL “Integral?”

Integral Deep Listening is “integral” largely because it attempts to honor and stay in congruence with the integral world view of Ken Wilber’s AQAL model of human development. The explanation that follows is designed for those who already are familiar with Wilber’s AQAL. Those who are not can find a quick overview at Wikipedia or by reading one of Wilber’s own excellent introductions, such as A brief History of Everything, or The Integral Vision: A Very Short Introduction to the Revolutionary Integral Approach to Life, God, the Universe…

I first read Ken Wilber in about 1985, some five years after Dream Sociometry, the precursor to IDL, was developed. By that time, Wilber had already written The Spectrum of Consciousness, No Boundary, The Atman Project, Quantum Questions, Up from Eden, The Holographic Paradigm and Other Paradoxes, A Sociable God, and Eye to Eye, all of which I read several times, as I did his subsequent works. Because of my background in comparative religion, philosophy, and psychology, I was immediately taken with the magnificence and importance of what Wilber was doing: synthesizing these three fields in particular, but also drawing heavily on anthropology, sociology and writers on the philosophy of science.

Wilber has systematically worked to understand and associate the models of reality proposed by the greatest thinkers of past and contemporary history and to create a model that honors all of them. In his words, “…what I am trying to do is this: If we take all of the truths that have been advanced–in the West and the East; in premodern, modern, and postmodern times–and we put them all together, then what system of thought can honor, acknowledge, and integrate the most number of truths from the most number of traditions?” While philosophers like Schopenhauer, writers like Hesse, religionists like Aurobindo and Houston, and psychologists like Jung had previously attempted syntheses of various types, Wilber’s integral is broad and inclusive and is grounded in empiricism. Wilber’s AQAL integrates scientific humanism with these other fields, particularly religion and spirituality, in revolutionary and powerful ways. It sets the bar of discourse in all of these fields higher. Wilber’s integral model will no doubt in time be superseded, but for now, the world will increasingly judge the consistency and usefulness of both theoretical and practical approaches to life by how well they address or ignore the integral model.

Another reason to read Wilber is to get a college level overview of about five fundamental fields of human thought and to do so relatively easily and quickly. This is because Wilber is a clear and thorough author and you can read his work at whatever depth you wish and learn an enormous amount. You are unlikely to outgrow the depth of his insights or the breadth of knowledge that he has to share, because every time you re-read his books you will make associations among thinkers and ideas you did not make before because you did not have that degree of depth or familiarity.

IDL is not only a phenomenological discipline, it is an integral one. While the phenomenological method of Integral Deep Listening is an offshoot of JL Moreno’s sociometry, the cognitive map which IDL uses attempts to stay congruent with Wilber’s integral AQAL. “Integral” implies an inclusion, yet transcendence, of both prepersonal belief and secular rationalism. It acknowledges the importance of developmental stages and lines, states of consciousness, the four quadrants of the human holon, and individual styles of growth. The perspectives provided by emerging potentials in Integral Deep Listening interviews are considered in the context of AQAL. The recommendations for meditation offered by Integral Deep Listening are provided with consideration of Wilber’s integral. However, such waking interpretations do not supersede those of emerging potentials. To do so would be to violate the fundamentally phenomenological nature of Integral Deep Listening. IDL recognizes that interpretation is inevitable and that it is the role and responsibility of waking identity to make such interpretations, with the knowledge that they will be partial, distortive of reality, and perpetuate delusion. At best they are upaya — constructive, intentional delusions intended to serve the purpose of enlightenment.

The Intent of AQAL

As mentioned above, Wilber’s basic purpose is to find the common truths that underlie the various approaches to human experience, be they religious, philosophical, psychological, historical, sociological, or scientific, and to use these to create an integrative model that can guide personal development. Wilber cites the Indian story of the Blind Men and the Elephant, in which each grasps a part of the elephant and believes they are describing the whole. The experiences of each must be included if a model that accounts for each – a description of the entire elephant – is to be provided. In a similar fashion, Integral Deep Listening demonstrates that a reasonable description of consciousness, experience, and life needs to include the perspectives of a cross-section of knowledgeable, invested perspectives if it is to have any claim to inclusiveness. While this can never be fully realized because both life and consciousness expand, closer approximations can be reached. This is called a “multi-perspectival” approach, and it is basic to both Wilber’s AQAL and Integral Deep Listening.

The Centrality of Cognitive Distortion

Like AQAL, IDL views human misery as due to cognitive distortion rather than “sin,” or “evil.” Wilber generally frames cognitive distortion in terms of traditional Eastern concepts of maya, samsara, dukkha, and avidya – illusion, delusion, suffering, and ignorance. The difference is that cognitive distortions look at sleeping, dreaming, and sleepwalking as conditions subject to human perception, including cognition, expectations, and assumptions, all of which are subject to personal control and can therefore be changed. Traditional Eastern formulations look at illusion, delusion, suffering, and ignorance as conditions of life itself; if you are incarnate, you are going to experience them. While they can be reduced, changing your perception will not eliminate them. The only way to do that is to stop incarnating.

IDL recognizes three types of cognitive distortions. Emotional cognitive distortions, such as all or nothing thinking, generalization, blaming, and personalization, are essentially associated with the limbic brain and fixation at a mid pre-personal developmental level.  They also manifest as identification with the Drama Triangle, that is, assuming an identity that is framed by the three roles of victim, persecutor, and rescuer. Emotional cognitive distortions are a major source of “neurotic” depression and anxiety. They are addressed by cognitive behavioral therapy, developed by Ellis, Beck, and Burns.

Logical cognitive distortions are flaws in formal reasoning, like ad hominem attacks on the person, changing the subject, straw man, or non sequitur arguments These logical crossed transactions[1] are generally used to justify both emotional and perceptual cognitive distortions and are associated with both the executive functions of cerebral frontal lobes and fixation at a mid-personal developmental level. Logical cognitive distortions are reductionistic in that life itself is seen as either rational or irrational; reason cannot and does not conceive of arational alternatives, like Nagarjunas’ Madhyamika, because concepts and reason are dualisticLogical cognitive distortions are a higher order of Drama Triangle in which reason is used to persecute victims. It is addressed by IDL with its Socratically-influenced questioning protocol.

The third type of cognitive distortion is perceptual. Your context defines what exists for you. That also means that it does not allow you to perceive what exists. To the extent that you do perceive what exists, you distort it to fit into your perceptual model. For existence, if your world view holds you responsible for everything that happens to you, as some forms of karma do, you will not recognize abuse by others because you must deserve the abuse. Perceptual cognitive distortions are the most destructive and most difficult of the three types of cognitive distortions, because it is the most subjective of the three. You don’t see how you are trapped by your own delusions so you have no ability to escape them. You are in the Drama Triangle because you are a victim of contexts you are unaware of that are conditioning and controlling both your perception and your choices. Your perceptual cognitive distortions are generally used to define your sense of self, your core identity, at whatever stage of development your self-line happens to be. Consequently, threats to your perceptual cognitive distortions are likely to be experienced as attacks on the integrity and stability of your identity, making them not only difficult to detect but almost impossible to challenge. While IDL addresses all three types of cognitive distortions, it is particularly interested in recognizing and neutralizing perceptual cognitive distortions as a way to minimize defensiveness and threats to self-definition. To do so it provides repeated experiences of identification with perspectives that include, yet transcend, your own, thereby providing objectivity that you lack.

All three varieties operate within the Drama Triangle, in that they generate and maintain the roles of victim, persecutor, and rescuer. Inequality, prejudice, and violence are products of cognitive distortions. The cure involves enhanced awareness, through access to information, reason, clarity, and objectivity, because the cognitive line leads the development of the others. This is because our cognitive schemas determine the sense we make out of the world. If they are narrow and limited, our opportunities for growth will be the same. If they are broad and open, our opportunites for growth will likewise be far greater. Note how different this is from saying, “love is all you need,” or reducing enlightenment to trust or belief. Such elements become important components of cognitive schemas that include and then transcend them. Your cognitive schema is in turn used to direct the design of your integral life practice, which is an empirical method or yoga that is designed to test both the information and the priorities upon which it is based. For IDL, this practice is overseen by your inner compass, as accessed through repeated interviews with emerging potentials.


 Four Quadrants All Levels

Wilber’s quadrant diagram, first published in Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality, depicts the evolutionary progression of consciousness, culture, behavior, and systems:

 Wilber came to recognize in the later 1980’s that there are basic categories of experience that we all share that cut across all developmental levels and lines. As discussed above, he noticed that there is no part that is not part of a larger, more inclusive whole and that every whole contains parts. For example, every individual is a member of the human race, and the human race contains many individual humans. There are no individual elements that are not part of a larger collective, and you can ever find a collective that is not comprised of individual parts. Wilber also recognized that you cannot have an outside without an interior or an interior without an exterior. For example, space is defined as an exterior that only has interiors; nothing exists that is outside space. However, a number of theories from both physics and philosophy provide evidence that space itself is an interior, whose exterior can only be deduced and presented as a hypothesis, because it is not experienced directly. Interiors and exteriors each imply the existence of the other.     

Wilber’s model tends to view dream characters and the products of human imagination as self-aspects. Due to its phenomenological methodology, Integral Deep Listening does not assume that interviewed emerging potentials are subjective creations. Instead, it asks interviewers to suspend such assumptions, at least during the interviewing process, and see how each perspective defines itself. It views emerging potentials, such as dream characters and the personifications of life issues, as holons.

While both AQAL and IDL approach holons from the perspectives of various human “selves,” (even when discussing non-human holons), IDL also considers the perspectives various interior collective, interviewed emerging potentials. In effect, this is the interior collective quadrant (values) of interior collective perspectives (interviewed emerging potentials), when viewed from the vantage point of waking identity. For example, in evaluating the holon of a nightmare it is considered from the perspective of the dreamer, which is the holon of a human self. But when the dream monster or antagonist is interviewed, the holon that is the nightmare is being perceived from the perspective of an interviewed emerging potential, which is a non-human perspective without a stable self-sense. Now it is of course possible to think, “But of course it is a self-created self-aspect.” However, that is both a waking interpretive projection and a discount of the ontological status of the interviewed perspective itself. Is that how it defines itself or is that how you define it?

When IDL suspends such assumptions it does so without thereby giving such perspectives either the status of sub-personalities or the objective ontological status of independent entities, because both are equally projections of self. Instead, it suspends such assumptions in favor of listening to what each interviewed emerging potential has to say. It may state it is a sub-personality, an autonomous being, both, or neither. You do not know until you interview it. This is reminiscent of the Johari Window, but with that known to others but not known to self, as well as that known to self but not known to others, and that known neither to self nor to others, coming into focus, conveyed by that which transcends and includes both self and others. Consultation of such holons provides both more information and greater freedom than human-based perspectives are likely to provide. This is not to say emerging potentials are omniscient. They clearly are not. The transcendence of their perspective is limited to their areas of expertise, which can be narrow, yet remain germane.

Whatever else they may be, images and characters both in your dreams and in your waking life are conditioned by your perception of them; as Kant long ago established, their reality is independent, yet secondary to the conditioning filters through which they are experienced. What they are in themselves, completely separated from our perception, can never be known. Interviewed emerging potentials determine their degree of autonomy and objectivity, not the interviewer, the subject of the interview or a theoretical model such as integral. Even in near death and mystical experiences, in which we are convinced that all filters have been lowered, holonic theory points out that this is only relatively so; you have simply moved into a context whose limits are incomprehensible to you and therefore remain unperceived.

Emerging Potentials are Holons and Holons are Emerging Potentials

Whether it is a dream character, a personification of physical symptoms, or of some waking life issue, each interviewed emerging potential exhibits all four quadrants. “Emerging potential” is a synonym for “holon” in that there is no thing that is not an emerging potential, and there is no thing that is not a holon. They are two very different ways of describing the same phenomena. “Holon” has the advantage of emphasizing the multi-perspectival nature within each interviewed emerging potential, increasing the likelihood that its consciousness, behavioral, interpersonal, and normative aspects will be taken into account. “Emerging potential,” emphasizes the fact that who you think you are, and self-identity in general, exists within contexts that are larger than you are. These are factors that are outside of or external to your sense of self. The assumption of larger contexts is not outgrown, although there exist experiences, such as ones of mystical unity or as expressed in some near death experiences, of oneness with all contexts. However, while this is a perceptual reality, it is more likely that there exist still broader contexts that are incomprehensible at your present level of development. This is Wilber’s position as all. The way he frames it is by saying, “It’s holons all the way up and all the way down.” While Wilber emphasizes both the transcendent and evolving nature of contexts, Integral Deep Listening emphasizes experiential identification with a multiplicity of them, as Genpo Roshi does with his Big Mind process.

Your emerging potentials experience themselves as autonomous in many ways, yet dependent upon your consciousness. If you have done Integral Deep Listening interviews, you have probably experienced this paradox for yourself. This is not autonomy in the sense that these interviewed perspectives really exist in other dimensions, on the one hand, or as shadow, subconscious, or unconscious split off and therefore relatively independent aspects of yourself, on the other, but that their beingness is distinct from your self-sense in general, in addition to being distinct from your waking sense of who you are. Emerging potentials tend to function as aspects of larger, collective holons of which your identity, including both your self and cognitive developmental lines, are subsets.

What are the Four Quadrants of an Emerging Potential?

As with other holons, emerging potentials possess an interior individual (UL) consciousness with awareness, perception, thoughts and feelings, an interior collective (LL) culture with contexts, interpretations, scripts, worldview and values, an external individual (UR) behavior observable behavior of a holon: a cell, person, or dream character within the dream or imagery context, and an external collective (LR) dealing with society, relationships, systems, and collective behavior. The concept of “holon,” which Wilber derived from Arthur Koestler, puts these four, interior, exterior, individual and collective, together. Each embodies a different approach to life and a different perspective while providing four arenas of evolutionary development for any entity.

The previous chapter on Tibetan Buddhism recounted a dream of a Rinpoche involving a huge female temple cobra. Is this dream snake a holon? Does it manifest all four quadrants? The external individual quadrant involves behavior, so we ask, “What does it do?” It slithers, sticks its tongue out to smell different meditating monks, stops in front of our Rinpoche, and bites him in his third eye. We can conclude that this cobra definitely has an external individual holonic presence. This is its self-creative or “autopoeitic” aspect.

The external collective quadrant involves interaction, so we ask, “How does this snake interact with its environment and others?” It is inside the temple, it crawls over the floor, it looks at various monks, it smells them, and it bites one of them. We can therefore conclude that this cobra definitely has an external collective holonic presence. This is its social and interdependent aspect.

The interior collective quadrant involves culture, values, worldviews, and interpretations. These are private. You aren’t going to discover these unless you ask the snake. This is core to Integral Deep Listening. When you do you learn how it scores itself in all six core qualities, what aspect of the dreamer it personifies, if any, its view of its purpose, in contrast to that assumed by the dreamer, both during the dream and later, when he is thinking about it. These are the types of considerations that imply what the snake’s worldview is. The snake said that Rinpoche had done wrong unintentionally and that he still needed to be more careful. Her intention was not to eat or kill Rinpoche, but to punish him, despite his good intentions. All of this confirms that this dream snake has an interior collective quadrant.

The interior individual quadrant involves consciousness, thoughts, and feelings, the private realm of identity and cognition. The contents of this quadrant are not revealed unless they are volunteered or one asks. When we do so we learn some of its thoughts and feelings. In this case we learn Rinpoche needed to be punished. This implies that this snake is not so much a guru as a persecutor in the Drama Triangle with the Rinpoche the victim. However, the fact that it is high scoring implies that from its perspective punishment is a necessary tool to wake this Rinpoche up. These are interpretations, to be checked out with the snake, if possible, and cross-checked by interviewing another dream character, such as the temple. In any case, we can conclude that this dream snake very much has a level of consciousness, thoughts and feelings, and therefore an interior individual quadrant. We can also notice the dissonance between the interpretations we want to believe and project onto the snake and the dream and what we are told. For example, we may believe Rinpoches that meditate for hours a day do not need to be punished because they must be at transpersonal levels of development. Or, we believe that a character cannot be high scoring and demand punishment at the same time. The challenge becomes, “Do I insist on my biases, prejudices, and presuppositions or do I suspend them and consider the possibility that what I am hearing really does represent a very different value system and reality from my own?” This is a common challenge evoked by IDL interviews, and it does so in a way that is difficult to avoid or rationalize away.

All four of these quadrants are interdependently co-arising. From the perspective of the snake, the dream is about it, its intentions, and the Rinpoche is a character in its reality! Like Chuang-Tzu and his famous butterfly, from its perspective, Rinpoche is an aspect of this cobra.

Emphasizes Four-Quadrant Analysis

A four-quadrant analysis allows us to focus on characteristics of the snake that we otherwise might overlook. If all four quadrants evolve, then all four quadrants of who you are in a dream and a lucid dream are evolving, co-dependently with the dream environment and its inhabitants. This means that everything you see and everyone you meet in a dream or mystical experience is also a holon, with its four aspects to consider, each evolving in its own way, in response to how its environment, including your presence and the choices you make in the dream, impacts each of its four faces. We immediately begin to grasp one of the important implications of the integral model: we start perceiving ourselves and others, whatever state of consciousness that we are in at the moment, differently. Our perception moves from naïve realism rooted in shamanistic dualism and naïve realism to a multi-perspectival and empathetic grounding that allows us to see, appreciate, and respond to many more possibilities than we could before.

For a holon to evolve, the four quadrants must co-evolve. Each of these quadrants can be viewed as most important and as generating the other three. Whole schools of thought are built around the assumption of the superiority of one quadrant or another. Skinner’s behaviorism assumes the external individual quadrant is most important. Buddha, Freud, Jung, and Burns (of cognitive distortion fame) assume the internal individual quadrant of consciousness is most important. Socrate, Plato, and Kohlberg assume the internal collective quadrant of values is most important. Interactional therapies like Moreno’s sociometry, Perl’s gestalt, and Berne’s Transactional Analysis, along with sociologists, anthropologists, and systems theorists in the sciences assume the external collective quadrant is most important. These are all blind men each grabbing a different part of our mythical elephant and each proclaiming they accurately describe all of him.

The object for both AQAL and IDL, in respect to holons and quadrants, is to identify and balance the four. This is because a lagging quadrant will slow down or stop development. There must be a minimal adequacy in all four at any particular level, whether of a stage or line, in order for a higher level of development to be sustained. Each of these four quadrants shows up in every interview, and it is an instructive practice to look for them.

The goal is to support the evolution of all four quadrants of every element in a dream. There are several good reasons for this. When you do so you are supporting the balanced evolution of those aspects of yourself personified by that particular element. In addition, the more balanced and evolved any emerging potential becomes the stronger is its pull on you. It lifts you up, supporting you in your evolution. The more strong and balanced emerging potentials that you access the less powerful is the effect of your lagging lines. At the same time, you have more resources for understanding, neutralizing, and supporting the unwinding of your fixated knots.

Dream characters and the personifications of life issues, two categories of holons recognized by IDL, occupy your interior collective quadrant in that they are interior to you and always exist in relationship to you. However, they also occupy your exterior collective quadrant in that you have objective relationships with them as autonomous others, both during dreams (if they are also dream characters) and during the interviewing process (both dream characters and the personifications of life issues.) In that they have individual behaviors and reveal autonomous thoughts and feelings it is also obvious that they occupy both individual quadrants as well.

IDL holons themselves possess all four of these quadrants. For example, if you dream of a monster, its appearance and actions are characteristics of its exterior individual quadrant. How it interacts with other dream characters and objects, including you, the dreamer, are characteristics of its exterior collective quadrant. It is not part of your exterior collective quadrant because you are dreaming or re-experiencing the dream in your head, so it is part of your interior experience. However, it is not “your” interior experience, because even if it is a character from your imagination, you have an objective relationship with it, so that is in your interior collective quadrant. In order to access the interior quadrants of the monster or any IDL holon you have to interview it. You have to ask it questions, which it answers. If the monster says something to you or answers questions in a dream, it is disclosing its interior individual quadrant to some extent. IDL interviewing provides a very broad disclosure of the interior individual quadrant of these elements. Interviews also disclose the values and interpretations, as well as the culture and world view, or the interior collective quadrant, of the monster. The reason this is important is that misperceptions of life issues and dream characters, based on your perception of their individual and collective exterior behavior, can create fear where none is necessary and false conclusions that are simply based on an absence of information about the interior quadrants of the element. This contributes to physiological stress reactions, anxiety, and depression whether or not such a dream is recalled. The same analysis applies to our common misinterpretations of our life dream; we draw false conclusions about the nature of others and wake-up calls, because we make assumptions instead of respectfully asking questions and practicing deep listening in an integral sort of way. Therefore, interviewing such elements and disclosing their interior quadrants is a major resource for preventive health. The perspective of any interviewed emerging potential, for example a tree, can itself be viewed from four different perspectives, each represented by a different question:

The interior individual quadrant asks “What is its level of consciousness of this tree?” “What is its intention?” This is determined by assessing the level of its cognitive, empathetic, moral, and self-lines by its responses to questions, its reasons for its actions, its self-scores in the six core qualities, and its recommendations to the student. How inclusive are the awareness, perception, thoughts, feelings, and clarity of the perspective with which a student is identified? Consciousness is generally associated with issues of psychological and spiritual development, but in a context different from that of AQAL. In that model, it is the psychological and spiritual development of the self and the “self-line” that is under consideration. In IDL, it is the psychological and trans-rational development of a particular interviewed emerging potential, the self, and other emerging potentials. What is important about this difference is that it approaches this important window on experience in a multi-perspectival way rather than from the assumption of a unitary self. Evolution is not about the self or the self-line. It is about life as it manifests in multiple forms, one of which is your primary locus of identification at this moment.

The interior collective quadrant asks the question, “What is meaningful from the perspective of the tree?” “What is the world view of the tree?” “What does the tree value?” “From what does the tree derive meaning?” The answer is derived from the tree’s comments in the interview, and in particular by its self ratings in the six core qualities, including the reasons it gives for those various ratings, as well as by the tree’s recommendations for life priorities. How competent are the interpretations of the tree? How inclusive are its perspectives? What context does it provide? What type of morality does it demonstrate? Because such questions have generally been equated with culture, the internal collective quadrant addresses issues of ethics, sociology, and post-modernism. As in the individual interior quadrant, IDL focuses on the meanings of the interviewed character or life issue personification, not on those of the “self.” The self of a student already knows what it means when it says, feels, and does what it does. However, that self doesn’t know what the tree means. It generally assumes it does, but IDL interviewing demonstrates it generally does not. This can be confirmed by simply writing down the student’s prediction of what the tree will say when it is interviewed and compare it to what the tree actually says.

The exterior individual quadrant asks, “What is the behavior of the tree?” “What does it do?” “What does it not do?” Does it answer questions? Does it demonstrate autonomy? Does it transform? This quadrant is associated with sensory empiricism, science, behaviorism, homework, career, spiritual disciplines, or yogas. It focuses on how intentions are expressed by behavior. Closely related to this are the predictions that it makes about how the four quadrants of the self of the student will be affected if he or she becomes it at particular times and specific situations and follows its recommendations. The tree is making predictions for external individual behavioral changes for the four quadrants of the holon of the student.

The exterior collective asks, “How does the tree relate to others?” If it is a dream tree, how does it relate to other dream characters, including dream self? If it is the personification of a life issue, how does it relate to itself, its environment, and the student? This generally turns out to be quite different from the perception of the tree than from the dreamer, who probably perceived the tree in the dream as it does waking trees. However, an interviewed tree often notes relationships and interactions that are unrecognized by the dreamer. The exterior collective quadrant focuses not on individual behavior, but on collectives, such as couples, families, groups, society, civilizations, and systems. It is associated not with individual psychology, such as the psychology of personality or classical/operant conditioning, but with social psychology and the investigation of systems. This may involve not only its relationship with the student who is being interviewed, but with a dreamer.

What impact, if any, does the tree have when the student “becomes” it and answers questions from its perspective? Is there any shift in the energy or consciousness of the dreamer? These would be interior individual relationship impacts. Are there shifts in the values, meanings, interpretations of the student as a result of having become and listened to the tree? These are impacts in the interior collective quadrant of the student. Are there changes in the student’s behavior? Is she more or less hesitant to speak? Does she procrastinate more or less? These are impacts in the external individual quadrant of the student’s holon. Are there changes in the student’s relationships with others that are a consequence of having experienced the tree? These would be shifts in the external collective quadrant of the student.

Because both of the exterior quadrants deal with the objective other, Wilber often refers to both of them together as the realm of “its,” or “things,” as opposed to the interior individual quadrant of “I,” or “identity,” and the interior collective quadrant of agreed meanings. He calls this agreement “We,” for short, or the “I-Thou” quadrant, the realm of sacred relationship. Wilber’s AQAL also discriminates whether a holon is animate or inanimate or subordinate to individual consciousness. These are not discriminations that are emphasized by emerging potentials themselves. Whether you are dealing with a whale shark or a lawn mower, it reflects your level of holonic development and then adds its own. Therefore IDL holons can be viewed as essentially human and not inanimate. However, during IDL interviewing, such assumptions about holon type are suspended in favor of a phenomenological choice to allow each emerging potential to define itself.

Everyone tends to favor one or the other of these quadrants; consequently, most individuals and schools of thought tend to be reductionistic, that is, they attempt to boil reality down to their favorite of these four, which says much more about who they think they are than about life itself. Wilber has observed that modernity collapses holons to the objective, external right quadrants, valuing holons as specimens to be analyzed, as “its,” and for their functional and measurable natures. While valuing that which can be externally measured and tested in a laboratory, modernity tends to deny or marginalize subjectivity, values, individual experience, and feelings as unproven or having no meaning. Wilber calls this pervasive reductionism “flatland,” and views it as a fundamental cause of current social dysfunction, such as the pervasive exploitation of resources and labor in the name of greater accumulation of capital. Integral Deep Listening views itself as a partial response and rebalancing of holons by emphasizing phenomenology, the internal individual consciousness of alternate perspectives, identifying and eliminating the three types of cognitive distortions, and by emphasizing the values and meanings of interior collective multiperspectivalism. It emphasizes the external quadrants through establishing an integral life practice (individual exterior), eliminating the Drama Triangle in relationships, and transforming family and collective relationships through the use of Integral Deep Listening (collective exterior).

Emphasizes Multiple (I-We-It) Approaches to Growth

This is another way of talking about quadrants. For Wilber, an “I” or interior individual approach involves the evolution of your self-line through the direct experience of the various stages of consciousness. How you experience both your dreams and lucid dreams evolves as you do. A “We,” or interior collective approach, involves meanings that further the growth dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and higher order synthesis. As you develop, the meanings that you project onto your dreams are likely to be less self-centered and take into account multiple possibilities and perspectives, including those of other entities and objects in your dreams. An “It” approach involves interacting with others and your waking and dream environments in ways that support the next stage of your growth. Lucid dreaming, for instance, may or may not do this. The way you normally interact in your dreams may or may not do this.

Dream yogas in general tend to take an “I” approach to waking up; it is all about the consciousness of the dreamer. However, there are plenty of accounts in the literature of sacred “We” relationships with a particular character, a group, or the entire dream environment. However, dream yogas tend to maintain waking assumptions into sleep, meaning that dream environments tend to be viewed as “Its,” that is systems of others, with the relationship either controlled by the perception of the dreamer or else a fear of overwhelm by the other.

Integral Deep Listening supports the evolution of the individual “I” through triangulation, including identification with either disowned emerging potentials or unrecognized potentials and applying their recommendations in an integral life practice. IDL supports an “It” approach to growth through honoring all interior and exterior projections as manifestations of life. It emphasizes a “We” approach to growth by cultivating “I-Thou” relationships both with multiple emerging potentials and secondly with sentient beings.


Anything that can evolve or develop as an aptitude or competency can be considered a line. Lines of development that Wilber has mentioned include the following: cognitive, ethical, aesthetic, spiritual, kinesthetic skills, affective, musical, spatial, logical-mathematical, karmic, affective (emotions & feelings), self-identity, psycho-sexual, ideas of good, role taking, socio-emotional capacity, creativity, altruism, care, openness, concern, religious faith, meditative states, witnessing, joy, communicative competance, modes of space and time, death-seizure, needs, worldviews, gender identity, empathy, and karmic.

Each of these has a corresponding pathology that evolves along with it, meaning that each is better thought of as a polarity. For example, your capacity for love is one line, and it exists on a line with an opposite polarity of fear and hate. Therefore, the expression of fear and hate also evolves over time, just as the capacity for love evolves. Depression provides one example. There is neurotic depression, which is generally associated with getting what you don’t want and not getting what you want. Then there is social depression, which is generally associated with getting what you don’t need and not getting what you need. Then there is existential depression, which is generally associated with finding that both your wants and needs are meaningless. People who have neurotic depression have no conception of existential depression, but people who have existential depression understand neurotic depression, because existential depression transcends and includes neurotic depression. Anxiety provides another example. Fear of physical death is quite different from the fear of a narcissistic injury, that is damage to a self one thinks is invincible. Both are quite different from the fear of loss of status, or social death. The death of a belief is yet another type of anxiety, as is the fear that life is essentially meaningless. Because the sophistication of the opposite pole of every line grows as it advances in level, challenges become more complicated and sophisticated. Recognizing and neutralizing these barriers to development require increasing support; you will not automatically know how to handle these new and previously unencountered obstacles just because you are growing your cognitive and self-lines. This is an area where accessing emerging potentials can make a huge difference, because they provide objectivity that you lack about issues that fewer of your peers understand the higher you climb on the developmental ladder.

Dream yogas tend to focus on developing either clarity on the self line or else a particular skill set that is associated with a particular line or value. For example, skull practice in fail-safe dream environments develops confidence in a particular developmental line. Perhaps it is getting past awkwardness with the opposite sex; perhaps it is overcoming fear of failure or death; perhaps it involves enhancing problem-solving capabilities. There is no reason why any line cannot be practiced during dreaming and lucid dreaming.

Integral Deep Listening views four lines as particularly significant for balanced development. These are the cognitive, self, empathetic, and ethical lines. Like AQAL, IDL sees the cognitive line as leading the others, in that it creates perceptual possibilities that are not otherwise seen and are therefore unattainable. Integral Deep Listening emphasizes the importance of broadening your ability to dream your life by identifying with perspectives that personify facets of your inner compass. This is one of the most important and powerful steps anyone can do to generate a life dream that is inspirational, credible, and attainable. Because you cannot attain dreams that you are incapable of dreaming, the cognitive line creates contexts which in turn allow important new growth possibilities. If your cognitive structures do not allow you to see it, feel it, smell it, or be it, you cannot dream it. Your world view creates what is possible and determines what is valuable. Interviewing your own emerging potentials, whether dream characters or the personifications of your life issues, creates cognitive contexts that are innate, authentic, autonomous that transcend and include your own. They are “yours,” yet do not belong to you. They are not internalized injunctions of your parents or society. They are not reducible to “soul,” “higher self,” “intuition,” or “God’s will.” Both the meaning of your life and the passion of your actions becomes generated and propelled by something that is closer to life itself, as it spontaneously and uniquely manifests in and through you. This approach to growth reflects autopoiesis, a term introduced by Varela and Maturana referring to a system capable of maintaining and reproducing itself, something life itself is much more capable of doing than any sense of self, which is by definition figure differentiated from ground. Consequently, IDL interviewing expands the cognitive line in ways that transcend both personal and vision-logic consciousness.

Your empathy, or your ability to take the role of another, determines your access to the multiple perspectives that expand your world view. It also advances your cognitive line and develops your moral sense by shifting your perspective to that of the other, whomever or whatever it may be. The self-line evolves based on the foundation provided by the levels of development of the cognitive, empathetic, and ethical lines. It tends to follow these three, but not necessarily any of the others. Capitalism, on the average, is an example of an early to mid-personal cognitive line, a late prepersonal to early personal self-line, a mid-prepersonal to early personal ethical line, and a mid-prepersonal to late prepersonal empathetic line. What keeps capitalism out of balance and eventually leads to the collapse of capitalist societies is, in particular, the lagging empathetic line.

Much work has been done in recent years to clarify the importance of the empathetic line by people like Roman Krznaric and Jeremy Rifkin. IDL has found that repeatedly taking the perspectives of emerging potentials first strengthens and then thins the self-line until it has no ontological status whatsoever. Within this framework, the moral line tends to take care of itself. It does not need to be taught; all that is required is habitual identification with emerging potentials that intrinsically personify higher moral perspectives than does waking identity.


While Wilber bases the transpersonal nature of AQAL on the objective testimony of mystics and to a lesser extent on the accounts of psychologists, sociologists, and philosophers, IDL bases its transpersonal nature on the personal experience of transcendence of self that generally accompanies an IDL interview or the identification with this or that emerging potential. Waking, dreaming, and deep sleep are the three natural states of consciousness. To these three, IDL adds the hypothetical but important state of non-physical existence.

For Wilber, states of consciousness may be natural, phenomenal, altered, and peak experiences. Phenomenal states arise from interior experiences such as bodily sensations, emotions, mental ideas, memories, or inspirations, or from exterior sources such as sensorimotor inputs, seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting. IDL views these as filtering states, comparable to Kant’s a priori categories that frame perception and make it possible.

The third category, altered states, may be exogenous, or induced, or endogenous, or trained states. Examples of exogenous states include psychedelic and other drug-induced states; hypnosis; psycho-therapeutic techniques; gestalt therapy, psychodrama; voice dialogue; biofeedback states, and forms of guided imagery. Endogenous states are intentionally generated from inside or from interior influences such as various performance enhancement techniques in sports therapy; dream incubation; meditative training which work on calming, relaxation, equanimity states; and mental imaging and visualization such as tonglen meditation. Some techniques, such as IDL interviewing, involve both endogenous and exogenous states.

A fourth category of states is spontaneous or peak states. These involve unintentional or unexpected shifts of awareness, such as occurs in mystical, out of the body, and near death experiences. IDL categorizes peak states as a type of altered state that can be either exogenous, endogenous, or both. Altered states are by nature temporary, meaning that while often powerful and transformative, they are extremely difficult to consciously generate or duplicate. People can spend their lives trying to re-experience a state experience, and for some of these, such as some near death experiences, life is pale by comparison. Your perception of an altered state is dependent on the cultural framework you bring to the experience as well as your current needs, thought processes, and emotions. Your level of development in your internal individual quadrant, as well as the contextual framework of meanings in your internal collective quadrant, determine what you experience and conclude about an altered state. Consequently, experiencers are typically extremely insistent on the truthfulness of their description of an altered state and yet have no sense of how their everyday mind and cultural context conditioned their perception of it.

There is no necessary correlation between particular states and your stage of development. This is fairly clear with waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, but far less clear with altered states. There is a common assumption that blissful, psychic, and lucid states are a reflection of higher levels of development, but this is not the case. Children, criminals, and the mentally ill can experience blissful states, and those who are relatively highly developed may report very few experiences of blissful states. There are developmental correlations with states. For example, children tend to dream about animals much more than adults. The waking state is itself clearly subdivided into well demarcated stages of development.

Integral Deep Listening believes that a focus on natural, phenomenal, and both exogenous and endogenous states is more beneficial to personal development than a focus on the spontaneous or peak states that are often equated with spirituality and spiritual development. These, and to a lesser extent, exogenous states, can give you a taste of what is possible as you grow into expanded broadened awareness, and this is what identification with alternate perspectives in the IDL interviewing process is intended to do. The situation is somewhat analogous to a young child looking at all the keys her father carries and marveling at what they might unlock and how wonderful it must be to have so much power. However, the experience of the adult with all those keys is typically not like that at all. Each key represents another responsibility; all of them together represent a weight that can wear a hole in one’s pocket. Many books are sold, many adherents created, by selling the attractiveness of higher states. The reality is often quite different.

IDL also is interested in evolution not centered on the self. For example, transpersonal, dream, and deep sleep state evolution are not centered on self development. Perspectives interviewed by IDL are not centered on the self; they are centered on themselves and their needs.The transpersonal is centered on a thinning of and disidentification with any self; dream and deep sleep are centered on first collective and later contextual evolution. IDL encourages these broader and higher forms of evolution by de-emphasizing the evolution of the self-line for those who already have a healthy and relatively balanced sense of self, in favor of emphasizing first acquisition of an integral world view on the cognitive line and the evolution of the empathetic and ethical lines, which are typically mediated by the internal collective quadrant but show up in the external quadrants in significant ways.

The above diagram correlates the conscious, subconscious, unconscious, and the absolute with waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and consciousness. While it does associate waking with the gross, dreaming with the subtle, deep sleep with the causal, and consciousness with the non-dual, it IDL does not use the correlations with the subconscious, unconscious, and absolute because they imply locations and conditions that are either non-existent or mistaken. For example, dream consciousness is not “sub” anything while it is occurring, and when waking awareness is brought into deep sleep there is nothing unconscious about it. Instead, IDL views waking consciousness as typically self-centric, dream consciousness as polycentric, and deep sleep consciousness as contextual, that is, the ground for which all experience is figure. There is nothing “absolute” about the non-dual; it is the integration of the first three. It evolves as waking, dreaming, and deep sleep evolve.

Levels or Stages

Levels of development unfold in a set order when previous level prerequisites have been met. These essentially involve reaching a certain level of competency on one or more core line: neurological, kinesthetic, imagery, linguistic, self, empathetic, ethical, and so forth. Each level includes the preceding lines; they are incorporated into the new level in a way that is generally but not always reversible. For example, while one may lose muscular coordination with disuse or suffer impairment due to an injury, it is difficult to forget how to ride a bike. Muscle memory tends to be permanent. The ability to regrow tissue is widely available pre-birth; afterward that physiological competency becomes highly specialized and limited; it is largely a one-way street, although medicine is making amazing breakthroughs in “waking up” regenerative capabilities. Piaget has laid out the stages of cognitive development. Erikson developed a useful theory of stages of psychosocial development, while Jane Loevinger described stages of ego development. Maslow differentiated a hierarchy of needs. Kohlberg, who has done the same with morality, has shown that ethical development appears to be irreversible; once a person has reached a level of moral reasoning they do not regress to a more fundamental way of making ethical judgments. All of this research indicates that human physical, emotional, mental, and interpersonal development unfolds in predictable, hierarchical sequences.

Consequently, to accept the reality of developmental stages also requires the acceptance of hierarchies of both structures and processes. This is important, because shamanistic, pre-rational approaches, and even some rational approaches, such as that of Plato, believe that enlightenment is about recovering that which was lost, essentially a regression to a state of primordial oneness. This is reflected in the myth of the Garden of Eden and its various world-wide versions of romantic primitivism. Rousseau and the entire romanticist movement in literature, art, philosophy, and sociology are built on this assumption. Wilber’s integral AQAL and IDL disagree. They point out that regression leads to decompensation, destructuralization, chaos, and unconsciousness. Much data exists to indicate that the farther you go back historically the more brutal and short life becomes, with more wars, infanticide, slavery, rape, incest, and lawlessness. Although you can’t tell it from the news, the number of wars and deaths due to violence continues to diminish world-wide on a per capita basis.[2]

Mystical states, however, do not lend support to a developmental perspective because they create the belief that free and unconditioned states are accessible to anyone regardless of their level of development. This is indeed true, however, they do so because they are temporary and substitute one non-regressed perspective for another, for example a channeled spirit for one’s waking awareness or a waking awareness that experiences life with markedly reduced filtering. Advocates of state openings tend to forget that such filtering is necessary for remembering to eat, pay bills, and not walk into traffic. There are functional and genuine reasons and benefits for a ground of developmental hierarchies into which appear occasional blasts of liberating state freedom. These people generally take for granted their current state of awareness, as if it always existed, and then put state openings on top of that. They tend to forget that their current state of awareness is developmental and did not exist when they were five. In fact, when older children are shown videos of their thinking and problem-solving abilities from the age of five or six they are incredulous, refusing to believe that they could ever have not seen things that are now so obvious to them, and want to dismiss the evidence as some sort of fraud. Romantic primitivism, like shamanism, are natural default states of human perception. It is the unusual person that questions them and evolves beyond them.

While dream yogas may emphasize either hierarchy or heterarchy, neither Wilber’s integral nor IDL promote hierarchy over heterarchy. They both insist that development is evolutionary, meaning that life evolves more complex structures and processes that transcend, yet include, previous structures and processes. However, to say that this is more important than integrative and balancing functions would be like saying that day is more important than night or that masculinity is more important than femininity. It is a discussion or argument that can only arise when the importance of both polarities are not recognized. However, this is exactly the problem with shamanistic, pre-personal, and traditional approaches to spirituality. They tend to not understand, appreciate, or ignore the hierarchical and developmental aspects of life. This is partially because evolution is a new understanding in human consciousness, with Darwin’s Origin of Species only published in 1859. Therefore, a developmental, evolutionary perspective on life is relatively new and has not had enough time to sink into various aspects of mass culture, including information about and attitudes toward yogas.

Developmental stages fall into three major divisions, each with three sub-categories.

Early prepersonal development focuses on physical needs for food and shelter. This is the relatively concrete, sensory, and unconscious awareness of a baby. There is no language and one’s sense of self is fused with immediate, sensual experience rather than emotions or ego. The life, sexual, and death drives of the Freudian id are associated with this level and the next. When you enjoy the taste and smell of a good meal you are evoking early pre personal, regardless of your level of development. People on this level can be as lovable and generous as any; it is in fact easier to love and trust these people because their emotional spontaneity has the honesty of a baby or a dog, because it is non-complex and it is not hidden. Ulterior motives simply do not exist, because they require a complexity of awareness that does not yet exist. When things go wrong on this level you get problems with sensory reality testing, and psychosis. They often will not magically go away with development, but instead become embedded in the foundation of higher levels generally unnoticed until stresses appear. At those times deficits and imbalances can create major risks for health and relationships. Problems also arise when people attempt to reduce humanity to its lowest common denominator. It is one thing to say that physical survival is a vital and fundamental human need; it is quite another to therefore proclaim, like the Hobbesian and Freudian world views, that it therefore provides the motivation for all human desires.

Children and adults at early prepersonal dream, and they perhaps need IDL more than any other group. This is because their dreams are real and overpowering; the interpretations, reasoning, and dismissals that are generally provided are not likely to help people at this level. Instead, they need a combination of soothing and make-believe that provides them with a sense of security and control. The best source of soothing for these people is physical; simply holding them and generating a sense of physical security, perhaps by giving them a transitional object to hold, if they are a child, or a favorite food or drink if an adult. If they will role-play the threat or some aspect of the dream experience this will enhance their sense of security and control because they will thereby embody the qualities associated with that dream element. This is not so different from shamanistic possession by a spirit in a process that is therapeutic. However, where shamanism encourages trance identification, IDL does not.

The mid-prepersonal level focuses on familial and tribal bonding and uses magic and emotion to understand and control the world. Everything is about preferences: what you like and want defines happiness; what you dislike and do not want defines unhappiness. This is the realm of instinctual images that direct behavior unconsciously, prerational belief, faith, and superstition. This and the previous level account for the mentality of hunter-gatherers. early agricultural societies, and the world view of shamanism. Because it is the foundation of our early life scripting, of our fundamental preferences, sense of self, and relationships, it is both extraordinarily strong and omni-present as a ground of emotional pre-disposition, dualistic perception, and escapism into magic and pre-rational beliefs. Within the context of this world view, these people can be loving, generous, courageous, and nobel. Life can manifest in healthy, balanced fullness on the mid-prepersonal as it can on any and all levels. In fact, a healthy navigation through this period is almost a requirement for later healthy relationships and clear thinking. A combination of physiological factors (early pre-personal) and emotional experiences at the age of three or four can, for example, make it highly unlikely that a person will ever outgrow conservatism.[3] When things go wrong on this level you get personality disorders, associated with an inability to empathize, pervasive perceptual cognitive distortions, such as the splitting of the world and individuals into good and bad, and profound personalization. What looks like empathy is a manipulative charm offensive.[4] Whenever you make decisions based on your emotional preferences, regardless of your reasons or explanations, you are operating out of mid-prepersonal consciousness. The developmental goal at mid-prepersonal, as every level, is to encourage both integration and balance on this and every level, because these are prerequisites to evolution to the next.

IDL encourages discussion about the Drama Triangle with people at mid-prepersonal. Even young children understand persecuting monsters, feelings of victimization, and the need for rescuing. These dream roles can be pointed out to the child or adult; when they take the role of this or that dream element it will probably be in one role or another, but through the process of the interview it will often move out of the Drama Triangle relative to the dreamer and the dream characters. This presents experiences and therefore opens the possibility to the cultivation of emotional objectivity, which supports development within and beyond mid-prepersonal.

The late prepersonal focuses on the creation of a narcissistic, narrowly defined self-sense, often called the “ego.” It uses belief, myth, and personal power to understand and control the world. This is the birth of “self confidence” in the narrowest and strongest sense. Because one’s self-sense is narrow, prepersonal level consciousness is self-centered and exploitative, but also expresses nurturing and generosity within the context of that level. Developmentally, it correlates with the normal, healthy self-awareness of a four-year old. It is dependent on the linguistically-based definitions of self that arise with grammar and extensive vocabularies. Thinking is concrete and self-centered. There is no self-reflection on motives or empathy, although there is a great deal of role play. What looks like empathy is mimicry. The cognitive sophistication of late prepersonal is largely due to the acquisition of language as an adaptive tool for an organism, homo sapiens, that lack the physiological compatibility with the environment that other mammals do.[5]

Language allows the development of an abstract, cognitively derived sense of self that can retroflect, that is, turn around and look back at itself with a degree of objectivity that is not attainable at early and mid-prepersonal levels. Their actions are generally controlled by fear. When things go wrong on this level you have abuses of power and control by strong selves for very narrowly defined self-interests: power, control, status, and money. People fixated at this level, regardless of their biological age, do not empathize and so they can and do abuse and kill with impunity. What looks like empathy on this level is social conscience based on fear of punishment. “I will do what you want because I will be punished if I do not and I will be rewarded if I do.” People who have evolved to late prepersonal may be extraordinarily powerful and therefore respected for their power and its ability to bestow both blessings and punishments. People tend to ask few questions of great power, which gives it great freedoms, which it generally uses to over-reach and cause its own downfall. The NSA and its relationship to the executive, the legislative, judicial, media, and general citizenry of the United States and the world provide spectacular example of the advantages and disadvantages of consciousness stabilized at late prepersonal.

Late prepersonal dreamers who do interviewing access perspectives that are relatively selfless, unafraid, and detached from power, although they may indeed and obviously be powerful. This allows people at this level to objectify a separate sense of self that requires both defense and power so that these needs can be met without self-rescuing compulsion.

Early personal development focuses on identification with skills, professions, religions, political parties, ethnic groups, and nations. Belongingness creates a social definition of self that is based on exclusion and exclusiveness. I know who I am based on who is not a member of my group. The doctrines, beliefs, and practices of my group create my identity. My success and power rises and falls with the success of my group. My self-worth is created and validated by my membership. The meaning of my life is defined by the goals of my group. When I conform to them, I thrive; when I fight them, I lose. Think of those conditions as applied to religious affiliation, political party membership, company loyalty, and nationalism and you see how powerful and corrosive it can be. Thinking for oneself, at least in areas involving basic group tenants, guidelines, and behaviors, is dangerous individually, because independence of opinion is seen as a threat to the survival of the group as a whole. While self-sense has obviously expanded over the narrow selfishness of late prepersonal, this self is not yet independent from collective cultural definitions of success and happiness. Most people function no higher than at this level because they make their living through their group loyalties. As Upton Sinclair famously said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Dysfunction on this level occurs when the group self-destructs, because your identity and fate is merged with it. A classical example is Germany in the 1930’s. When the German people became identified with National Socialism their individual fate became dependent on the fate of that group identity.

IDL offers people at early prepersonal a collective identity that is authentic and that they cannot outgrow. That identity does not ask them to choose between loyalty to it and to themselves. It does not force compliance with its preferences, nor does it appeal to fear, groupthink, exceptionalism, or exclusivity in order to gain and maintain allegiance. Most people never have the experience with such an approach to collective identity, so how could they recognize it and come to outgrow exterior group loyalties and the myths that bind the group together?

The middle personal extends rights to others based on universal rational principles. This group generates laws, and these laws generate justice for all, not just for my group. People at this level have a set of principles that they have either learned and accepted or developed themselves, and these define who they are and provide meaning in their lives. They understand and control the world by making it in harmony with “natural law,” – the rules of science and nature. These people pride themselves on being rational, independent thinkers. Scientific empiricism operates at this level. They like to question, challenge, and doubt, and they are not afraid of offending either individuals or groups by doing so. When things go wrong at the personal, it is because reason has failed to answer important questions about the status quo. One has played the game and found success in the eyes of the world but is still not happy. There is a crisis of identity, because social and even principled definitions of self are no longer sufficient or satisfying.

People at middle personal either make a god out of reason, are blind to their own inconsistencies, or both. President Obama, for example, presents rational arguments for his decisions and clearly believes he is a rational actor, when his actions are based on the interests of earlier memes, such as early personal exceptionalism and a late prepersonal resort to power, not reason, to achieve his ends. This is also an example of what IDL terms perceptual cognitive distortions which blind people to their actual circumstances, level of development, and developmental needs.

Although they are generally more rational and objecetive than we are, interviewed emerging potentials do not base their decisions on rationality, but on the congruence of their perspective. While that perspective, even if it reflects high scores in the six core qualities, remains a perceptual cognitive distortion, it provides a broader, more inclusive framework than one’s own rational perspective in most cases. For example, a common dilemma for people who are outgrowing this level involves finding meaning in life when social roles, scripts, and pursuits are found to be hollow and superficial. Substituting other external sources of meaning can feel like avoidance of the underlying dissatisfaction with the rational life structure one has built their life on. IDL interviewing generates sources of meaning for people that are intrinsic and satisfying, but not because they are or are not rational.

Late personal extends not only justice but nurturing to all others, not based on reason and law, but the flowering of empathy as compassion. If you haven’t evolved your empathetic and moral lines to late personal, your self-line is not going to be at this level, regardless of how advanced your cognitive line is. Most people self-assess their moral and empathetic development as high, but how would they know? The only way to test morality in particular is in morally compromising circumstances which most people either do not experience, avoid, or forget.

At late personal it is recognized that to exploit others is to exploit the parts of oneself that the other represents. An example of phony altruism would be a Koch brother buying a seat on the board of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City with a sizable donation. While anyone can do actions that look like they function at this level, to authentically be at late personal there has to be evidence that a person has first attained the mid-personal as a rational believer in justice. This is typically very difficult for capitalists to do, because their first allegiance is to profits, not justice. Bill Gates, who learned the laws of programming and business and then went on to use his expertise and resources in philanthropy is an example of someone who appears to be at a late personal developmental stage. Noam Chompsky is an example of a brilliant intellectual who uses that ability in service of a late prepersonal emphasis on pluralism and egalitarianism.

People who fight for the welfare of everyone and for animals, for pluralism and egalitarianism, may be surfing on a cultural or sub-cultural wave. They may have identified with a group or with the values of a group and be doing very good work at an early personal or even mid-prepersonal. One does not stabilize at late prepersonal or above unless he or she has learned to think rationally. For example, there are plenty of Buddhist monks who spend many hours in meditation who are still functioning at pre-rational levels of development. Late personal development implies emotional objectivity and an ability to recognize and avoid both emotional and logical cognitive distortions. It also implies having undergone a thoroughgoing questioning, doubt, and skepticism toward one’s own most central and prized beliefs. How many people typically do so?

IDL is beneficial for people at late prepersonal who want to make sure their universal concern is anchored in their inner compass instead of some prevailing sub-cultural groupthink. The difference is not only authenticity, but validation that they really are at late personal instead of at an earlier level and participating with cultural demonstrations of egalitarianism and pluralism, like, for instance, AVAAZ.

Beyond late personal is a transitional stage which Wilber calls “vision-logic.” It is associated with two primary characteristics, the objectivity of being able to think about thinking, or to generate cognitive maps of cognitive maps, and the ability to tolerate ambiguity and practice multiperspectivalism, or the ability to take more than one perspective at the same time. Almost everyone who learns AQAL fancies themselves at late personal or above. Few are. That is because while everyone thinks of themselves as selfless, generous, and “good,” most people do not understand that definitions of morality evolve through stages, as does empathy. Just understanding the map is not the same as access to any particular part of the territory. Climbing a mountain necessarily means moving up, step by step from its base. Yes, you can take a helicopter or fly over, which is by analogy state openings, but there is no permanence to either, because you haven’t learned how to climb the mountain. Integral Deep Listening interviewing trains multiperspectivalism in ways that macrocosmic approaches, like Wilber’s integral AQAL tend not to do. Such approaches teach and support multi-perspectivalism among sources and disciplines through broader cognitive understandings. IDL supports and teaches the same, and adds to it experiences of multi-perspectivalism with perspectives that undercut dualisms of good and bad, real and false, spiritual and secular, pure and contaminating. This is a major broadening of multi-perspectivalism from the cognitive into the experiential realm and from dualistic assumptions and frames of reference to non-dualistic ones. Consequently, it represents a radical departure from the shamanistic world view, one that Wilber’s integral AQAL on the whole does not relativize.[6]

Beyond the realm of the personal lies three states of transpersonal experience that are accessible to anyone at any level. Wilber and the classical religious traditions believe these are also stages. IDL is not so sure, for several reasons.[7] Consequently, these will be discussed as states, which are realities, rather than as stages, which are possibilities. These transpersonal states are often described as self-identities, for example, Aurobindo’s Overmind, Emerson’s Oversoul, nous, and the Hindu Atman, or world-soul. This implies an equivalence of the self-line, or who one experiences themselves to be, with a soul-type, undying identity. Prior to Wilber there was no consideration among the religious traditions of the world of other developmental lines that could be as important as the self-line, although moral development has been widely viewed as essential. Transpersonal stages are experiential, but this is definitely and absolutely not the prerational experience of children, animals, and humans at prepersonal stages of development. Because they are both experiential, and the only experience most people have with them is in transpersonal states that are accessible to anyone, at any stage of development, they conclude that prepersonal and transpersonal oneness are the same. This is what Wilber calls the “pre-trans fallacy,” in which prepersonal experiences are thought to be transpersonal or transpersonal experiences are discounted as delusional, psychotic episodes. By assuming mysticism is a regression to infantile states, Freud committed the latter fallacy, called “reductionism”; by assuming pre-rational myths reflect divine realizations, Jung committed the former, called “elevationism.”The experiential nature of the transpersonal transcends and includes reason. It is not based on belief but is an outgrowth of rationality. These people can give objective reasons for their experiences instead of appealing to myths, feelings, or scripture If the prepersonal and transpersonal are the same, then there is no reason for development or evolution. None of that matters, because what is real is communion, egalitarianism, and pluralism. This is essentially the position of the great preponderance of new age, shamanistic, and energy medicine proponents.

For Integral Deep Listening, while transpersonal states are realities, transpersonal stages are theoretical. It is one thing to experience transpersonal openings and thereby dedicate oneself to living in such a way that those experiences are honored; it is another matter entirely to be stabilized in your development on one or another of these transpersonal levels. The higher you go, the more prerequisite linear building blocks must be in place; consequently, each successive stage becomes increasingly less likely. It is much more likely that people who have a cognitive grasp of AQAL are at personal to late personal in their level of development. It is unlikely that their overall or average level of development on all four of the basic lines is stabilized at vision-logic, much less at early transpersonal. Consequently, those who claim openings to these levels are to be listened to and respected; those who claim to be stabilized at some level above late personal are to be treated with a considerable amount of skepticism. This is both very difficult and unlikely. These people generally are discovered to not understand the distinction between state and stage development or between self-sense and other developmental lines.

The above distinctions apply primarily to the lines of cognition and self. They do not so much apply to the lines of empathy and morality, the other two primary lines for IDL. Consequently, a person can be stabilized in the self and cognitive lines at a level and have an overall development below that. This is a point that is easily overlooked and needs to be emphasized. If it is not, society creates role models that are high in one line or another but imbalanced over all. Examples would include Barak Obama, Werner Von Braun, most economists, actors, athletes, and musicians. Obama is clearly stabilized at personal on the self-line, based on his multiple life accomplishments, and his statements regarding the universal rights of individuals. However, his empathetic and moral lines are late prepersonal to early personal, based both on chronic ignoring of international law regarding drone assassinations and the treatment of prisoners, and on his lack of support for fourth amendment rights and prosecutions of whistleblowers. Such limitations bring his overall level of development down. The scientist Werner Von Braun, famous for his creation of the V2 rockets that rained terror on English cities during World War II and later for designing the massive Saturn rockets that flew men to the moon, appears to have been at personal on his cognitive and self-lines of development; however his willingness to put science above the cause it served imply empathetic and moral lines that were less developed. Austerity and neo-conservative economists, such as Kenneth Rogoff and Milton Friedman, are highly intelligent intellectuals who demonstrate a similar pattern. Actors, athletes, and musicians have highly developed lines that have little to do with cognitive, empathetic, moral, or self development, yet they are generally assumed to be worthy of emulation as human beings in areas other than their particular areas of expertise. This is a common logical fallacy, a type of cognitive distortion, called “appeal to improper authority.” IDL emphasizes the identification and reduction of emotional, logical, and perceptual cognitive distortions as a necessary step for evolving the cognitive and self-lines.

While IDL both emphasizes and encourages waking up and enlightenment, it believes it is a human tendency to put too much emphasis on accessing transpersonal states and then confusing those state experiences with proof of attainment of higher levels. While development is hierarchical, and higher levels are more inclusive than the lower, and therefore more adequate in their explanatory and adaptive capabilities, this does not make them “better.” For Wilber’s integral, as well as for IDL, “better” is balance and integration where you are right now, today. This is thought of in terms of what is called the “developmental dialectic,” which is comprised of three stages, thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, and which operates at every stage of development and on every line. The thesis stage involves “translation,” which is Wilber’s term, for consolidation, balance, integration, and a horizontal organization and stabilization wherever you are in your development. This is where most of us spend the great majority of our time anyway, finding balance within the context of our current levels of competency and world view. The “pump-like” process of successive identification/disidentification which is intrinsic to IDL interviewing results in more effective “translation,” that is, greater stability and competency at your current level of development. However, as you continue to practice not only IDL interviewing, but applying the recommendations from the interviews, the development in core lines of self, cognition, morality and empathy expand until the next developmental level is accessed in a stable, ongoing way. This process is relatively invisible, like learning to walk or talk, but equally as real and momentous.

As “translation,” or balancing occurs, threats arise to test the balance. Your competency is called into question. All of the assumptions of your life may be antithetically challenged. As these challenges are faced and assimilated a higher order synthesis can emerge, which is the foundation for the next higher level of development. This is why IDL encourages interpreting such challenges as wake-up calls and interviewing them, because by doing so you will move through antithesis much faster and see your way forward to a higher order synthesis. IDL promotes stage development by reframing blocks and fixations as emerging potentials and wake-up calls. IDL does not assume that such blocks and fixations are “shadow,” or parts of your own disowned larger identity. It suspends such assumptions in favor of a phenomenological stance of integral deep listening to whatever dream character or life issue is being interviewed. By doing so, the normal boundaries of waking identity are suspended, resulting in the assumption of a perspective that includes, yet transcends, that of your normal sense of who you are. This results in a temporary expansion of identity. The subsequent contraction may return you to 90% of your previous sense of self, but it is never a 100% return. Over time, with repeated interviews, this process of repeated expansion and contraction gradually but genuinely expands and thins your sense of self. This process has been found to be equally the case for children and advanced meditators. It represents both an antithesis and a higher order integrating synthesis within the developmental dialectic of stage development.

Because this dialectic plays out on all lines of development, which themselves may be higher or lower than your current stable level of development, it is easy to mistake synthesis on one line for a breakthrough to a higher stable level of development, as when someone cognitively grasps Wilber’s integral model, or, at the other extreme, to mistake a reawakened childhood conflict dealing with rejection, abandonment, or old fears as proof that all one’s work hasn’t gotten them anywhere at all. Both conclusions mistake line dialectic stages for indications of overall stage development. It is only when people learn this model that they can, through such distinctions, understand what is going on in their lives and not be swept up by mistaken assumptions.

The first of the transpersonal states is associated with nature mysticism and oneness with energy, purification, power, control, and psychic ability. It has also been called “the path of the yogis.” IDL refers to this as the energic. Having experiences of oneness with nature, being out of the body, or communication with a deceased relative in a dream are states, but in no way indicate a stable habitation of this consciousness as an ongoing, everyday consciousness. Remember, children and criminals can have state experiences of any transpersonal level. If you take the life, writings, and thought of anyone you can imagine, including any mystic, you will have a very difficult time finding one that is stabilized on this level, much less a higher level. You may find some that are stabilized on the cognitive or the self-line, but not on the empathetic or moral line. You may find many who claim or who others claim were so stabilized, but the data generally supports high development in a sensational line, like clairvoyance or out-of-the-body experiences, and these exceptional capacities are taken to be signs that a person is stabilized at one of these transpersonal states as an ongoing stage. If someone seems stabilized on the self-line but lacks a multiperspectival world view, then it is questionable that they are transpersonal anything. This is because the cognitive line leads; if one’s world view is not at vision-logic, how can ones’ identity be stabilized at some higher level?

The reason why IDL is not convinced that the energic exists as a stage is that holons have not yet evolved to that level. What we have had so far are selves that have accessed transpersonal states, but there is little evidence that most of these mystical selves developed their cognitive line to the rational mid-personal, much less the multi-perspectival or beyond. For instance, take St. Theresa of Avila or Ramakrishna. These saints are both widely acknowledged as being subtle-level mystics. If the cognitive line leads the self-line, what evidence is there that either developed the doubt and questioning of cultural assumptions that are hallmarks of the rational? Nagarjuna, who most would agree was a causal level mystic, if not non-dual, and whose cognitive line was certainly solidly rational if not above, still believed in the inherent dualism of the Two Truths Doctrine. We also must remember that each higher stage not only transcends but includes previous stages. Therefore, transpersonal mystics who claim stage stabilization must be able to demonstrate a transition and integration of each of the previous stages. To the best of my knowledge, this is merely assumed of mystics; it has not been demonstrated.

A third piece of evidence is the lack of environmental support for stabilization at transpersonal stages. Monastic life is not enough because everyone remains subject to the assumptions of the perceptual cognitive distortions that determine what they can and will perceive. Dualistic assumptions in the internal collective quadrant imply state awakenings, not stage stabilization.

When the self-line continues into this level it not only contaminates it with the perceptual frameworks that define its sense of self as soul, but its own preferences, assumptions, and expectations. These generally involve that the assumption that the qualities associated with this stage, power, control, freedom, psychic abilities, energy, and purification are good. Such assumptions actually block stabilization on this level, because they are dualistic, and transpersonal stages are, by definition, experiences of unity, not dualism. Therefore, what most people assume is energic stage mastery is generally energic state access which presents itself as a yogi or black or white wizard or shaman.

The second transpersonal stage, which is commonly called the “subtle,” or “saintly mysticism,” is associated with an I-Thou mergence with All in love. Young children naturally have an I-Thou relationship with their parents as well as a sense of oneness with life. Does this make them mystics? Most people who either claim or other people claim are subtle-level saints express astoundingly beautiful love and compassion and appear to be in a constantly blissful state. They are selfless. What does this have to do with their cognitive line? Is it somehow no longer important? Does it no longer matter, because they have transcended the world of conceptualization? Someone who claims to be a subtle level mystic needs to first be stabilized on cognitive, empathetic, moral, and self-lines at the energic. Have they done so? What is the evidence that they have? Buddha and Christ awakened within world views and cognitive frameworks that were clearly early personal, at best. We know this from their division of reality into three realms of Heaven, Earth, and Hell inhabited by more evolved and less evolved beings. Jesus clearly believed in demons and had a model of disease at least partially based on possession. This reflects a shamanistic world view. Wilber discusses the conditionality of enlightenment in Integral Spirituality in terms of unfolding cultural contexts.

When a self-sense is maintained into this level it is experienced as an eternal, immortal Self or Atman that is One with All. This would be wonderful, but enshrines consciousness and beingness as things that are separate from and prior to the flow of experience which is life. Identity is abstracted out of life. The result is the maintenance of a subtle dualism, which is capable of continuing to experience the disorders and suffering that is associated with it.

The third transpersonal level, referred to as the “causal” or “the path of the sages,” is a selfless and “empty” perspective that transcends thinking. It is essentially pure objectivity or witnessing, without content to either the witness or that which is witnessed. There is no longer a projection of identity, separateness, or “thingness” into whatever is perceived.

Transpersonal levels of development are depicted by Wilber and others as followed by a space which is no longer a stage, but an “always already” present reality called the “non-dual.” Theoretically there is no dualism here, which means there is no distinction between perceiver and perceived, self and object, good and bad, pure and impure, true and delusional, sacred and profane, enlightenment and everyday mind. IDL demonstrates that this state not only exists but is easily accessed by most anyone, because it is not unusual to experience oneself as perspectives that embody this non-duality. As such, there is nothing inherently mystical about it, nor is it inherently associated with bliss, timelessness, spacelessness, or transcendent anything. Instead, it is found to be present in the fabric of the present moment, complete with its filters. The difference is that experience, including all the filters, are perceived from perspectives that are themselves relatively non-filtered and non-dual.

Because holons are parts of wholes, any state of non-duality experienced by IDL is understood to be the content of a broader non-duality that is context. Consequently, non-duality is not static and ultimate, but an unfolding, growing process.

IDL emphasizes the dialectic of stage transformation even in transpersonal stages. It is relatively easy to have insights and transformational experiences which are generally state openings. Such freeing vantage points create hope, belief, and temporary insight while often presenting themselves as permanent transformations due to their radical otherness and overwhelming positive qualities. IDL demonstrates that repeated access to transpersonal states does not add up to the stable attainment of any transpersonal stage. We see this in opium addicts and experiential workshop junkies. More, better orgasms do not translate into higher stages of development. Without this distinction we are constantly searching for our next high, not only for the good feeling, but often in the mistaken belief that just one more experience will push us over the edge into permanent bliss. This is one of the reasons IDL does not emphasize lucid dreaming per se. It does not believe in seducing people with false hopes and promises when an easy, fun, and quicker way to get to where you want to go already exists. In this regard, both AQAL and IDL follow the Zen attitude toward experiences in meditation: they are regarded as makyo, or irrelevancies, no matter how beautiful and profound they are.


Wilber’s AQAL uses “type” to refer to the style of your growth process. The most important type involves the polar characteristics associated with yin, the feminine, and yang, the masculine. Wilber associates the feminine with grounding, community, and heterarchy, among other things, and the masculine with transcendence, individuality, and hierarchy. He believes that these tend to alternate with development as follows:

early prepersonal archaic: masculine

mid-prepersonal magic/tribal: feminine

late prepersonal egoic: masculine

early personal mythic membership: feminine

mid personal rational: masculine

late personal pluralistic/egalitarian: feminine

vision-logic multiperspectival: cognitively masculine but overall androgenous.

At this point the sequence tends to break down, because

nature mysticism energic: masculine

deity mysticism; divine union through love: feminine

sage mysticism, causal: masculine

non-dual: androgynous.

Of course, these general trends can be and sometimes are over-ridden. A person can identify with the opposite style in various ways on any level, or they can integrate the two and move into androgeny. It is therefore probably more accurate to think of each of these levels as androgenous when integrated, balanced, and whole.

Any dream yoga can be pursued with either a male, female, or androgenous emphasis. Like AQAL, IDL emphasizes a balancing of male “agency” and female “communion.” Agency is provided by the intentionality of interviewed emerging potentials. Communion is provided by the act of role-play, or disidentification, while remaining aware of oneself in the here and now, as well as by application of recommendations from the interview. Triangulation can be thought of as an attempt at androgeny in decision-making with the integration of internal and external sources of objectivity.

Emerging potentials themseles tend not to be masculine or feminine but androgenous. However, each interviewed emerging potential self-scores in each of the six core qualities, the result being various mixtures of characteristics that tend to be one or the other. The correlations would be:

Confidence: masculine

Compassion: feminine

Wisdom: masculine

Acceptance: feminine

Inner Peace: feminine

Witnessing: masculine

However, one goal of IDL is to bring feminine characteristics into the “male” values and masculine characteristics into the “female” values. IDL encourages students to work to integrate the masculine and feminine at whatever level of development they are presently at, in the belief that life can only express itself through who you are now, not through who you hope to become.

An Integral Life Practice

IDL isn’t just an experience; it is a life discipline. Wilber states, and Integral Deep Listening agrees, that integral development requires the daily, balanced application of an integral life practice that addresses at least body, mind, and the sacred, and what Wilber, following Jung, calls “shadow.” AQAL approaches enlightenment, or the waking up out of delusion, as a series of integral life practices. One of these is learning AQAL to grow the cognitive line, because it creates the skeleton or scaffolding on which the other lines climb. Another is to do “shadow work,” in order to defuse self-sabotaging desires and behaviors and get out of your own way. Another is to create a healthy physical platform that supports the focus and generates the energy growth requires. Another is to do things that bring life into consciousness. These range from exercise and shadow work to meditation.

A dream yoga, such as lucid dreaming, would normally be considered as one line of development within an integral life practice. IDL attempts to establish a dream yoga that oversees one’s integral life practice in addition to being one line of development within one’s integral life practice. IDL heartily endorses both Wilber’s reasons for taking on a multi-disciplinary integral life practice and the many concrete, practical, and useful ideas that he provides for how to structure them. Typically and integral life practice is designed by and for the self and the evolution of the self-line. The other lines, such as the cognitive line, are strengthened in order to evolve the self-line toward enlightenment according to a pattern or map provided by the self. In Wilber’s Integral Life Practice, goals are chosen and progress determined by waking identity, the “self,” or the “Self” in consultation with various specialists in body, mind, relationship, finances, shadow work, and so forth. The clear, present, and immediate problem is that the involved source of delusion, misery, and dysfunction is designing the program to wake itself up. An analogy is a flat worm being asked to imagine three dimensions or a dog to grow and use hands. Flat worms are adapted to two dimensions; they cannot conceive of three dimensions. Dogs are adapted to paws; they would as be as unhappy with hands as you would be with paws.

In Integral Deep Listening, integral life practice goals are first established by waking identity, in consultation with specialists, but then submitted to various emerging potentials. The idea is to align the priorities of your waking identity with those of innate perspectives that score high in core qualities associated with enlightenment. Why? Because if you don’t, you will think you are striving for goals that are in alignment with your highest good when in fact you may not be doing so. How would you know? The goals you choose may not reflect the priorities of your inner compass. Instead, they may reflect internalized external sources of objectivity, such as script injunctions, parent voices, intuition, conscience, and God’s will. The result is that you may well find yourself at cross-purposes to the agenda of your inner compass, as indicated by the growth preferences of interviewed emerging potentials. Such cross-purposes create inner conflict that can sabotage your integral life practice.

This is why IDL encourages you to set up and direct your integral life practice with triangulation. In Integral Deep Listening, your ongoing work with your integral life practice is monitored with ongoing feedback on progress from interviewed emerging potentials. Your self may not know what it needs, but it has an important say in what is to be done and whether or not it is done. Others know more than you and need to be consulted, but they are not you; their job is to access and follow their inner compass, not yours. Your interviewed emerging potentials provide perspectives and priorities that inherently include, yet transcend, your own. Their consensual priorities are a better guide to the priorities of your inner compass and the way life wants to evolve itself in and through you than either yourself or others. That’s a fact, and that’s why you need to coordinate your integral life practice with the process of triangulation. Consult your emerging potentials; consult others; use your common sense.

What is Required for Transpersonal?

How important is AQAL? IDL believes that for any approach to growth to be truly transformative in an integral sense, it needs to take into account AQAL. Anything that does not is more likely to be prepersonal or personal and claiming to be transpersonal. This does not imply that any and all approaches, including Integral Deep Listening, are truly transformative just because they claim to be integral and attempt to take the AQAL model into consideration. That could result in an approach that claims to be vision-logic when it is not, or representing an energic world view when it is merely shamanistic prepersonal, or representing a subtle I-Thou bhakti/divine unification through love world view when it is more along the lines of a near death experience, which can be had by anyone at any stage of development. It could result in an approach that claims to be causal empty sunyata when it has a questionable tradition of multiperspectivalism or the cultivation of a culture of empathy. It could result in claims that an approach is non-dual either because the expositor of the approach has had non-dual experiences or because they hold a non-dual world view.

For an approach to be transpersonal it has to produce transpersonal levels of development in people, not just transpersonal states and not just access to the transpersonal by the self-line, although that in itself is quite an accomplishment. To be transpersonal, an approach needs to demonstrate an ability to stabilize development on one or another of the three transpersonal levels across at least what Integral Deep Listening considers to be the four core developmental lines: cognitive, empathetic, moral, and self. Cognitive and self are the easiest; empathetic and moral are the more important. If you run into an approach to growth that claims to be transpersonal the best response is to be very, very skeptical. The proper response is to run it through a series of integral filters. Ask, “Does it provide stable stage development or only temporary state openings to the transpersonal?” “Does it account for transpersonal development of all four of the core lines or does it only offer a path for the cognitive or self-lines?” “Does it provide an empirical transpersonal yoga or discipline that can be tested and replicated, that leads to stabilized transpersonal holons?”

For these reasons, while IDL claims to be transpersonal in the sense that it integrates pre personal belief with personal reason to access a higher order experientially-based perspective, it does not claim that it provides stable access to energic, subtle, causal, or non-dual stages. Other dream yogas may indeed do a better job of this than IDL does. It claims that it is effective at stabilizing people at vision-logic, or multiperspectivalism, which means to evolve all four of the core developmental lines to that level. Approaches that claim to take people higher have a responsibility to provide the data to support the claim that they bring people up to stabilized development at personal and then vision-logic. If they cannot demonstrate that they do so and how they do so, claims that they take people beyond are to be questioned. However, like other approaches, IDL does claim to access and disclose some transpersonal states. This is different from claiming to be transpersonal or to provide a method that produces transpersonal enlightenment as a stabilized consciousness. If an approach is unaware of these distinctions that implies they are providing something less than transpersonal.

A Multi-Perspectival World View

Multi-perspectivalism is supported by Wilber’s integral by learning the AQAL model, because doing so requires the consideration of multiple perspectives. This tends to bring cognition, the leading line up to vision-logic. There is no similar imperative in most forms of dream yoga. However, Tibetan Buddhism implies a similar ability in the embodiment of various Bodhisattvas, and this can be combined with a practice of dream yoga and lucid dreaming. In addition, there is no reason why any dream yoga cannot incorporate an emphasis on multi-perspectivalism both while awake and during lucid dreaming.

IDL provides experiences of multi-perspectivalism independent of one’s stage of development. The reason IDL is able to provide such access is because it anchors multi-perspectivalism in the innate ability of children to role play. Consequently, anyone who is able to identify with some non-self role and “become it” can use IDL to awaken and grow a multi-perspectival world view. Obviously, these are state openings, or even stable acquisition by the cognitive line; both are available much earlier than actual stabilization at vision-logic, which is much more difficult.

When grasped in an experiential rather than a cognitive way, perspectives that transcend, yet include, our own integrate both pre-personal and personal levels of development and make innate sense, regardless of our understanding of AQAL. The result is that actions motivated by a vision-logic perspective are made available to children and those who have never heard of AQAL. This does not automatically catapult people up to the level of vision-logic, but what it does do is expose them to multiple perspectives, just as the world does, and to multiple perspectives that transcend yet include their own. Notice that such exposure normally becomes less true the older children get because they outgrow the common base of experience that older mentors share as they develop their unique interests, personalities, and challenges. Adults have been children, so in some ways their perspectives innately include those of children. They are no longer children, so their perspectives innately transcend those of children. However, no adult has been the interior of this or that particular child, so there is no inclusion of their unique priorities on a deep level. No adult represents the emerging potentials of this or that particular child, only of children in general of a particular family, neighborhood, society, or culture. So while taking the roles of surrounding adults definitely supports the development of empathy of children, it does not address the specific, unique needs of a particular child, or, if it happens to, it is often the result of good fortune, where interior needs happen to coincide with the competencies of available role models.

Because IDL is primarily experiential instead of cognitive, it opens major opportunities for the expansion of AQAL to those most in need of its liberating and empowering world view, that is, people who are focused on the challenges of daily living, not cognitive development and ideas. This can occur because as experiences and temporary states, core characteristics of all levels of development, if not the levels themselves, are available to most everyone all the time. So, for example, a child at early pre-personal can have glimpses of the non-dual in their dreams; this does not mean she is an ascended master, but it does mean that she has had an opening into the perspective of the non-dual. Similarly, when people of any age have openings into a multi-perspectival world view it means that they are less likely to succumb to black and white thinking, personalization, or other emotional and logical cognitive distortions, regardless of their level of development.

The simple cultivation of objectivity does not necessarily translate into empathy. Wilber discusses this in terms of the difference between “its” in the external individual and collective quadrants and “I-Thou” in the internal collective quadrant. Professionals and systems are objective; does that make them empathetic? Similarly, a sense of self that transcends and includes prior definitions and others is not necessarily either empathetic or multi-perspectival. You can have clear causal or non-dual awareness without experiencing either. For example, imagine right now that you are interstellar space. You have no height or depth; there is no sense of time; because you lack color there is neither black nor white. Notice that to experience yourself as interstellar space you have to do several things. You have to be willing to suspend your normal sense of self; you also have to suspend your cognitive line with its typical assumptions and perceptual filters; you also have to be willing to act for reasons that do not have any necessary relationship to morality or ethics. However, if you do so, while becoming interstellar space is highly objective, there is nothing necessarily empathetic or multi-perspectival about it. If you lived your life from that perspective you could conceivably live in a causal or non-dual state but without any empathy or the ability to shift perspectives. Therefore, a sense of self that transcends and includes prior definitions and the entire universe is not necessarily either empathetic or multi-perspectival. If you want those two characteristics you must first differentiate them from the others, which Wilber’s AQAL teaches you to do. You then need some discipline, methodology, yoga, or integral life practice that requires you to practice empathy and multi-perspectivalism in well thought out and effective ways. That is what IDL teaches you to do.

Shared Attributes 

Focus on Waking Up

Like AQAL, dream yogas focus on the removal of filters that block awakening and enlightenment. AQAL does so chiefly in two ways. First, it attempts to bring the cognitive line up to multi-perspectival vision-logic, post late-personal. Secondly, it attempts to ground that expanded perspective yogically, through integral life practices. This acts as a “sky anchor” that tends to bring the other lines up to that level. IDL serves as an executive yoga that prioritizes other yogas according to the priorities of one’s own inner compass. At the same time it keeps generating state openings of transpersonal experiences that represent higher orders of functional wakefulness. They are “functional” in that they are directly related to your current ongoing life issues.

As mentioned above, the focus of enlightenment for Integral Deep Listening is at your current level of development, not on some future and final enlightenment. It focuses on the awakening of collective, intrasocial identity, in both its individual and collective aspects, through the interviewing process, because these tend to lag behind the more obvious, objectified and external quadrants of the human holon. In this regard, like AQAL, IDL focuses on changing the world from the inside out. While recognizing that holons evolve by balancing interiors and exteriors, individuals and collectives, both AQAL and IDL recognize that we create our reality, and that therefore we start by taking responsibility for who we think we are, how we are stuck, and how we interact with others and the world. For IDL, particularly within the context of Ending Nightmares for Good, this means helping children awaken to their own inner compass and then to follow it, based first on the recommendations of their interviewed emerging potentials and then through triangulation.

IDL believes that the act of interviewing embues these previously largely preconscious perspectives with a level of wakefulness that is at least comparable to that of the student and is often found to transcend their level of wakefulness. As also mentioned above, the dream state represents or personifies another broader context in which the enlightenment of waking identity can occur. The dream state is not centered on the enlightenment of waking identity, but on the enlightenment of encountered dream characters, by making them conscious through interviewing them, both while awake and while dreaming.

IDL views life as if it were a series of “wake-up calls” to be listened to. Life is itself; it is not a series of wake-up calls, but this fiction places us in a receptive, “listening” stance in which we are more likely to be alerted to physical, mental, interpersonal, and emotional imbalances when they show up in our dreams or lives as cautionary “yellow” indications rather than when they are critical, “red” emergencies: accidents, disease, heartbreak. The more we listen to these wake-up calls, by interviewing them, whether as dream characters or the personifications of our waking life issues, the more likely we are to find and follow our “inner compass,” or the innate set of priorities of our emerging potentials: life as it wants to be uniquely born in and through us. Hearing, understanding, and responding to the priorities of our emerging potentials recalibrates our own; it can mean the difference between a life doing what we think is God’s will, but is in fact based on internalized social injunctions, and allowing life to be born within us according to its spontaneous richness.

Some spiritual traditions state that when you completely wake up you transcend the need to dream. For example, Hinduism views earthly existence as samsara, a dream-like illusion of maya. Enlightenment, as moksha or bodhi, is a state of existence free of the delusions of dreams. IDL believes that such traditions express a fundamental confusion. Because their perception of a dream while dreaming is illusory they assume that dreams themselves are illusory. What follows is a mistaken conclusion: that by waking up out of all illusory states, dreaming must necessarily end. You can disprove this common misperception for yourself by using the Integral Deep Listening process and interviewing dream characters. What you will discover is that dream content is a projection of life into the tenuous reality of dreaming, just like trees, tables, and dogs are projections of life into our relatively stable and objective waking dream. When you become enlightened, trees and tables do not cease to exist. Neither do other internal and subjective manifestations of life. All that happens is that you stop projecting silly and nonsensical beliefs onto them, whether while asleep and dreaming or when you are awake.

Wilber’s AQAL thankfully avoids these confusions. It has the benefit of being inclusive of Eastern and Western, psychological, religious, scientific, spiritual, and historical perspectives while providing something of a “check off list” of criteria by which to determine just how transformative an approach is.

Integral approaches attempt to take the best from both belief-based and rational worlds and then integrate and transcend them. Regarding dream yoga, the best in the prepersonal, belief-based paths recognizes that the goal of lucid dreaming is not salvation or rescuing, but waking up, wherever one is, in whatever state of consciousness you happen to be in. In the case of the rationally-based personal levels, the best that they offer to a dream yoga are empirical methodologies and ways to test truth claims.

Emphasizes Waking up In All States

While Wilber’s integral AQAL emphasizes waking up in all states – waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, and dream yogas may focus on waking up while dreaming, during deep sleep, while awake, or all three, Integral Deep Listening emphasizes waking state lucidity while supporting and encouraging dreaming and deep sleep lucidity. This is because the illusory assumptions of an unenlightened waking identity create misperceptions that color all other states with its perceptual cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions don’t magically vanish just because you enter a radically different state of consciousness. This is because they are different than space-time-causal filters; they represent the assumptions you use to make sense of your perceptions. To get beyond or behind them you have to stop perceiving entirely. For most people, most of the time, this is equivalent to a state of deep sleep unconsciousness.

When you wake up in the dream state you are most likely to colonize that consciousness with the delusions of your current level of waking development. The solution to this is not to simply change the dream or to transcend dreaming with clear, dreamless sleep. The solution from an Integral Deep Listening perspective is to ask questions of emerging potentials in waking interviews and then learn to do so in dreams, with respectful listening as the default response when confronted by any event or character.

The more that you focus on moving out of drama in your waking life the less likely you are to be in drama in your dreams, whether you remember them or not, whether you are lucid or not. The more you move out of cognitive distortions into clarity in thinking, the less likely you are to jump to conclusions in your dreams about what you see, experience, or what you are told. The more that you focus on identifying with clear awareness and the other six core processes and qualities in your waking life, the more you are likely to do so in your dreams. Because these are core characteristics of enlightenment, the more you become them in your waking life the more you are likely to wake up in your dreams in a broader sense than typically occurs in lucid dreams. This involves the quality of your wakefulness in whatever state you are in, whether you remember it or not. This is a very different emphasis from simply waking up on the self-line in all three states.

Enlightenment Evolves Due to Evolving Contexts

Wilber makes the point in Integral Spirituality that the enlightenment of Buddha and Jesus is constrained by a Bronze-age world view. The cultural and societal matrices in which their lives were embedded framed what it meant to “wake up” in ways that are more constrained than the cultural and societal matrices in post-industrial contexts. For example, waking up in terms of science, empiricism, human rights, culture, and integral were not possible because those concepts did not exist. If you were able to describe them to a Bronze age mind it would most likely understand, framing it in terms of a Bronze age world view, but because these concepts did not exist in the culture or society they would mean much less than they do today. Jesus’ enlightenment occurred within a context of heaven, hell, and demons. Buddha’s enlightenment occurred within a context in which it was socially acceptable to walk away from one’s wife and child to pursue one’s own path.

Integral Deep Listening believes that because both inner and outer contexts continue to evolve regardless of the degree of development of the self-line, that enlightenment will continue to evolve after the self is commonly understood to be a tool rather than a reality, opening opportunities for the evolution of dream development. Dreaming, as a state of consciousness, is relatively stable in relationship to the development of waking identity. This makes sense because it is rather clearly an earlier evolutionary state, with most mammals routinely dreaming, yet without having evolved a self-reflective identity. For example, few recognize themselves when looking in a mirror.[8]

Dreaming consciousness is normally a combination of early and mid-prepersonal development. Dreaming is stabilized at mid-prepersonal for almost all humans with only a few breaking into a late prepersonal level of dream state development. Indications of these levels include their focus on imagery, not language, the instability of detail, such as numbers on a clock’s face, their emotionality, the normally regressive assumptions of dreams, including that what is seen is real, that waking perception is accurate, that physical laws apply in dreams, and a constant immersion in drama, that is the roles of victim, persecutor, and rescuer. Far from being a sign of transpersonal enlightenment, lucid dreaming is a normal evolutionary outcropping of late prepersonal into the dream state, in that it is an awakening of self-awareness into that state for the first time, just as a four-year old awakens to self-consciousness as he identifies with a name, social roles, and a repetoire of behaviors. You can’t wake up in a dream until you have evolved the context of a late prepersonal sense of self that has the ability to objectify or separate itself out from its context. But any time after that, it is possible to evolve the dream state to that point as well. However, this is an example of how dream evolution follows waking evolution: you are not going to wake up in a dream more, or to a greater extent, than you are already capable of waking up in your waking life.

There is little doubt that lucid dreaming represents a further evolution of frontal lobe structures. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich have demonstrated that lucid dreamers have measurably bigger brain structures in the prefrontal cortex than those who do not. They also found that lucid dreamers score higher on self-reflection and thought-monitoring tests when awake, suggesting that lucid dreamers are more “lucid” during the day too.[9]

Developmental Dialectic

In addition to supporting Wilber’s application of the evolutionary movement of the self from thesis to antithesis and then to synthesis through each stage, Integral Deep Listening applies the developmental dialectic to Dream Sociograms. Patterns of emerging potential preferences that are elicited in the construction of the Dream Sociomatrix fall into these three main patterns of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis when depicted in a Dream Sociogram. These are explained in the text, Dream Sociometry. This implies that processes of stabilization, turmoil, and higher-order integration are not simply phenomena of waking state but apply at least to dreaming as well, if not to other states.

While Wilber’s developmental dialectic applies to the advancement of the self-line, which represents an individual evolutionary thrust, the intrasocial dialectic revealed by dream sociometry is a collective dialectic. This is not a trivial distinction. While waking evolution is on a unitary identity moving up the ladder of consciousness, in dreams collectives, in which waking identity is embedded, do so. Many members of these collectives exhibit a consciousness that includes, yet transcends, that of waking identity, thereby pulling it up the evolutionary ladder. This means that massive, consistent support for development is accessed in ways that are not available to a self-line directed dialectic. It means that support for collective aspects of evolution are accessed to support those aspects of holons that tend to be de-emphasized in psychologically geocentric evolution.

Emphasis on Stage Development Over States

Both Wilber’s AQAL and Integral Deep Listening agree that access to a transpersonal state is no indication of stabilization at a transpersonal level of development, since pretty much anyone can access transpersonal states under a variety of different conditions: drugs, near death experiences, accidents, love, and mysticism.   This recognition has particular importance for Integral Deep Listening in that it reduces its emphasis on waking up in dreams, that is, attaining the state of lucid dreaming, in favor of waking up to a higher stable stage of development across waking and dreaming. An example of a concrete way to do so is to recognize and avoid invitations into the Drama Triangle in the three realms of interpersonal relationships, cognition (thoughts and feelings), and while dreaming. It also results in a hierarchical discrimination among emerging potentials based on their developmental stage, as roughly indicated by their self-scoring in the six core qualities.

Mindful of Avoiding Both Reductionism and Elevationism  

Both of these tendencies are manifestations of Wilber’s “Pre-Trans Fallacy,” in which higher states and stages are misperceived as prepersonal ones or in which lower states and stages are mistakenly elevated to transpersonal status. An example of the former would be Freud’s reduction of dream characters to manifestations to prepersonal libidinal impulses. For Wilber’s integral AQAL an example is when shamanistic prepersonal openings are believed to be transpersonal revelations. For dream yogas it occurs when one assumes that the ability to lucid dream is a sign of transpersonal competency.   Integral Deep Listening suspends such assumptions and allows each interviewed emerging potential to have its say. Based on that written record, as well as the results when its recommendations are followed, objective conclusions can be drawn as to its level of development.

Differentiates Prepersonal From Transpersonal Spirituality

This is another way of saying that Wilber takes care to avoid the Pre-Trans Fallacy. In respect to Integral Deep Listening, no assumptions are made about angels and Gods being more spiritual than toilet bowls and turds 

Via Positiva, Via Negativa, and Injunctive Path

Wilber describes affirmative, detachment-based, and injunctive paths to enlightenment. An affirmative path says what is good, true, or harmonious, such as does the statement, “God is love,” or “Sat, Cit, Ananda.” IDL and Wilber’s integral AQAL use the affirmative when they describe the AQAL model and how it applies to dream yogas. The detachment-based via negativa refuses to say what is, but only says what is not. For example it may say, “dreams are neither real nor illusory;” “the truth is neither absolute nor relative;” “things neither exist nor do not exist; I am neither real nor am I non-existent.” The injunctive path gives instructions, which when followed, are then validated by peers in the method. While interviewed emerging potentials make affirmative statements of what is, they are themselves relatively detached from reality, in that they are generally imaginary. Integral Deep Listening emphasizes an injunctive path, providing instructions that say, “to get these results, do this.” Its system of validation triangulates with other truth systems, “experts,” and common sense. Its phenomenological method can be viewed as a combination of the via negativa and injunctive paths, in that both the via negativa and phenomenology table assumptions, and both injunctive paths and phenomenology rely on an empirical methodology.

Interpretive Multi-Level Approach

Wilber has suggested interpreting dreams from each perspective or level, to look at them from prepersonal, personal, and then transpersonal perspectives. What would that look like? Your answers are going to depend on whose perceptual cognitive distortions are creating the context for both the questioning and the interpretation of the answers. If it is waking identity, then you can pretty much predict that the interpretations will be congruent with the present level of development of the self-line of the interpreter – how they interpret each of the levels and the dreamer’s relationship to them in the dream.

IDL takes a different approach. It is possible to get an interpretation of the dream for each of the developmental levels from the perspective of the interviewed emerging potential rather than, or in addition to, that of waking identity or a dream interpretation expert familiar with integral. IDL chooses to suspend the perceptual cognitive distortions of waking identity and instead proposes to ask various invested dream characters questions regarding the various developmental levels. Here are examples of some questions to be asked about each level. They can first be asked of this or that interviewed perspective, and then the dreamer and other interpreters can add their interpretations.

Early prepersonal: “Are there concerns for physical safety and security?” “If so, what are they?” “How are they expressed?” “Are there powerful expressions of nature?”

Mid-prepersonal: “Is there a desire for emotional nurturance, strong preferences, self-persecution or self-rescuing?” “Are there overwhelming expressions of fear?”

Late Prepersonal: “Are there expressions of self-control? Are there expressions of fear of loss of self-control?” (Themes of losing things, losing one’s way, forgetting test items, losing identity, etc.) Are there overwhelming expressions of impotence?”

Early personal: “Are there expressions of mythic group bonding?” “Does belief trump reason?”

Mid personal: “Does reason trump belief and emotion?” “Is there adherence to law and principle?”

Late personal: “Is there not only adherence to reason and law but egalitarianism and pluralism?”

Vision-logic: “Is there tolerance for multiperspectivalism, as reflected by the ability to take the perspectives of others while dreaming?”

Oneness with energy: “Is there the ability to do the above and expressions of kratophany?” (These include psychism.)

Oneness with beingness: “Is there evidence of all prior competencies and expressions of hierophany?” (This includes dying in service to other dream characters.)

Oneness with emptiness: “Is there evidence of all prior stages and selfless clarity?” This includes an ability to witness oneself, an entirely different witnessing from the normal experience of watching dream action in a disembodied state.)

Integration of the sacred and the secular: “Is there evidence of all prior stages and experiences of mundane dream objects and experiences as luminous and sacred?”

While in the final analysis waking identity must interpret its experience, Integral Deep Listening interviewing leads to the conclusion that your waking identity is an inadequate interpreter of your dreams and those of others, and by extension, of your life dream. Consequently, Integral Deep Listening chooses to suspend waking interpretation in favor of a phenomenological approach to dreamwork and to life in general. Once the perspective of one or more invested emerging potential is interviewed, then the interpretations of others and self are much more likely to be relevant and helpful.


Like AQAL and most forms of dream yoga, IDL encourages the practice of meditation as a central integral life practice. For IDL, this is because many interviewed emerging potentials recommend it. They often treat meditation as a high-octane food. IDL has found that when meditation is combined with the regular interviewing of emerging potentials and the application of their triangulated recommendations in one’s daily life, that stage evolution is speeded in a synergistic fashion. That is, growth progresses at a pace that is faster than either only meditating or only doing IDL interviewing. The approach to meditation that IDL teaches emphasizes the naming of the contents of awareness to cultivate clear objectivity, detachment from the five skandhas of thought, image, feeling, sensation, and state, and observation of the six processes and six qualities associated with the cycle of breathing.[10]

Some differences between Wilber’s Integral and Integral Deep Listening


Language is very important, but it is hardly everything; it is merely a tool and context for thinking about and communicating life. Language is not life itself. It is a map, not the territory. Therefore, concern about language is easily criticized as obsession with details that takes one’s eye off the fundamental purposes of language: to support development and to disclose that which transcends and includes it. Wilber uses language artfully and thoughtfully, to build bridges for people with prepersonal and personal level perceptual cognitive distortions to cross. In the Buddhist tradition this is called upaya, “skill in means,” or the purposeful use of illusion, maya, and delusion in order to support and promote enlightenment. We naturally do this when we change our mode of speech and action to those readily understood by children in order to build relationships with them. It doesn’t have to involve being either condescending, artificially immature, or even infantile. For example, physical play with children builds bridges, and using simple, clear language that emphasizes the equally clear communication of feelings also helps children to understand.

While Wilber is outspoken in his desire to distance himself and AQAL from metaphysical claims, he maintains a central place for words that have direct and strong metaphysical connotations. He does this primarily with the use of the words “spirit” and “God,” “soul,” and “self.” Anyone who has read Wilber knows that he views both self and Self in a Buddhist framework, meaning that they do not refer to eternal, independent substances but rather to conveniences and habits born of human sensory experience and language. It is less apparent that his concept of God is similar, in that he commonly uses it in a non-Buddhist sense, as a way to talk about the gross, subtle, causal, and non-dual transpersonal dimensions. In this regard he follows in the tradition of the via affirmativa, that uses language to point toward what is, what exists, what is Real, True, Good, and Beautiful. We see this throughout his writings on the three faces of God, meaning the three ways in which life manifests itself in a sacred context in the world.

In Integral Spirituality Wilber lists different ways the word “spirit” is commonly used. It can refer to a feeling, a state, an absolute or final destination, or a level of development. He points out how confusion and misunderstanding inevitably result when the intended usage is not specified. This points to a further, underlying assumption that some people have, that if you stop using such words you will thereby lose contact with what these terms generally refer to: a realm of ultimate meaning, existence that transcends death, the sacred, or life itself. The implication is that if you lay these assumptions aside you are either denying the existence of God, soul, and spirit, or else secularizing life. You are giving up the via affirmativa.

Are such assumptions correct? Is this in fact what happens in Integral Deep Listening interviews when these metaphysically associated concepts are set aside? On the contrary, what most people report is a direct connection with that toward which these concepts point, but without the filtering that God, soul, and spirit necessarily bring to the experience. You, the interviewed subject, are left to experience life directly, including its sacred dimensions, without the use of preconceived ideas, conceptualizations, and filtering world views which can only place life in one or another artificial and constraining mental box. Consequently, throughout writings about Integral Deep Listening there are not many references to “life” and few to “God,” “soul,” “spirit,” or “spirituality,” unless referencing someone else’s usage or in an attempt to clarify how these concepts are used. IDL uses “life” instead of “spirit” and does not “God,” “soul,” “self,” or “Self” in most of the traditional ways because it wants to model the ability to look at life, think clearly, and to live without linguistic and conceptual dependency on these very common concepts. It wants to show that by doing so there is no implication of a loss of connectivity, compassion, acceptance, or respect, which is the underlying suspicion and fear of people who are used to this language.

Integral Deep Listening does not use God, soul, self, Self, and spirit for two reasons. They may or may not show up in interviews with emerging potentials, even very high scoring ones. When they do so, it seems to be a matter of linguistic translation of experience associated with the scripting of the student. In addition, these words are linguistic and cognitive assumptions; they reflect the filtering of mental definitions and a particular map of reality. A thoroughgoing phenomenological methodology, such as Integral Deep Listening strives for, attempts to table such assumptions. This setting aside, or “bracketing,” of linguistic and cognitive assumptions does not imply either a belief or disbelief in them or what they point to, but rather serves as an experiment. What happens when you treat such concepts as metaphysical assumptions and lay them aside for the course of an interview?

IDL does not view language essential for life. If you ask life questions, it will answer back using your terminology and conceptual cognitive distortions. It will most likely access perspectives that are emerging potentials that you have not recognized yet, but which are in the process of being born. For example, Edgar Cayce, whose waking world view was Christian Fundamentalism, tapped into the world view of Vedanta Hinduism, kundalini yoga, Theosophy, and holism when these concepts were extremely foreign to the cultural cognitive frameworks, groupthink, and conceptual cognitive distortions of his early 20th century waking reality. Cayce, his son Hugh Lynn, and the majority of people who were attracted to the readings believed that his world view as a window on Truth and Reality. They did not recognize that Cayce simply tapped into an emerging cultural potential that was going to transform the perceptual cognitive distortions of the masses as New Ageism and holism before it was itself conditioned and marginalized in part by the world view of Buddhism. That process is still going on, and now the perceptual cognitive distortion that transcends and includes Buddhism is on the horizon as an emerging potential, and we are like blind men confronting the proverbial elephant in relationship to it. Many are shouting, “I can accurately describe the elephant!” Doubt them all, including IDL. The nature of emerging potentials is that they are not yet born; they are mere possibilities; they are not predetermined or predestined to be born, and they may congeal into infinite shapes, as we learn from a rudimentary observation of our own nighttime dreams.

In this regard, IDL trusts and respects emerging potentials and lets them speak for themselves to each person in their own language. This is an excellent reason for interviewing others: it allows us to recognize both the need for and the arbitrariness of language and conceptualizations of all sorts; what is an emerging potential for one person is not an emerging potential for another, and IDL is not about telling you what your emerging potentials should be, nor what language is best or that you need to use. However, it would be disrespectful for IDL to pretend it does not have preferences or to mislead readers to think that it has more in common with traditional conceptions of spirituality than there might actually be. To grow we need both commonalities to create connection and differences to generate discrimination and challenges to our current level of development. IDL attempts to do both.

Integral Deep Listening sees nothing unloving about believing that people can learn to experience life directly, without the mediation of filtering concepts. Like a rocket that allows you to escape Earth’s gravity, once you are in space it becomes unnecessary and irrelevant to hold on to that rocket engine. Pointing this out to people and showing them how to reach orbit and stay in outer space as long as they desire does not mean that they cannot return to Earth whenever they wish or pick up conceptual rocket engines again whenever they so desire. Metaphysical conceptions like God, soul, and spirit can also be compared to ladders. People are already not only familiar with metaphysical conceptual ladders; most have become so addicted to them that they cannot and will not get off the ladder when they reach the “top.” They either stay on the ladder or insist on carrying it with them, once they are at the top! Integral Deep Listening focuses on helping people give themselves permission to experiment with putting their ladders down, with giving up the escape velocity rocket engines once they are in orbit or beyond. It focuses on helping people see that this in no way denies the meaning or usefulness of metaphysical concepts, that to access perspectives that include, yet transcend cognitive filters it is necessary to take up contexts that naturally do so directly, because they are alive.

There are better ways to practice upaya than to use inherently misleading language that catches one in logical contradictions. For IDL, those ways are experiential: asking people to become emerging potentials during interviewing, when they are meditating, and at specific times during the round of their life: when they have a problem with their partner, child, or work colleague, when they are going to sleep, when they are dreaming, when they are showering. There is nothing deceitful or misleading about experiencing life directly through a form that embodies a perspective you need to take your next developmental step.


Triangulation is a decision-making process that is not found in AQAL or other dream yogas, although there is no reason why it could not be. Integral Deep Listening supports evolution from the perspectives first of interviewed emerging potentials, then the multiple values that they embody, and from life itself. It does so through the decision-making process of triangulation. A life issue is proposed. It will represent one of the four quadrants. For example, questions about feelings (“How can I worry less?”) deal with internal individual issues of truthfulness. Questions about meaning, (“How do I interpret this dream?”) deal with internal collective issues of justness. Questions about personal behavior, (“How do I lose weight?”) deal with external individual issues of truth. Questions about relationships address external collective issues of functional fit. (“How do I get people to stop being mean to me?) The question is, “How shall I best proceed in addressing this life issue?” Interviewed emerging potentials, whether from dreams or as personifications of life issues, share their perspectives and recommendations. They provide an internal collective source of truth that may address issues in any of these four quadrants. It is internal because interviewed emerging potentials arise out of the consciousness of the person being interviewed, although they are not dependent upon it nor defined by it; it is collective because the perspectives that are offered are multiple. They are experienced in relationship to the perspective of waking identity, who you think you are when you are experiencing them. Such perspectives are not primarily derived from external authority or from waking identity. They are considered to be “subjective sources of objectivity” in that they draw on sources normally considered to be subjective, in that they are not subject to consensus validation by others, and yet provide amazing degrees of objectivity from both personal and professional judgments. In triangulation, the comments and recommendations of interviewed emerging potentials are considered by your own common sense, which is an internal individual source of truth. These suggestions may be evaluated by authorities, whether external or externalized: experts, mentors, confidants, conscience, angels, deceased relatives, extraterrestrials, intuition, one’s “higher self,” or God. The seers of the mystical traditions of the world represent the “emerging potentials” of the human species. When you look for points of agreement or consensus among them you are doing on a cultural and social level what IDL does on intracultural and intrasocial dimensions (the internal collective quadrant of the human holon). Recommendations are operationally defined and tested in the realm of your behavior (the external individual quadrant) as part of an integral life practice. It then compares the advice of both subjective and objective sources of authority and weighs the advice of both against common sense to make decisions that are considerably wiser than consulting only one or two of the above sources of authority.

Emphasis on The Drama Triangle

Integral Deep Listening considers self-centered stories of evolution as existing within the Drama Triangle, meaning the self is experienced as the victim of its own self-persecution and needs rescuing. When this is done, salvation, whether by messiahs, mystical experiences, or the dharma, becomes necessary. Rescuing in turn generates the need for purification and enlightenment. Consequently, Integral Deep Listening emphasizes the importance of understanding and avoiding the Drama Triangle. For IDL it is an existential recognition and reduction of what Buddhists call dukkha, suffering, in the three realms of interpersonal relationships, cognition, and dreaming.

Emphasis on the Evolution of the Empathetic Line

The word “empathy” is defined in different ways. It can refer to feeling and sharing another person’s emotions, experiencing emotions that match another person’s emotions; caring for other people and having a desire to help them; making less distinct the differences between the self and the other, and discerning what another person is thinking or feeling. It is in this last sense that IDL primarily uses the world, although the state changes that accompany identification with dream characters and the personifications of life issues probably come from feeling and sharing the emotions that are evoked by inhabiting a different perspective from one’s own.

There is perhaps no more effective tool for socialization than putting oneself in the perspective of another person. When this is effectively done there is no longer either a desire or any motivation to disrespect or abuse anyone. When this is extended to all objects of awareness, including dream spoons and clouds, as IDL does, one’s default assumption is one of respect combined with a reflexive desire to objectify and retroflect, that is, stand back and look at oneself from not one, but several, not individual, but collective points of view.

Emphasis on the evolution of the empathetic line is an excellent antidote to an over-emphasis of both the self-line and the cognitive line. Traditionally this has been both understood and expressed as an expression of morality: do to others as you would have them do to you; put yourself in the shoes of another person before you judge them; others are mirrors of your own strengths, weaknesses, and preferences; how you treat others is how you are treating the aspects of yourself that they represent. Such injunctions are all true and helpful, and they are higher level awarenesses on the cognitive line from the perspective of a more broadly perceiving self. They support the evolution of the lines of cognition and self and require a high degree of moral development. However, cognitive awarenesses are not empathetic experiences. Self-centered perceptions, regardless how evolved the self is, are not experiences from the perspective of the other. An action, feeling, or emotion that is morally evolved may or may not be empathetic.

To develop the empathetic line you have to learn ways to disidentify from your normal sense of self and to do so in ways that are not primarily cognitive or moral. It involves not only the cultivation of objectivity, but multiple sources of objectivity. This means that while the self-line is fundamentally individual, the empathetic line is fundamentally collective. IDL provides repeated, practical, useful experiences of empathy. When you become a lamppost, you are de-centralizing your consciousness, to be sure. There is no moral imperative to be a lamppost.

The source of the desire to empathize tends to evolve with the other lines. Children seem to be hard-wired to role-play in order to internalize adaptive behaviors and roles. This is an exploration of possibility through mimicry, through acting out the fantasy a child has of what it means to be this person or that object and by so doing, internalize its strength, usefulness, values, and value. Internalization of a role is not, however, the embodiment of its perspective or the values that are associated with that role. For young children, the process is too concrete to be considered to be empathetic; it is more doing what those in the role do than thinking what those in the role think, or feeling what those in the role feel. Mimicry is very concrete.

Even as a child, role selection is largely identity driven. There are reasons why a child plays with dolls or becomes Bat Man rather than a lamppost. Role identification becomes narrow and targeted to the acquisition of certain skill sets demonstrated by admired mentors: rock stars, athletes, teachers, lawyers, or doctors. Becoming a lampost is seen as something that is either useless, bizarre, or crazy. No value is placed on it by society because there is no understanding of how it could support society in its goals: to raise, compliant, obedient, hard-working, and complacent citizens.

The natural childhood urge to try on different roles fades as the socially-validated structures of identity grow stronger, defining what roles are appropriate to one’s sense of self and which ones are not. As we get more comfortable with our repetoire of roles our interest in collecting new ones tends to diminish. We want to put more energy into strengthening the roles we have that “fit” rather than stay in the ambiguity of continuously trying on new ones. This further implies that role identification is typically driven by identity requirements rather than any evolutionary drive toward empathy. In contrast, the development of empathy seems to be much less of an evolutionary imperative, if at all, up to and including mid-personal levels of development. It is more likely to be important either before or after the roles of the self have been clearly defined. It becomes important afterward only when and if self-identity is found wanting, insufficient, or dangerous. If this is so, then why would people who have built a strong, socially validated sense of self, desire empathy? Where does the motivation come from? If you derive money, status, and security from a strong sense of self, what would compel you to question it? If it gets you what you need while questioning it only reduces your status, security, or income, why in the world would you do so? This is important to understand, because it is a fundamental explanation for why Integral Deep Listening not only does not make sense to many people, but is actually threatening to them.

Doing so also evolves empathy, by accessing and identifying with broader, more inclusive perspectives regardless of your level of development. For example, when a small child has a nightmare and “becomes” the dream monster, this identification will be largely concrete rather than emotional or conceptual. However, doing so, and answering the questions in the interview, requires growth in emotional and conceptual identification to answer while still staying in role. This is very important for development, because it generates objectivity, identification with other points of view, the neutralization of internal conflict, and the development of confidence and self-esteem.

Empathy is not assumed by IDL. Rather, it is demonstrated by concurrence of interviewed perspectives. For example, they determine whether you are in role or not, not you or the interviewer. They determine whether they are being listened to or not, not you or the interviewer. They determine whether they are being understood or not, not you or the interviewer. If these criteria are met, it is asumed that empathy exists in the IDL use of the word. This might be considered perspectival empathy rather than emotional empathy or agreement with thoughts, feelings, or actions. It does not imply, nor does it require, agreement.

Wilber’s “Morphogenic Field of Potentials” and Integral Deep Listening Emerging Potentials

Wilber sees the evolution of consciousness as “a vast morphogenetic field of potentials,”_ a concept that is based on Sheldrake’s thinking – is similar enough in some ways to the Integral Deep Listening conception of “emerging potentials” that similarities and differences need to be discussed. Wilber hypothesizes that the way these potentials become reality is through the morphogenetic processes identified by Rupert Sheldrake. Integral Deep Listening bases its understanding of the genesis of possibility in consciousness and form on the precipitation of emerging potentials. This is not a metaphysical process; we can see it in operation in our own lives every day. For example, a dream monster is two things. First, it is our perception of it, which defines and limits its influence and determines our reaction to it. Second, there is its perception of itself, largely unrecognized, but still existent. This perception does not exist until it is embodied by us. Until that time it is a crystallized potential, part of a manifested holon that is a context in which the perspective of waking identity is embedded. Consequently, because it innately personifies a “ground” consciousness in which waking identity is content, it works largely in a fashion independent of whatever status quo is in place. That is, it is typically unrecognized or misunderstood until or unless a phenomenological process is taken up and that perspective is allowed to amplify itself in consciousness. Think of it as a collective internal perspective or value that brings holonic balance when integrated. That integration requires respectful listening. Because of the relationship of emerging potentials to your inner compass, this is not normal listening; it is deep listening. Integral Deep Listening believes that demonstrating respect to emerging potentials is revolutionary and transformational, essentially because it not only neutralizes the normal resistances of waking identity, but actively supports their expression. This in turn furthers the evolutionary influence of what Wilber, following Sheldrake, calls “the morphogenic field of potentials.” Wilber sees “potential forms” as comprising all four quadrants of holons, just as Integral Deep Listening does emerging potentials.

Wilber, again following Sheldrake, considers the universal characteristics of potential forms and patterns to be “universal habits.” Integral Deep Listening emerging potentials appear to differ in this respect. While humans have predispositions to view dream monsters as threats or fire as a source of warmth or potentially, of harm, when these are interviewed as emerging potentials, “universal perspectives” or “habits” do not seem to emerge. Your interview with your monster or fire will probably demonstrate autonomous and individualized preferences and perspectives. While there is not an unlimited number of possible profiles for the disclosed perspectives of interviewed emerging potentials, “universal” or “archetypal” “habitual perspectives” associated with specific forms are not in evidence. Answers are much more ideosyncratic. Monsters will not always be friends or enemies, fire will not always be about light, warmth, or danger. Water will not always deal with unknown inner realms, purification, or life force. An interview with air will be radically different from one person to another. Life seems not to play the pigeon holing game that people use as a form of shorthand to fool themselves into thinking they understand. Life does not seem to associate particular qualities or quantities of the six core processes or qualities with one form or another. For example, confidence is not associated with a certain type of form or character that one would associate with strength. This is the same with wisdom, compassion, inner peace, acceptance, and witnessing. Emerging potentials are so personal, unique, and autonomous that they do not reflect universal patterns and forms.

AQAL Shadow Work

If you are reading much current integral literature or communicating with many people with associated world views, you are going to be running into “shadow,”  a term coined by C.G. Jung to indicate unknown aspects of yourself, whether detrimental or positive. A detailed description of Jung’s understanding of shadow can be found here. In various forms of shadow work, those entities and experiences not consciously claimed as our own tend to be viewed as repressed or dissociated aspects of ourselves.

What is Wilber’s understanding of “shadow?” Wilber’s integral Shadow 3-2-1 Process is a “gold star practice” in the Shadow module of his integral life practice.  Every model that we build, including Jung’s analytic psychology, Wilber’s AQAL and Integral Deep Listening (IDL), is based on the ever-evolving perspective held by our sense of who we are, however we define it. That self is made up of a multitude of perspectives, some of which contradict others. Wilber tends to agree with contemporary psychology and Jung and view those perspectives we adopt as interior to our sense of self. This view serves the advantage of ownership and taking responsibility while the opposite, shamanic and “realistic” approaches, assumes all objectively perceived experiences, such as people seen in non-lucid dreams, really exist in some heaven, hell or other dimension. The drawback of such approaches, commonly affirmed by out of the body and near death experiences, as well as by normal waking reality, is that they externalize both power and responsibility. We shall see that IDL honors both of these approaches while refusing to reduce experience to one or the other.

Self transcends and includes subsidiary “shadow” perspectives as it evolves. Wilber discusses this in terms of distal selves becoming the proximate self. In terms of shadow work, distal shadow is incorporated into a broader, stronger waking sense of self. Consequently,Wilber’s shadow work starts with the assumption that we are in conflict with aspects of ourselves and that we project those conflicts out onto others and our environment. Wherever there is a disturbance it probably has something to do with you. You begin with a “3rd person exercise,” in which you start by thinking about a person or situation that is upsetting to you. You are then told to describe why the person or situation is upsetting you. Next, you have a dialogue with the person who is upsetting you, either in writing or as a Gestalt two-chair type exercise. When you respond as the person, you are working with the “2nd person exercise” part of Wilber’s 3-2-1 Shadow process. You are responding as if you were the other, owning and honoring their perspective. When you re-own the projection as a part of yourself you are doing the “1st person exercise” of the Shadow process. Wilber would most likely view Integral Deep Listening (IDL) as a variety of the 3-2-1 process, in which he would also include “Big Mind” and Voice Dialogue.

IDL agrees with Jung and Wilber that we are in conflict with aspects of ourselves and that we project those conflicts out onto others and our environment. Also, health involves recognizing, owning, and withdrawing these projections. This is an important topic, because it has to do with how we relate to both our disowned or unconscious scripting and emerging potentials, on the one hand, and how we perceive “other interior stuff.”  Is it all shadow? Is shadow the best term for any of it? IDL calls interviewed figures, whether personifications of life issues or dream characters, emerging potentials because they are emerging into our awareness and they represent unexamined, unappreciated, or unincorporated potentials for becoming more awake, regardless of whatever else that they are. Some are most certainly disowned.

Jung used the term mostly to represent disowned parts of self but also unrecognized potentials. “Shadow” sets up an unnecessary and often oppositional/conflictual dualism between self and the internal other, something that is to be avoided if possible, because such dualisms divide us from ourselves. There is you, and then there is your shadow, and the various elements of your shadow.

The basic problem with this usage is that it is projective, which means that using it keeps us stuck in our waking perspective, which is itself stuck because it is a limited and partial perceptual cognitive distortion. With projection, life is not viewed from the multiple perspectives of interviewed personifications of life issues and dream characters, but instead in terms of the evolution of the self line that climbs the developmental ladder. Projections are self-centered, both in the assumptions the self makes and in terminology, with the result being that it is difficult to think in ways that are not self-centric when one uses such terms.

What we find in IDL is that most interviewed dream characters or personifications of life issues, collectively called “emerging potentials,” do not view themselves as repressed or dissociated, although some do. While interviewed angels, trees and toilet bowls will freely state that they represent this or that aspect of you, they will often demonstrate considerable autonomy and not view their reality as dependent upon you. We find many emerging potentials describe themselves as springing from what Wilber would probably call our “overall” self, to distinguish it from our conscious, “proximal” self and our unconscious, “distal” selves. IDL does not use the terms “overall self,” “superconscious,” Self,” “Atman,” “soul,” or “shadow,” because they imply relatively autonomous perspectives that are part of some self sense, some self identity, whether recognized or not, which is an assumption and projection of waking perspective and bias.

How do we know what they are? Have we asked the “shadow” if it is merely a repressed aspect of ourselves or are we just assuming? IDL does not attribute interviewed others or objects of waking or dream perception to any self at all, until and unless that interviewed character says so. Interviewed emerging potentials may or may not so describe themselves when shown the courtesy of being asked.  This is a matter of simple respect. For example, if you turn the standard question on its head and ask an alligator from a dream or a fire that personifies a back pain what part of themselves the interviewing subject most closely represents,  they may produce a perfectly reasonable response. They may say, “You represent my window on the world,” or “you personify my way of making myself known,” or “you are the leading edge of my growth, what I depend upon to more fully know myself.” So which perspective is more accurate, yours or theirs? Is it your shadow or are you its shadow? Doesn’t your answer completely depend on which perspective you take?

This is an example of why IDL is a multi-perspectival approach, commonly associated with vision-logic, as well as a transpersonal approach, in that it does not assume the pre-existence of any self or make the self line that climbs the developmental ladder itself a reality.

Emerging potentials, as defined by IDL, are of indefinite ontology. A dream flying car may be 98% self aspect but there will remain 2% expresses itself autonomously. Or some interviewed character may be 98% autonomous, in that you are absolutely convinced that your deceased Aunt Emma really did appear to you in that dream, but there will remain 2% of Aunt Emma that is a self aspect. In addition to not being part of yourself, things that we view as “shadow” are not unitary selves in the sense of  your waking identity, in that they are usually obviously imaginary, such as dream collanders or a fantasy gremlin that personifies your waking addiction to social media. Such perspectives are approached phenomenologically by IDL. That is, assumptions about their ontological status are suspended. Where Jung and Wilber views them as aspects of self, IDL suspends such assumptions until the “shadow” is interviewed. What does it say?

“Shadow” assumes there is “us,” who we think we are, and then there is the inner “disowned us.” But the concept of disownership implies that something was once owned. Our dreams and life experience is overflowing with emerging potentials that have never been owned. Are these shadow? That does not seem accurate, since they are not primarily, from their perspective, about us and our reality. They are about themselves and their reality. Such emerging potentials have their own agendas, and they may be very different from our own, yet not be a reaction to ours either. While life as about the evolution of the self is a legitimate perspective, that is not life’s perspective. From life’s perspective, growth, development, evolution, and life is about it, not about us. As Carl Sagan has said, “We are a way for the Universe to know itself.”

So, how else could one view “not self?” IDL has the advantage of being a phenomenogical approach, in that it suspends our assumptions and allows the “other” to speak for itself. It suspends assumptions of self, shadow and “other” and asks questions using a protocol reminiscent of the Socratic dialectic.  It allows our pains, hopes, fears, delusions and fantasies to speak for themselves and to tell us how they view themselves. This minimizes the problem of projection while not denying its continued existence, as every interviewed perspective has its own interpretations and therefore its own projections. These perspectives are not God, nor is any one representative of Truth or Reality.

Of course, the common objection is that we are simply putting words into the mouth of the interviewed figure or are generating an outlet for shadow. Both of these objections are easily overcome by experience interviewing. Words come out of many interviewed figures that are radically not our own, from perspectives that do not see themselves as shadow. When we interview such figures what we find is that they may as likely view you as a shadow of them. You will also find that many of these “others” have not been disowned because they have never been owned.

Is it possible to take too much responsibility? Emerging potentials are also projections by our sense of self, since life doesn’t call itself anything. However, these are projections that know they are projections and that intentionally set out to minimize the problems of thinking in terms of the self and its interpretations. Certainly there is no way the problem of psychological geocentrism, the idea that the world evolves around myself and that which defines me, can be avoided, but it can be minimized. The term “shadow” supports rather than works to dismantle, our identification with our self-sense. That self-sense keeps us from seeing ourselves as life sees us. While shadow work is a great tool for taking responsibility for our experience, there are limits to taking responsibility. Do you think it is wise to take responsibility for my thoughts? How about the weather or war in the Middle East? Are you responsible for the starving children of the world? How about sun spots and solar flares as caused by the negative thinking of humanity and therefore our responsibility? At what point does taking responsibility turn into an obviously grandiose and narcissistic fantasy? At what point does taking responsibility impair your further development because it maintains belief in a self-sense that must become transparent if you are to grow into the transpersonal?

Does Wilber believe that every place we feel stuck indicates a need for shadow work? While it has been pointed out above that Wilber tends to agree with contemporary psychology and Jung and view those perspectives we adopt as interior to our sense of self, he could also point out that his holonic model does not take this position. Collective quadrants are not interior to individual interior consciousness. Your world view and overall sense of who you are and why you are here is a feature of the interior collective quadrant of your human holon, which is not collapsible into your interior individual quadrant of consciousness any more than your consciousness is collapsible into it. These interdependently co-exist in Wilber’s holonic model. If you or Wilber imply or intend that everything collapses into consciousness, which is the idealistic model, then you contradict the holonic quadrant aspect of AQAL, do you not? This is another important assumption that shadow work tends to make – that your pain is reducible to and the responsibility of, your individual consciousness. The holonic model, in addition to IDL, disagrees.

By all means, think in terms of “shadow” if that is helpful for you, but recognize that is an assumption until you ask that which you term shadow and see what it has to say. An example of an interview with shadow can be found here.

Wilber and Deep Sleep Lucidity

The following demonstrates that Wilber is more than a pandit, or scholarly intellectual, but is, in fact, a yogi who has the ability to do nidra yoga:

“….At some point in the evening we got into a discussion about meditation and the changes it can produce in brain waves. A young man training to be a psychiatrist asked me to get out a videotape I have of me connected to an EEG machine while I meditate he believed none of the discussion about how meditation could profoundly alter brain waves, and he wanted ‘proof.’

The tape shows me hooked to an EEG machine; this machine shows alpha, beta, theta, and delta waves in both left and right hemispheres. Alpha is associated with awake but relaxed awareness; beta with intense and analytic thinking, theta is normally produced only in the dream state, and sometimes instates of intense creativity; and delta is normally produced only in deep dreamless sleep. So alpha and beta are associated with the gross realm; theta with the subtle realm; and delta with the causal realm. Or, we could say, alpha and beta tend to be indicative of ego states, and delta of spirit states. Delta presumably has something to do with the pure Witness, which most people experience only in deep dreamless sleep.

This video starts with me hooked up to the machine; I am in normal waking consciousness, so you can see a lot of alpha and beta activity in both hemispheres. But you can also see a large amount of delta waves; in both hemishpheres the delta indicators are at maximum, presumably because of constant stable witnessing. I then attempt to go into a type of nirvikalpa smadhi — or complete mental cessation — and within four or five seconds, all of the machine’s indicators go completely to zero. It looks like whoever this is, is totally brain-dead. There is no alpha, no beta, no theta–but there is still maximum delta.

After several minutes of this, I start doing a type of mantra visualization technique — yidam mediation, which I have always maintained is predominantly a subtle-level practice–and sure enough, large amounts of theta waves immediately show up on the machine, along with maximum delta. The fact that theta, which normally occurs only in dreaming, and delta, which normally occurs only in deep sleep, are both being produced in a wide-awake subject tends to indicate a type of simultaneous presence of gross, subtle, and causal states (e.g., turiyatita). It is, in any event, attention-grabbing.”[11]

Is Development “Self” Development?

Beginning with his first book, The Spectrum of Consciousness, Wilber looks at life from the perspective of “spirit,” or life, in describing a cycle of involutionary and evolutionary processes. This is a context he recognizes and maintains throughout his writings. Within that context, throughout his published works, at least through 2013, focus tends to be on the evolution and development of the self, including the means and challenges to its thinning and disidentification. The emphasis on self self-development, including its dissolution, implies psychological geocentrism, but thinned and relativized in sophisticated ways. The self first creates itself and then deconstructs its identification with that identity until it is a Self that is one with God, transcending Self-definitions. Geocentrism is replaced by Heliocentrism, which IDL notes is different from polycentrism and a holographic universe in which all perspectives are the center.

Integral Deep Listening views development as fundamentally about life, rather than any self. The perspective of self is an essential perspective that life takes at some but not all stages of its evolution. Both prior to the awakening of self-consciousness at late prepersonal, which is closely related to the awakening of linguistic aptitudes, and afterwards, when linguistically-derived conceptualizations no longer adequately define experience (in the transpersonal), development is not primarily about the self. It is only in the middle ranges that evolution is about self-awareness. Wilber knows this, and because he is communicating to minds at these middle ranges of development, just as this text is doing, he can do little else. Interviewing and becoming a multiplicity of perspectives with IDL generates a growing perception that the lowest common denominator is not a stable, solid sense of self but the unbounded life that animates whatever sense of self one takes up from moment to moment. This is another reason why interviewing is an important adjunct to meditation. It provides regular, ongoing, and different experiences of non-self-centered development.

Evolution Beyond Attainment of the Non-Dual by the Self-line   

What results, when we consider the perspectives of emerging potentials and the general state of dream and deep sleep awareness, is a view of evolution different from the story told by the self-line. From the perspective of our emerging potentials and dream consciousness, life remains bogged down in prepersonal awareness even after the self-line attains the non-dual. This in turn has implications for the nature of life after death as well as for what it means to wake up in the dream state.

What does enlightenment mean in the context of the dream state? While waking identity and its evolution is the story of an expanding singularity thinning as it broadens and expands its sense of self, dream identity and its evolution is the story of an expanding collectivity thinning and broadening as it wakes up. This is not primarily a self evolution but a collective evolution. How do we know this? We know that people can be awake while dreaming and still be at prepersonal levels of development. Some children and pschopaths can and do lucid dream. Consequently, lucid dreaming is not an indication of enlightenment. Within the dream state, lucid dreaming is an indication of late prepersonal egoic awakening, not of anything more. Whatever your sense of self is in your waking identity wakes up within a dream. This is parallel to one’s sense of self becoming consolidated at late prepersonal in normal waking development. Notice that lucid dreamers rarely maintain this state; they fall back into the dream equivalent of mid-prepersonal stage of development.

Just as your self-sense can be stabilized at non-dual, say through regular, intense, and advanced practice of meditation, while your overall development remains much lower, so you can access the non-dual and remain, in the context of the dream state, at a late prepersonal level of development. This is in fact where you are in dream evolution even if you learn to maintain dream lucidity whenever you dream – a very unusual and difficult proposition. The implication is that waking enlightenment does not necessarily imply overall stabilization at the non-dual. It does not imply enlightenment in the realm of the collective dreaming realm of consciousness, and even less so in the realm of deep sleep evolution.

Consciousness in dreaming and deep sleep is regressive. Dream consciousness is a trance state that is normally less conscious and unified than waking. Deep sleep consciousness is a trance state that is normally entirely unconscious. To wake up within either is not an indication of an enlightened self, but it is an indication of relative consciousness colonizing states of relative unconsciousness. These two states of relative unawareness probably evolve at their own pace, in their own broader context, since dreaming is more subjective than waking and deep sleep is more subjective than dreaming. In that they are foundational substrates, they are normally as likely to evolve as are the pons and limbic brains. They have largely done with their evolution; where the evolutionary action is happening today is primarily in the frontal lobes. They are analogous to the first and second stages of a three-sage rocket. They have done their job, and continue to provide essential foundational support, but the lifting into orbit is now being done by the third stage, the cerebral cortex.

Evolution of wakefulness in each of these is therefore most likely contingent on first waking up in the more objective state or states: first waking, then dreaming, then deep sleep. The analogy would be to an enlightened waking consciousness supporting the further evolution of the pons and limbic brains. It is possible, but unlikely. Why? Because they evolved according to adaptational needs that are long-standing, fundamental, and profound. Further evolution of prior structures can only proceed if it does not disrupt those basic, supportive competencies. Such decisions are unlikely to be made by an autonomous waking self; they are much more likely to be made by a collective identity that transcends and includes autonomous waking identities.

Integral Deep Listening assumes that the dream state is a broader context that limits the breadth of enlightenment accessible by any being at any age or any time, just as the socio-cultural context of a bronze age awakening cannot reach the potential of a post-industrial age enlightenment. A goal, therefore, for Integral Deep Listening, is for the waking up of characters in dreams. This represents an advance beyond self-lucidity and a movement into the early personal level of development as defined in the dream state, as a collectivity of identities.

It appears that dream reality is stuck at early to mid-prepersonal in its development, and it does not appear that topping out the self-line with non-dual consciousness changes that permanently for individuals and certainly not for the social-cultural and other collective contexts that condition any enlightenment.


What does it mean to be enlightened? For Wilber and those traditions he has studied, it is realization of oneness. The problem is, the more one looks at what that means, the more complicated and conditional it becomes. Does that mean a realization of gross, subtle, causal, non-dual oneness or all four? Does it mean a temporary state or a stable, ongoing level of development? Does that involve just the self-line or also other lines, such as cognitive, empathetic, and moral developmental lines? Is it the end of development or not? Is enlightenment represented by only one true, pure, perfect, and real world view by many? Is enlightenment a final goal or an ongoing developmental process? Are only certain behaviors associated with enlightenment and others excluded or is there no relationship between behavior and enlightenment? Wilber points out that if your self-line stabilizes at non-dual awareness without developing the moral, cognitive, and empathetic lines into the transpersonal, you can experience yourself as authentically enlightened and not be enlightened at all. He discusses the problems that arise when a sense of self is carried into the gross, subtle, causal, and non-dual states and stages.[12]

Integral Deep Listening acknowledges the importance of both state and stage forms of enlightenment and is cautious about drawing too many strong conclusions from overwhelmingly positive state experiences of enlightenment, due to the above-mentioned questions. Because of both the ease and commonality of meditators to overestimate their level of development, largely because they confuse state openings with stable access to permanent stages, IDL focuses on a process model of waking up over various developmental stages and on various lines of development rather than on some theoretical space of complete awakening. It also emphasizes triangulation in order to provide objectivity in self-assessment of enlightenment. IDL notes that when enlightening openings occur we continue to find ourselves relatively still stuck in our own subjectivity. No matter how highly developed our self-line is we continue to access emerging potentials that are more highly developed than we are. They point out areas in which our development is still lagging. Such experiences quickly teach us to be cautious about what others claim for themselves in terms of enlightenment.

When you emphasize reality in terms of the development of the self-line, as humanity has tended to do, you tend to see life in terms of that identity, instead of other perspectives, regardless of how good you are at assimilating the perspectives of others into your own worldview. You can experience yourself One with All and still perceive reality from your self-perspective. Anyone who reads multiple accounts of near death experiences will observe this common occurrence. Once the self reaches vision-logic and beyond, it is very good at honoring many perspectives and talking about the aperspectival nature of reality. However, even this is still an awareness of the self-line. What are the preferences and awarenesses of other, non-self perspectives?

People normally tackle this question by considering the accounts of different mystics and compare them with their own, as Wilber does. Few assess the accounts of multiple internal sources of objectivity, different interviewed emerging potentials, and compare them with their own. This is why Integral Deep Listening returns again and again to retroflection back at the self from the objectivity of not-yet integrated perspectives of “others,” that we experience as “not-self.” This differs from person to person and at different stages of development, but there is no situation in which there does not exist one or more perspective that is not integrated and that is “not-self.” Again, in distinction to Wilber, IDL does not view these as components of “overall self,” because to do so both eliminates the meaning of “other” and “self” as meaningful distinctions. Such non-integrated “others” may be obvious, as the appearance of some waking or dream threat, or it may be completely ignored, as are most of the “props” in dreams – the ground, the sky, air, and background landscape. When you become these you tend to create a worldview that transcends and includes the evolution of the self, including transpersonal stages and even the non-dual, as a definition of self. All of this becomes de-centralized as the story of the evolution of life, which is a bigger story than that of self-enlightenment, or the self-line attaining non-dual awareness.

Challenges People Routinely Encounter With AQAL

Once people learn AQAL they typically mistake their level of development on the leading cognitive line for their overall development. It is much easier to grasp a concept or imagine a reality than to inhabit it on an ongoing basis. Often, when people do, they find there are challenges and complexities that they have not foreseen. They also find that they are unprepared and ill-equipped for a greatly expanded and redefined experience of reality. In addition, people routinely mistake their level of personal development, that is the development of the self-line, for their overall development, when they are not at all the same. This is similar to equating being in an adult body with being an adult. The equipment is on board but the competencies necessary to use the equipment often have arrived yet. These include emotional maturity, the ability to reason, objectivity, empathy, interpersonal skills, and a developed ethical sense. None of these are required for the development of the self-line. You can have a rich, famous, psychic, or brilliant self-line that is all out of proportion to other necessary competencies.

People also tend to define their level of development in terms of prevailing cultural norms. For example, Barak Obama gave a speech in which he discussed American “exceptionalism.” The implication is that Americans are somehow more evolved, more special, more aware, than other human beings. Americans hear such words and tend to conclude they are not only unique, but special. The consequence is that they lack an accurate assessment of their actual level of personal development in relationship to humanity as a whole. A prevailing cultural norm among many of those that are attracted to AQAL is that enlightenment is either state access, like psychic or mystical experiences, or social liberalism, as in freedom and justice for all, or both. But these are cultural fashions, the first a hold over from pre-personal shamanism and the second an expression of personal and late personal emphasis on egalitarianism and pluralism. In fifty years these preferences are likely to look dated and quaint. To reduce the myopia of cultural contexts we need to access emerging potentials that are not submerged in them.

Some Comments on Various Criticisms of Wilber and AQAL

Wilber’s model has created considerable reaction; it appears to be threatening to a lot of people. Why is that? Essentially, Wilber’s model relativizes everybody and everything; it punctures intrinsic narcissism and “specialness.” It also makes a strong case for enlightenment as a developmental process rather than a revelatory one. It is always useful to ask, “What does this argument say about this author’s own level of development? Those who have problems with such relativizing and the consequent interdependence it generates, or who mistakenly conclude that Wilber does not subject himself and his model to the same constraints, seem to be the most critical.

The criticisms fall into several broad categories. Some people discount Wilber’s model because they don’t like or trust their originator. A common complaint is that they find his writing too cognitive and intellectual and not emotional and experiential enough. Maybe they have seen him talk and hog the stage; maybe they don’t like that he has endorsed questionable figures. While justification for those conclusions exist, they have little to do with AQAL. Equating a man and his ideas is a logical fallacy that equates personality with evidence. Ideas stand or fall on their own, independent of their source. Those who support ideas based on who says them are basing their experience on pre-personal belief, not on personal rationality. When they reject ideas based on who says them they are rejecting the wisdom and truth of the parts of themselves that personify those ideas.

Another common response is to create straw man arguments and triumphantly disprove them. This occurs when one either misreads Wilber or takes an earlier version of his writing and presents it as his present thinking. The problem is with the premise; an idea is presented as Wilber’s thinking when it is not or else it has been superseded by later thinking.

Some people object to Wilber’s style of writing, but this says nothing about the reasonableness or usefulness of his ideas. Others think Wilber emphasizes “masculine” characteristics of hierarchy and logic over “feminine” characteristics of heterarchy and emotion. This is stereotyping on the basis of gender, which degrades each sex, exactly what Wilber is accused of doing. As I read Wilber, he leans over backwards to point out the strengths and weaknesses of both masculine and feminine styles while emphasizing both barriers to and reasons for their integration. Wilber’s integral life practice provides practical tools to move toward androgyny.

Another criticism is that Wilber “commercializes spirituality.” The implication is that by making spiritual development accessible to more people Wilber somehow cheapens it. If I were Wilber, I would find this criticism amusing. The depth of Wilber’s writing tends to make it most of it accessible mostly to those who already have a fair amount of education, meaning that the real issue is how to make something so sophisticated available to a broader audience. Wilber has clearly wrestled with this issue and his integral life practice is an extraordinarily well-thought out response to those who want more experience, more emotion, more feminine energy, or simply less Ken Wilber.

Another common criticism is that Wilber and his work are judged based on the personalities of those who are attracted to it. It is true that the preponderance of those who read Wilber are themselves likely ahead on the cognitive line of development and therefore not as strong in emotion and empathy. Some readers of Wilber make the mistake of assuming a good cognitive grasp of AQAL is the same as evolution of the other major lines of self, morality, and empathy. This is a mistake; Wilber makes clear again and again that cognition is a necessary leading developmental line, but that conceptualization of a stage of development is not the same as balanced identification with it. People who assume they are more evolved than others undercut their own credibility and marginalize themselves. People who do not naturally favor the cognitive line tend to be suspicious of those who do, because they can see intellectuality as cold, rigid, judgmental, controlling, and exclusivistic. These are legitimate criticisms of those who are overly intellectual. However, judging Wilber by those who are attracted to his work is about as fair as judging who you are by those who are attracted to you. Those who are attracted to his work are not Wilber; even if they were, or Wilber himself were in fact subject to all the weaknesses that tend to show up in intellectuals, that does not reflect on either the logic or usefulness of AQAL, which stands or falls for different reasons.

An Interview With Ken Wilber

Ken, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?

I am listening to you with some amusement! I think you need to remember what is written in the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna says, “Be focused on action and not on the fruits of action. Do not become confused in attachment to the fruit of your actions and do not become confused in the desire for inaction (2,47).”

So you’re telling me to stop thinking about how IDL is received or how popular it is and just do what makes sense to me.


I knew that, but I forgot. Thanks for reminding me…

Ken, what do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?

I like my determination to see the big picture, get it out there in front of the right people, and make it useful.

Ken, what do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses? What are they?

I have my failings. I haven’t lived up to my expectations or those of others. I have set priorities that I know some other people find selfish. But I tell myself that I can’t please everyone, and that it is difficult enough pleasing myself.

Ken, what aspect of humanity do you represent or most closely personify?

I represent the part of humanity yearning for wholeness and integration. To some I represent an over-intellectualization of that yearning. And that is their truth, their reality.

Ken, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change? If so, how?

I am changing enough as it is! I will not be alive that much longer. It’s not just my age; it’s this condition I have. I am sick a lot, without the energy I need to work. It makes it much harder for me to maintain balance in my life. Would I like to be healthy? Yes!

Healthy Ken, how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities: confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing? Why?

Confidence, 0-10. Why? 9 I don’t want to be over-confident; I know I have more growing to do.

Compassion, 0-10. Why? 9 I care deeply about the future of humanity and I also have compassion toward my own physical disability and my own short-comings.

Wisdom, 0-10. Why? 9 I know enough to know that there is a great deal I do not know.

Acceptance, 0-10. Why? 9 There are some things that are not to be accepted: cruelty, abuse, lying, stealing, corruption. One has to speak out for what one believes and denounce what is false and deadly. I focus on building what is good, in hope that it will overwhelm the evil in man.

Inner Peace, 0-10. Why? 8 I’ve fought the good fight; I’ve stood for what I believe. I’ve attempted to respect everyone for who they are. I’ve meditated enough to know what real inner peace is.

Witnessing, 0-10. Why? 9 One can always develop more objectivity. I have worked hard at that most of my life. I do attempt to see myself from the perspectives of my critics.

Ken, if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different? If so, how?

I would be complete! But I am not so sure I want that. The incompleteness of humanity and its awareness of that incompleteness is one of its greatest strengths.

Ken, how would human life be different if they naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?

Much less drama, much less personalization, much more focus on putting plans into action, much more clarity.

Ken, if you could live the lives of humans for them, how would you live it differently?

The most important thing is kindness, respect, love. However, having a model like AQAL creates a structure in which and through which that kindness, respect, and love can express itself. So I would have them do both.

Ken, if you could live the waking life of others today, would you handle their life issues?

I would tell everyone to trust what you call their inner compass. People can easily learn how to differentiate it from their internalized cultural scripting, parent voices, intuition, conscience, and whatnot, and listen to it. Continue to respect and listen to others, whether they are human, sentient, or imaginary! Continue to stand up for what makes sense and what works. Continue to teach others to find and follow their inner compass. It’s core; it’s necessary; it’s part of the evolutionary destiny of humanity. Focus on those things and forget about all those doubts. You can always do better!

Ken, what life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of the lives of others?

Human priorities are awakening. The cultural vessel which supports and nurtures development through the perils of prepersonal stages is growing stronger and wiser with each passing year. More knowledge of what works and doesn’t work is becoming widely available. Help others find their own path, their own means of waking up.

Ken, in what life situations would it be most beneficial for humans to imagine that they are you, become you, and act as you would?

When they have doubts about the goodness of the life force that directs their personal development and the evolution of life.

Ken, why do you think that you are in the lives of humans?

To reassure them that they are on track and that they just needs to continue to respectfully listen and be persistent.

Thank you, Ken! I hear you say for us to focus on our priorities; not to feed our doubts. To feel ourselves supported by you when and if we think it might help. Also, to relax and enjoy our individual paths!

[1] “Crossed transaction” is a term taken from Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis. He uses it to refer to communication among three internal perspectives, which he calls “parent,” “adult,” and “child.” Uncrossed transactions can occur parent to parent, (“We need to set better rules” “What do your recommend?”) adult to adult, (“What time is it?” “8:00”) child to child, (“Will you play with me?” “Let’s play house!”) between parent and adult, (“You’re late.” “You’re right.”) parent and child, (“Please brush your teeth.” “OK Mommy.”) or adult and child (“Which story do you want to hear?” “The funny one about the dancing rats!”). Such interactions are healthy, because they are clear and are not covert and manipulative. Crossed transactions are unhealthy, in that they claim to be healthy but are actually unhealthy cognitive distortions of one type or another. Examples of crossed transactions are adult to adult, with a response of child to parent, (“Are you going to be on time?” “You always think I’m late!”) parent to child (“Have you done your homework?”) with a response of parent to child, (“Have you stopped drinking?”) or child to adult, (“Do you love me?”) with a response of parent to child: (“Of course I love you! How many times do I have to tell you?”) Crossed transactions involve both the Drama Triangle and one or more cognitive distortion. Logical crossed transactions are overtly logical but covertly emotional. For example, a parent-child logical crossed transaction: (“Don’t yell!”) is met with the adult-adult response, “Do you know that you are yelling right now?”)

[2] Pinker, Steven. 2011. The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined. Viking, New York, NY.

[3] Steinmetz, K, Is there any biology behind our political affiliations? Time, Dec 21, 2010; Mooney, C. Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are…Conservative, Mother Jones, Jul 15, 2014.

[4] Regression to mid pre-personal is very powerful. The award-winning documentary, The Corporation, identifies characteristics of psychopathy and personality disorder as common traits associated with capitalism, including callous disregard for the feelings of other people, the incapacity to maintain human relationships, the reckless disregard for the safety of others, the deceitfulness (continual lying to deceive for profit), the incapacity to experience guilt, and the failure to conform to social norms and respect the law.

[5] For example, while dolphins have language, they are much better adapted to their environment than humans are to theirs, making language much less important as a survival technology; because dogs and most other mammals have fur, skin, or scales that protects them from the elements, they lack major, ongoing environmental stressors that humans have, and that drive the development of evolutionary technologies, such as sophisticated shelters, fire, and language.

[6] One can point to any number of statements in Wilber’s writings that are non-dualistic and that question dualistic assumptions, but these are largely conceptual and are not likely to sink down into experiential realizations of non-duality without practice in a transpersonal framework. For this Wilber recommends meditation. However, both historical and personal experiences with meditation demonstrate that meditation is quite compatible with dualism and the maintenance of dualistic world views. Nor is there any assurance that with “enough” meditation one will naturally outgrow them.

[7] Levels of development are self-centric, in that they cannot conceive of developmental stages above their own and therefore tend to reduce genuine higher phenomena to their own developmental stage or below. IDL is aware that it may in fact it be doing that when it doubts the existence of transpersonal stages. There are several reasons why this is probably unlikely, however. The first is that it freely acknowledges the reality of transpersonal states that exist beyond a particular level of development. This is not reductionistic. Secondly, it provides experiential validation of the existence of these states. Therefore, it does not deny the existence of states that represent all four distinct transpersonal levels of development. Its objections are based on the common confusion of states and stages and the observation that when these are disentangled, and the criteria for stage stability are investigated, that it is difficult, if not impossible, to find historical examples that meet those criteria. IDL believes that this is because these stages are largely, if not completely, emerging potentials for humanity that the species has not yet evolved stable access because there are too many cultural, social, and personal preconditions that are holonically interdependent that are yet to fall into place. Therefore, while IDL believes that such stages are theoretically possible, it is skeptical toward claims of their attainment and believes that most claims are examples of elevationism, transpersonal line attainment, and state access. Extraordinary claims take upon themselves an extraordinary burden of proof. According to AQAL, stable access to a transpersonal stage means meeting a lot of criteria. IDL agrees.

[8] The Mirror Test, Science Daily.Com

[9] Lucid dreams and metacognition: Awareness of thinking – awareness of dreaming. Max-Planck Institute,

[10] Transcending Your Monkey Mind: The Five Trees and Meditation; Meditation and Integral Deep Listening

[11] One Taste, Ken Wilber, pp, 75-76

[12] See Transformations of Consciousness: Conventional and Contemplative Perspectives on Development (co-authors: Jack Engler, Daniel Brown), 1986.

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