In Ken Wilbur’s integral spirituality model he breaks spiritual development up into three separate categories of what he calls “cleaning up,” “waking up,” and “growing up.” These three categories of development have subcategories and we are each at different levels of development in each category. As I’ve often said waking up is just the beginning, and it actually only part of our overall spiritual development.
Some people think of enlightenment as a onetime event that solves all of ones problems, but that isn’t the case. Complete liberation from identification with ones mind and body is very rare. Even the great souls that manage complete liberation in this lifetime have had to progress through lesser stages of enlightenment to get to where they are.
Though we are all engaged in a process of developing in all three stages of spiritual development simultaneously, for convenience we will think of them sequentially. The foundation and cornerstone of the spiritual path is the “cleaning up” phase of development. This is the point at which we deal with our past karma and stop creating new karma. This involves “cleaning up our act” physically, socially, and psychologically.
A good foundation for the “cleaning up” phase of development is observance of the yamas and niyamas we discussed previously. But it also involves healing our psychological wounds, doing shadow work, and detoxing our subconscious mind. This stage of development may require the assistance of a qualified therapist or spiritual counselor to help deal with and release those things in our pain body that cause us suffering.
The next phase of development is the “waking up” stage, where we engage in effective meditation practices that enable us to wake up from our delusional identification with the mind and form and develop our capacity to experience witnessing awareness. Waking up has a number of different stages. Those who are completely identified with the voice in their head and the phenomenal world can be thought of as spiritually asleep. Those who are able to experience moments of witnessing and are taking their mind less seriously are waking up.
Waking up progresses as we become more and more identified with witnessing awareness and less identified with our mind and phenomenal experience. As that happens we become more peaceful, loving, and fearless. As we progress on this path of awakening our meditations go from chattering mind to peaceful mind, then to progressively deeper states of super consciousness/samadhi. Our superconscious meditation progresses from feelings of peace and bliss with less and less mind chatter until it culminates in complete absorption in god without any modifying characteristics. When we achieve complete liberation we remain in that state of superconscious awareness at all times.
The third phase of development is the “growing up” stage, which relates to our psychospiritual development. This is a combination of heart wisdom and psychological maturity. The spiral dynamics model for the evolutionary stages of consciousness breaks them down into three tiers with a total of nine different memes of consciousness.
The first tier of consciousness consists of six different memes of consciousness which include the archaic, indigenous, tribal, traditional, modern, and postmodern memes. These six different memes of consciousness are based on a state of consciousness localized in the lower three chakras, with the final post-modern stage moving into the heart.
At the archaic stage of consciousness there is dawning self-awareness and survival through instinct. You can think of this as someone in their first round of human incarnations having just come out of the animal kingdom.
This progresses to the indigenous meme of consciousness that sees the world as enchanted and values ritual and deep community, where the individual is subordinate to the group.
This progresses to the tribal meme of consciousness, which is ego centric, vigilant, and aggressive. Protecting the tribe is of paramount importance and “in group” and “out group” are starkly defined.
Beyond tribal we have the traditional meme of consciousness which is ethno or nation centric. The traditional meme of consciousness values rules, roles & discipline. It is socially conservative and values faith in a transcendent God or Order.
Traditional conscious then moves into the modern meme, which values rationality and science, capitalism and democracy. The modern meme of consciousness is individualistic and materialistic.
The modern meme progresses to the postmodern meme, which values pluralism and equality. The postmodern meme is world centric and values civil rights and environmentalism. However, the postmodern meme still views people and things through a lens of separateness, while demanding radical equality. This meme of consciousness can be quite relativistic and is suspicious of any claims to truth or hierarchy.
The second tier of consciousness is a quantum leap from the first and requires a degree of “waking up” to the underlying unity of the material universe. The second meme of consciousness is informed by the perspective that all is one existing in a state of apparent multiplicity. This perspective embraces the paradoxical nature of reality.
This second tier of consciousness is known as the integral phase, which both transcends and includes the first-tier stages of development. It is a holistic perspective that is flexible and able to hold multiple perspectives. It sees and embraces differences, natural hierarchy, and is creative and effective.
Beyond integral is the post integral meme of consciousness characterized by fully self-realized and liberated saints and sages throughout history. At this stage one has fully realized oneness and exhibits wisdom, joy and love. This is the stage we all aspire to.