Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Bill Harris - The Five Stages of Enlightenment

Bill Harris often presents workshops with Genpo Roshi and is the creator of Holosync, a method for increasing the change rate of meditative experience using sound. He is also a widely sought speaker and friend of integral theory.

I have to mention the name of the blog here because I like it so much: The Blog That Ate Mind Chatter. Cool.

The following is from his blog post on The Five Stages of Enlightenment, offering here the first three or so (this selection only covers the first two):

Nearly all human beings are “pre-stage one” in terms of the Five Ranks. In pre-stage one you’re living in the relative world, and don’t really know about the transcendent, at least on an experiential level. You’re caught in the mind-created world of separate things and events. Pre-stage one would include, for instance, all the Susanne Cook-Greuter stages up through the Strategist–which includes 98-99% of all people. The Magician is probably the first stage that could embody a stage one perspective in the Five Ranks.

It’s possible to have an experience of the transcendent at any stage, but until the Magician it’s much less likely that a person would be interested in exploring the transcendent if they did have a spontaneous experience of it. There are, of course, exceptions. Also remember that you will interpret any experience from your current developmental level, and the Magician is the first such level to see things, at least some of the time, in a non-dual way.

In pre-stage one you live in a solid world of separate objects and separate things, the world of subject-object. In this world certain separate “things” do something to other things, and the world is divided into separate events, separate objects, and separate people. This dualistic, relative world is a world of good and bad, here and there, yin and yang, life and death, having and not having, appropriate and inappropriate. It’s a world where the past and future are real (as opposed to a world where Eckhardt Tolle’s now moment is the only reality).

Once you get to stage one, though, you’ve realized that there’s more to life than just the relative world. You’ve had an experience of the transcendent which underlies the relative world, and you’ve learned how to get into the transcendent when you want to. You can’t, however, stay there. When you stop doing whatever allows you to get there, you return to the relative. You can visit, but you can’t stay.

In the transcendent, everything just “is”. It isn’t good or bad. In fact, there are no qualities to anything, and no distinctions are made. Qualities and distinctions are part of the relative world. What’s more, the transcendent has no beginning and no ending. It’s unborn and undying. It also has no boundaries. It includes everything. Everything is in it, and it is in everything. From the transcendent, there’s nowhere to go, because you’re everywhere. There’s nothing to get, because you’re everything. And, there’s nothing to be afraid of, because there’s nothing outside of you that could threaten you. Everything, including the suffering of the world, is just part of the dance of the universe. Everything is perfect, peaceful, and timeless. In the transcendent, it’s always now.

You visit this place, once you learn how to do that, and it renews you, revitalizes you, beckons you. It tells you that there’s something more to life than you thought there was. Eckhardt Tolle is inviting people into this space, and gives some great hints on how to get into it. Unless you make certain fundamental shifts in perspective, though, your mind keeps pulling you back to the relative world, to the world of the past and the future, and out of the now moment.

So that’s the first stage. You can visit the transcendent, but it isn’t your permanent experience. To get to the second stage, there are some important insights you need to have and certain things you need to drop. The first thing you need to do to get to the second stage is to fully surrender to what is. In doing this you understand at a deep level that there are certain things about the universe and about being human that just are the way they are. There’s no escape from them, and there’s no changing them, and resisting them just creates suffering.

For instance, people, things, and events exist in time. They come into being and eventually pass away. Because of this, and because to be here as a human being you have to be attached, at least a little bit, to the people, things, and events in your life, there always will be suffering in the world. Most people, of course, are attached a lot, and as a result they suffer a lot. People live, and then they die. There are causes and effects–karma. Sometimes you don’t get what you want. Sometimes you get what you don’t want. Resistance to these fundamental facts of existance, and attachment to it being otherwise, creates suffering, and keeps you stuck in the relative world.

To move into stage two you have to surrender to all of this–not intellectually, but at a deep level.

This is, by the way, the first of my Nine Principles for Conscious Living–Letting Whatever Happens Be Okay. Surrendering isn’t passivity, however. It doesn’t mean that you don’t act to get what you want. It does, however, mean that you understand (and accept) the way the universe works, and even while you take action you aren’t attached to your actions turning out a certain way.

So, surrender is the first step in stage two.

Read the whole post.

One quote familiar to many in the integral community is offered in this fine article:
Ken Wilber has said that enlightenment is an accident, but meditation (and other spiritual practices) make you more accident prone–one of his better bon mots.
Yep. The research on meditation is bearing this out more than I think even Wilber could have imagined.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


i've always liked Bill Harris's take on enlightenment, even if i don't necessarily like his marketing ploy.

and yeah, he's blog got cool na,e. for those who don't know, "Mind Chatter" was Bill Harris's old newsletter. i used to subscribe to it. i'm glad that it evolved into a blog. hence the cool name ;)