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Questions created among the Spanish Integral Community
Interview Transcribed by Raquel Torrent,
President of Honor of the Spanish Integral Association
Raquel: How do you feel Ken? Talk to us about your health.
Ken: Well, you know I have a chronic fatigue syndrome. It’s an immune disease where cells lose the capacity to generate protein. It’s so debilitating. At this time we just can’t do anything. Doctors don’t know much about it. Their patients are misdiagnosed and they suffer horribly. It is despairing. We are just assuming that the seizures come because of bad diagnosis. Apparently, it attacks the limbic system, which is the place that seizures originate. So we’re just going with that. We don’t know if the seizures will come back. It truly could be lethal. The first two times I was in a coma for two days and when I came out doctors said they’ve never seen someone come so close to dying and then recuperate like I did. If I had started getting a series of seizures in my sleep they could just kill me, because it wouldn’t be noticed until the morning.
After the first series of seizures, they put me on Dylanton. It’s a drug for seizures. It’s been around forever. It doesn’t have any side effects. People even take it for longevity, so I got on it after the first series, but then I had a second series. They checked my blood level for the presence of the drug and it was extremely low, nowhere near anything that would be therapeutic; so I wasn’t absorbing it well. I had various blood tests and they finally adjusted the amount to take until we got it up to a therapeutic range. We’re assuming that that’s what’s protecting me. It’s very strange, this chronic fatigue immune deficiency syndrome. I don’t get colds I don’t get flus, so just this one illness. That’s why seizures were surprising and really quite an ordeal.
Raquel: Are you afraid that they might come back?
Ken: What I care about is the long term side effects that appear afterwards. It feels like I’m having a flare-up of chronic fatigue and it is just constant. That concerns me more than anything, because it doesn’t seem to be getting any better and that’s very annoying. I’m accustomed to work many hours and now I just can’t. The good news is that I haven’t had seizures for a long time, but I just sort of feel that I won’t. It just doesn’t feel intuitively that I will.
Raquel: Do you know Ortega y Gasset’s theory of Perspectivism and, if so (due to the fact that he shared with Gebser in Madrid’s cultural circles in the Second Republic,) do you think it has something to do with Gebser’s Aperspectivism, which you have finally adopted in your Integral model?
Ken: Well yes, I think there are some similarities with that. His perspectivism, looking at it from an integral perspective, is a structure that comes after the rational perspectivism. With rational perspectivism you can take perspective for the first time, but you’re also stuck in a particular perspective. While if you are in the integral perspective you are wide open to other different perspectives, because integral means that you hold it together. That clearly had an influence on me to some degree. I was one of the first to read Gebser in English and talk about him, so when I wrote Up from Eden I explicitly used his material. I introduced a lot of people to Gebser. He was great; he was just brilliant. I would have liked to see him live longer into his 60’s and 70’s because he would have had a lot to say. That’s why when I first found his stuff it was just obvious for me: I just knew he was basically right. And now it turns out that there are some things he gets right and some things not so right, but nevertheless he’s a pioneer.
His highest level is, of course, really just one of four or so higher levels. He does tend to sort or mix turquoise integral together with green. He doesn’t really get levels and lines and he doesn’t get states at all. But what he was doing at the time was really important in order to understand altitude, the existence of levels of worldviews. Something like that hadn’t been really done yet. He tried to make structures encompass everything that was happening, so all the different levels are put together and so he would treat art, religion and mathematics all as one. So you’re at magic. Everything is magic. If you’re mythic, everything is mythic and that is just not it. But getting those major altitudes was really good stuff for the time being.
Raquel: Shadow work–why is it not another element, the 6th?
Ken: It is essentially just a dysfunction of two of the other five. It’s just what goes wrong in developmental levels when something is dissociated or split off. It is not a separate inherent entity itself but what happens when something goes wrong.
Raquel: Does tetrameshing imply causal processes? If so, could an underlying structure be described in order to establish a causal order among quadrants? For example, is it similar (although more complex) to when classical Marxists defend the Lower-Right quadrant (base) while determining and restricting Lower-Left (superstructure)?
Ken: Not really. The reason is that these four are hooked together in what I call tetrameshing. The four quadrants are four different perspectives on tetrameshing. If you have just a single structure that is looked at through a single perspective it is either a first or a second or a third person perspective, but this is all three of those–first, second and third perspectives of the quadrants. There is not a single structure that you can describe, because it is not a single perspective; it’s four perspectives. All emerge at the same time.
It looks like a causal event is happening, because there are four dimensions of the same thing. If something happens in the lower right it is going to appear also in the lower left and in the upper right and the upper left. But you can also start describing the event in the upper right and then say that is going to have effects in all the other quadrants at the same time. What can happen is that sometimes one of the quadrants is more noticeable or stands out the most, but there is still something going on in all four quadrants simultaneously. You can focus on one of them and attract something that is happening in the lower right, but something is happening simultaneously in the lower left and also in the other two quadrants. It’s just a single event that you can look at from these different perspectives.
Raquel: Will you release an updated compilation of lines, types, of all quadrants (à la Hargens in “An Overview of Integral Theory,” Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, March 2009)? And if, as Hargens said, “each line within a quadrant has correlates in the other quadrants” (10.) shouldn’t they then be defined as “meta-lines of development” or would that include all correlated lines of all the different quadrants?
Ken: No, that can be found in volume II of the Kosmos Trilogy, the volume after Sex, Ecology and Spirituality, from which I put several excerpt up on line: excerpts A, B, C. It is not yet published as a book. As I told you in the last Spanish Integral Conference, I am preparing five books that are almost finished. They are about 90% done.
Regarding the “meta lines of development,” yeah, you certainly can call them that. There are mental lines and levels of the mental lines. There you have correlates in all the other quadrants. For example, if we have the mental lines of moral development in the upper left, then in the upper right there are certain brain states that are going on and in the lower left this is occurring in a particular group of individuals. Yet, in the lower right what is occurring is being expressed in a determined manner in those groups. So, yes it does have correlates all the way around.
Raquel: How can we interpret Jung's collective unconscious and archetypes from an integral point of view? Is there something like a pre-structure of collective energy that is universal and timeless?
Ken: Jung’s archetypes are not the archetypes that the perennial philosophy talks about, like Plato or Plotinus. An archetype is the first form in manifestation. In Plato, for example, it is described as a geometric form, triangles, squares and circles, and so on. In Buddhism there is the Vasanas, which is some form of collective memory. For Jung, though, when he was looking at these mythic forms they seemed to him to be some sort of primary forms.
Just because in the developmental sequence we find archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, etc., where mythic is one of the most noticeable levels, when we go back and we look at the primitive tribes and so on, what we see are mythic forms with their mythic roles, there were God’s and Goddesses. But those aren’t really archetypes in the perennial sense. Those are simply roles that you have available at the magic and mythic levels of development. So they’re more like prototypes in Jung, just roles coming into existence in fulcrum 3 and fulcrum 4. Therefore, some of them are magic, some of them are mythic, but they are just magic and mythic forms that come into being. Their capacity to be those forms is universal, but what it changes is their surface structures. They vary. They look different from culture to culture, but there is nothing particularly spiritual about them. They confuse the fact that it was collective with it being transpersonal when is not. Collectively we all inherit ten toes. If I experience my toes, I’m not necessarily having a mystical experience; so it’s not necessarily transpersonal.
Surely that was a pioneering way to look at it. They were operating under the assumption that there is a surface consciousness that was rational, egoic and conventional. When you do that kind of stuff, freely associating those kinds of things, then you get down to what Freud called a primary process. That was just anything that was not rational, not egoic, so his primary process was magical/mythical thinking. Freud made the assumption that such was the first form of thinking. Jung agreed with that, with the exception that he didn’t want to interpret it as just being infantile. What started their big falling out was that argument when Freud said, “Never give up the libido theory!” Jung asked, “Why?” Freud said, “Because it protects us against the black mud of the tide of occultism.” Then Jung said, “Well, that’s all I was in reality interested in.”
Jung wrote a book named Symbols of Transformation, which was a complete break with Freud’s view of the libido. He wanted to see these symbols as the source of the mystical, contemplative and transpersonal awareness and it just is not. They are just the earliest forms of conventional thinking, but they’ve happened a long time ago. They’re not available to us as surface forms except when we’re ages 4, 5 or 6; then it comes out every day. Not all consciousness has form. As a matter of fact, a lot of states are unconscious or formless states, states of unmanifested cessation. States of consciousness are neither pre nor trans because they can be experienced as pre or trans. It is what we call para consciousness because it is to the side of consciousness. Even if you are in a formless state and you start to experience form it doesn’t have to be just in the Jungian mythic form type. It can be states of luminosity or geometrical forms or any number of forms. You can have collective experiences at any level that is not necessarily transpersonal.
Raquel: In which way do you think that would affect your vision of life if you were to have a a brief immersion in the Brazilian favelas, the Bolivian highlands, the Mayan communities, the paisants of Guatemala or the big trash cemeteries of Mexico City?
Ken: Those situations are essentially mythic in structure so there is nothing necessarily transpersonal about those forms. Therefore, living in any of those situations I would say that there is nothing spiritual per se. You have to look and see what states of consciousness they are, also, and that’s very hard to trap to figure out. Most of them have had shamanic forms of religion and that is a subtle state of experience, little evidence of causal (emptiness) and very little evidence of non-dual (suchness). So, these subtle realms, overworlds and underworlds, were the shamanic realities basically in what they’ve lived in–and those are fine. It is just that they’re not terribly advanced. They’re only advanced in comparison to gross states. Those were the essential structures of most of the early civilizations which were mythic in form and subtle in their states.
The poverty situations that are lived in those places have an unshakeable effect on people, whether they go there or to some places like Calcutta where the suffering is also suffocating because it’s so intense. In Calcutta you would have parents blind their children because blind beggars make more money and that is because they think that’s the only way they can assure them some future. It’s just hard to imagine the type of suffering that goes on there. So compassion is something you want to maintain while looking at them.
When talking of Buddha there is the Absolute Bodhichitta and the Relative Bodhichitta. Bodhichitta means essentially the enlightened mind. The Absolute Bodhichitta is emptiness and the relative Bodhichitta is compassion. So emptiness is the ultimate ground and then compassion is the actual activity or manifestation. That is why to manifest compassion is the only reality of consciousness–because the world is full of that suffering. To the Absolute all this is an illusion anyway, but it also wants individuals to wake up so it has compassion in that sense. But everything is a dream anyway and if you want to have a dream of having 5000 people starving, there are two ways you can get rid of the suffering. One is that in the dream you start feeding them all and the second way is to wake up. Tonglen, the compassionate exchange, is something that I am aware of because I do a lot of it, but surely sometimes I am more compassionate than others. But, of course, if you are connected directly with suffering–like living in those places or seeing it because you go there–you feel it more directly. That’s why Westerners really don’t know how good they have it.
Raquel: How can we understand the meaning of deterioration from an Integral perspective (looking at it from a spiritual consciousness)?Ken: Things evolve or tend to evolve in a process of transcend and include. When they transcend and include they become larger and larger and more complex entities. The interesting thing to notice is that when any holon deteriorates it goes right back down in the same order.