Ken Wilber Discusses Ego Development, Culture and Our Future – HPP 104

Ken Wilbur

In today’s episode, we are incredibly honored to have a famous philosopher and writer, Ken Wilber, on the show. Ken’s work has been monumental in the field of transpersonal psychology and has developed the integral theory.

Today, he shares his insights about the ego structures, states of consciousness, human development and a whole lot more.

Show Notes:

Where We Are In The Human Journey – 05:56
“I think one of the best ways to understand how culture moves is through developmental approaches. They’re not everything, but they tell us quite a bit about where we are, where we’re going, what we can expect, and so on—But what I find interesting about it is, let’s say that the average American is at what I would call an orange or a rational or an achievement stage of development.”

The Possibility of an Evolving Human Psychology – 11:26
“According to this school of evolution, there’s an inherent drive towards greater complexity, greater wholeness, greater integration, and some might even add greater consciousness. And that’s built into the universe, that order out of chaos drive starts with the Big Bang.“

Order Out of Chaos and a Look Into The Past – 22:21
“So in the mythic stage, you had an emphasis on community, and you had to all be in conformity with the way that culture thought, which meant you had to be in conformity with a Catholic mode of thinking. And the churchmen didn’t have to look through Galileo’s telescope, because the Bible told them exactly what they’d see and stuff like that. But then when we moved from mythic Middle Ages to rational enlightenment, those didn’t get along very well”

The Use of Psychedelics and Evolving Consciousness – 30:12
“And the results that they were getting were just stunning. I mean, not just in things like, Jordan Peterson always reports this, things like stopping cigarettes, smoking. One dose with mystical experience, psilocybin stops cigarette smoking 85% of the time, and the best they’ve got of any other kind of drug is like 20%”

Partnership and Relationship – 39:21
“Healthy relationships involve partners who they have engaged in growing up and cleaning up, and then have honesty, trust, love, respect and open communication and take effort to compromise. So adding growing up and cleaning up, were just ways of talking about, in a sense, orthodox practices of growing up just means to be aware that you’re going through stages of development, just be aware of that. Studies have shown that people that even learn the stages of a growing up model will tend to move through those stages more quickly, because their brains just know”

Full Episode Transcript


Keith Kurlander, Dr. Will Van Derveer, Ken Wilber


Keith Kurlander  00:08

Thank you for joining us for The Higher Practice Podcast. I’m Keith Kurlander with Dr. Will Van Derveer. And this is the podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health. Hey there, welcome back. I guess I could also say we’re back. Will and I have been on a little bit of a podcast sabbatical for I think it’s been two to three months now, very involved with getting some of our new programs launched, our psychedelic therapy training in the institute and a number of other projects. So we took a little hiatus from the podcast for a couple months to regroup and also to think about what type of gas we’re going to have going forward. And what we wanted to start off with here in the fall.  So we’re excited to get started again. And today is a podcast where we have Ken Wilber. If you haven’t been exposed to Ken Wilber, Ken Wilber was a huge influence in my life when I was in my early 20s. And I discovered his writing. He’s an American philosopher who really did have a large influence on a lot of things, we wouldn’t realize he developed integral theory and kind of his zone of genius is really synthesizing and integrating a lot of previous frameworks and thoughts about the human condition, and pulls things together. In a very, both simple and complex narrative of how we can understand things like consciousness and Human Development, Ken did something that really wasn’t done previously to him, where he brought together the concepts of what was being generated in the last 100 to 150 years around psychological human development, thinking about ego development and how we have developed mental models and stages of development as humans that we go through such as Erikson, and Piaget and these different psychologists, Maslow in some ways, and he brought together a lot of the emergence again, and maybe the last 100 to 200 years, the emergence of viewing personality, development, and ego development, and synthesizing also, what spiritual traditions have looked at for much longer 1000s of years, you could say. And in the spiritual traditions, particularly in the eastern spiritual traditions, we look at the different types of, you could say states that can develop any human being moving from more of the personal experience to more of the transpersonal than mystical and non dual experience. And so this conversation with Ken, you’re going to hear some terms being thrown around rather quickly on here. And we’re going to be talking about the difference between structures, which really fall more under these ego development models. And so the ego structures, the egoic structures of being human. And states, we talk about quite a bit too, which is more of a different type of state, we can enter in our consciousness, everything from more of a gross physical, personal state relationship to reality to the non dual that we talk about in the spiritual traditions. And so we get a bit into the intersection between structures and states. And you can view these in developmental theory meaning stages of development, where as a human at any stage of ego development or state development, and then also culture, which is a really interesting part of the conversation, you’re gonna hear us talking about, where are we at right now in the evolution of culture on this planet, and different cultures on this planet? And we talk a lot about America, but just about where are we at? And where are we headed, and you’re going to hear about an interesting thing that he mentions about that we’re, in a transition, it looks like we’re in a transition to a new stage of cultural development. So a lot of terms get thrown around, I recommend you check out his work. There’s a lot of great places to go online to learn about integral theory if you get interested in what we’re talking about here. You want to learn more. There’s some great stuff online. He’s got a lot of books you can dive into. But I do recommend going and checking out integral theory if you want a little more context for the conversation because they can sometimes be hard to keep up with Ken. He’s written so much He’s read so many articles and books and research that if you don’t have a basis for integral theory, it can be a little hard to keep up. But at the same time, it’s an amazing conversation we’re diving into here with him. We’re really excited to kind of reboot the podcast right now after a couple months break with Ken Wilber.  So I’m going to introduce Ken now. Ken is a visionary thinker, and is the developer of an Integral Theory of everything that embraces a truce of all the world’s great spiritual, scientific and philosophical traditions. He’s the most widely translated academic writer in America with 25 books translated into some 30 foreign languages. Ken Wilber currently lives in Denver, Colorado, and is still active as a philosopher, author and teacher. With all of his major publications still in print. Let’s welcome Ken Wilber to the show. Hi Ken, welcome to the show. It’s good to have you here.


Ken Wilbur  05:55



Keith Kurlander  05:56

It’s really exciting to have you here. I went to Naropa 20 some odd years ago, when I really got introduced to your work and the transpersonal program over there. And when I got one of your books in my hands, it definitely changed me. Like, right, let’s think about philosophy and healing in a synthesized way, rather than kind of a granular Island, the broken apart system of thought, and so you really help reorient me. I thought we would start off with a kind of grand question. Yeah, that’s getting your take on here, which is really about like, where are we at in the human journey right now in terms of consciousness, the evolution of humanity, the evolution of human consciousness, and the way we think about things and the way we perceive the world as more of a collective of humanity? And where are we on that journey? Where have we come from? Where are we at?


Ken Wilbur  06:50

I think one of the best ways to understand how culture moves is through developmental approaches. They’re not everything, but they tell us an enormous, quite a bit about where we are, where we’re going. Well, we can expect and so on. And as an example, if you look at developmental research today, and there are an enormous number of models of different developmental features, in the book integral psychology, I actually included over 100 developmental models. And in the back, I have a chart of all of them, and the levels of development they’ve given in the cell. But what I find interesting about it is, let’s say that the average American is at what I would call an orange or a rational or an achievement stage of development. And then the next stage, of course, is postmodern green, multicultural data, systemic equity, diversity, and so on. And let’s say that even though only about 20% of the population is at those postmodern stages, let’s say we wanted to know what tomorrow is going to bring us in terms of that kind of awareness. Well, what we have are studies that show another two or three, in some cases, four stages of development beyond the postmodern. And so those are based on empirical research. And they actually look at how individuals develop beyond green. And when they do so they do so as in all developmental studies in a series of discrete stages, and they unfold in a particular order. So what we can assume from developmental stages, as long as we’ve been testing them, is that they go through a series of discrete stages that move towards higher, more complex or unified, more conscious stages of development.  So if we can just expect those stages to continue, then we’ll know what tomorrow is going to look like. So beyond green, there are keel stages, turquoise stages. These two stages are generally referred to as second tier stages, because they bring a particular type of wholeness or whole ism that is lacking in all of the previous so called first tier stages, and a first tear stage is defined as a stage that believes that its truth and values are the only real truth and values in existence, and everybody else is confused or goofy or childish or just plain wrong in their views. And then when we get the move from first tier to second tier, clear grains call it a monumental shift and a cataclysmic shift in meaning. Because what happens when you get the second tier to or turquoise, we also call heal holistic and turquoise integral, it doesn’t matter what names we choose for them. But those stages are the first stages that as they look at all of the growth stages that humans have gone through, they’re the first stage is that into it, that all of the previous stages are actually important, and they need to be included. So that makes them different from all the previous stages and think they’re the only important stages in existence. second tier stages think all of the previous stages are important. if for no other reason, then they’re all a part of our total human growth. And so none of those can be deleted or skipped or downplayed, just like if you’re going from atoms to molecules to cells, the organism, you can’t go from atoms to organisms, and skip molecules and cells, it just doesn’t work.


Keith Kurlander  11:26

So when we think about this from as we talked about this as a developmental stage model, and in terms of the human psychology, is it that there’s an evolution over time on earth, where over time global humanity is moving up in stages? Or is there just so much diversity on this planet, that we’re just anywhere on the given planet, there’s always a stage present, and it just won’t always be that way.


Ken Wilbur  11:49

What evolutionary stages tend to give us is, frankly, right now there is an enormous amount of theoretical discussion and disagreement among orthodox biological evolution as to what evolution considers consistency. And there’s sort of two components to that. One is the what of evolution, and what is the why of evolution, the what of evolution is still accepted by almost everybody. It’s simply a list of the time periods when various different poll laws came into existence. So they will agree that just on Earth, for example, there was first just one cellular organism, and then those expanded into multicellular organisms. And then those expanded through a tree of life. First, there were fish, and then amphibians, and then reptiles, and then mammals, and then humans. And nobody disagrees with that particular order that those things came into existence. And so when most biologists say biology makes no sense, without evolution, what they’re at least referring to is the order of emergence of the different stages of evolution. And that goes all the way back to the Big Bang, where we can track the emergence of subatomic particles to particles, to molecules, to cells, and so on. But when it comes to the why of evolution, that’s where there’s a lot of disagreement, even with among orthodox scientists, so somebody like Stuart Kaufman, from the Santa Fe Institute, will say, no natural evolution, natural selection is not enough to drive all of the changes and the diversity we see, in evolution, there has to be something like, well, Elliot Prigozen for example, I think the 1976 got the Nobel Prize for demonstrating that even insentient matter has in it a drive that he called order out of chaos. So there’s an inherent drive. According to this school of evolution, there’s an inherent drive towards greater complexity, greater wholeness, greater integration, and some might even add greater consciousness, and that’s built into the universe that order out of chaos drives starts with the Big Bang. And so that’s where you get sort of to kind of that’s where a lot of the disagreement in modern evolutionary biology, that’s what they’re arguing about is okay, what’s the nature of Yes, they’re a force in the universe that drives towards greater and greater unity and greater complexity. In other words, Is there a drive that counteracts the second law of thermodynamics? And if you look, at least in the path, it’s led up to the earth, of course there is, because the universe isn’t winding down, the universe is winding up, it just gets more and more complex. So if you take a theorist like North Whitehead, and he gives what he calls his three ultimates. And these are the three principles that you need, in order to get any universe up and running in the first place, the first principle is the one. The second principle is the many, and the third principle is the interesting one, he called it the creative advance into novelty. So that, again, is what Stuart Kaufman would call a self organization, principle, and archaeans, call it self organization through self transcendence. All of that is looking at a side of evolution that is causing more complexity, and more diversity and more integration. And so that gives us a distinctly different type of framework, if we want to think about evolution. And that’s certainly the case if we want to think about the evolution of higher states of consciousness or so on. So going back then to developmental studies, what they tend to show is, and of course, they stretch these studies out over the whole animal kingdom, but they particularly focus on humans, the what you find with human beings, is that from conception, they’re driven by this self organization, principle, or self organization through self transcendence, or order out of chaos, they just get more and more complex and clever developmental psychologists have actually studied the stages that this complexity grows in. And that’s what makes developmental study an incredibly important study for human beings. Because as I was saying, if you want to know what the future is going to look like, one of the area of course, we can study a lot of areas in setting the growth technology, financial systems, you name it, but one of the ones we tend to overlook is the developmental approaches, and particularly the levels that have been demonstrated, when I say demonstrated, they’re looking at higher levels, but they find people who are actually at these higher level and they study them. So again, if you take something like cognitive development, and you have Piaget going from pre operational, concrete operational, to the formal operational in PJ’s notebooks, he started talking about a systemic stage that was beyond formal operational. And that’s where most of the recent research in developmental psychology has occurred. And so they actually find examples of people at these three or four higher stages. Beyond formal operational things include meta systemic carbons and Richards referred to them as meta systemic, systemic, then meta systemic, then Herrick big Matic and then cross paired Vic Matic. And the paradigmatic stages were all in the second tier, because they all work to realize the wholeness of all the previous stages of development. And if that’s the case, then it means as human beings, as we continue to evolve on this earth, we’re going to continue to go into those higher stages ourselves, there’s going to be more people that move into those higher stages, if every single previous stage of development has proved correct. And so far, there’s nothing to indicate that developmental psychology is wrong. So we assume that it just continues pointing in the direction we’re going. And so right now, you can say the Middle Ages were marked by a mythic stage of development. So also called ethnocentric because it gave privileges to just special groups, like if you’re a Christian, devout Christian, and you die, then you get to go to heaven and live with Jesus Christ on the right hand side of God Almighty forever. But if you’re a Hindu, you don’t get to do that. You’re gonna fry in hell and sane if you’re a Jew or so on. So it went from ethnocentric to during the a bit, but it moved in that for mythic stages and understanding and irrational stages of understanding, and then into starting the 1960s, a stage that is generally referred to as the postmodern stage emerged. And that supplanted the stage of modernity, which was ruled by reason is called the Age of Reason. And then post modernity started tearing down all of that. So, rationality is to be distrusted, there’s no objective truth, and so on. So that’s where we are right now. And that looks fairly problematic. In terms of what it’s producing. For our society, everybody’s noticed this, we call it, there’s a certain woke-ism of people that sort of buy into this new post objective, Post truth, multicultural diversity stage of development. And that just seems to be an increasing polarization and retry mobilization that’s occurring. But if we continue growing, and there is, again, about 20%, of the population, at the postmodern stage, at the previous modern stage, there’s about 30%, at the previous mythic stage is starting to die down. So there’s maybe 25 to 30% of the population that’s there. And as per second fear integral, there’s only about five to 7% of the population that are at those stages, what we find is that when any leading edge stage becomes about 10% of the population, then there tends to be a tipping point. And what that means is that the values of that higher stage tend to kind of seep down into the culture, and the culture becomes more open to the values of these higher stages. So that means modernity and postmodernity would start to accept the values of an integral age, when we continue to develop through the stages that we already know are there.


Keith Kurlander  22:21

Does there tend to be a kind of increased time period of chaos while that transition happens, or is it just a smooth transition? When does that flip start happening? Where more of the culture starts moving into the next stage? I mean, I guess also a question and that is, where are we at right now, where with this sort of seems to be a heightened, at least in you know, we could say in America, but elsewhere, there’s a heightened chaos right now a lot going on, and is that representative of these developmental stages in some way, and something that’s happening?


Ken Wilbur  22:52

Yeah, particularly in the first tier, because they are ones that are fighting for their own territory, unlike the second tier, which tends to embrace all of them as having some importance. But in the first tier, when you move from one tier to the next tier, the tiers tend to be contradictory. So in the mythic stage, you had an emphasis on community, and you had to all be in conformity with the way that culture thought, which meant you had to be in conformity with a Catholic mode of thinking. And the churchmen didn’t have to look through Galileo’s telescope, because the Bible told them exactly what they’d see and stuff like that. But then when we moved from mythic Middle Ages, to rational enlightenment, those didn’t get along very well. And so then there would be some conflict between them, particularly we started the battle between science and religion at that rank. But then when modern science, enlightenment went forward about 200 years, it ran into the first emergence of another major structure, which we’ve been calling the postmodern structure, also referred to as better systemic, because it can reflect on the systemic frameworks that rationality created. And that’s why the post modernists spend all of their time attacking the universal systems that modernity set up. So we tend to see because each first tier structure contradicts its previous structure, moving from one to the other is always a little bit fraught with difficulties and some turmoil, some better, some worse, but we seem historically to find that happening all the time. What we don’t know is what will happen when we move from the first tier, where everybody’s at each other’s throats to the second tier, which doesn’t have those assumptions at all. Yes, structures that embrace and in full and integrate previous structures?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  25:11

Ken I’m curious, I think one of the burning questions is, if we’re only at, you know, seven or 8%, at tier two, are we going to make it to 10%? Before, it’s too late for the impact and that kind of watershed moment to happen?


Ken Wilbur  25:26

Well, that’s what we’re watching. So there is some good news in terms of how fast development occurs when I started studying this, the percentage of the population at second tier. And remember, each bottle, because it’s working usually on a different multiple intelligence will tend to develop a metric that tells where people are in terms of their own model, the stage their own model that the person is at. And those can vary relative amounts, they all still have essentially similar stages. But these stages can grow in uneven ways. So if you measure cognitive development in one population, you might get 50, or 60%, are reaching world centric, or rational levels, you might find moral development is at only about 40%. and emotional development, emotional intelligence might be even less than 30%. So you have to kind of keep that in mind. So when I say five to seven, or 8%, that’s an average of all of the bottles and all of the empirical results they get. But when I first started studying it, the overall percentage of the second tier was only about 3%. And if you look at teal and turquoise, which are so far the two most often identified stages of second tier, the highest color turquoise, there was only 0.5% of the people at turquoise. And I used to when people would come around and talk to me and Edwin to say, we’re facing a new paradigm, there’s a worldwide transformation occurring, it’s we’re all moving into this great oneness, and I just get out this hat and put it on and it had written 0.5%.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  27:40



Ken Wilbur  27:41

Yeah, it was just sort of my reminder. But now that it’s to five to 7%, that’s a fair amount of growth, and some positive estimates put it that it will hit 10%. And it could be 10 years.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  27:57

The 10% watershed moments interesting because as Keith and I have worked to develop an integrated model for our practitioners to come and learn in the Institute, the conversation has been if we could educate 10% of the psychiatrists in this country with a with a more expanded perspective about root causes and actually addressing what’s going on rather than and from a transcendent include perspective that in large part to your work is that it’s not about throwing out the old model. It’s about bringing forward a fuller sense of what can happen. It’s just interesting that that number has been the same one that Keith and I’ve been working over.


Ken Wilbur  28:37

Well, and I’ve also seen at least a couple studies, I think one out of Stanford, showing that if you have a group of people, and there are sort of some difficult questions that they’re trying to decide on, when 10% of the population fully adopts one of the solutions, that’s often enough to tip the rest of them that come across. So apparently, it’s not just a made up number, we’re looking for 10% at second tier by literally every developmental model in existence has these major stages going from mythic sort of middle ages to rational enlightenment stages, the postmodern pluralistic relativistic stages to at least two integrated or integral stages. And so at least being able to point to some higher stages, where we have extremely abundant information that they exist, and that’s the point I’m trying to exist as much as the previous stages do. So the point is, okay, If you have a stage model that has, let’s say, six stages of major development, and it’s all been checked out and certified in it, we’re all ready to go. Aren’t there higher stages?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  30:12

But it seems to me that that was one of the things that Carl Jung was saying to Freud that there are additional stages here by the balance. It’s not just about the ego, and having a healthy life goes to the beginning of the journey, not the end of the journey. Which reminds me, I’m wondering, how do you feel? I mean, when we talk about getting from five to 7% 10%, are there accelerants that you feel like when Keith and I were one of the things we do is we have we have a psychedelic therapy training to try to get people ready for the possibility that there may be psychedelic therapy widely available in the next few years? to help people get from tier one situation to tier two? What are your thoughts about the use of psychedelics to help evolve consciousness?


Ken Wilbur  30:59

Right, which is a good subsequent question that you had, which I’ll be glad to address it now, when the psychedelics hit in the 60s, I was a classic Boomer, and with one exception, as I really never got into the drug culture, so I never really did LSD or psilocybin or mescaline or any of those. But when the government chose to make all of those drugs illegal, and their classes with heroin, I was infuriated. And I was infuriated, because I at least had read all the literature on psychedelics and including individual people writing about their accounts, like Aldous Huxley and Alan Watson, all of that. And it was clear to me that these were opening up some very, very profound, and I think natural states of consciousness. So I was delighted when recently psilocybin research was picked up. And what was it Princeton, or someplace like that?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  32:13

Johns Hopkins.


Ken Wilbur  32:15

Right. And the results that they were getting were just stunning. I mean, not just in things like Jordan Peterson always reports this thing’s like stopping cigarettes, smoking, oh, one dose with mystical experience, psilocybin stops cigarette smoking 85% of the time, and the best they’ve got of any other kind of drunk is like 20%. So Peterson just really blabbers on that this is some amazing kind of thing.


Keith Kurlander  32:50

In your perspective, is that a shift in these tiers that’s happening?


Ken Wilbur  32:54

I think it’s probably connected. And one of the things that we don’t know and that we do need a lot of research on is the relation of these structures of consciousness versus states of consciousness, because there are some similarities, but there are also some important differences states for example, you can tend to have peak experiences of a state of consciousness, and the traditions divide states into like gross, subtle causal, Turia, Turiakita. These are all states, but you can have a higher state experience of any one of those. So even the highest state, which is generally taken to be some sort of unit of consciousness, or cosmic consciousness or something like that. If you had to go through these states one at a time, the number of people that would have cosmic conscious experiences would be very small. But polls consistently show that the last one I saw was 60% of Americans said they have had a full fledged unity consciousness experience. So you can peak experiences, you cannot get experience structures, that doesn’t work at all. So if your moral stage one you cannot peak experience moral state six, you need to have a moral stage to on top of it to be able to afford to get up a level higher than the world stage three, and then they can get up a little higher their board stage four, it can get a little higher than the world stage five and add a moral stage five, because state six the highest is the next stage up you can start to have little peak experiences are bad. That’s actually how you’ll end up developing into it, but you can’t take experience.


Keith Kurlander  34:55

Can you spontaneously let’s say on a psychedelic go from a stage 2 to a 6, as a structure, can you structurally move that quickly in a moment? Or you’re saying that it just takes time no matter what?


Ken Wilbur  35:06

It’s time.


Keith Kurlander  35:07



Ken Wilbur  35:08

It’s time, and that’s one of the reasons that you also, there’s structures that seem to be more like rules of grammar, which are sort of third person rules that we all follow when we learn a language. But we can’t look within and see those rules of grammar. Even though you and I are both following a whole set of rules of grammar right now, we can’t introspect and see, but the same is true of structures. You can’t introspect them. You can’t look within and see them. But states of consciousness, if you’re meditating, and you have a state of consciousness, where you become one with the universe and bliss and love you know, it is completely fully conscious when you have a state. But when you have a structure, and you’re operating from it, you have no idea you’re operating from that structure. And that’s why structures weren’t discovered until about 100 years ago, with James Mark Baldwin. But states, like Shamanic states or even Zen Satori states, go back 1000s of years, because when you have one of those experiences, it’s the first person direct, immediate experience, and you know, it.


Keith Kurlander  36:27

So if we go back to the psychedelics for a moment, just so we’re on, it sounds like from what I’m understanding here is that psychedelics may, of course, initiate a state, but they will not initiate in just one session, a movement from one structure to the next. But is it that those states can actually speed up the transition or like, let’s say, normally it would have taken you five years to make that transition in structure, and that repeat experience speed up the process into moving into a new worldview structure, that’s, it comes quicker, because the psychedelic use?


Ken Wilbur  37:00

Yes, and that’s why I say, we don’t understand the relation between structures and states, but we can start hypothesizing about what some of them are. And it does look to me, like certain higher states can exert an influence on structures, that helps them move up a level more quickly. And so even in meditation, studies of meditation practitioners, if you take, for example, the percentage of people it’s second tier, at best, like he gets a group of smart students or something, it can be 20%. But if you take college students, and once a day, each year, they practice meditation for at least 20 to 40 minutes a day, then the percentage of those people that reach second tier is 72%. So it’s clearly over a long time, it’s having an exertion on structures, so that they do grow more quickly. And meditation is one of the things that can demonstrate that kind of growth of structures, as one of the things that does, by the way. So that’s an important point, and how I think that happens is when you’re meditating, and you’re practicing mindfulness, and a subject that you identified with comes up and you make it an object, then you’re objectifying it, you’re freeing it, you’re getting it out of your identification with it, I see it as an object, it’s no longer a part of my subject. And as you continue to do that, that’s what happens in meditation is subjects they’re seeing become objects subject to seeing, and until they become objects. And then when you basically see all of the subjects of your mind, including your ego, it’s a point of all of those have become objects, then there’s just pure emptiness left, and that’s called Satori. So I think that’s how this tends to work. And I think that the capacity to make subject objects is what helps structures move more quickly.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  39:21

So on the internal inner experience side, the conversion or the shift from perceiving subject to perceiving object is happening that’s supporting the shift in more of a trait or a shift in consciousness. And I’m also wondering, shifting gears a little bit to more of the interpersonal. What is your current perspective about partnership and relationships and the role or the pros and cons of a long term, long conversation between two people.


Ken Wilbur  39:54

Healthy relationships involve partners who they have engaged in, growing up and cleaning up, and then have honesty, trust, love, respect and open communication and take effort to compromise. So adding growing up and cleaning up, we’re just ways of talking about, in a sense, orthodox practices of growing up just means to be aware that you’re going through stages of development, just be aware of that studies have shown that people that even learn the stages of a growing up model will tend to move through those stages, or quickly, because their brains just knows way better. However, I’m seeing this, I think I’m seeing it right. But I could have even a higher view of this. And just knowing that sort of helps open that view, it still takes a while to fill out a structure and be able to see it. So we’re limited in the amount of quickness that we can make that subject into an object, but anything quicker, can help and in particular helps by the amount, it will help move us into those higher structures like second tier from 20% to 72%. I absolutely fell off my chair when I first read that when I first saw that study, but the thing that is important for me about partnerships, and long lasting partnerships, is in addition to simply how they can interact with each other. And if you are taking up something like cleaning up, then being able to go through that with your partner can make an enormous amount of difference. Because one of the main things with cleaning up as you know, is you can repress or disown aspects of yourself. And then you’ll often project those aspects on to another. And so if I have a bit of adulterous impulses in me, and I don’t like them, they shut them out and disown them, and I project them onto my partner, then all of a sudden, I think my partner is fooling around on me, and I might even accuse them of it. And of course, if they’re not, which they probably aren’t, they’ll be shocked and upset. Most fights get into those kinds of things from projecting shadow elements onto another. And, and seeing them as possessing.


Keith Kurlander  42:38

A good way to maybe split this out for the listener, maybe just describe a little bit the path of what the benefits are of the path of the householder who’s relating to a partner every day in terms of moving structures and stages versus let’s say, the path of the meditator who’s not in partnership and working with themselves. And the benefits of both and what are the drawbacks of both. Maybe just contrast those two paths a little bit in terms of how to be moving between structures and what each yields, there .


Ken Wilbur  43:08

Two things you want me to contrast are?


Keith Kurlander  43:11

Let’s say the path of the meditator who’s really focused on that they’re not in partnership, they’re focused on individual self reflection.


Ken Wilbur  43:20

I call the waking up process.


Keith Kurlander  43:22

Waking up with self, versus someone’s on the path of waking up, maybe in relationship to a person, they’re not a big meditator. That’s not their thing. And just those two paths?


Ken Wilbur  43:35

Well, they are two relatively different paths, it’s hard to even say whether it’s better to have at least one person on the path. And the other is just going about sort of normal life, whether that works out better, or whether it’s just a wash, and they just started go their separate ways, I tend to think that any of the aspects of full wholeness, and that includes showing up growing up, waking up, opening up, cleaning up that the more a person is involved in any one of those integral aspects of working on themselves, then the better things get in general. And that generally includes, the better they get along with their colleagues, with their friends, and with their partners. So even if your partner is not engaged in one of those holistic practices, waking up in meditation, growing up working on their growth scale, opening up, opening up to the many multiple intelligences that people have showing up, showing up to all for all the major dimensions and perspectives that a person has but the more any of those Areas of wholeness are engaged in my experiences, generally better the person does with most of their other relationships. And it can be tricky, because some of these are like cleaning up process, or even a waking up process, none of these are a day at the beach, none of these are easily washed, you can just snap your finger and there are now awake or, you know, just a quick look at shadow material. And now I’ve cleaned up all my mess, they can be tough. And so even if in a relationship, one person is focusing on one aspect of increasing their wholeness, that can bring up great difficulties and itself. And it’s better under those circumstances to be with somebody who’s going through a similar process. So you can share the difficulties that you have, you can exchange them with each other, and you can explain what’s happening, you can get asked for help for the difficulty you’re having in it. And if you are with the partner, that you’re trying to wake up and they’re also undergoing waking up, then that’s gonna be much better that both of you are doing the same thing, it’s really good to know where you are in growing up. Because if you look at the type of arguments and disagreements that stem from each stage of growing up, you can start to see just how important those are. For instance, I was saying we could give many different names in the stages of growing up. But if we take gene gap Sirs, who’s generally knowledge to be a genius in the developmental area, and his stages are chaic, to magic, to mythic, to rational, to pluralistic, to integral, now, you can just see at each one of those first tier terms, archaic, magic, mythic, rational and pluralistic. None of them get along with each other. And so if your partner is at a distinctly strongly different stage of development than you are, there’s going to be some real problems. And you’re going to have to figure out some way to work them out. There’s a guy named Eric, something brother, who’s written some beautiful books on integral relationships. He’s worked with 1000s of people now, first, he does a cycle graph to sort of get a sense of where they are on waking up, growing up, cleaning up, showing up. And so Martin Nucheck, he says that, basically, if you’re in a different position, in any of these different areas, growing up, showing up, opening up, claiming up, it can work out, he says, I’ve found ways the partners can work this out. And you just have to talk about it, you have to know a little bit about it, you have to study it just a little bit, but you can work it out fairly easily. He says, For people that are in different stages of growing up, he just has one response to that. He says good luck.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  48:28

It makes sense to me to go back to what you were saying before about individuals. And honestly, this is one of my favorite parts of your work is the acknowledgement that a person can be at very different developmental stages in different areas of their life, that if you and your partner are at different developmental stages in these different areas, right, that if you have the right view, those differences can actually be places where you can support and pull each other up like to rock climbers who are on belay with each other going up the mountain, you know, in different areas.


Keith Kurlander  49:01

I want to kind of pivot us to something that’s now been mentioned many times when we’re talking about the term waking up. There’s a question we had asked you about non dual awareness and the concept of enlightenment and when we talk about like more in the yogic traditions, and we’re talking about the highest levels of Samadhi. So the question is a multiple part one, is there a final stage of waking up as it’s described in sort of the final stage of Samadhi where you’re in non dual awareness, you’re there you don’t leave it and you’re there. That’s it. You attained it, you stay. There’s no fluctuation. And I’m curious about your thoughts on this in terms of does that description of enlightenment hold up to you? Yeah, can actually abide in a non dual awareness, get there and stay there when there is no fluctuation?


Ken Wilbur  49:51

Just give a short answer to that? Yes, I believe that is possible. But to give a more extended sort of more accurate Answer it really is a spectrum. And one of the main problems is that as you start along this spectrum, and by the way, the spectrum tends to run from what both the data and 5g either refer to is gross to several the causal. The Turia, Turia Tita and gross is just your typical ordinary thinking that is chaotic, it’s sometimes called the murky mind, it’s the source of human suffering, and all of that. And then the subtle is a form of awareness that cuts between thoughts. So thoughts start to stop and drop out and subtle is a sight of illumination and it tends to be the seat of what we call soul. Whereas the waking, or gross or ego state tends to be the home of the ego. So as you’re moving along these stages, you’re moving from ego, to soul, to sell capital S, to sphire. And what tends to happen is that as you move along, that may be 10, or 15 years from now, you’ll be much more at the end of soul and spirit. And that’s where he will tend to reside. But what happens at the beginning, like when you get your first Satori, and your waking state, you feel, wow, I made it, I am one with everything, nothing could ever get better. And that tends to be a problem, because that’s exactly what you call back from. And so the people that talk about, oh, I’m enlightened, and then you watch them, and their functional messes, you start to think, okay, I don’t think enlightenment is doing what they think it’s doing. But as you continue to go and generally shift, and again, this is making subject into object, when you’re identified with ego, that’s your subject, do you think that’s you, but when you start to bring in a witnessing soul, or turiya awareness, and you witness your mind, and you practice mindfulness on it, then you start to see that subject. And if you see that subject, it becomes an object. And now you’re seeing it from a higher stage of the spectrum of consciousness. And so in each of these cases, you’re making subject objects until all of the independent cells, whether that’s soul, or capital L self, when those are all seen as objects that you stopped identifying with, by definition, they’re no longer your subject, they’re no longer yourself. And so that’s why Zen master Shiva Yama calls Zen realization, absolute subjectivity, that doesn’t mean the subject is sort of an object versus object, it means there’s a subjective realm. In you this made all small subjects and all small objects, they’re being seen by a subjectivity that is absolute. And so at that point, you drop all identity with these small subject and object selves that you identified with. And then when you move from absolute subjectivity, which is Turia anterior just means the fourth state, this name, the fourth, after the first three, has a gross, subtle causal lesson, the first, second and third, and so turiya is just in Sanskrit. Alturia means literally, is the fourth, it’s not exactly an imaginative term for this state, as well as just the fourth after those three that you’ve gotten rid of. So the fourth is just pure consciousness, without an object at all, the more you tend to get into these, the more you’ll tend to stay in them. And when you’re in that state of pure consciousness without an object, then just as you could when you were dreaming, get into a state, bring consciousness into the dream so that he would lucid dream. Well, when you reach a state of consciousness, then the traditions maintain that this is the state you’re in when you’re in deep dreamless sleep, which is just absolutely no objects arising at all, nothing you can see, but there is just the sense of I am these are pure subjectivity, or pure absolute subjectivity. And so, though this state turiya Tina is when even the witness or absolute subjectivity Consciousness breaks down as any heavy remnant of subjectivity at all. And so it collapses, the subject becomes one with absolutely everything it’s aware of. And this is called non dual. Tibetans call it one taste. And it’s just that such nuts are thus missing each moment, it’s not you standing back as a witness and watching this. And so as this one taste starts to permeate your being, then you do, you really are, as long as at one pace consciousness is in the present, you really aren’t any of those small cells. And so it just depends on your whole progress through this whole spectrum of waking up. And the more you get to one end of it, the more you appear to be enlightened, and you don’t fall back into ego, nonsense, as much, and so on. But that’s a serious trip. It takes a fairly long time. And one of the reasons I’m interested in psilocybin is that it seems to give, again, we were talking about how they can affect states and structures, it seems to give some brief introduction to those higher ultimate states, either the fourth or the fifth state. And people describe it as profoundly mystical experience as being oneness with everything as finding a deep compassion in their heart for other individuals, that they realize they’re living at this end of the spectrum, which is marked by suffering, and pain and anguish and torment. And so that, to me, is a very interesting part of the psychedelic research is, what can it do to help people get more Towards this end more quickly? And again, states Remember, you can have, you can bounce around in states. And so I said that suicide and might be a fairly heavy bouncer towards these states. And I think that’s quite good.


Keith Kurlander  57:25

We have one more question, which is more about a message that you would want to say to people so we ask every guest this question, which is, if there was a billboard out there that you had, every human sees it once in their life, there’s sort of a paragraph on it that they read, what message would you tell them?


Ken Wilbur  57:44

take into your own deepest potentials. This involves showing up, waking up, growing up, cleaning up and opening up. This is a fairly complex way to say that you have much more potential that you can explore in yourself. And oh, and with a statement from Abe Naslo questions, I promise you if you deliberately set out to be less than you can be, you will be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  58:18

Beautiful, love it. Like human potential.


Keith Kurlander  58:25

Well, that was wonderful. Ken, thanks so much for being on the show. We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of the higher practice podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.

Ken Wilbur

Ken Wilber, a visionary thinker of inspired genius, is the developer of an integral “theory of everything” embracing the truths of all the world’s great traditions. He is the author of over twenty books, including A Brief History of Everything; Grace and Grit; Sex, Ecology, Spirituality; Boomeritis; and Religion of Tomorrow—spanning the genres from full-length scholarly works to popular introductions, from essays to daily journals, from personal memoir to fiction.

Wilber´s Integral Approach, a radical theory that helps us make sense of our world by including as many perspectives as possible, has vast applications, in areas from business to medicine, psychology to ethics, politics to religion, art to education, sexuality to personal relationships. In 2000, he founded Integral Institute, a think-tank for studying issues of science and society, with outreach through local and online communities such as Integral Education Network, Integral Training, and Integral Spiritual Center. In 2007 Wilber co-founded Integral Life, a social media-hub dedicated to sharing the integral vision with the worldwide community, as well as documenting and catalyzing the progress of the integral movement.

His writings have been translated into over twenty languages. He lives in Denver, Colorado.