What is your next level of growth? Understanding Wilber’s Developmental Stages


Ken Wilber has synthesized information on human development from Western psychology and world religions in his writings spanning four decades. His AQAL model is the standard for “integral” in Integral Deep Listening. This chapter, from Transformational Dreamwork, one of a series of texts I wrote for teaching Integral Deep Listening, includes examples from Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings to explain the developmental stages of Wilber’s AQAL (all quadrants, levels, lines, states, styles) model.

The following is from Transformative Dreamwork, Dillard, Joseph.

What is An Integral Approach to Dreamwork?

Your life is a self-created dream. To awaken from this dream is not to stop living, as is the Hindu ideal of ending the rounds of transmigration, but to live in a healthy, balanced, and transformative way that is clear and transparent, as a transmitter of the priorities of life itself into greater manifestation. In a broad sense, this is what it means to have an integral approach to dreamwork. An integral approach takes into account the integral psychology of Ken Wilber, due to its breadth and depth. Wilber integrates the wisdom traditions of the religions of the world, science, and post-modernism in a model that sees life as spirit expressing itself in form, in a process called involution, and spirit becoming more conscious of itself in form, called evolution. Imagery, including dream imagery, is perception of the world of form. IDL uses such perceptions, whether asleep or awake, to become more conscious or awake in a transformative process that occurs over time as an unfolding over stages or memes of development. Evolution occurs in many different lines of development, including cognitive, moral, interpersonal, emotional, artistic, and physical-athletic.

 An integral Dreamwork Will Make You More Conscious

Fools scatter about their many attributes, the wise keep such within; A piece of straw floats upon the surface of water, a precious gemstone sinks to the bottom! Therefore, it is best to disregard the seen and concentrate upon the unseen. Only within the latter may riches be found.

— Ancient Greek parable

What is Consciousness?

Consciousness is a function of awareness. The more aware you are, the more conscious you are. How conscious you are is a function of how broadly you define who you are. The more aware you are that everyone and everything is an aspect of yourself, the more conscious you are. When you become fully aware, your sense of self is coextensive with everyone and everything. At that point, your experience is that you have no self at all that is more “you” than any other. “You” are the self that you are identified with at the moment, which is seen to be purely arbitrary. From then on, you make decisions that take into account that who you think you are is merely a convenient contrivance. This is an experience rather than a belief or a conception, something you or anyone can verify based on IDL interviewing and meditation.

The experience of life from the perspective of your waking identity tells you that you are a separate someone who is different, distinct, and separate from other selves. Descartes created the philosophical problem of mind-body dualism by pointing out that we experience the mind and body as two real and separate things. The technical word for real things are “substances.” In Buddhism, the term is bhava, which means “own being,” or the ability to exist independently of anything else. In Buddhism, separate existence is a perceptual delusion, part of the self-created dream from which we are awakening. Your sense of being a separate self is true enough from ego-centered perspectives, but it is a limited perspective that creates conflict and suffering.

When you experience yourself as transparent and clear, the concepts of Self, soul, Atman, and God become arbitrary. They are no longer necessary to define your experience of the world. Things no longer have “own being.” There are no longer any things that exist independently of you or of each other. The mind and the body are no longer perceived to be separately existing substances. While they remain useful tools for making your way in the world, they no longer accurately define your sense of who you are. As you wake up, you outgrow the delusion of mind-body dualism.

If you want to become conscious, you need to wake up! To wake up, learn to experience everyone and everything first as aspects of yourself. Then, as you do so, you will recognize that those perspectives both include and transcend your own because they represent world views that understand and acknowledge your own while adding their own. Learn to do so while you are awake by interviewing dream characters and the personifications of your life issues that appear in your sleeping and waking dreams. Second, become previously interviewed characters, called “emerging potentials,” as necessary throughout your day and when you meditate. You can eventually learn to generalize this ability to the rest of your life, including dreaming and deep sleep.

Stages of Human Development

While most humans currently evolve, at best, through only two major stages of development, prepersonal and personal levels, everyone possesses the potential to develop into, through, and beyond the transpersonal stages, which transcend yet include, belief, reason, and your waking identity. Together these stages and their non-dual culmination describe “the spectrum of consciousness” or “the great chain of being.” Whether viewed as a ladder, spiral, mandala, series of waves, or a spectrum, it is the evolutionary arm of the great cycle of evolution and involution of life.

Each of these stages appears to be characterized not only by a particular approach to living but by a particular approach to waking up from the dream of life. Who you think you are at any particular stage of your development is determined by how you define yourself. “I am” means, “I identify with…” Here is an overview of the basic stages of development.

Stages of Identification

Prepersonal: (-9 mos. To 5)

Early prepersonal: “I am my sensations.”

Identification with the body.

Mid-prepersonal: “I am my preferences.” (likes/dislikes)

Identification with emotions.

Late prepersonal: “I am my ego:” powerful, narcissistic, heroic

Identification with ego

Personal: (5 to 20+)

Early personal: “I am my memberships.”

Identification with name, race, family, school, team, country, religion

Mid-personal: “I am my competencies.”

Identification with rationality, capabilities, responsibilities, status.

Late personal: “I am my inclusiveness.”

Identification with the world, world culture and ecosystem

Vision-Logic: “I am multi-perspectival.”

Identification with multiple points of view

Early transpersonal: “I am energy and nature.”

Identification with energy and nature

Mid-transpersonal: “I am devotion and bliss.”

Identification with God, divinity

Late-transpersonal: “I am no self.”

Identification with formless wellsprings of creativity

Non-Dual: “I am all of these selves and none of them.”

Identification with life.

All of us pass through stages of development as we grow. Physical or prepersonal stages of development, like learning to walk and talk, are obvious because they are so concrete. Stages of cultural and mental, or personal development, are harder to spot, because they are both more interior and more cultural, which means that we are subjectively embedded in them and lack the objectivity to see how they create our reality and fashion our identity. Stages of transpersonal development are harder still, because not only are they yet more interior, they are rarely attained.

Most people spend most of their time looking at others, themselves, and the world from perspectives that are “normal” for their cultural peers, that is, lost in cultural groupthink. Adolescent rebellion, which is not a real developmental stage but more an artifact of industrial and post-industrial culture, is a good example of how we can think that we are being unique and individual when we are very clearly dressing, talking, and acting just like their peers. Work, political, religious and military cultures are all similar groupthink totalitarianisms.

What is the relationship between dreaming and the following developmental stages? The following descriptions of prepersonal, personal, and transpersonal stages of development are accompanied by general comments about the type of dreaming and dreamwork one might experience at each stage. While a dream and its characters may be creations of any of these stages, most will reflect your waking stage of development with its issues and perspectives. As you grow, your dreams and their themes will tend to subsume and incorporate all previous stages. Just because a theme that might be typical of an earlier stage of development, such as running from some childhood monster, appears in your dreams don’t assume that that’s a reflection of your current over-all level of development. The same holds true in reverse: just because you dream of Buddha it doesn’t follow that you’re enlightened! As you explore these different levels of development think, “How does this stage show up in my life?” “How does this stage show up in my dreams?”

Prepersonal Development

Early Prepersonal:

How do I get my Physical Needs Met?”

True affluence is not needing anything.

Gary Snyder

While anyone can be fixated at any stage they have attained or passed through, the “normal” period for identification with early prepersonal is from conception to about eighteen months. Before that is neonatal fusion with mother. Infants are identified first with matter, then with their bodies and its associated etheric shell, then with their emotions. The needs of humans at very early levels of development are primarily genetic, biological, and physiological, with physical and emotional nurturance having an enormous influence on development.

Infants, as well as older individuals fixated at early prepersonal, focus on physiological necessities, such as water, food, shelter, and safety in a highly experiential, pre-verbal way. Healthy early prepersonal individuals successfully deal with their physical needs for safety and security. A cat is an example of an animal that normally hangs out in healthy early prepersonal. When you pet an animal, eat a meal, exercise, get drowsy and go to sleep, take a shower, or otherwise care for your physical needs you are focusing on early prepersonal experiences from your current, higher stage of development. Just doing such things does not define you as “early prepersonal.” You must also show few consistent indications of higher stages of development. This is true for all developmental levels. The joy, spontaneity, and radiance often observed in infants and small children is not a transpersonal or non-dual union with the divine; it is rather a prepersonal and unconscious union with the divine. Those who mistake the unconscious and prepersonal for the conscious and transpersonal commit Wilber’s pre-trans fallacy by misinterpreting prepersonal beauty, harmony, and balance as transpersonal equanimity, bliss, and enlightenment.

Sex for early prepersonal is about physical release and the satisfaction of biological drives. For individuals fixated at the early prepersonal developmental stage, habits and instincts are used just to live physically, and live comfortably, in a physical sense. The absence of basic survival resources like food or shelter, are the source of internal conflict. Instinctive drives take priority. Again, if you look at most cats, you will see the expression of what it means to live comfortably in a physical sense.

Dreams of infants can be assumed to be initially kinesthetic, only gradually developing a visual focus. Early prepersonal dreams involve lifelike experiences of the dreamer fulfilling their physical needs or attempting to do so. Dreams are literal, real, overwhelming experiences, and protection from a fear of a lack of physical security is a central theme. We fear getting attacked, hurt, falling, or dying in these dreams. When threatened, either in real life or the dream state, early prepersonal individuals work to reestablish basic physical security that has been disrupted by a sense of lack or deprivation. Therefore, if you are chased by a monster in a dream you are likely to react in a way to ensure your physical safety. Reality testing both in dreams and waking life is poor or nonexistent; the ability to differentiate internal from external states, dreaming from waking, hallucination from consensus reality, is absent or extremely limited.

The early prepersonal developmental stage is seen in the first human societies, senile elderly, psychosis, late-stage Alzheimer’s victims, mentally ill street people, starving masses, shell shock, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Among the acutely ill, orphan children, adolescent gangs, the homeless, and hunter-gatherers, survival bands are formed to perpetuate life. Individuals fixated at this stage of development have few defenses to protect them from being physically and emotionally overwhelmed by a lack of food, shelter, or protection. In The Fellowship of the Ring the Eagle that carries Gandalf to safety would be an example of healthy early prepersonal, while the nasty Hurukai who are the brutal slaves of Saruman provide an example of an early prepersonal perspective devoid of redeeming characteristics. According to Wilber, early prepersonal makes up 0.1 percent of the adult population and possess no political power.

Mid Prepersonal:

How can I feel Alive, Spontaneous, and Passionate?”

I grew up to have my father’s looks – my father’s speech patterns – my father’s posture – my father’s walk – my father’s opinions and my mother’s contempt for my father.

Jules Feiffer

From sometime in their first year infants begin to differentiate tension, fear, rage, and satisfaction, all simple and immediate reactions to physical sensations. Satisfying physical needs and dealing with a fear of their non-fulfillment are primary physical, emotional, and mental concerns. From one to three, young humans will continue to focus in both waking and dream life on satisfying needs for food, drink, physical safety, and physical emotional nurturance. The first protofeelings beyond physical reactivity and sensation are associated with physiostates such as touch, temperature, pleasure, and pain.

Emotions for mid prepersonal are reactive, impulsive and pleasure-centered. There is a growing identification with the astral or emotional energy body. Gender discrimination begins to develop and with it, the roots of sexual identity. Sex for mid-prepersonal is impulsive and about emotional gratification. While there is the distinction of that which is self from not-self in a pre-conceptual way, mid-prepersonal stage individuals are completely focused on happiness: getting what they want and avoiding what they do not want. Those preferences are the center of their experience. At this age we are our preferences, our likes and dislikes. Consequently, life is the Drama Triangle, with persecuting bad feelings, people and situations and rescuing good feelings, people and situations. Mid-prepersonal level individuals have not yet developed a sense of self that can be “self-centered” because a unified sense of self does not yet exist, only fragmented impulses, feelings, and perceptions in the here and now. Identity is momentary and highly malleable.

Notice that many people, regardless of their level of education or social status, remain at mid-prepersonal for their entire lives. These are people who are controlled by their emotions and evaluate their success and failure in terms of how they feel.

The focus of mid-prepersonal consciousness is on emotional bonding, vital needs, and familial and tribal bonding. Mid prepersonal knows, “I am my family.” This is the feeling, even if these thoughts have not yet evolved. Dogs provide a sense of healthy mid-prepersonal in their emotional expressiveness that is not communicated by words. A dog’s sense of self is full and real, yet not involving the reflectiveness that comes with words and sentences. They do not think, “I am a dog.” Their sense of beingness is sensory, in their body, its relationship to its environment and others, and in their feelings. When threatened, either in real life or in a dream, mid-prepersonal individuals need to reestablish an emotional ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ and they will retaliate to do so. The mid-prepersonal worldview is magical, with identity drawn strongly to the power of feeling, since a stable self that can reason and understand causation has yet to emerge.

Mid-prepersonal is the stage of development at which magical and animistic understandings and associations are used to make sense of the world. There is a sense of magical omniscience that is natural at this stage, which believes that by covering your eyes you can make the world disappear. Magical spirits, good and bad, swarm the earth leaving blessings, curses, and spells that determine events. Tribal-centered attitudes and actions are priorities. Ancestral spirits bond the tribe. Mid- prepersonal consciousness is seen in shamanism and voodoo-like curses, blood oaths, ancient grudges, good luck charms, family rituals, magical ethnic beliefs and superstitions.

It is important to remember that people at mid-prepersonal can be as intelligent as people at higher levels of development. Their ability to adapt to the realities of their stage may be superior to individuals at higher stages. You can and will find competent, capable, and remarkable mid- prepersonal, and late prepersonal individuals, just as you find remarkable animals whose consciousness is nevertheless centered at this stage of development. Healthy gender relationships are generally expressions of mid-prepersonal stage development. A healthy mid-prepersonal level individual will demonstrate healthy gender and family role relationships and a capacity for nurturance and bonding, but not empathy, which will not arrive on the developmental scene for some time.

Dreams are seen as literal visitations by powerful natural and supernatural forces that must be appeased. Mid-prepersonally fixated individuals protect themselves and their group against these forces as best they can. Some mid-prepersonal dreams involve quests to seek blessings or prevent curses. Dreamwork with mid- prepersonal individuals will focus on efforts to appease and neutralize overwhelming and awe-inspiring forces that threaten to overwhelm a fragile and fragmented sense of self. These individuals have a hard time understanding that dream experiences that seem literal can be personally created. They therefore have difficulty taking responsibility for some or all of their dream experiences.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, the white horse that carries Frodo to safety is a symbolic example of mid-prepersonal emotion in the service of the higher self, while the race of orcs provides an excellent example of unrefined mid-prepersonal. Mid-prepersonal is strong in “third-world settings, gangs, athletic teams, and corporate ‘tribes.’”

Late Prepersonal:

How Can I Assert Myself in the World?

No man has any right to rule who is not better than the people over whom he rules.

Cyrus the Great

At late prepersonal we observe the first emergence of a self that is distinct from family and clan identity. “Clan” is being used in the sense of core cultural affiliations: gender, race, family, and tribe. This is Freud’s “ego,” a late prepersonal sense of who you are is powerful, impulsive, egocentric, and heroic. The magical omnipotence experienced earlier is now transferred to godlike figures, such as parents, leaders, religious figures, and forces of nature, as well as internalized as an omniscient, omnipotent, naively self-confident self. Knowing almost nothing, having failed at almost nothing, there is nothing-or very little- this identity does not think it can do, unless it has been previously abused.

Sometime after the age of three, second-degree emotions such as anxiety, anger, wishing, liking, and safety emerge. Power is a major motivation for relationships. As the ego begins to emerge, emphasis is placed on obedience and punishment, being good and avoiding being bad. Late prepersonal individuals are both unable and unwilling to assume the perspectives of others or experience empathy.

For the late prepersonal perspective, names are things. Naming something gives one power over it. Names provide a primitive mental description of who you are and the nature of your relationship with the “other.” The late prepersonal sense of self is tied up in naming things, which creates power to distinguish and control things and people. This desire for control is a major motivator for the acquisition of language.

Appeasing power gods is a priority for late prepersonal individuals, whether with blood sacrifices, tithes, or penance. “Power gods” are forces that symbolize the all-nurturing, all-punishing parent. Late prepersonal individuals emphasize dominance and control over rival groups, nature, their bodies and their feelings. They love to win at life and hate to lose! The world is a jungle full of threats and predators. People at this stage would like to kill the bad people. Any reason will do, just kill them, so that I can reestablish my control over my life. Late prepersonal individuals conquer, outfox, and dominate. Sex is about self-validation and attaining security through controlling others to fulfill one’s own needs without regard to theirs. They enjoy themselves to the fullest without regret or remorse because their preconventional morality is based on the requirement to obey and the fear of punishment.

A well-adjusted late prepersonal individual is obedient to what she believes to be good. She is happy to kill in herself and in others what the good says is bad. The challenge for the late prepersonal perspective is to see that it gains more power and control through cooperation than it does through intimidation, threatening, manipulation, and conquest.

Dreams of those in the late prepersonal age range, normally from three to six, tend to be concrete, emotional, and full of animals. They often center around wild, untamed forces that can overwhelm the dreamer. Themes include being chased or attacked by monsters or ghosts. Mythic spirits, dragons, beasts, and powerful people populate both dreams and life. Late prepersonal dreamers, both children and adults, dream about having a good time, playing, taking trips to interesting places, or engaging in holiday activities, although pleasant dreams are not reported as frequently as unpleasant ones, perhaps due to the conflict that is intrinsic to a desire to control and dominate. In the area of dreamwork, late prepersonal individuals have to learn that controlling dreams by forgetting them, ignoring them, or changing them in lucid dreams, results either in repression or externalization of conflict.

Late prepersonal consciousness is seen in the ‘terrible twos,’ rebellious youth, frontier mentalities, feudal kingdoms, epic heroes, James Bond villains, soldiers of fortune, wild rock stars, Attila the Hun, Alexander the Great, and Lord of the Flies. Many powerful, “well-adjusted” adults operate out of late prepersonal. When the motivations are power, control, domination and wealth, this is the center of gravity. Late prepersonal is the basis of feudal empire in Europe and China, and its emphasis on power and glory. Feudal lords protect underlings in exchange for obedience and labor. In The Fellowship of the Ring, the dwarves are balanced expressions of late prepersonal while the Uru-Kai, the super-orcs fashioned by Saruman in the pits beneath his castle, symbolize late prepersonal as nightmare. Wilber estimates that twenty percent of the adult population of the world has evolved to late prepersonal and they possess five percent of the political power.

Personal Development

Early Personal:

What are the Rules and Roles I Need to Succeed in Life?”

Whenever God creates a human temple

Our devils create a life unsimple.

And twill be found upon examination,

The latter have the largest congregation.

As late prepersonal emerges, a sense of self based on names gives way to a sense of self based on simple concepts, like “mine” and “yours,” followed by a sense of self based on membership in mythic groups. A “mythic” group is bound by a sacred history of great people and great deeds as well as by a sacred covenant to save the world by transforming it through our shared vision. Cognitively, the representational mind emerges, moving beyond the images and symbolic thinking of mid-prepersonal to endocepts, followed by the rudimentary concepts of late prepersonal.

When our development is centered at early personal, which emerges between the ages of seven and eight, we focus on the need for certainty through finding stabile values and principles to guide living. Absolutes and religious values are emphasized. Where late prepersonal identity is egocentric, early personal identity is group-centered. Self-sense is tied to membership in a mythic order, such as a race, religion, service club, union, political party, or national identity that binds, sanctifies, and orders the group.

In the early personal stage individuals develop what Piaget calls the “concrete operational mind.” For early personal consciousness, thoughts refer to things, not abstractions. Early personal perception is concrete. It is literal and fundamentalist in its belief, emphasizing obedience to the rule of Order. People at an early personal level of development respect paternalistic and rigid social hierarchies that insist on one right way and only one right way to think about gender, sex, obedience, and social role. Law and order is paramount. Impulsivity is controlled through guilt. Life has meaning, direction, and purpose, with outcomes determined by an all-powerful Other, Order, Scripture, Constitution or God. This righteous Order enforces a code of conduct based on absolutes and unvarying principles of “right” and “wrong.” A morality based on obedience and punishment slowly replaces the preconventional naive hedonism of late prepersonal.

If you accept and follow the values accepted by an early personal group (National Rifle Association), religion (conservative Christianity), or nation (United States), you are one of the “chosen people,” “exceptional,” and “indispensable.” You are joined by your distrust of or hatred for the “right” people. Following the code yields rewards for the faithful. Violating the code has severe, perhaps everlasting, repercussions of scapegoating and banishment. If you are not a member of the group, then you are an enemy, and enemies threaten eternal truths and need to be vanquished, if not annihilated. In the face of opposition, early personal launches a crusade against evildoers and rallies around the flag, God, and nationalism. “United we stand, divided we fall,” is the motto. Complex situations are reduced to a simple case of good versus evil. Enemies need to be removed because the attack on the good demands retribution. Only by bringing them to justice can the one good and true way be reestablished.

The third degree emotions of love, joy, depression, hate, belongingness, sympathy and even superficial empathy find expression here. The challenge for early personal perspectives is to risk social alienation and the rejection of their support community and loved ones by daring to assertively think for themselves. Loneliness is often their greatest fear, because belongingness has been their greatest quest. This is a theme often addressed in early personal dreams. Transcending their fear of loneliness and abandonment to become assertively self-assured and on their own path is a central piece of work for early personal.

Early personal consciousness is the foundation of ancient nations, such as Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Early personal development is found in Puritan America, Confucianist China, Dickensian England, Singapore discipline, codes of chivalry and honor, charitable good deeds, Islamic fundamentalism, Boy and Girl Scouts, conservative Republicanism, and patriotism. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Hobbits are balanced comfortably at early personal. We see the potential for corruption for early personal in Bilbo’s unwillingness to give up the ring and in Gollum’s obsession with it. At the opening of the twenty-first century Wilber thinks early personal represents forty percent of the world’s population and thirty percent of the power.


What Makes Sense and How Do I Use it to Make a Difference with My Life?”

We are caught in a traffic jam of discursive thought.

Chogyam Trungpa

Between the ages of eleven and nineteen, and sometimes for the rest of their lives, people typically focus on, attempt to strengthen, and strongly defend their individuality. If they do not fixate but continue to develop cognitively, they are transitioning out of concrete operational thinking and into early formal operational thinking. This means that they focus on classes of things instead of just on things. They are interested in the relationships among classes of people, numbers, plants, books, feelings, or dreams and not just on individual examples or the relationships among these things. It also means they like to think and ask questions, not in the way of an inquisitive five-year old, but about causal chains. These people are driven by patterns: patterns of behavior, laws that explain nature, society, culture and the future, both for oneself and society. This could be dharma, karma, predestination, soul contract or divine order. This stage represents the flowering of the rational mind in business, law, architecture, engineering and teaching. These people may become intellectuals who enjoy thinking and problem-solving.

Upon attaining a mid personal perspective, the self ”escapes” from the “herd mentality” of early personal and seeks truth and meaning in individualistic and “objective, “factual” enterprises which are mechanistic, operational, experimental, and ”scientific” in the typical sense. Emphasis is placed on results, “pragmatism,” and what works, rather than allegiances to groups, religions, or nations. The world is a rational and well-oiled machine with natural laws that can be learned, mastered, and manipulated for one’s own purposes. These individuals are highly achievement-oriented, especially toward materialistic gains. The laws of science and economics rule politics, the economy, and human events. The world is a chessboard on which games are played as winners gain preeminence and perks over losers. Sex is an expression of self as status. Marketplace alliances are critical, and mid-personal consciousness manipulates Earth’s resources for strategic gains.

Those who have attained mid-personal are focused on developing life competencies by which they can earn a living and gain social status. They emphasize a need for personal achievement, excellence, progress, and profit. By doing so they gradually transform into a “mature ego,” a sense of self that is competent in the world that can maintain socially appropriate relationships, dependably fulfill social and work expectations, and not rock the cultural boat. This can be achieved as easily in a blue collar profession within that cultural milieu as in white collar professions. Society rewards people who successfully make this transition with money, privilege and respect.

People at mid-personal ask questions. They doubt in a respectful way. They check sources, suspend belief and believe tentatively, remaining open to seeing a broader picture. They have an active “shit detector,” and they are not going to give their trust or endorsement lightly. They will tend to err on the side of; “I need more information,” than whole hog commitment.

Mid personal individuals have the capacity to experience and empathize with fourth degree emotions such as universal affect, global justice, and care. These are law-based abstractions, universal principles to be adhered to. Empathy at this level takes the form of recognizing the “why” behind actions. You care about people and the environment because it is the sensible, pragmatic, or effective thing to do to raise stock value, increase employee loyalty, gain converts to your cause, or assert the rationality of some universal principle. In addition to identifying with their family, tribe, religion, social, political, and national affiliations, mid personal individuals can also affiliate with transnational interests. For instance, mid-personal consciousness forms the foundation for corporate states. While scientific achievement is emphasized, personal achievement is paramount. Enemies are not so much threats to national, religious, and social affiliations as they are threats to global institutions and principles such as the free market, business, democracy, industry, progress, and profit.

Balanced mid-personal individuals are not only secure and physically comfortable, but society recognizes and rewards their success with promotions, money, status, and acclaim. Because much of society exists at this level or below, there are subtle incentives to not “rock the boat” by developing further. Because humans function competently and successfully in the world at this stage of development, most are satisfied to attain comfort at mid-personal and stop. Few have either an awareness of or a desire to attain higher developmental stages. Besides, if they moved further, they might risk losing what they have achieved. It is safer to sit on one’s pile of gold, like Scrooge McDuck. We might think of it as the high school jock or cheerleader syndrome: “Everybody loves me, so why change?” These people go into dad’s business or marry into money and can stay happily fixated at seventeen for the rest of their lives.

It is important to realize that many individuals attain formal operational mid-personal life skills, intellectual competencies, problem-solving and rationality but remain fixated at late prepersonal, early personal or even mid-prepersonal in their self, moral and emotional lines of development. There is no guarantee that simply because an individual has attained competency on some line, in this case the cognitive line, that their “center of gravity,” or overall development, is stabilized on that level. This is a common misconception, either as a misattribution of maturity that others do not deserve or else toward ourselves.

The challenge for mid-personal individuals is to find themselves and a meaning in life apart from their sense of self and its associated social roles. Mid-personal individuals need to learn to redefine themselves in terms other than their social status, personal accomplishments, and their comfort and success in the world. At some point, it may become clear that it is no longer satisfying to build life around status objects and the approval of others. At this point, mid personal individuals may come down with a case of “affluenza,” which is guilt or conscience caused by their comfort in relation to the rest of the world, often manifested by taking on the trappings of late personal development or above without possessing the authenticity of higher stages of development. Think politically-motivated social activists and yoga teacher x-cheerleaders. Transformation may require an existential crisis in which the ultimate worth of mid-personal assumptions and all that one has built in their life to this point is called into fundamental question.

Dreams that cannot be explained by mid-personal individuals as manifestations of their current stage or a lower one tend to be ignored or dismissed. Regarding dreamwork, mid personal individuals are challenged to lay down their objectivity and risk psychic inundation when they become their dream characters.

Examples of mid-personal stage consciousness are found in the Enlightenment, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Wall Street, the Riviera, emerging middle classes around the world, the cosmetics industry, trophy hunting (including trophy spouses), colonialism, the Cold War, the fashion industry, materialism, and liberal self-interest. In The Fellowship of the Ring the humans Boromir and Strider personify the corrupted and faithful attributes of mid personal. In 2002, according to Wilber, mid personal individuals represent thirty percent of the population and fifty percent of the power.

Late personal:

How to I Respect and Protect the Rights of Everyone?”

Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.

William Faulkner

According to Wilber, at the dawning of the twenty-first century dreamers identified primarily with this developmental stage are a growing minority. If it is attained at all, late personal may emerge as early as twelve at the transition from late formal operational into early post-formal cognition, as Piaget refers to the cognitive line at this stage. No longer the egocentric self of mid prepersonal and late prepersonal or the sociocentric self of mid- personal, late personal identifies with a worldcentric perspective and a universal-global worldview. Late personal individuals prefer a permeable, relatively non-defended self to a highly structured, well-defended identity. Representing ten percent of the population and fifteen percent of the power according to Wilber, late personal feels a strong need for the sharing of feelings, a caring community, and subjective human bonding.

Strongly egalitarian, late personal individuals are antihierarchy and have pluralistic values. Social and cultural assumptions, laws, and policies construct reality; therefore, political activism is important. Late personal individuals value diversity, multiculturalism and relativistic value systems. Their worldview is called pluralistic relativism and it is often found among the liberal, new age teachers, and politically correct college professors.

Late personal individuals attempt to establish lateral bonds and linkages to strengthen both community and communication. Relationships are more important than personal achievement for late personal individuals. Group intermeshing is seen as a vehicle for accomplishing great social good. Late personal individuals place emphasis on dialogue and relationships. This anti-hierarchy pro-connectivity emphasis of late personal may express itself as a decidedly feminine energy that can also manifest in opposition to all things male. For late personal individuals, sex is about listening to and fulfilling the needs of the other. Late personal individuals are more likely to emphasize holding and shared closeness over orgasm, although this preference is somewhat of a feminine trait for all memes. At late personal, even males tend to emphasize this preference.

Connection for late personal individuals is the basis of freely chosen affiliations based on shared sentiments. When this becomes a group phenomena, these affiliations are called collective communities. Late prepersonal individuals feel strongly that the human spirit must be freed from greed, dogma, and divisiveness. Feelings and caring supersede cold rationality. Late personal individuals reach decisions through reconciliation and consensus, which can bog down decision making with interminable “processing” and an incapacity to reach decisions, because to do so implies that all ways are not of equal value. Empathy can be embraced at the expense of decisive action. Any conflict is an opportunity to unite to reestablish community and reaffirm peace and nonviolence, which is the only correct stance. You should have love in your hearts, not military retaliation, which will only increase oppression and further aggravate the problem.

Late personal individuals are likely to support ecological interests. It is a sacred responsibility to cherish the Earth, Gaia, and life. Late personal individuals desire expanded transpersonality and harmony. They wish to enrich human potential. Late personal individuals think in subjective, nonlinear ways and demonstrate a greater degree of affective warmth, sensitivity, and caring for Earth and all its inhabitants.

The challenge for late personal individuals is to stay authentic. They tend to preach a lot more than they practice and, while they want equality for all, they still discriminate against those parts of themselves that they don’t like. Aborted self-actualization occurs when late personal individuals don’t meditate, do social outreach, or stay true to their ideals, whatever their personal path of development may be. Examples of such betrayal of the late personal, revealing an authentic center off development at late prepersonal or early personal are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. They also provide examples of how enmeshment in late prepersonal governmental and political cultures bends all individuals, regardless of intelligence or intention, into alignment with prevailing group norms. Regarding dreamwork, the challenge for late personal is to make it into a transpersonal path rather than simply a tool for insight.

Late personal consciousness is observed in deep ecology, postmodernism, Netherlands idealism, Rogerian counseling, Canadian health care, humanistic psychology, liberation theology, World Council of Churches, mid personal peace, animal rights, ecofeminism, postcolonialism, Foucault/Derrida, political correctness, diversity movements, human rights issues, ecopsychology, and liberal Democrats. In The Fellowship of the Ring we observe the late personal meme at work in the council of the dwarves, hobbits, humans, wizards, and elves. When this confederation works together, late personal is in balance. When it deteriorates, late personal is detrimental and the destruction of the Fellowship almost results in failure of the quest.

How can you tell if you have reached this stage or beyond, or whether you are simply deluding yourself? Here are some basic rules that apply to all levels:

Each includes the previous one;

Each transcends the previous one;

Understanding or possessing characteristics of a stage does not put you there;

Your lagging or weakest developmental line is closer to your overall level of development than is your strongest, leading line. Who do you become when you are put under significant stress?

Your level of development is not the whole story. You have to understand and balance the behavioral, cultural, consciousness and social quadrants of your life; you need to work on a number of lines of development, including cognitive, self, ethical and interpersonal; you need to be able to differentiate between temporary state access and permanent stage acquisition.

The prevailing family, work, religious and political cultures in which you are embedded largely determine your own level of development. Remember that we chronically underestimate the largely invisible power of culture.

Transpersonal Development


(Bridging Late Personal – Early Transpersonal):

How Do I Respect and Balance all Levels of Development?”

There is at the back of every artist’s mind, a pattern or type of Architecture.

G.K. Chesterton

Between late personal and the early transpersonal lies a distinct level of the spectrum of consciousness that Wilber has called “vision logic,” the ability to combine perspectives, disciplines, and conceptual frameworks to solve problems. Vision-logic centered individuals are at the first developmental level that is able to value and respect the contributions of all levels of consciousness. The physical self of the prepersonal and the ego identity of the personal are no longer in conflict; they have become integrated as distal selves or roles, without ontological substance. The proximal self is now that which views body and mind as optional perspectives rather than core identity. Together they form an integrated energy system. Those who are functioning predominantly on the level of vision logic integrate body-mind awareness. They no longer experience themselves as a mind that has a body but as a body-mind. Because of this integration of body-mind Wilber sometimes refers to vision-logic as the “centaur.”

Late personal individuals can think about thinking. Waking logic can entertain many contradictory perspectives at once. Multiple contexts are integrated. Vision-logic centered individuals think in terms of systems within systems. Life is a kaleidoscope of natural hierarchies (holoarchies), systems, and forms. The prevailing world order is perceived to be the result of the existence of different levels of reality and patterns of movement up and down the dynamic spiral. Vision-logic centered individuals attempt to integrate experience, asking, “How can I best facilitate the health of the entire developmental process?” They act with a view of the patterned whole.

At its best, affect manifests as compassion, all-human love, and a world-centric altruism. Sex is unsatisfactory if it does not flow and create a mergence of both body and mind for both parties. The morality of the vision-logic meme is post-conventional and universal-global, encompassing all humans without exception and affirming a universal pluralism. Morality extends from an emphasis on post-conventional prior rights and social contract to the universal ethical. Focus is worldcentric, “all of yourself ” (all humans without exception) within a locus of rational universal pluralism.

While any politician or intellectual can mouth vision-logic meme values, to actually exhibit stable moral consciousness at this level, actions must demonstrate these values on a consistent basis. Who does one become when stressed? Flexibility, spontaneity, and functionality have the highest priority. Differences and pluralities can be integrated into interdependent, natural flows. Egalitarianism is complemented with natural degrees of excellence where appropriate, meaning that natural moral and developmental hierarchies are acknowledged. For example, good governance facilitates the emergence of entities through the levels of increasing complexity. Wilber refers to this as “nested hierarchies.” Both communion and agency, heterarchy and hierarchy, are valued, and balanced.

Understanding any level is an act of the cognitive line; to access it with the self line, one must identify with it. For vision-logic, this is the practice of becoming multiple alternative perspectives, taking them on as actual identities, but without possession or decompensation. This is on a far deeper level than the social acquisition of roles, but it is part of that same continuum. IDL is primarily a yoga of vision logic because it provides sustained practice at identification with an extraordinarily broad range of alternative perspectives, thereby expanding identity far beyond that associated with normal waking role acquisition.

Vision-logic centered individuals will support military action if they see it in alignment with the Prime Directive, which is to take action that promotes the greatest depth of developmental stage (for example, vision-logic has greater depth than late prepersonal) for the greatest span of developmental lines (for example, supports cognitive, interpersonal, ethical, and artistic development, not just artistic development). Vision-logic centered individuals have the ability to take Krishna-Arjuna’s view of military action in the Bhagavad Gita as sometimes justified as a manifestation of the divine plan.

People who understand integral AQAL and world views that are multi-perspectival often naively assume they are therefore stabilized at vision-logic, if not above in what is referred to as “2nd Tier” within the integral community. This delusion is due to a conflation of the mind with identity. Because one cognitively grasps multi-perspectivalism and lives in the conceptual realm or noosphere, they naively assume that their center of development must therefore be at vision-logic. But as Wilber has explained, the cognitive is only one of about four essential lines, self, moral development and interpersonal, and the cognitive line leads. This means that in order to evolve these other core lines there has to be an awareness of that growth as a possibility.

While few people in the first quarter of the 21st century are stabilized in vision-logic, it is not unusual to find outcroppings of this consciousness in the dreams of individuals consolidated on some lower developmental stage. This is because all stages, both actual and potential, are present in a random sample of dreams from most people, when students of IDL become dream characters.

Examples of vision-logic include Mother Theresa and Ram Dass. While Ken Wilber demonstrates access to and stabilization in early transpersonal, mid-transpersonal, late transpersonal, and even non-dual, his pandit persona, as represented by his writings, provides an outstanding example of the vision-logic meme. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf possesses much of the worldview of integrated vision-logic. The Ringwraiths were human kings who fell under the spell of the Dark Lord Sauron. They represent the corruption of this meme.

Some Cautions About Thinking About the Transpersonal

It is normal for those who have had a near death or mystical experience to be convinced that they have attained the transpersonal due to overwhelming experiences of vast timelessness, spacelessness, selflessness, and unconditional love. Have they? How can you tell? As stunningly expansive and transformational as these experiences are, if a person claims to have been propelled into a state of permanent enlightenment, they are almost certainly self-deluded. They are confusing the accessing of transpersonal states, which anyone, including children, can do, and being stable in one’s development at some transpersonal level, which almost nobody does.

This is because the self is a collection of roles based on habit, and these habits have adaptive and survival value; they were not developed for no reason and they are not going to go away just because we have a transformative experience. Why should they? Consequently, after transformative experiences our habitual roles gradually but with determination reassert themselves and, like waking up from sleep, our transformative experiences become increasingly dreamlike – distant, irrelevant and, because they are so far from the realm of everyday experience, forgotten.

This makes it quite difficult to talk about what transpersonal stages are like, because descriptions must be pieced together mostly from vacationers, fly-overs and occasional visitors to a largely unoccupied and foreign world that in many ways is yet to be created. Therefore, in all that follows, remember that we are inferring the nature of yet largely uncreated developmental stages from temporarily visited states cursorily explored by many people in different cultures at different historic periods.

When one actually arrives at these transpersonal stages in their development they are likely to be experienced as considerably different than how they seemed or were experienced in an altered state of consciousness. For example, think about how children view adults and how adults experience themselves. Consider how children view themselves and their experience and how adults view themselves and their experience. Can children adequately predict how they will view themselves and the world when they become adults even if they are placed in the role of an adult from time to time? Generally, no.

Reports of transpersonal states are usually not selfless. They are more the reports of a free or expanded self. It would be more appropriate to describe them as “trans-egoic” states. This is because there remains identification with an observer self, as in dreams, that is in some very important and central ways the same as waking identity, but in other ways very different. Just as in dreams in which we think we are awake and we can fly, change shape, die and resurrect, in transpersonal states space and time undergo massive distortions; we can be multiple places at once; there does not seem to be a past or a future that is separate from an all-encompassing now, in which all moments, all spaces are immediately accessible. This is why the early transpersonal is commonly associated with the psychic and with the “vision chakra:” awareness is massively expanded for a self that still maintains a continuity of identity with waking self, just as in dreams.

Consequently, what we can conclude is that while abilities are sometimes vastly expanded in dreams and both abilities and perception are vastly expanded in transpersonal experience, our basic sense of who we are stays the same. If our self is stabilized at mid-prepersonal when we have a mystical or near death experience, as is the case for traditional shamans, then we are having an opening into a transpersonal state while remaining anchored at mid-prepersonal. We do not automatically and magically jump five stages of development because we have had a mystical experience. The observer, the witness of the transpersonal experience is “us,” the “self,” as defined by our level of development, but which we may now differentiate by calling “soul,” Atman, or Self, to differentiate it from our less powerful, less free, normal waking identity.

To call this self “soul,” implies that in mystical and near death experiences we access the perspective and experiences of life as it is seen after death, by an immortal self, which is still us, but vastly expanded in capabilities and sentience. Remembering the normally expanded abilities of our dreaming self, one might call early transpersonal consciousness “the dream self on steroids.”

If that is so, we might want to consider whether dream consciousness is “soul” consciousness or not. Is it an awareness that survives death or simply an expanded awareness that does not have to play by normal rules because it is unbounded by the assumptions, roles and expectations of waking life? Because I experience myself as timeless am I indeed immortal? This is the typical shamanic assumption of the self in dreams, where events are literal and real in some other dimension. Is this a true representation of the dream and transpersonal reality? Are we really seeing not a change in identity, since we are still us, but having an experience in which waking, limiting filters drop away? How is this not so different than a person gaining wealth, status and power in the world and concluding that their freedom has therefore made them a different person? Are we not more likely simply observing ego inflation, narcissism and grandiosity?

Keeping these considerations in mind, remember that the transpersonal involves varieties or stages of selflessness. Those who have expanded abilities or non-filtered perceptions, but maintain a strong sense of self as ego, soul, Atman or Self, are displaying developmental lines that may indeed be transpersonal, but not a self-sense that is centered there. The self may indeed still be located at late prepersonal or, as we have seen with shamanism, mid-prepersonal, or anywhere in between. Therefore, it is a logical fallacy to confuse ability, such as out of the body experience, with attainment, such as stabilized living from the perspective of early transpersonal. Humans make this logical mistake all the time, as when we equate wealth, status and power with political acumen or assume that because Einstein is a brilliant physicist that he has worthwhile views on mysticism.

Basic rules applying to all transpersonal levels:

Each includes the previous one.

Each transcends the previous one.

Understanding or possessing characteristics of a stage does not put you there.

Your lagging or weakest developmental line is closer to your overall level of development than is your strongest, leading line.

Your level of development is not the whole story. You have to understand and balance the behavioral, cultural, consciousness and social quadrants of your life; you need to work on a number of lines of development, including cognitive, self, ethical and interpersonal; you need to be able to differentiate between temporary state access and permanent stage acquisition.

The prevailing family, work, religious and political cultures in which you are embedded largely determine your own level of development. Remember that we chronically underestimate the largely invisible power of culture.

Early Transpersonal:

How do I Experience Oneness with Energy and Nature?”

The discriminating mind is a dancer and a magician

with the objective world as his stage.

Intuitive mind is the wise jester who travels with the magician

and reflects upon his emptiness and transiency.

Lankavatara Sutra

What are signs of the early transpersonal? Signs show up in dreams, asceticism, visionquests, meditation, drug, near death and mystical experiences, but do not indicate stable access, much less stable identification, with early transpersonal. A good indication of this is the fact that many of the signs of early transpersonal are reported by shamans, and shamanism is normally associated with hunter gatherer, nomad and early agrarian societies and cultures, which are themselves associated with mid-prepersonal development. These signs include visitation of heaven and hell, talking with spirits, clairvoyance and precognition. You do not have to be transpersonal anything in order to have transpersonal experiences.

At early transpersonal consciousness expands and becomes less filtered, meaning that there is a dissolving of self and other, whether that “other” is a person, object, space or time. These experiences of oneness can indeed create a transcendence of identity or they can be experienced as the substitution of a vastly expanded identity for one’s normal self. These two are not the same because “no self” is not the same as “deified self.” This is because “no self” is “no identity” while a deified self is a vastly expanded identity, even if it is one without perceived limits.

From the perspectives of the transpersonal, the self is a multitude of roles that life uses as a tool to do work in the world. In the transpersonal, existence is no longer centered around some concept of self, but around life. While identity at early transpersonal is not a self but pure energy, personality can and normally does contaminate selflessness, creating many challenges at higher levels of development. This may well be due to the fact that people with early transpersonal abilities or characteristics are not themselves good representatives of these spaces because their sense of self is centered at some lower level of development.

This is the last stage in which the experience of deity or the attainment of a sense of permanent self are drivers for development. Archetypes are viewed as powerful, but in a far less intimidating or awe-inspiring way, because they are transpersonally seen to be non-incorporated self-aspects, as is deity itself. For example, God is known to be immanent, and any worshipped incarnation, such as Jesus, Krishna, or Babaji is merely a tool for self-transcendence and mergence with spirit.

The less we know about a mystic the more mythological and distant the historical record, the more likely an individual is to qualify as a transpersonal adept. Patanjali and Padre Pio have been cited as examples of early transpersonal individuals. Were they? Probably not. Rajneesh and Sai Baba are examples of what happens when prepersonal and personal definitions of self are carried into the transpersonal as deficiencies in the moral line of development.

Those at early transpersonal will probably demonstrate stabilized oneness with nature, as opposed to the peak experiences of nature mysticism, which arise in earlier stages of development. Think of such experiences as occasional and passing breakthroughs into the early transpersonal meme. The spirit quests of shamanism and the psychic control of yogic breathing, pain tolerance, and the ability to go without food or water are early transpersonal states, aptitudes and developmental line attainment. They are not indications that the individual is stabilized at early transpersonal.

Early transpersonal individuals see a universal holistic system comprised of part-wholes of integrative energies. The universal order of early transpersonal is not based on external rules (late prepersonal), social roles (early personal), or group bonds (mid-personal), but is itself living and conscious. Early transpersonal can involve the emergence of a new sense of the sacred as a meshwork of all existence.

Early transpersonal thinking uses the entire spiral, sees multiple levels of interaction. detects harmonics, mystical forces and the pervasive flow-states that permeate any organization. Morality will encompass all earthly beings without exception, which is called “post-postconventional.” Multiple levels are interwoven into one conscious system. Affect is capable of maintaining sentiments of awe, rapture, love of all earthly beings without exception, and compassion. Feelings are united with knowledge.

Early transpersonal individuals prefer purity over pleasure; if sex is undertaken, it is generally done as an exercise in self-discipline in order to promote higher transpersonal awakening, as in Tantra. Most religions, for instance Hinduism, place a strong emphasis on purity at all stages of development. Therefore, efforts at purification are not indications of early transpersonal attainment. In fact, they can be repressive, denying, and suppressive of natural and healthy needs.

While early transpersonal individuals are estimated by Wilber to represent one percent of the population and possess some five percent of the power, IDL believes this is far too high. Anything beyond early personal is largely aspirational at this stage of human development, because exceptional development in certain leading lines is commonly mistaken to be indicators of stabilization at some higher level of development. This is reinforced by temporary, occasional state breakthroughs into the transpersonal. Your actual level of development is determined by two major factors: your slowest, regressed or fixated major line, and the level of development of the familial, work and national cultures in which you are embedded. These will pull your center of gravity either up or down to it. Generally, if you are a child or an adult at early or mid-prepersonal your culture will act to bring your self line upward; if you have aspirations beyond those of your family, work or national culture they will work in multiple subtle and persistent ways to cause your choices to validate their world view.

Wilber refers to those stabilized at early transpersonal as “global-holistic” in their approach to life. They act to support and promote actions based on the Prime Directive, that is, actions that promote the greatest depth, that is, the highest level of development feasible, for the greatest span, that is, across the broadest number of developmental lines.

For stabilized early transpersonal individuals, there is little difference between waking and dreaming realities. All states of consciousness appear to be made out of the same stuff. The choices and freedoms that apply to one state of consciousness apply to the other.

The challenge for those at early transpersonal is in a superficial way the same as that for late prepersonal: they must let go of the power and control that they attain through their ability to be one with life force. If they do not, they will fashion their waking and dream experience according to their desires (as seen in many lucid dreamers) instead of allowing those worlds to fashion them into a pure vessel for life. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf as master of fireworks, balrog-defeating spells, and communicator with insects and eagles is a balanced early transpersonal perspective. Saruman presents a fearsome image of the terrible evil the perversion of power at this stage can create.


How Do I Become One with God?”

God has no religion.


As you travel up the developmental spectrum you move from more solid, slower, narrow vibrating form into less solid, more etherial, broader, more quickly vibrating precursors of form. What is a “precursor” of form? The mid-transpersonal level has been called the “subtle” stage because it is the source of form. You can think of it as the realm of intention, purpose, of ideal, of Platonic forms from which all thought, feeling, action, and objects are derived, the “universal unconscious” of Jung, the alaya vijnana of Yogacara Mahayana Buddhism. If all matter in your body is ultimately derived from the sun, the subtle stage is the gaseous nebula that eventually coalesced into the sun. It is the most rarefied variety of matter out of which form is derived, whether that form manifests in waking, dreaming, sleeping, or meditative realities.

The key organizing reality at mid-personal is a sense of such a devotion to oneness, generally experienced as bliss, that one fuses with it, completely losing one’s sense of separateness within it. These individuals may be so selfless that they seem not only transparent but inconsequential, unrelated to life or the world. However, they may also use an arbitrary sense of self as a tool to manifest a saintly commitment to service. This is often referred to as saintly mysticism. The Bodhisattva ideal of Tantric Buddhism, which vows to not seek personal salvation until all beings are saved, is an expression of the post-post conventional morality of this stage.But much intention and motivation is probably scripted. For example, a Hindu at mid-transpersonal might be expected to seek moksha, freedom from transmigration rather than service, but freedom in oneness with bliss.

Mid-transpersonal individuals transcend identification with all but the most tenuous definitions of self. This term, whether “Self,” “Atman,” “God,” or “Brahman,” is so broad, encompassing all existence, as to be close to meaningless at mid-transpersonal. While mid-transpersonal is associated with deity mysticism, its primary aim is continuous identification with the divine, understood as the source and creator of reality. The goal of sex at this level is either selfless service or identification with God personified as partner. Attachment to pleasure or biological drives is neutralized. Identity is androgynous, with male and female aspects balanced and complete internally. Therefore, sexuality for mid-transpersonal does not seek expression in form in either a quest for completion or a statement of it.

The historical Jesus and Paramahamsa Yogananda are examples of individuals supposedly stabilized at mid-transpersonal. In The Fellowship of the Ring, the elves symbolize mid-transpersonal through their immortality, their saintly altruism and their ability to live lives ruled by a sense of purpose of the whole. They do not worship God because they are one with divinity. With the experience of oneness comes the tendency to know what is best for others, in a higher-order echoing of the grandiosity of late prepersonal. Galadriel’s psychic inflation at the thought of possessing the ring gives a glimpse of the awesome catastrophe that can occur when mid-transpersonal is corrupted. This attitude is summarized nicely by those to great comic strip sages, Calvin and Hobbes: “I’m at peace with the world. I’m completely serene. I’ve discovered my purpose in life. I know why I was put here and why everything exists…I am here so everybody can do what I want. Once everybody accepts it, they’ll be serene too.”

The challenge for mid-transpersonal individuals is to die to oneness. Oneness still exists in form as a dualistic concept that implies its opposite. There still exists a self to lose in oneness. Mid-transpersonal individuals are not only awake in their dreams; they recognize that each and every character is an aspect themselves, yet also autonomous. They do nothing to change or control their experiences for their own ends, because it is in the experiencing of the suchness of each moment that the purity of their experience is refined.

It is a mistake to think that these people walk around in a continuous blissed-out, stoned, altered state of consciousness. The mark of anything transpersonal is transparency, that is, the ability to get out of the way of life expressing in and through oneself. If psychological geocentrism is merely replaced with psychological heliocentrism, that is, the idea that self as Self, Atman, is one with the Sun, God, the center of the universe, instead of mid- transpersonal selflessness, there exists a subtle form of grandiosity. The self has merely been inflated to be co-extensive with the universe. By any definition, this is not selflessness, and therefore not transpersonal, but rather some lower level of development that thinks it is mid-transpersonal.

Late Transpersonal:

How Do I Become One with the Formless?”

Therefore the sage keeps to the deed that consists in taking no action and practices the teaching that uses no words.

Lao Tzu

Late transpersonal is the realm of causal mysticism, which is formless. Because late transpersonal resides in a state of awareness that is prior to identification not merely with form, but with the consciousness that creates it, there is little that can be said about this stage of development that is not inherently misleading. An analogy might be to space, which is believed to contain some 95% of the mass of the universe as unseen “dark matter.” Another analogy would be inconceivable reality before the “big bang,” prior to the nebulas that gave rise to the galaxies, stars, and our sun. Another analogy is a spring, bubbling up life-giving water from subsurface reservoirs. Late transpersonal awareness experiences an ongoing, stable unity with the source of the manifest realm.

God and soul are not realities for late transpersonal but merely additional roles that are witnessed. There is no divinity with which to identify because both Self and deity have been incorporated and then transcended. Consequently, late transpersonal path will appear from lower stages not-theistic or, to be literal, atheistic. However, this is not an accurate description of the actual experience, as it is overflowing with both spontaneity and life.

It is easier to both aim for and get a feel for late transpersonal than it is early and mid-transpersonal. This is because its state of clear witnessing is accessible through meditation and once grasped, is easily expanded. However, the freedom and oneness with nature of early transpersonal is easily contaminated with prepersonal shamanistic psychism and power trips while the bliss of mid-transpersonal is typically polluted by and confused with prepersonal emotionalism and drama. Until and unless one knows how to tell the difference, it is probably best to aim for the selflessness of the late transpersonal and then compensate by focusing on selfless service in one’s daily life, in order to bring up the lines of self, morality and interpersonal relationships. Otherwise, it is very easy to delude oneself that because one can access formless clarity in meditation that one has actually attained to late transpersonal. But remember the caution mentioned above: you can’t skip levels. Each level includes the previous ones. Because you have had multiple late transpersonal experiences of formless mysticism does not make you stable transpersonal in your overall development. Always err on the side of believing your overall development is closest to your lagging or weakest, most fixated, developmental line.

Pellucidity, the ability to watch oneself without reaction, is for late transpersonal a stabilized attribute of waking, dreaming, deeply sleeping, and meditative states. The ability to be awake while you are deeply asleep is probably one attribute of this stage, one sign, but remember – access to signs, even on a regular basis, does not indicate stable access to any stage. It is normal to have prowess or competency in one or more ability associated with a stage long before becoming stabilized in it.

For late transpersonal there is no longer a real, permanent self to experience pain. Instead, pain is merely observed, in complete acceptance, without reaction. Both pain and pleasure as well as your sensitivity to them increase as life evolves. Pain is not only more intensely experienced, it is more richly textured than before, as are all aspects of experience. However, along with this enhanced sensitivity to pain arises a profound ability to witness it without making it the “other.” To do so would merely create a dualism between self and other that would inevitably have to be resolved.

Another sign associated with the late transpersonal is an ability to observe all phenomena with equanimity, yet to be able to take decisive action, in the awareness that all expression is a tool for the integration of existence. The challenge for late transpersonal individuals is to let go of their identification with the source of dream consciousness, the unformed emptiness that is not yet the non-dual. Late transpersonal witnesses all forms and all experiences as self-creations by one or another level of consciousness. At this stage the challenge is to remain witness to any and all states and levels of consciousness. Nagarjuna, the codifier of Mahayana Madhyamika, is an example of the causal sage. Meister Eckhart is an example from the Western mystical tradition. While there is no non-dual in The Fellowship of the Ring, Sauron, who is formless and creates a patterning consciousness that binds all the races of Middle Earth, is an excellent example of the perversion of this meme. The ring itself, which is one with Sauron, is also a symbol for an identification with self which corrupts all developmental stages.


How Do I Live Life in Non-Dual Awareness?”

This very earth is the Lotus Land of Purity, and this very body is the body of Buddha.

Zen Master Hakuin

The non-dual is not a destination; it is the always already present ground within and beneath the present moment. The non-dual is a state that transcends both form and the non-form causal root state (late transpersonal developmental level) from which form springs. The sacred is experienced as the non-dual ground of being which is always already, the union of form and the formless sacred and the world process.

Both dreaming and waking are respected self-created realities; both are reverently accepted. Non-dual dreamers continue to dream, just as they continue to eat and sleep and talk. While non-dual dreamers can choose not to dream, just as they can choose not to live, they continue to choose to dream because growth, creativity, and service opportunities present themselves both in dreams and in waking life. Dreaming is seen as a training time for recognizing and resolving issues and challenges before they can create problems in waking life.

The challenge for non-dual individuals is to stay non-dual and to keep growing. Enlightenment does not mean that development ends. In a sense, enlightenment can be thought of as fulfillment of one line of development only, the self line. While other lines are essential to the developmental completion of the self line, their fulfillment is not necessary, nor is it to be implied.

The challenge for late transpersonal is also to recognize that there is much work to be done in the perfecting of other developmental lines, such as cognitive, moral, and interpersonal. Rather than shutting off dreams, late transpersonal individuals need to keep them flowing as a continuous subjective source of objective feedback, just as existence in the world provides a continuous external source of transformation. In The Fellowship of the Ring, it is only when the One Ring is returned to the fires of Mount Doom in Mordor from which it came that peace can return to Middle Earth. This personifies our final disidentification with self in non-dual consciousness. Only when you burn up your attachment to your sense of self can you be free of its corrupting potential. Gautama Buddha is an example of an individual who was stabilized at the non-dual.

The Evolution and Involution of Consciousness.

“What lies behind us and what lies before are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

William Morrow

…. Evolution is the ascent of consciousness from matter to body to mind to soul to spirit, and involution is the descent of consciousness through any of those vehicles. Regression is moving backward in the line of evolution, whereas development is moving forward in that line.”1 In the following diagram consciousness evolves from an unconscious fusion with matter into identification with the characteristics of the prepersonal, prepersonal, and transpersonal until it achieves stable identification with non-dual spirit. What identification with the non-dual means is different in each of the four quadrants of the human quadrant. In the internal collective, a certain liberating world view, perspective, or orientation has been attained which directs thought, feeling, and action; in the internal individual a lack of any self sense whatsoever is merged with two identities, that of self as co-extensive with all perspectives and life, and that of particular, individuated roles taken on for work in the world; in the external individual identification with the non-dual is distinguished by fearless clarity while deeply invested in action; in the external collective quadrant by This is demonstrated by drama-free clarity in relationships.

One might find pellucid dreaming, advanced meditative ability extended into everyday action and relationships, the ability to consciously witness oneself in deep sleep, wisdom, a life dedicated to compassionate service, and by a certain stability and balance in a life well lived. While such a life is indeed enlightenment, it is not the end of evolution itself. Moral, cognitive, interpersonal, creative, artistic, athletic, and many other types of development are ongoing. Consciousness retraces these same steps, again and again, but from an enlightened perspective, to learn, grow, and serve in the world.

Evolution is the active, “yang,” or “male” half of the evolution-involution cycle while involution is the receptive, “yin,” or “female” aspect. You experience involution every night in your descent into sleep. You shed your identifications until you are “dead,” that is, unconscious in deep sleep. Yet in this death there arises the paradoxical life we call dreaming!

This is very similar to the involutional process of physical death. After a period of unconsciousness, many sources believe that you “wake up” to a dreamlike existence, the nature of which is largely determined by the level of consciousness you attained while alive. In Tibetan Buddhism, these after death states are called “bardos.” To the extent that you learn to be awake while dreaming, you gain the ability to be conscious after death. As you learn to be awake while deeply asleep, you gain the ability to be conscious in any and all states of awareness.

Clearly, there is much to be said for balancing evolution and involution, male and female, life and death, waking and dreaming in your every day life. This is a fundamental purpose of any truly integral approach to dreaming and living. Here is the developmental cycle, with involution on the left and evolution on the right. Remember, these processes characterize not only life and death, but waking and sleeping as well as every inhalation and exhalation.

Involution Evolution

Non-Dual Spirit

Identification with Formlessness

I am not my Self.”

I am my Self.”

I am not God.”

I am God.”


I am not energy.”

I am energy.”

I am not my thoughts.”

I am my thoughts.”

I am not my ego.”


I am my ego.”

I am not my social roles.”

I am my social roles.”

I am not my feelings.”

I am my feelings.”

“ ‘I’ am not my body.”


Fused with body

“ ‘I’ am not matter.”

Fused with matter

Identification with Form

Fusion With Unconscious

1 Wilber, K. Integral Psychology, p. 120.






Tables created by Elfriede Ammann at de.Spiritualwiki.org , page “Step Models”, link http://de.spiritualwiki.org/Wiki/StepModels#toc8

Posted in Essays, Integration

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