HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star)
I have been a follower of Ken Wilber for years now. I recently picked up a book that synthesizes a big chunk of his life’s work, what he calls Integral Practice. In this new book called Integral Vision, Wilber presents the essence of his work. It involves the use of a comprehensive map of all knowledge from practically all parts of the world, and how it can make modern man a more expansive, responsively engaged human being in today’s world.
This means mapping, understanding and applying knowledge to improve our capabilities in all aspects of life — physical, spiritual, moral, intellectual, emotional, etc. In short, Wilber proposes something like an Integral Operating System (IOS) which we can use to improve ourselves by accessing the sum total of all useful knowledge on every subject. And he urges us to use it to make us more complete, whole, “integral” beings.
We all possess multiple intelligences. But even if all these intelligences exist in us, these are not equally developed or of the same capacity. Each one has a strong suit. We are more confident and developed in some areas in life but underdeveloped in others. Thus, Wilber points out that there are CEOs, politicians and leaders who may have great business and political acumen and leadership, but can and do turn out to be moral cretins. There are also talented athletes or artists who excel but may be sorely lacking in intellectual or emotional maturity. IOS is there to help us look at and assess ourselves, and give us the tools to make us more complete, more “whole.”
In one section of the book, he points out that every person is at a certain stage of consciousness development, and each of the stages he will go through is a milestone in his growth as a human being.
First is the pre-conventional stage that begins in infancy. Children are self-absorbed, egotistic and quite selfish. This egocentric level of development mostly associated with the very young is all about a “me” identity, period. It includes no one else. The child believes he is the world and that everything revolves around him.
But as the child learns more about the norms, practices and values of the family, clan, tribe, society, race, nation or any other group with shared values he finds himself in, he begins to move up to what Wilber calls the ethnocentric stage. He expands to something bigger. His sense of identity widens. He now identifies with a family name and history, a school, an organization, and so forth.
The next, which is the highest stage of moral development, is called “worldcentric” and it involves an expansion of one’s concern and compassion for everyone, regardless of race, color, religion or whatever else divides us. It may even include compassion for all sentient beings.
In short, consciousness development starts with a “me,” which moves up to “us” and ends in a bigger “all of us.”
Wilber has more to say about this and how it connects to body, mind, spirit and other things. This book offers a lot to people in the modern world who want a richer life. I would like to take a closer look at the three stages of development in real life.
As adults, we presume that we are, at least, in the ethnocentric stage, meaning that we have been influenced enough and “tamed” by society. We have become social beings and have developed emotional ties with others. We have learned about interacting with our parents, relatives, schoolmates, workmates, neighbors, clubs, and perhaps we also share in the larger sense of ethnic pride, nationhood and racial identity. That’s where all this “Proudly Pinoy” feeling is coming from when, say, we cheer for the Azkals.
It is quite a leap from egocentric to ethnocentric, which is accomplished through a number of years. And even while one may be in this next stage, he may still be carrying vestiges of the old one. That’s why we are sometimes less than the adults we desire to be.
The worldcentric stage, the highest among the three, offers the widest identity possible in the sense that one can connect with the concerns and needs of everyone, some of who may even be hostile on the ethnocentric level. As an example, they could be members of other faiths, creeds or political systems that may even actively seek to destroy the way of life one subscribes to. Or they could be so different culturally, or in the way they look, that there seems to be nothing one shares with them. And yet one sees their humanity.
The worldcentric person looks at life and the world in inclusive mode. Everyone is part of it. What excites him is what connects rather than what divides. He likes to connect not so much through the world of ideas, or shared values, but through the essence of his being in relation to other beings. His identity includes all. He is everyone, and everyone is him.
If egocentricity has an ego, one may argue that the worldcentric person also has an ego but it is so big, it includes everyone, which is the same as saying he has no ego at all. If one cannot differentiate himself from the rest, where is the ego?
People in the lower stages can and do actually have experiences belonging to the highest stage, but at best, the experience is fleeting. It is an “aha” moment, a peak experience, a passing state that gives one a glimpse of things “higher” than where one is. It is not a permanent fixture yet until one clearly moves up to the worldcentric stage and everything that comes with it become easier to access. One will have much greater opportunities to experience the epiphany of Oneness.
Clearly, our consciousness is on an evolutionary path and the worldcentric people, in the view of Ken Wilber, are those who can have a greater, deeper experience of being human. This stage is clearly higher, spiritually, than the other stages.
Who are the worldcentric people in the world stage? Many of them are spiritual leaders, philanthropists, social workers, teachers who inspire. They are also those who devote their lives to serve invisibly in our neighborhoods, in war-torn lands, helping the poor and the destitute in failed states everywhere. Organizations like Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or the many environmental groups that do the work of helping restore and preserve Mother Earth are obviously worldcentric. I would also include here the workers in the Fukushima nuclear plants, saviors in disasters who risk life and limb for their fellowmen.
In Buddhist and Christian parlance, they would be the bodhisattvas and saints, people who set aside or delay their own individual deliverance to assist in the liberation of others.
I am touched by the Ignatian “Man for Others” philosophy, the prayer of which goes
‘Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that I am doing your will.’
I am equally inspired by the four Vows of Zen, which says:
‘Beings are numberless; I vow to free them.
Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them.
Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them.
The Buddha way is unsurpassable; I vow to realize it.’
Now, how do you know how worldcentric you are? A simple indicator is if you were touched by, say, the suffering brought about by the tsunami in Japan. That could be one sign. But then, it could also be just an “aha” moment from a lower stage.
Are there higher stages of development? Sure. The integrated stage is about the coming together of masculine and feminine attributes in the person. But that will have to be the subject of another column. As long as man keeps evolving, consciousness will keep expanding.
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1) Photo Workshop in Dumaguete on April 9. Call Chinky at 0916-4305626.
2.) Photo Workshop in Manila on April 16. Please call Olie at 0916-8554303 for all workshop inquiries.
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Please call Olie at 0916-8554303 or 4265375 for all workshop inquiries. Or write me at email@example.com. Check http://jimparedes-workshops.com/ for details.