Part 3 of The Marriage of Science & Spirit: Negotiating the Great Pre-Nup— Zooming Out on Talking Back to Sam Harris

Wishing you a blessed winter solstice time — this is the ancient time for hunkering down, reflecting, and celebrating everything that survives the tight squeeze of “the dying of the light.” But of course, we now celebrate it as members of a global community that includes dear friends in the Southern Hemisphere for whom this is the summer solstice, so it’s a different kind of time now, one in which all our cycles must be seen in a bigger context.
For me, that means knowing that every blossoming implies an eventual wilting, and that every withered flower bears seeds for a new life. It’s “all moments at once — all the time.”
There’s a profound richness to the vulnerable and openhearted feeling this is releasing in me now — bright with intensity, like the color magenta (the hybrid of the longest and shortest wavelength colors) or the joyous bittersweet intensity of soulful minor chords. And it is with that feeling that I send you this solstice holiday message of appreciation and blessing. Thank you for being a part of my life and journey.
I’m happy to be sending you Part 3 of my blog series, The Marriage of Science & Spirit: Negotiating the Great Pre-Nup. This one is titled Zooming Out on Talking Back to Sam Harris.
To the many people who wrote so passionately, sincerely and intelligently in response to Parts 1 and 2, please forgive my metaphorically “leaving the room” in mid-conversation. I was delayed by a teaching trip to Guatemala and Mexico, and urgent work upon my arrival home. I also discovered, as I got into the guts of this blog series, that it’s going deep, and will ultimately have at least 5 parts.
 In Part I, The Marriage of Science & Spirit: Negotiating the Great Pre-Nup, I pointed out that the coming together of rationality with spirituality, the "marriage of science and spirit", is the most significant intellectual and cultural event of our time, something that will reshape the future of human affairs, whose terms we’re now defining:  the “Pre-Nup” of this marriage contract. I observed that there’s a great debate unfolding between materialistic rationalists and trans-rationalists who point beyond reductive materialism to a conscious universal Reality.
In Part 2, Why Sam Harris’s "Waking Up" MattersI took the position that this book — a well-written, persuasive, internally-coherent argument for a rational, even atheistic, “spirituality without religion” — might turn out to be profoundly influential, potentially making history, and even changing it.  I praised the ways in which Harris’s manifesto could help mainstream cultural attitudes and assumptions evolve.
Now, in Part 3, I begin to articulate a critique of Harris and point to some differences in the very kind of thinking that different participants in this debate are engaging.
In the process, I’ll zag where I previously zigged in Part 2. In this, and subsequent installments of this series, I’ll point out some important shortcomings of Sam Harris’s view and cultural project. Later, in subsequent posts, I’ll zoom back to focus on the meta-conversation. 
You see, this is not only, or even primarily, a debate over the truth, a discussion of the real nature of reality; it is a political process, a struggle over intellectual and cultural power, and not just in abstract terms. In subsequent installments, the plot will thicken further, as we explore the implications of the fact that a true synthesis is a process achieved only as both (or really all) “sides” of the debate genuinely evolve.
Zooming Out on Talking Back to Sam 
The “atheistic” synthesis of science and religion proposed by Harris is materialistic in nature, taking observable measurable objective matter and energy as the bottom-line reality, and viewing consciousness as a secondary expression, an “epiphenomenon” of material processes (what Ken Wilber would call “frisky dirt”). His argument is clear, coherent, insightful, and persuasive.  As I noted in Part 2 of this series, it may well prove to have tremendous cultural influence and thus historical significance. 
Nonetheless, it’s a partial truth; it doesn’t acknowledge a whole series of important realities that severely diminish its status and undermine its authority:

  • Science is a method, not a philosophy, whereas “scientific materialism” is a distinct philosophical position, a theory or paradigm — and a popular belief. Such philosophies are extremely difficult to prove scientifically, and thus, quite naturally, materialism has never been proven (even though many “scientific materialists”, including Sam Harris, speak and act as though it has).
Based on actual hard evidence, however, materialism has no more claim to scientific authority than does “panpsychism”, the view that all matter and energy, down to the tiniest subatomic particles, is in a fundamental sense conscious, possessing at least a rudimentary proto-sentience, or “prehension”.

Harris disagrees with the many eminent physicists (60%, according to recent polls) who, following the “Copenhagen Interpretation” and going all the way back to Max Planck, agree that consciousness (perhaps expressed as the “quantum vacuum” variously named) is the irreducible substrate of “physical” matter and space-time. Planck wrote, “'I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”

Many others, like Harris, take the materialist perspective. There is no fair reading of the record except for all participants in the debate to admit that the science itself is entirely neutral and agnostic regarding the debate between materialism and a “conscious Kosmos”.

  • There’s a mountain of strong scientific evidence for mind-matter interactions. Thousands of controlled double-blind parapsychological experiments, conducted by diverse groups, many of them conducted according to standards of rigor more stringent than those commonly applied in other scientific fields, have produced a mountain of scientific data that demonstrates at least subtle interactions between consciousness and matter and the (imperfect and probabilistic and usually weak, but nonetheless actual and irresponsible to ignore) phenomenon of psi, or “non-ordinary” human knowing, and the influence of consciousness on living tissue and non-living matter. 

We’ll return to this later. For now, suffice it to say, scientific materialists have been very successful in the politics ignoring and marginalizing this evidence, but not very successful in the scientific project of bringing intelligence and curiosity to exploring and accounting for it. Which leads us to our next point:

  • Harris’s book is a political act in the domain of intellectual and cultural politics. He presents it as a neutral rational exploration of the factual nature of reality and human neurology and its implications. However, his manifesto emerges in a social and cultural context, and can only be fully understood, appreciated, and engaged as it interacts with that context. 

Materialism is the most popular, broadly recognized system of beliefs among scientists and engineers. It is the simplest and most easily understood and articulated, and thus most coherent and common philosophical basis for committing to and advancing scientific research, as well as the world-transforming technologies that science makes possible. It has enormous intellectual and institutional credibility and power.

Not only do trans-rational approaches to this synthesis lack this enormous structural advantage, they are not in agreement even with one another. The various trans-rational syntheses have only more recently emerged (which is natural, since they’re inherently more complex and nuanced) and have yet to converge in a single unified coherent thesis.

Thus, each speaks alone and tends to appear as isolated and extremely marginal “challengers” to the far more coherent, easily understood, and culturally powerful “scientific materialist” synthesis.

  • Trans-rational approaches to synthesizing science and spirituality have no less of a basis in evidence and reason than do rational approaches. The atheistic rational synthesis sets forth its own ground, and implicitly, the terms of the debate it is offering to engage. In effect, it is directed toward particular arguments (the weaker arguments, or “straw men”) it effectively vanquishes. But this functions as a rhetorical slight-of-hand that diverts attention from the more interesting and formidable baseis for this synthesis (the more interesting trans-rational terms for the marriage contract between science and spirit) that deserve to be more fully considered. 

In future installments of this blog, I will assert that at least some of the elements of the terms of these trans-rational approaches are not just as strong as the merely rational terms, they are significantly richer and better (more adequate) in important ways. And yet the debate itself is just one level of what’s going on here.

These trans-rational approaches have for the most part been arrived at by a different kind of thinking, and there’s work to do in translating that kind of thinking into therigorous, intellectually honest, rational terms of this public debate. Let’s begin by taking a closer look at some of the kinds of thinking involved in this conversation.

Different modes of thought

The distinction between what I’ve called “strict rationalist” and “trans-rationalist” versions of this marriage contract contrasts not just two views of reality, but also the ways different modes of thinking reach conclusions, and the challenges to engaging a fruitful mutual dialogue.

Developmental research distinguishes different structures of thought and meaning-making that unfold across childhood and on into adulthood, so that some adults continue to develop beyond the point where others stop maturing. Sometimes these structures are referred to as “orders of mind”, “stages of development”, or “levels of consciousness”.  Each can be associated with a distinct general worldview that most often emphasizes particular values over others. This is a foundational insight of adult developmental psychology and integral philosophy as expounded by Robert Kegan, Jane Loevinger, Susanne Cook-Greuter, Ken Wilber, Claire Graves, and many others.

Examining the different modes of thinking involved in this debate will give us an important additional lens through which we can see more deeply into it.

In general, the “atheistic” materialist view coincides with formal operational thinking andabstract operational thinking, which focus on facts and data and derives connections from logic and evidence.

The vision of a conscious Kosmos usually coincides either with mythic believer’s thinking, or with “vision-logic”. Vision-logic begins with that same formal operational thought process, but also intuitively apprehends the nature of the whole (using multiple modes of knowing or intelligence).

There are several distinct levels of thought participating in this debate, often arguing in entirely different “languages”. This topic can be explored in depth, but here I’ll offer a simplified summary of the most important modes of thinking at play:

Mythic-rational thinking (often associated with religious belief and “intelligent design”)

This thinking begins with a (usually shared) set of beliefs about the whole of reality and then views data (the “parts”) through that lens. It is unable to see what fails to fit that view, and distorts data as needed to fit its culturally agreed-upon preconceived beliefs and conclusions. This is the thinking associated with the sort of religious beliefs and attitudes that Sam Harris so effectively condemned in his earlier books, The End of Faith, and Letter to a Christian Nation.

Early rational thinking (often associated with aggressive “skeptics” asserting atheistic materialism) 

Some developmental researchers (such as Loevinger, Cook-Greuter and Torbert) have identified two distinct levels of rational thinking, the first of which is “abstract operational” thinking. Here there is the cognitive capacity to look at oneself, but with strong ultrarational defenses, gravitating toward oppositional battles with others who defend different positions. You can see this in web comment streams that have attracted atheists less sophisticated than Sam Harris. Individuals with this kind of thought pattern live in a world where things are sure and clear, and they feel entitled to impose their views on others. Thus they can seem argumentative and opinionated. Their logic begins with a conclusion — the intention to advance or defend or glorify themselves. This mental mode is unable to synthesize complex systemic or metasystemic perspectives or to question its own presumptions. It is common among teenagers, bureaucrats, junior managers, and engineers, and can be found in almost every profession. 

Advanced rational thinking (often associated with intelligent scientific thinkers, including many advocates for a “rational” synthesis of science and spirituality, is also known as “formal operational” thinking, the second level of rational thinking identified by developmental researchers)

This kind of thinking is able to operate in much more complex ways, systemically and meta-systemically, holding many simultaneous variables and unknowns. It is capable of relating to information with much more openness, curiosity, and creativity. This kind of thinking can synthesize complex views of whole systems, and it can focus creatively into the future, even amidst change. When healthy, this modality, in contrast to early rational thinking, is actually actively interested in learning, and is often open to feedback and differing perspectives. 

Ken Wilber offers a lucid description of advanced rational thinking in Sex, Ecology and Spirituality (p 173-174): “…'formal operational cognition'…. means the capacity not just to think, but to think about thinking (and thus 'operate upon' thinking: ‘formal operational’). Since you can operate upon or reflect upon your own thought processes, you are to 
some degree free of them; you can to some degree transcend them; you can 
take perspectives different from your own; you can entertain hypothetical
 possibilities; and you can become highly introspective…. And….because we can reflect on our own thought processes, and thus to some degree remove ourselves from them, we become capable of imagining 
all sorts of other possibilities….This is why rationality or reasonableness tends to be universal in character.”

It is hard to overstate the importance of formal operational thinking. It is the kind of thinking our educational system is built to foster. It spawned the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and the Tech Revolution of our time. It is the de facto lingua franca of advanced contemporary culture. It is the language spoken by Sam Harris. It’s the language I’m speaking right now. And this is the language into which trans-rationalist responses to Harris must be translated if they are to matter. It is only insofar as perspectives can be communicated and understood in formal operational terms that they have relevance to the great negotiation over the terms of the marriage contract between science and spirituality.

Formal operational thinking does, however, have certain biases and limitations. Cook-Greuter, in Ego Development (2005, pp 18-21) puts it this way, “For…persons [at this level of mind] rationality will triumph. Thus they are interested in analysis… Truth can be found. One can come closer to it by consistently applying the scientific method, by looking at things rationally, by continuously improving and refining one’s methods of inquiry and measuring tools…. The major limit of [this] mind set is its acceptance of facts and the external world as real and its blindness to the constructed nature of beliefs, especially the grand myth of conventional science. Although complex scientific analysis is applied, the underlying assumptions of any system are rarely questioned or made explicit. Especially at this stage, knowledge, measurement and prediction are taken for granted...”

One final note: Another limitation of formal operational thinking is that although it can see “whole systems”, it sees them abstractly and relates to them conceptually; thus it only thinks from the parts (the data points) to the whole (It cannot think from the wholeto the parts).

Early vision-logic (often associated with popular trans-rational integrations of science and spirit) 

Early vision logic is capable of advanced rational thinking, and it goes beyond formal operational thought to use many sources of information and multiple intelligences to intuit models of the integrated shapes of the “wholes” implied by the data, the “parts”. The opening up of vision-logic brings a rich, multileveled, and more kinesthetically integrated apprehension of patterns. As Wilber puts it, “Where rationality gives all possible perspectives, vision-logic adds them up into a totality…. vision-logic can hold in mind contradictions, it can unify opposites, it is dialectical and nonlinear, and it weaves together what otherwise appear to be incompatible notions….rationality can indeed take different perspectives.…But vision-logic…adds up all the perspectives tout ensemble, and therefore privileges no perspective as final…” This is an intelligence that thus begins to be able to think “from the whole to the parts”. It spontaneously takes opposing perspectives and questions itself.

When the capacity for this kind of thinking first appears, says Cook-Greuter, “People now realize that things are not necessarily what they seemed at earlier stages because the interpretation of reality always depends on the position of the observer… One can never be as totally detached and “objective” as the rational/scientific outlook of the [previous] stage would have it… [they] abandon purely rational analysis in favor of a more holistic, organismic approach in which feelings and context are taken into account and the process becomes as intriguing as the product or outcome. [People at this stage] also favor more relativistic or psychological approaches over merely logical ones. The need to explain everything is gone…”

The weakness of early, immature vision-logic is that it tends to so strongly prefer its new more holistic mode of apprehending reality that it tends to be uninterested in rigorous, rational, detail-oriented, evidence-based thinking — especially debates with those skeptically deconstructing the beautiful wholes it feelingly intuits. Thus it tends to become less capable of sustained, focused, rigorous, rational “formal operational” thinking, and the consequence is a tolerance for (and sometimes even a preference for) sloppy thinking, which is how it has given rise to what is sometimes decried as “new age woo woo.”

Advanced vision-logic (often associated with more sophisticated trans-rational syntheses of science and spirituality)
This thinking directly apprehends deeper dimensions of wholeness, eventually awakening what ancient Greeks called gnosis — direct intuitive knowledge of, or contact with, the essence of reality, so profoundly that it relieves suffering. Gnosis is direct experience of awakened consciousness, as distinct from merely intellectual or conceptual knowledge, belief or theory. However, advanced vision-logic is not attached to this direct intuitive mode; instead it is able to simultaneously appreciate the value of all modes of thought and knowledge (and the perspectives they disclose) and to go back and forth among them. Thus, it is able to think not only from the whole to the parts but alsofrom the parts to the whole — as well as from possible futures to the present.

Cook-Greuter traces several stages in the development of advanced vision-logic: “[The] relativism [of early vision-logic] changes into personal commitment and responsibility for creating one’s own meaning…. The shadow side of the self can be acknowledged to a greater degree and therefore a new integration and wholeness is possible….Although they experience role conflicts and dilemmas…[people begin to] recognize that these are inevitable and that ambivalent feelings are natural… Distressing emotions become more tolerable….[and] this allows them to be more tolerant [of others] and spontaneous
“When people see through the filter of the symbolic construction and mapping of reality, their disposition towards the language habit can change profoundly. In general, [they] try to remain aware of the pseudo-reality created by words. They realize that the pursuit of objective self-identification and rational, objective explanations of the universe are futile—artifacts of our need to make permanent and substantive that which is in flux and immaterial….At the same time, [they] appreciate the vital function language plays in human affairs, in social interaction and development.”

Then, as vision-logic opens gnosis, “the capacity to draw from and appreciate insights from non-rational sources of information increases….the more regular practice of turning inward and observing one’s own mental processes also often leads to the spontaneous experience of a direct mode of being in which knower and known momentarily merge, and the personal self-sense disappears…”

This experience of transcendence of the subject-object stance of formal operational thinking is transformative. Although it often first produces a temporary disdain for conventional knowledge and thought, as it matures, it eventually enhances intellectual capacity. Vision-logic becomes the basis for a more and more free, flexible, and appreciative relationship to, and a profoundly enriched capacity for, rigorous formal operational thinking. There is the recognition that “all perspectives are both true and partial including my own.” On that basis arises the humility necessary to bring “awakened consciousness" into compassionate and respectful re-engagement with linear thinking. At this point, mature vision-logic is spontaneously interested in engaging the implications of the insight Wilber succinctly summarizes, “that all perspectives interrelate, or that no perspective is final…does not mean that there are not relative merits among them.”

Looking Ahead

Advanced vision-logic only began to appear fairly recently in cultural evolution, so it is still statistically quite rare, and therefore only a marginal emergent voice in popular cultural discourse. However, it is appearing more and more, and it's rapidly growing in its capacity for engagement with popular discourse. There, it can be recognized not only by its awakened consciousness, but by its courage and willingness to go “off the reservation” of metaphorical, poetic, and mystical expression, developing a capacity forintellectually rigorous re-engagement with formal operational reasoning.

That’s exactly what I’m aiming to engage here — a rational, yet more than merely rational, examination of our cultural dynamics. I’m looking directly at the kinds of thinking at play, and the distinctions among their modes of thought, in order to set a context for a deeper level of this conversation.

A vigorous debate about the terms of the “marriage of science and spirituality” has been underway for many decades among philosophers of science and religion, but has not yet taken place within a single coherent conversation. A whole series of segmented sub-conversations have occurred, many of them using non-intersecting kinds of thought. And they’ve all mostly been conducted in the absence of serious meditative practice and realization.

What will happen if that conversation continues on a higher level, informed by practice, realization, and awareness of the different kinds of thinking we are engaging, making use of these Integral developmental insights?

And what will happen if we then zoom back and notice the subtext of conversation as it effects intellectual politics and cultural evolution?

* * *

As I’ve said before, I think Sam Harris’s "Waking Up" may well prove, in hindsight, to have functioned as a critical lever in breaking up the cultural logjam that has long kept our public conversation about science and spirituality stuck at the level of superficialities.

This blog post is the third of a series. 

In upcoming posts, I’ll look at:

  • Is Sam Harris’s Waking Up an example of “advanced rational” thinking — or could it be evidence-focused “advanced vision-logic” engaging in advanced rational discourse? And either way, on what terms can a trans-rational synthesis based on advanced vision-logic most meaningfully engage with Sam’s thinking and view? 
  • The spectrum of distinct “spiritual” visions of reality that different people see implicit in quantum physics, Einsteinian space-time, the Big Bang, black holes, string theory, and multiverses. 
  • How the radical mysticism of scientists who have made the most significant contributions to our current understanding of reality does or doesn’t converge with the radical view of mankind’s highest traditions of spiritual realization.
  • The invisible dispute over what constitutes a truly rigorous (or “parsimonious”) interpretation of experimental findings that challenge strict materialism.
  • The dynamics of the taboo against psi research despite the broad evidence for statistically-significant mind-matter interactions, and the way this affects the context of our discussion of scientific spirituality.
  • Why mindfulness meditation practice and quantitative neurological research into its effects are the one thing that’s broadly liked and accepted by all participants in this debate — and why that will likely prove to be far more significant than most people realize.
All this is important because the “marriage contract” between science and spirituality may provide the source code for the great event of our time — a transformation of mainstream worldviews.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below.


Sam Harris

Hi Terry - I've read (actually listened) to Sam's book and found it intriguing, so much so that I intend to read it again in hard copy. I'd really be interested in getting your take on it in this 3rd segment of a series (I also need to listen to first two segments which, I assume, are available to download). What would be really cool is if you could schedule an interview with Harris. I would (as I'm sure other listeners would) find that very interesting.

Keep up the great work, Terry, and Happy Holidays!

JD Longwell
Salida, CO

string theory

Hi Terry:
lovely and insightful piece that I enjoyed reading and following your arguments. JFYI there is a nice piece on string theory and where physics stands on it these days in the newest Smithonian Jan. 15. Also a piece on time and the various theories and perspective of what time is or isn't. You probably already know these.

What i am left with for myself is to acknowledge the fervent need for us humans to explain, find patterns and meaning in existence and in our experience, while science and a cosmology of consciousness are indisputable facet of human experience. They seem to be two distinct but related moves resulting from the underlying yearning for meaning and significance. Living and appreciating both seems the wise thing to do for me given that there are no certainties only probabilities.

Happy holidays and a wonderful new year!


Dear Susann,

I'm delighted and honored that you took the time to read my blog (which is full of quotes from your work — for those who are not aware, this comment is from Susann Cook-Greuter) and to comment in a way that appreciates it, and joins me in this contemplation of the way that science and spirituality are synthesizing right now. I will take a look at the Smithsonian articles you mention.

Wishing you a happy Christmas and all possible blessings during this holiday season,


Terry -- Thank you for laying this out. I saw a lot of myself and my own experiences in your description of early vision logic, and the problems that can cause when trying to engage with rational dialogue.

I'm excited to see where you go next. In particular, I'm eager to see more strategies to deal with what to me is perhaps the most challenging step to overcome scientific materialism -- the need to develop interior skills (perhaps through contemplation) instead of privileging the senses. I sense a great fear in a lot of people when this is proposed; that some knowledge is only accessible by looking at the vast infinite realm within.

Sam Harris

Sam Harris (and you, Terry, in a sense) have overlooked an enormous Elephant In The Room, as far as an argument for consciousness inhabiting ALL matter. It's not just a matter of "belief", it could be seen as a matter of science.

Here it is: Even at the dimension of the smallest particles so far "detected" by human scientific-minded engineered technology, there is still attraction and repulsion. Like/Unlike. This IS the foundation for the sense of Self/Other. So even at the subatomic level, a basic consciousness exists. Sam's fundamental problem is that he considers Intellectual "knowing" the ONLY kind of knowing (not remarkable, since his whole schtick is Reason, linear thinking, logic, causal). But attraction-repulsion is not Intellectual--only its registering as such is Intellectual. Attraction-repulsion is EMOTIONAL at its core--Like/Unlike becomes Like/Don't Like as it accumulates up the chain of evolution. And I believe (I appear to be pretty much a minority of one right now) that the core of our next evolutionary step MUST be to understand that Emotional energy is an actual different bandwidth of energy, NOT subsumed under the category of "Thoughts." Thoughts are only the Intellect's way of naming or describing what is occurring. Naming--the Logos.

So the Intellect has the Executive role in this situation. And if it is at the top of the evolutionary chain--which in us it appears to be, since we have the most elaborately-evolved intellects (of the land creatures, anyway), then the problem appears to me to be to finally comprehend the Emotional. So far, we have only desperately attempted to avoid it, through meditation, contemplation, etc.. [Probably necessary once our Intellectual identities began to assert themselves about 2800 years ago, when we began to write. The child must separate itself from its Mother; the Left Brain must assert its power at the Right (see McGilchrist here)...but no longer necessary, because we have seen what technology without emotional maturity--i.e., immature CONSCIENCE gets us--endless war, environmental destruction, political impotence, political, religious and military terrorism, sexual reproduction/population growth out of control, etc..] I say it's not "religion" that is actually at fault, it's emotional immaturity driving religion as well as all the other segments of human culture that is at fault.

All of the great spiritual paths we have at our disposal agree on one thing necessary to achieve spiritual "enlightenment": Mastery of one's emotions. Yes? Yes! But so far most of us have only mastered them through the Slave-Master kind of mastery. We are still in the toddler-to-adolescent stage of our Emotional beings. Very few of H. sapiens have learned to master their emotions through enjoyment and practice of them, except through the production and enjoyment of artistic output or athletics...a clue, since this is precisely the kind of Mastery we should now be seeking. I would say the whole 19th Century (the Romantic Era) was the first real awakening of that--but only in an isolated form, of artistic output. We still--to this day--collectively don't know how to have (identify, experience and express) our deepest emotions without blindly acting them out.

More of us are beginning to become Emotionally literate but we may not succeed in this before we commit suicide as a species--ALL due to severe emotional immaturity. Meditation can be a great tool in this process, but not the only tool, since it acts relatively slowly and usually only cumulatively over a long period of time. Sam Harris himself is an excellent example of this: In many of his conversations/long interviews (I've been listening to them on his website) he speaks as though we can't know "why" we do the stupid and/or destructive things we do--we "just do them". Bullshit! We can know why if we're willing to 1) consider Emotional information as valid and really get to know ourselves and others emotionally and 2) allow various forms of psychology as valid study, which Sam doesn't, outside of neuropsychology.

In my view, too many spiritually-oriented (and highly intellectually intelligent) people collude with him in this lumping-together of emotions with "thinking". (Gurdjieff may have been a con man, but he was absolutely right effing on in his observation that the Intellectual Identity is a separate one from the Emotional. And such brilliant people as Thomas Jefferson made it absolutely clear, in his "My Head And My Heart" letter.) Nobody argues with Sam Harris--and somebody should!--that many of the brilliant scientists in history led pathetically emotionally hypocritical lives, from Isaac Newton (Sam rails at his alchemy obsession, not at the fact that Newton was absolutely unable to love another human being in his life) to Einstein, who compulsively philandered and refused to be an adult father to his children. I'm not belittling their accomplishments for science, I'm only saying that linear, logical reasoning--as you know--only gets you so far if you're not emotionally developing at the same time, and the way science goes, it pretty much ensures that emotional data will be ignored.

Sam sneers at Jung, you've probably noticed. He could benefit vastly from reading Jung with an opened mind in several ways: 1) he could understand that there can be a collective human consciousness (Bateson's definition of mind--thoroughly logical and "scientific"--shows that this is probably true) and he could 2) come to see his hated Religions in an entirely different light: Religions in their present immature, hypocritical, destructive form will only be outgrown when we begin to see them as embodiments of our own projected interrelated Identities--our Intellect, Emotion, Sexuality, Physicality, Spirituality, Instinct, and Intuition. This is precisely what the Gods (and the One God) are! In fact, I would have to say that the One God IS the emerging Intellect feeling its self-containedness for the very first time.

But not only what they are. Sam is highly immature here as well. You can also see, scientifically, if you're aware for long enough, that these elements of human identity are also--on a cosmic level--bandwidths of energy that exist everywhere if you look for them. We can't possibly be the only beings in the universe with a particular kind of energy--it had to come from somewhere, it had to already exist ...and then maybe accumulate in us in the peculiar way it has. REAL Scientific thinking tells you this, Sam! So does Complexity Theory, as a matter of fact. He knows it's silly nowadays to separate ourselves from the rest of nature, and he ridicules religious people for believing in a "God" outside of Nature, yet he is doing the same thing himself in terms of physics, which says that everything can be perceived (maybe not yet measured, but perceived at least) as energy. He boasts about all his self-education on psychedelics but he missed one of the Big Lessons, didn't he.

So I'm watching him with encouraged interest, as you do, Terry, but my hopes for such as Sam Harris are not as bright as yours. Until he deigns to stoop to studying some psychology--especially the archetypal and trauma varieties. And then applies it to his own life and awareness.

It can also be put this way, as an analogy--literal as well as figurative (because I can access my Indigenous mind, not just my Intellectual one): The Intellect's function is to isolate, stop in time, and observe...then to describe (tell the story), and through description, comprehend; and then through comprehension, decide upon action. That is an Executive's (a king's) function. But a king who masters its various peoples/cultures/societies must really know them and their needs, not merely collect their tributes and taxes and use them for military fodder. Isn't that a big part of the human world's dilemma currently coming to a head? (Pun intented.) I'm saying that the Intellect (science, reason, logic) that considers vast parts of its supposed domain (emotion, spirit and intuition especially, but also sex and instinct--none of which operate under linear, intellectually rational laws except in their own universes) as invalid data except where intellectually, scientifically measurable, this Intellect is bound to fail, due to its arrogance--its emotional immaturity, its unadmitted fear. Which is where this species is currently heading with ever-increasing speed.

Bekah, I enjoyed and


I enjoyed and appreciate your comment.

If you read my comment in Part 2 of this series,

[ ]

it seems that we both agree that Sam Harris needs to "Grow Up"



What I meant to say was, "Sam Harris needs to 'Wake Up'"

[probably both]

Part 3


Terry's Part 3 Comments



I think your models and distinctions presented here provide a powerful framework for further discussion, teaching, learning, and research.

The Vision-Logic Model is appealing to me, and resonates with "where I live" .. and ... at the same time, I believe it is an open and accurate enough meta-model, that it can really move the cultural conversation forward in useful directions.

I suggest you re-package what you wrote, and share it far and wide with the above context in mind.

Thanks again!

Thoughts concerning Sam Harris etc.

Thank you Terry,
I cannot muster up the intellectual wherewithal to write at the level of you and the others. But it is a bit humorous in a way that Sam Harris who is perhaps the best of the bunch never seems to stop and ponder the very essence, awareness and drive that is the knowing behind his motivation to profess his case. Does he think that all he is is an epiphenomenon? Science will never find any explanation that will yield any true well being, if the all pervasive knowing aspect of consciousness is not part of all the would be scientific materialist's direct experience. Conceptual knowing will not solve the problems that can only come from being open to all experience, especially the emotional response which we are taught to avoid, indulge or replace. The naming and learned reactions, and futile attempts to relieve, are at the basis of all the primitive self destructive patterns that have led to the results we see, individually and globally.
The scientific materialists don't need to grow up. But rather Grow In.
Thank you for your incredible series etc.

Both left & right brain, linear & lateral thinking
There are many ways to see (think) how we both perceive & communicate.
Unfortunately, these differences, rather than complementing each other, often cause dissonance. And competitive rightness instead of harmonic peaceful wholeness.

I remember back in the late 70's taking a undergraduate class in Intercultural Communication, from Dr. Edmund Glenn, Diplomat to several US Presidents. Who informed us of the deepening of Western-Middle Eastern wars based on our lack of honoring different modes of thinking, using the terms of inductive vs. deductive.(link below)

Who gave the quick example of purchasing a rug in that area: not just there with a price tag, but sitting and having a cup of tea that would only then lead to price. A rather odd metaphor considering so much going on in this global world, but still leads to more of this sense of difference.

Fast forwards to 2009, not long after receiving my MSW, I have a grand mal seizure from the "ancient" "giant" brain tumor growing in my left brain. Exiting surgery with very high right brain ability, and hugely lessened left brain -- losing more of my linear thinking rather than my currently dominant lateral thinking.

What I always go back to is the mutual support of opposites. Whether yin-yang's constant changes or how hot does not exist without cold, or sound without quiet. Honoring them both - or the many together - gives us a beautifully complex flavor that is far richer than a single one on its own. As in our diverse ways of thinking.

And the importance of evolving out of our mode of competition, in whatever modes of thinking we now use. As we are a combined collective - all of us contribute our own ways of demonstrating the knowledge within us. However we show or describe it.

By the way, I am an INFP... also a spiritual astrologer, and psychic energy worker!

that link:
"Limits of Interpretation
Speaking about his experience as an interpreter for several American presidents, Edmund Glenn stressed the problem of intercultural communication: "Although one of the most skilled interpreters using English, French, Polish, and Russian, there was nothing he could do about these mismatched meanings short of going into a seminar about the subjective meaning of words, the relationship between language and thought, and the differences in the way that cultures lead people to order their reasoning processes. And, of course, that was not possible in such a situation." ( Man and Mankind: Conflict and Communication Between Cultures. Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1981.)
Contribution by: Jovan Kurbalija
Date entered: 9/15/2002 6:54:34 PM

Comment on Elizabeth Zenker's post

Elizabeth--here's a beauty you may not have considered: That the YinYang symbol's shape is also a physical model of how the Left and Right Brains actually reside in the skull relative to each other. Very lovely, I think.

yin-yang response

Hello Becka: Exactly why I did use that yin/yang! Long aware of overemphasis of one leads to the negative side of the other, yet their constant change from one to the other is within that circle of the opposite present within each side. Including back in the day when I ate food with that yin/yang perspective -- too much yin food becomes yang to the body. As it is in all of life. Brain included: seeing via MRI (image from above) the (evacuated) side's blackness opposite the full whiteness, with that circular spinal area placed in between & behind... Yes, fully lovely!!

Sam and Terry - whats the point again ?

Thanks Terry, but isn't it the need to find common agreement on immediate reality the crux of the communication ? Isn't it the need to remove ones own desire to take refuge in any point of view that curse of humans insecurity and conflict ? "What is", be it logical or "spiritual" can only be perceived with out need or desire and therefore outside the boundaries of this discussion and not needing reconciliation.
If our need for securing ourselves with conclusions of any type is our curse, the goal might be for us to address insecurity, which is fundamentally "material". I suggest that we focus on making humanity secure and not reconciling these points of view as it may be the insecurity that gives rise to the need to have these preferred perspectives ?
We become more and more abstract, avoiding the simple and obvious. Insecurity is primarily material and immediate, belief is an effort to become more secure,solve the underlying cause, solve the larger issue.
I enjoy, like the others, the mental exercise and sense of importance, but let's not get lost in it. please.

security and belief

My beliefs don't make me secure. They send me alone into the dark forest. Personally I find security boring after a while.


Belief is at its essence security. What I mean is that our tendency to try to get a fix on reality by feeling we no what is, is the act of seeking a fixed place. a knowing. Children have no use for belief, so changing one finger hold for another, is indeed scary, but still is holding on to the un-holdable.
I see that this is a scary world and note amount of energy we all seem to spend trying to secure our safe place here. Be it money, recognition, group acceptance, god, science, astrology, pure food, saving the planet, etc. and wonder why we just don't figure out how to provide this security for each other, putting an end to this over complicated search for meaning. The only thing wrong with us humans is that we do not feel safe.
Enlightenment, after life, etc all seem to be about knowing/something to hold onto. My 2 cents.

causes and sources

Joe, I understand your argument but I have a problem believing psychological causes. Do I go to he opera because I am insecure or because I am attracted to beautiful music? I guess an argument can be made for either case.

I tend to agree with William James, who said; when thinking about things like spirituality steer clear of searches for sources and causes, focus on effects instead.

I guess the enlightened view would be that for the actions of something as complex as a person there are many sources and causes.

The only real comment I have has to do with the profound religious experience. This life changing experience is as subtle as being hit in the head with a sledge hammer. Not believing it is really not an option.


Thank you for your comments.
I have no issue with that which changes us. The awakened mind does what it does, it is that which we label spiritual that sets questions in motion. It is easy to not question expansive experiences, as they give us a sense of fullness and knowing.
That seems to me to be a different question that spiritual beliefs or reality. So much of what we think we know is subjective and it seems they only way beyond this experience realm is to not hold any states as higher or more desirable or special. This does not mean to me that these expansive states may not be real but we humans are very good at creating what we desire and self honesty is a rare commodity,as shown by gurus who treat other badly or chase money and praise.
There is a reason why seeing beyond self reference is necessary and that is largely because we otherwise can not see "what is"- not just the lens of unit, but with both dark and light in fundamental understanding. I do not believe that seeing falls into the realm of experience, but rather action.
I don't think our desire to be secure is psychological but biological, that is why we are much nicer people when we are material secure and "assholes" when not..
The problem with holding out transcendent experience as an answer to the meanness and injustices we are all part of, is that majority of the species is not that privileged to spend time seeking enlightenment but rather chasing food, a biological imperative(security). This is why I say we need to take care of this before we worry about who we really are, and at least we can see what is to be seen about us with out this biological force interfering with our exploration.
I used to think that we could transcend this drive with spiritual experience, and yes, for a few, this might be a worthwhile pursuit, just not most and meanwhile, we have the power to relieve the suffering of the many with just more cooperative action.

Some thoughts

Joe, this isn't my blog, but it seems to me that awakened consciousness is one of the great transcendent values like unconditional love or transcendent beauty. I consider it to be an essential component of modern society and we should listen to awakened voices.

Now, some thoughts on feeding the poor. Half of the US federal budget goes to helping individuals and while I certainly don't want to see these funds cut, 50% to the poor is probably as good or better than most churches do. Second, The American people are over charged several hundred billion dollars a year for health care, and if we had the intelligence to adopt a system like the French or Germans, we could free up this money. We would have to give up the fight to stay alive when we are in our last year, but I am willing to go peacefully, rather than in a hospital.

If you want to do more than this by going global, then there needs to find a way to convince the rich and powerful to do something altruistic. The only thing I can think of is to bring honor back into capitalism. If the people could define what it means to be honorable on a global scale, then honorable business people would have some leverage in the court of public opinion to force the greedy to do something good.

I know this seems like a far fetched idea, but I can't think of anything else. A secular global code of honor could have "feed the poor," right at the top of the list.

In a perfect world obtaining wealth would be treated like a sport. When one earns more than some number, say $10,000,000 a year, the rest would be "catch and release" the way they do in fishing. The person could have a big ceremony at the end of the year showing off their success, and then the money would be returned to improve the lives of all living creatures and the planet.

I know this sounds like a joke, but sane people value honor higher than money. It is tragic that the wealthy and powerful aren't awake enough to understand that honor is worth more than gold.

some thoughts

Hi Ron - thanks for your thoughts. I'd only offer that you consider this:
" before enlightenment, life is chopping wood and carrying water, after enlightenment- chopping wood and carrying water". The "idea" of awakening is not to be something to be sought at the expense of our blindness to our immediate surroundings. Seeking to be awake while the building collapses around us or the garbage piles up, makes no sense. Awake is neither spiritual or material, just what is says- wake to ones reality. I have played the role of teacher and of "one who knows", my word is not to be taken as more true than anyone else's, awake or not.
Those who are "awakened" may or may not be, but teaching to do what one does naturally, is not a role or a job, and certainly not something to be taken at its word. We have as a species been lead down some stupid paths by the "all knowing". Critical common sense and learning trust your own instincts, is much more valuable.
An old teacher once asked" why would someone want to be you teacher"?
His only point was how awake could someone be if they think that your own need to see can be enhanced. It is simply our need to see what is real, that can lead us anywhere closer to true and if that is through the eyes and mind of another, our authenticity of insight is lost. Seeking what others tell us exists, is chasing the know, not discovering the unknown. To come upon freshness, means it has to be original to us.
It seems our task is always to know why we act or not, to know our own motivations. If we seek to be awakened, why ?
Your ideas on sharing the wealth are not at all unreasonable, maybe unlikely, but not to be laughed at.
The problem, I see with inequality, in general is that we have a system, which has served us well, to provide more real goods than ever before in human existence, but requires a winner and loser. For me to have, someone else must be exploited.
The actual net worth of the planet is not is dollars made, but in actual products produced. The system of economics requires that we have shortages, that is why we pay farmers to not grow food, close factories, etc.
We "can" now produce more materials and products that we as a species can consume, we just can't afford to do this, as the system would collapse, so we try to get more needs met while exploiting the same sources for consumption or cheap labor.
I propose this: energy - in one form or another makes up 80-90% of the value of all goods made. If we focus our self interest on expanding our individual and community use of solar, through buying clubs, global purchasing and production of PV panels, we could make energy so cheap that the cost of goods would be too low to engage in their sale, hence forcing a new system of meeting our needs.
If you think your ideas are far fetched, nobody has ever taken this idea seriously. There are already community buying clubs for PV around the world, but they do not share their buying power. Less than 300k members globally, could own their own factories, support research, offer credit, create community employment, etc
This would be self interest directed, allow new systems of one man one vote, amass capital, etc.
Let me know if you think this is also crazy.

comments on joe's post

Joe, you are only speaking within the confines of Capitalism, when you say that when stuff is made and sold somebody "has" to lose. In fact, I would have to say that Capitalism ITSELF (and now most urgently in its current mutation) is the greatest embodiment of overripe stuff that has to fall from our tree for us to evolve. If you look at it as an expression of the Animal part of us--coming from Below, and all about killing and eating--in an accelerating (and now rapidly because of our population explosion) conflict with the Divine--disembodied, dispassionate Consciousness, coming from Above--you would see that Capitalism only had a few DECADES of operation within something you could call collective Conscience, and that only included male heads of families (and in this country only White ones). Basically, from WWII to the mid-70s, when credit cards were dangled in front of everybody...and just as women and non-Whites began to enter the Middle Class workforce. No single person is to "blame" here, but our staunch adherence to Capitalism AS IT MUTATES is. Because it has lost all vestiges of conscience that it began to develop in us. Capitalism is behaving exactly like a VIRUS. And what it preys on is our conscience. And now pretty much only the wealthy can afford to have one, where economics are concerned. Conscience is the developed Intellect in concert with the understood, developed Heart and the understood, tamed Body--the scared little Animal part of us that believes that no matter how we choose to live, somebody has to lose and somebody has to win. Yes, this is true with our sources of food--even plants have to die and they have emotions too. But there are other models (like the Potlatch, for instance, which was first ridiculed and then condemned and outlawed by the Europeans) we could live by--it's not Either Capitalism or fact, one way or the other (including with a lot of New Agers who can only intone We Are All One) we seem to be heading for some new kind of casual, "benevolent" (to the "winners," the ones who still willingly play the game, game the system) totalitarianism, aren't we? Margaret Atwood is a lamentably canny prophet in her latest trilogy on this subject. In my view, as long as the need for Birth Control is still being debated or avoided, nothing will stop us from fulfilling Atwood's prophecies, and all this genteel debate on this website will be just so much elitist--quite necessary, I'm sure, but still elitist--fireside chat. Because that's the other pole of the Scared Little Animal that still hasn't achieved Conscience: COMPREHENDING reconciliation with our First Chakra.

Bekah's comments on Joe's post

Hi - thanks for your thoughts. We both recognize the need to get beyond what we know as capitalism.
The largest problem seems to be that exploitation of people or other resources has been the source of wealth. Be it slavery, low wage workers, control of natural resources, etc. So distribution comes in second to the need to limit and control resources.
What is good about the craziness of the system is that capitalism in all of its mutations has a way of killing itself, either through creating "have-nots" or by eliminating sources for large returns on investment of capital. We are rapidly approaching one of these times.
We have run out new people and places to exploit, at least at a rate that justifies the risk of investment. So, without the big investments with a large promising return, investors( real ones- not us little people with 401k's), hold on to their money and leave it in treasury bonds or other safe havens.
In paralllel, the only path forward for most national economies is to join the competitive global market and take production and opportunity from others to grow economically.
The outgrowth constantly improving productivity and the rapidly expanding application of automation, will leave most of us without work for money.
My guess is that within the next 10 yrs, the relationship of income to labor will be a relic of an old world, investment will no longer make sense for most drivers of capitalist expansion and we will have so much excess productivity that something will be forced to change.
It likely will become easier to pay ourselves to solve problems than to grow monetary wealth.
More of everything for everybody can become a fact, as we begin to steadily reduce the cost of energy with the expansion of renewable sources and the cost of goods will be too cheap to sell.Once PV or wind systems are paid for, the continued energy is actually free, representing real wealth growth.
A good example is the cost curve of computer memory. It is actually almost free. The cost, small as it might be is largely packaging. As recent as 2007 1gb used to be about $20. - now about .20c.
The processes and manufacturing techniques are not dissimilar and we might all be able to print our own PV in a few years.
I do think we can help this process along, but if we don't, it will just take 5-10yrs longer. The system has begun to eat itself. It could be painful, if not planned for.
People like yourself can help plan for the changes. This is not prophecy, just taking existing principles and following them to their obvious progression. It is then we can not find our consciousness absorbed with material goods or a need to measure or struggle with one another over a need to feel safe.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and concerns.

Thoughts on Materialism

I was thinking about how I can contribute to this blog and I have decided to break up my comments into two posts. First I want to comment on Materialism and later I have some questions about the Integral approach.

With regard to Atheistic Materialism I would like to start by saying that my definition of religion is a person’s image of and relationship to the Whole. In this sense Atheistic Materialism is a reasonable religion. It has the psychological advantage of believing that everything is within the realm of the intellect, and this simple religion works for those busy looking under rocks.

Atheism can be a useful tool for separating a person from a religion that is not meaningful for them, as long as the person keeps an open mind. The problem comes from transforming the idea that “everything that can be understood should be understood” into the belief that “only things that can be understood exist.”

A major problem with modern Materialism is the claim that it is scientific. Ironically this claim is very unscientific. Before something can be considered scientific it must pass the test contained within the scientific method, and the nature of this test limits the realm of scientific facts to the physical aspect of reality and to only the simple and well behaved phenomena within physical reality. Science is excellent for studying simple things in detail and should be used whenever possible.

However, when Materialists make claims about the nature of the Whole and what it contains they leave the scientific method behind. For example, when one studies the nature of the Whole the data set is no longer a set of files generated by a calibrated, high speed, data acquisition system, it is the set of all authentic experiences, including religious experiences. The primary tool for analyzing this data set is no longer mathematics it is reason.

I have worked with many Atheistic Materialists during my career in science and interestingly most of them reject the data based on authentic experience because it has not passed the scientific method, and given that this is the pertinent data set, they are left with no meaningful data and are thus free to believe any theory they want. Ironically, in science, a theory that ignores the data has no value. The situation reminds me of those who take the Bible literally and reject scientific data.

When considering the nature of the Whole, the key for the intellectual is to require that beliefs be reasonable. For the intellectual, thinking about the Whole is the meditation. After thinking about it for a while I have come to the conclusion that believing that I am the “infinite, glorious, magnificent, immanent and transcendent whole thing pretending to be me, as I pretend to be somebody, while it becomes tomorrow” is more reasonable than the belief that I am the soulless machine Atheistic Materialism posits.

Sounds really interesting

Sounds really interesting that we are getting something more in the part 3. Keep it up with the good work.

Common action and reconciliation

This dialogue here really touches me from the very beginning. What I do find inside myself is a certain need for me as a trans-rationalist to reconcile my more spiritual / mystic approach to life with my more rationalistic / and yes! materialistic points of view inside myself. While these two approaches towards life sometimes are just in perfect harmony, they once in a while oppose each other and (seem) to ask for a certain preference. Or, and this is more often the case, I do have the feeling that this (the spiritual points of view) are just “too much” and not understandable and / or not acceptable for more rationalistic-materialistic oriented people. In other words, to be taken for serious by certain fellows this need or pressure comes up to leave some aspects of my approaches towards life aside.

Minimum for my friends with more atheistic attitudes this is true the other way round as well. In honest moments they do confess the shortcomings of a solely materialistic-rationalistic worldview and they clearly admit that some of their own experiences just don’t fit into it.

In my eyes a grown-up position clearly comes along with that confession: Wherever our personal centre is located, let it be more trans-rational, let it be more materialistic-rational, we all should be able to take into account that “the truth” may be just very different and, no matter where we stand and how “advanced” we consider our perspective to be, there is a lot of space for all kind of surprises. So, no matter which aspects of life nourish us most and seem most important to us, this is what we exactly are able to give into our collective vessel of life.

This might be already a definition of reconciliation: To deeply respect the other’s point of view, to clearly acknowledge that it’s gifts are relevant for the greater wholeness of life even though I might disagree or just can’t see it in that very moment. And jet still find a way to work together for whatever presents itself to us as a urgent need.

In this context Joe’s comment really makes sense for me. Terry’s excellent layout of various thought patterns is great food for my visionary-intellectual self and yes, I am aware that those patterns do not stop there but do take into account various states of spirit, mind, soul and heart – still; on this level of our dialogue here it seems pretty theoretical to me.

When it comes to social justice, to peace and to our relationship with mother earth there is not really a lack of urgencies with the necessity to commonly act up on. That does indeed require leaving all kind of ideological entrenchment aside and find ways to constructively connect. This is, as Joe already puts it, a matter of communication. The goal is not to leave the various controvertible aspects aside but to facilitate these common processes in a way that opens space for something that I call “organic reconciliation”. To put it more precisely the need for reconciliation does not stem from our various ways to think about life and matter but from our actions that follow these certain ways of thinking. That means if we are able to agree on certain common actions to foster life for all of us despite our various approaches to life the “reconciliation effect” may be enormous even though it was not the premise at all.

Questions about the integral approach

I want to thank you for the zoom out. It was a necessary step for this blog, and was enlightening and useful. The description of the codependence of the orders of the mind and the levels of consciousness was for me both profound and accurate.

This brings up a question. What is the relationship between consciousness and the intellect? Are they the same thing? Are they different but bound together with a balanced covalent bond? Does the intellect serve consciousness, or is it the other way around? Finally, are they like separate personal dimensions?

I vote for separate dimensions with consciousness on one axis going from oblivious to fully awake, and intellect on the other going from thoughtless to genius. In this view, the modes of thinking in your zoom out are represented by positions on this 2-dimensional plane. However, I would appreciate your view.

This leads to my second comment. When I zoom out to the level of the entire human race I see necessary specialization. There are absolutely necessary tasks for strong willed individuals, necessary tasks for emotionally strong individuals, and for the brightest intellects, the artistic geniuses, and the awakened ones. Yet, when I read Ken Wilber’s personality types he lists only four. It seems to me he left out the emotionally strong. To be fair, another genius, Carl Jung, left out the strong willed when he listed his functions of the psyche. My guess is that Wilber left emotions off because the path of consciousness sees emotions as a shadow to be overcome.

This leads to my third comment. I am probably stating something you are well aware of, but here goes anyway. I would like to caution against the biases in the path of consciousness. I understand that they are necessary for traveling the path. When someone travels a path they must turn their back on the others, but the biases should be kept in mind. Some examples of this bias include the way the chakras are arranged in a hierarchy and even the Hindu yogas, while naming the other paths, contain a message that is biased toward consciousness. For the intellectual the meditation of Jnana Yoga borders on offensive. It is clearly a method for quieting the intellect and not a Yoga for the intellect.

This being said, I think you have developed a magnificent path and I pray that you reach everyone who can awake. My concern is that evolution seems to be fostering specialization and is reinforcing the differences in our personalities. I don’t believe that one path will serve all of humanity. I know Ken Wilber is discussing a world spirituality based on Buddhism, but I feel that a world spiritualism must include the various necessary personality types and embrace the spiritual paths associated with these types.

My attempt to do this is based on the idea of a multidimensional personal reality. This reality is a five dimensional space where the axes are the paths of the will, emotion, sensuality, intellect, and consciousness. Each has a spiritual path with specific religious experiences and each has its biases. Since it is a five dimensional space each axis is at right angles to all of the others, and so is free to gain support from the wisdom of the others. In this view the modes of thinking you defined would be represented as positions within this five dimensional volume.

You probably have another, better model for this and I would be interested in learning about it. Finally I have a simple request. I am looking for others with a perspective similar to mine and would appreciate the names of the other people you have met who have made an argument like mine.

Sam Harris

I am joining this discussion rather late, but this gives me the advantage of reading not only Terry's posts, but also the many excellent comments posted by readers. Terry, you have the makings of a book here. Looking forward to future posts. I would recommend more commentary explaining the fascinating graphs you provided in post three. I'm not alway sure what the graphs are representing. Of course, explaining them in more detail would make your post three even longer.
I recommend to all readers that they have a look at the book Mind and Cosmos, published a few years ago by an eminent American philosopher, Thomas Nagel. The book's subtitle gives away its controversial point of view: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. Arguing that consciousness cannot be reduced to configurations of matter-energy, Nagel moves toward a kind of panpsychism, a position that has been around for thousands of years. I cannot summarize his brilliant book here, but as one might expect, it was not received kindly by the materialist philosophical establishment, some members of which in effect alleged that advancing age had dimmed Nagel's mind. Such ad hominem arguments are hardly rebuttals to the sometimes brilliant moves that Nagel makes.
We are at a moment of great importance, as we attempt to negotiate a way forward, beyond the current atheism vs. theism debate.

Ways of Passion and Illumination

Terry, I had the pleasure of listening to your discussion with Andrew Harvey yesterday. I think some of the elements of that discussion are relevant to this one.

First I would like to say that it was a profound discussion that in many ways might be new and evolutionary. I recommend it to everyone.

For me, the way that it relates to this blog has to do with the differences and similarities of the two perspectives that were presented. In my view one perspective was that of the heart and the other was from consciousness. Both completely valid and essential.

The mystical path of consciousness has been so well outlined by the Hindus and Buddhists, and updated by modern mystics, that it has become the standard which the others react to. Andrew had the advantage of being aware of the path of consciousness, while his seemed more undefined to me. I think this is the same for the path of the intellect.

The path of love Andrew presented came from Jesus, Rumi, Kabir, and Andrew himself. The greatest experience on this path is the experience of God's love in the form of the whole universe ablaze with the love of the beloved. Consciousness, on the other hand, experiences God's consciousness as self with a sensation of overwhelming Bliss. One sees God's heart and the other becomes God's consciousness.

The wedding of these inner dimensions comes when both are embraced and honored for their contributions. A person may favor one path but honors both. It is like being right handed but honoring both hands for what they can do alone and together.

For me the wedding in this blog is a similar situation. On the path of consciousness one quiets the mind, whereas on the path of the intellect one opens the mind. The highest experience is not God's consciousness but the observation of God's intellect, an intellect that thinks and considers millions of ideas simultaneously. One that is to our intellects as the ocean is to a thimble full of water.

Each path has its rules and values. The key is to honor them for what they are, the greatest gift possible.

Zooming out

It seems to me that in 2015 about 1/3 of the people follow their hearts, 1/3 their wills, and the last 1/3 is divided into intellectuals, artists, and awakened ones. This diversity has evolved over time and for each group there is a spiritual path. Some, like the path of the will, are in disarray and in serious need of help.

This is the first time in history that all five groups are established enough to stand up to power. Artists needed technology and mass communication for their voices to be heard. Scientists needed to prove their worth.

In any case, I think the way forward is to embrace this diversity. The Whole became this multidimensional humanity and if we have a purpose then this diversity is needed. Spiritually, I consider the Whole to be much more complex than we are, and easily able to respond to and nurture this specialization.

Each path is necessary and essential, and has much wisdom to offer. We need to learn how to share our special gifts and honor each other. I know that there is a great need for action right now, but I also feel there is a great need to work this out and provide a common ground for communication.

multidimensional inner world

I had great hopes when I found this blog. Your group uses words like integral and now, with your latest class, multidimensional. Unfortunately you use these words to redefine a practice and not in the sense of an integral and multidimensional metaphysics that would work for the world person.

I sensed when I first came to this blog that a discussion of the intellectual mystical path was too much to hope for. It is the only path that sees all of the others in detail and it needs people who can contribute ideas for the great global picture we need so badly.

I understand the importance of teaching and that people need to wake up, but are you teaching the best ideas, and are they truly global?

I don't expect to receive a reply.


Just wanted to say thank you, Terry, I look forward to the next in this series.

This is the kind of constructive, integrally informed critique of Harris that I have been waiting for, although I too love Harris himself, and all the work he has been doing. Taking the 'Integral Spirituality' course with Wilber helps me hold your definitions of the emergence of increasingly inclusive perspectives the comes with adult development.

Your last dot point excites me "Why mindfulness meditation practice and quantitative neurological research into its effects are the one thing that’s broadly liked and accepted by all participants in this debate — and why that will likely prove to be far more significant than most people realise." as I will finding my way as a high school teacher in Australia next year.

Many exciting challenges and opportunities await!

Please, Please... continue this conversation!


At the start of Part 1 of this series of blog posts on the "marriage of science and spirit" you said "The marriage of science and spirit is THE big thing happening now in terms of cultural evolution—an event on the scale of the Reformation or the Enlightenment. It is the most significant intellectual and cultural event of our time and it will reshape the future of human affairs."

I couldn't agree more on the importance of this topic. You then offered what I found to be a brilliant contribution to this topic with your wonderfully mature and integral vision. You indicated at the end of Part 3 topics that would be up coming in the series (which was about 1.5 years ago).

My comment is simply a plea to you to continue to focus on this important topic and keep this conversation going. Terry, I think your perspective is invaluable and would love to see you continue diving into this topic and sharing your wisdom.

Kind Regards,

David Hogg

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