Integirl Explains It All

A Dramatic Book Review of
Integral Spirituality by Ken Wilber & A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

In 2006 I wrote an 8,700-word book review for EnlightenNext magazine (Issue 33, June–August 2006) in the form of a dramatic play, contrasting and critiquing the philosophies espoused by two of that year's popular spiritual books: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and Integral Spirituality by Ken Wilber. The full text is reproduced below.

Ext. Sidewalk Cafe, Vancouver, BC.

Mid-afternoon. A petite, attractive 22-year-old Californian woman named Integirl is walking down the sidewalk toward an outdoor cafe, where Jasper, a tall, suave 30-year-old Canadian man, sits waiting for her at a small table. Having met each other on the spiritual networking site a few weeks earlier, Integirl and Jasper quickly bonded over a shared interest in the mystical fiction of J.D. Salinger. Today, Integirl is in Vancouver to attend one of American philosopher Ken Wilber’s Integral Weekend Experiential Training (I-WET) seminars and has seized the opportunity to meet Jasper in person to continue their email discussion—and maybe more.

Jasper is a multimillionaire who retired in his late twenties from his dot-com successes as a software designer. These days he does as little as possible, 24/7. He is wearing Dolce & Gabbana slacks and a long-sleeve shirt, both black, with polished shoes and silver mirrored Armani sunglasses. He never wears a watch.

Integirl is currently an art major at UCLA. She is dressed in pretorn Arizona blue jeans, a long-sleeve turquoise shirt from Target, hot-pink Converse All Star sneakers, and a black nylon vest. She has an eyebrow piercing, dark mascara, and blonde hair dyed black with red highlights, tied back in a ponytail. Stylishly affixed to her vest are laminated charts and diagrams from the works of Ken Wilber.

She grins as she approaches Jasper, who stands up suddenly to greet her, knocking over his chair.

JASPER: Oops, jeez.

INTEGIRL [giggling]: Heya, Jasper Townsend. It’s me, Integirl!

JASPER: Hey there! Nice to meet you, ah . . . “Integirl,” you said?

INTEGIRL: Yeah, I go by Jasmine on Zaadz and other places online—it’s the lame-ass name my parents gave me—but in real life I prefer Integirl. Like a combo of “integral” and “girl,” the theoretical and the embodied. As a form of self-expression, you know?

JASPER: Oh, neat. That’s cool.

INTEGIRL: Yeah! Mind if I call you “J.T.”?

JASPER: I think I prefer Jasper, actually.


JASPER: Would you care to sit down?

INTEGIRL: Sure, I’d love to.

[Jasper quickly pulls a chair out for her and then picks up his own chair and sits down opposite. Taking off his sunglasses, he hands her the cup of coffee he’d ordered her.]

INTEGIRL: Thank you. [Sips her coffee and smiles.] Hey, you know, you look a lot cuter in person than you do in your pics on Zaadz.

JASPER [grins]: Thanks! You too, Jasmi—er, I mean, Integirl. Sorry.

INTEGIRL: No prob, man, no prob. It’s totally my fault. I guess I, um, kinda like to keep people confused.

JASPER [Laughs]: Anyway, you look great. You come here often?

INTEGIRL: Nah—I’ve never been to Vancouver before. But it’s a pretty sweet place, you know? I’m diggin’ it.

JASPER: Cool. I’ve lived here all my life, and every day here is still incredible. You’re from—where? L.A., right?

INTEGIRL: Studio City, yeah. Near Beverly Hills. I guess it ain’t too shabby either. Except, you know, for the smog.

[The two exchange a smile between sips of coffee.]

INTEGIRL: Dude, it’s just so cool we finally got a chance to meet each other—in person, I mean.

JASPER: Definitely!

INTEGIRL: I wanted to tell you—last night I was, like, in my hotel room, reading through our email exchange . . .? And at one point I was suddenly just, like, struck by how deep some of the things you wrote me actually were. Some of it just has real spiritual transmission, you know? Horizontal depth.

JASPER [nodding]: Yeah, I know what you mean. [He reaches down below his chair and picks up a small diary.] You see this? I call it my “Eternity Journal,” which I only allow myself to write in when I feel as though I’m really present and awake to the Now, the timeless reality of what is. So some of the lines in those emails I actually quoted from here. It’s powerful stuff.

INTEGIRL: Oh, so that explains why all my emails sound so completely lame next to yours! [Laughs.]

JASPER: Hey, no, come on—I’ve enjoyed every one of your emails. You’re obviously pretty brilliant. And still in college, right?

INTEGIRL: Uh-huh. I go to UCLA—for, like, graphic design.

JASPER: That’s right—you sent me the flier you designed for that conference you’re attending.

INTEGIRL [making “air quotes” with her fingers]: Yeah, the “I-WET” seminar. Don’t ask me why they chose that name. [Laughs.]

JASPER [smiles]: How’s that going, eh?

INTEGIRL: Well, it’s been tons of fun, but it’s totally exhausting, you know? I’m actually supposed to be in a session about 3-2-1 shadow integration right now, but I already know about that, so I’m cutting class to see you. Get this, though: Ken Wilber himself is going to be video-conferenced in for the evening session! So obviously I’ll have to be back for that, like, for sure. He’s amazing.

JASPER: That’s what I hear. I’ve read a little of his work myself, but I couldn’t really get into it. Didn’t seem to be much there, if you know what I mean.

INTEGIRL [shakes head]: Uh, no. I don’t know what you mean.

JASPER: Well, spiritually, I’m saying. Of course, a few years ago, when all I did in my spare time was read psychology and philosophy books, I’m sure I would’ve been into his work. But nowadays, ever since I discovered the power of the present moment, that stuff doesn’t really interest me anymore. It’s way too intellectual and abstract.



INTEGIRL: You said it’s too abstract?

JASPER: Yes, extremely abstract. It’s just all so theoretical and “of the mind,” so to speak. You see, I discovered one day a couple years ago that we don’t need to use the mind nearly so much in everyday life as most of us think we do. There’s a deeper source of intelligence within us that’s always awake, always ready to respond.


JASPER: Don’t get me wrong—I can definitely see why someone as intelligent as you would be attracted to Wilber’s stuff. And from the little I read, it did seem sort of interesting. But then, the mind finds almost everything “interesting,” doesn’t it? [He drinks the last of his coffee and then points at Integirl’s chest.] Take those two big diagrams on your vest, for instance.

INTEGIRL [looking down and pointing]: These ones?

JASPER: Yes. Now, ever since you sat down, my mind hasn’t been able to stop fixating on them. They’re quite distracting, actually.

INTEGIRL: Oh, really? [Smiles] Maybe it’d help if I explained them to you?

JASPER: No, no, that’s all right. I was just explaining how—

INTEGIRL [interrupts]: It’s funny, I wasn’t even sure if I should wear this vest today, you know? But I kinda thought you might be interested. The diagrams are all, like, scanned from Ken Wilber’s books. Why don’t you come a little closer, so you can see what they say? [Jasper nods and leans across the table, focusing his attention intently on Integirl’s chest as she uses her finger to walk him through one of the diagrams.] So, um, this one here on the right . . .? It’s basically, like, the whole foundation of Ken’s work. It’s called the four quadrants.

JASPER: Uh-huh.

INTEGIRL: And you see how it says “I” up here in the upper left quadrant and “It” over here on the right side? [Jasper nods.] The “I” refers to the subjective dimension, or like, the interior realm of consciousness, of any sentient being. And the “It” refers to the objective, exterior dimension—like, the physical body—of that same being. Got it?

JASPER: The physical body. Uh-huh.

INTEGIRL: Yeah, or the mental and the physical, or consciousness and energy. Basically, for any sentient being in the entire Kosmos—which potentially includes, like, things all the way down to molecules and atoms—there are these two dimensions, neither of which can be reduced to the other, you know? They always arise simultaneously, like, you know, two halves of the same coin.

JASPER: Uh-huh.

[She looks at him expectantly.]

INTEGIRL: Don’t you want to know about the bottom two quadrants?

JASPER: Oh—sure.

INTEGIRL: Cool. So down here . . . [She puts her finger back on the diagram] the “We” and the “Its.” These are, like, the collective dimensions of any sentient being, or what Ken calls “holons”—you know, whole beings that are simultaneously parts of larger beings? So the upper quadrants are individual, and the bottom quads are collective. Like, even just you and me, having this conversation . . .? We’re each individual holons, but together we form a “We,” a cultural exchange of, like, shared meanings, values, and stuff like that. See? [Jasper slowly nods and raises his hand to point toward the last square on the diagram.] And that one, yeah—the lower right—that’s what you and I just sitting here talking right now look and sound like from the outside. It’s the exterior, social form of our interior “We.” Ken calls it the “Its” quadrant, which is a weird term, but whatever—the plural of “It,” the objective, material side of things.

JASPER [continuing to point]: So . . . the “We” and the “Its”—what?—“quadrants,” you called them? They’re cultural and social . . .

INTEGIRL: Yep, that’s right.

[Jasper stops pointing at her chest to signal a passing waitress.]

JASPER: Kate, can I have another decaf?

KATE: Sure, Jasper! I’ll bring it right out.

[He leans back in toward Integirl, smiling warmly.]

JASPER: You really know your stuff, eh? It’s impressive! You must know these charts backwards and forwards—like every time you look in a mirror, there they are: backwards! [He laughs at his own joke.]

INTEGIRL [laughs politely]: Yeah, I guess I know ’em pretty well. But did you, like, get the point of what I explained? How the four quadrants give a truly integral picture of the four dimensions that are always, like, inherent to any holon or sentient being?

JASPER: Yes . . . I guess I sort of get the gist. You’re basically saying—correct me if I’m wrong—that almost all sentient beings in the universe are trapped in this grid of multiplicity and duality. Consciousness and matter, individual and collective—the basic fundamental dualities on which ignorance thrives. So it’s basically a map that Wilber’s drawn of the ego’s worldview . . .

INTEGIRL [frowns]: Ego? Ignorance? No, man, this is reality. You’re, like, only [air quotes] “ignorant” to the degree that you don’t know about these four dimensions of the Kosmos.

JASPER: Well, it’s just that dividing reality into all these parts—inside and outside, one and many, upper half and lower half, consciousness and matter—seems fairly dualistic to me. And that’s just the way the ego sees the world: as a realm of separation and fragmentation. Not exactly a spiritual oneness, right?

INTEGIRL: Well, no—no, wait. [She pauses a second to think.] The point of the four quadrants is that the whole manifest Kosmos is really all just one emergence—like, the “I,” “We,” “It,” and “Its” dimensions all arise together, simultaneously, you know? As Ken says, they “co-arise” or “tetra-interact.” It’s like the whole world of form is just one big integral process, and saying that any of the four dimensions are separate from each other or that any one can be reduced to any other one is the only thing that would be particularly “ignorant” about it. You know?

[The waitress arrives with Jasper’s coffee.]

JASPER: Mmmm. Thanks, Kate. [He closes his eyes and brings the coffee up to his nose, inhaling and exhaling very slowly.]

INTEGIRL: Um . . . hello? Dude, did you hear any of what I just said?

JASPER [opens his eyes]: Oh, I’m sorry. Yes, I heard you, Jasmine. You were saying that Wilber’s four quadrants are a description of how the world of form works. Right? The dualistic, manifest universe? But Wilber doesn’t seem to be taking into account the realm of the Unmanifested, the vast ocean of Being or Consciousness, that underlies and interpenetrates all created forms. And that’s all there ultimately is, anyway. As my favorite author says, the entire realm of form is really nothing more than “ripples on the surface of Being.”

INTEGIRL: Ripples on the surface of Being? That’s kinda cool! Ken uses the Sanskrit term “lila” sometimes, which means, like, the whole Divine play of involution and evolution. Sort of the same idea, I think.

JASPER: I guess so—it sounds similar. So I take it Wilber does talk about the unmanifest realm?

INTEGIRL: For sure! Ken is a very spiritual person, so, like, ever since he began writing—um, way back in the seventies—his whole mission in life has basically been to find a way to integrate the unmanifest spiritual dimension of reality, or pure Emptiness, with the whole complex and multidimensional world of Form. Finding out how, you know, Spirit manifests as the created world. These days, his four quadrants are, like, totally the basis for understanding that. [She pauses a second to make sure Jasper is following.] So now Ken’s latest book is coming out, called Integral Spirituality, and it’s the most convincing case ever for why spirituality and God and religion are still, like, valid and actually even necessary in today’s world. Which has obviously become, as Ken says, a completely materialistic flatland, you know?

[Integirl leans back, pulls a few small items out of her pockets, and sets them on the table. She picks up a small round mirror and flips it open to check her makeup.]

JASPER: “Flatland”—I like that. That’s a great term. The narcissistic ego actually enjoys living in a world of complete superficiality, doesn’t it? It’s crazy. [Integirl nods while applying lip gloss.] But I really don’t get why Wilber has spent the last three decades of his life trying to “integrate” Emptiness and Form. They’re one and the same thing.

INTEGIRL [putting down her mirror and makeup]: Well, right. Obviously. I didn’t mean he’s just integrating Emptiness and Form, because he’s also trying to show how the entire realm of Form—the whole evolving Kosmos of minds and cultures, bodies and societies—is ultimately unified as one vast, holistic, integral process as well. Like, that’s in addition to everything being one with the unmanifest causal realm, or nondual Spirit. So it’s a really big thing he’s doing, you know? You should totally check out Integral Spirituality. It literally explains everything.

JASPER [shakes his head]: But you can’t explain “everything”! That’s the problem with all these guys—philosophers, scientists, psychologists, theorists, so-called intellectuals . . . They’re convinced—utterly convinced—that they can somehow “figure it out” through enough words, enough thoughts. Especially really convoluted and complex thoughts. But it’s just crazy. Reality cannot be contained by the dualistic thinking mind. Words can point to it, but that’s all. Most of these really bright philosopher types seem to miss that rather, ah, crucial distinction.

INTEGIRL: Well, I don’t think Ken Wilber is like that. He’s always emphasizing the limits of the mind, you know? If you check out his amazing book One Taste, or even his more popular one, A Theory of Everything, you’ll see that even there, like, in the last chapter, he—

JASPER [interrupts]: A Theory of Everything? Jesus! You see what I mean? Jasmine—Integirl, sorry—you can’t have a theory of everything. That’s just insane. That’s the very definition of insanity.

INTEGIRL: What? Why?

JASPER: Well, all right—just go ahead and try to come up with a “theory” of the present moment. Can you do it? Can you even begin to explain all of this—right here, right now? [He slowly waves his hands in the air as he looks around.] See the radiant sun, the drifting clouds, the traffic going by, those trees across the street over there gently swaying in the breeze? Can you capture in a theory, in a bundle of thoughts, the mysterious totality of this present moment?

INTEGIRL: Um . . . Well . . .

JASPER [warmly]: You can’t, can you? I don’t think Ken Wilber can, either. That’s my point.

INTEGIRL: But . . .

[Integirl is quiet for a moment.]

JASPER: I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t upset you.

INTEGIRL: No, it’s fine—I’m just thinking.

JASPER [leans back, stroking his chin]: As I said, I used to be very, very interested in the contents of the mind myself. But then one day I discovered a thin green book by a man named Eckhart, and after reading just a few pages of his enlightened genius, the search for meaning that had been consuming me every minute of every day for two whole years finally—and blissfully—came to an end. Two years after waking up to the startling fact that money reallycouldn’t buy me happiness—or love [winks at Integirl]—which led me to dust off all my old philosophy textbooks, waste money on all kinds of New Age stuff, and obsessively pore over every word of every spiritual book and website I could find—after years of that, with the discovery of this one last book, I realized I’d simply been looking for God in all the wrong places. I realized that I didn’t need to search for any kind of meaning or fulfillment outside of the vast, timeless, and luminous space called Now.

INTEGIRL: Wow! Just from reading Meister Eckhart?! That is so cool! His writings were, like, my first introduction to mysticism ever. My uncle, who’s a Catholic priest, gave me a book of his when I was fifteen, and even though it was all written, like, seven or eight hundred years ago, it was still completely relevant, and it totally blew my mind. Christianity with depth instead of dogma! Who knew, right?

JASPER [embarrassed]: Er . . . uh . . . I didn’t actually mean Meister Eckhart. My teacher is Eckhart Tolle. You know—the author of The Power of Now?

INTEGIRL: Ohhhhh . . . right.

[A moment of awkward silence.]

JASPER: But you know, you’re actually not that far off. After his awakening, Eckhart Tolle did change his first name from “Ulrich” to “Eckhart,” inspired by Meister Eckhart’s powerful example of being able to convey the highest, most esoteric spiritual truths in simple language to the masses. In fact, I even read in a Beliefnet forum once that some people think he’s the reincarnation of Meister Eckhart.

INTEGIRL: Oh, wow! That’s wild.

JASPER: Fascinating, eh?

INTEGIRL: Definitely. [Pause.] Anyway, man, I actually did read The Power of Now when it came out. It’s pretty cool.

JASPER [leaning forward]: Yeah? You liked it?

INTEGIRL: For sure. Unlike most of the stuff out there, it’s got some real depth. I mean, Tolle’s definitely in a very deep state, and he seems to transmit it powerfully. At the same time, it’s obviously pretty one-dimensional, you know?

JASPER: One-dimensional? But don’t you think he’s enlightened?

INTEGIRL: Well, I don’t know . . . Cuz, like, spiritual state realizations are one thing, and psychological structure, or stage, development is quite another. And if you don’t consciously cultivate both so that you’re, like, totally maxed out on the developmental matrix—at both horizontal and vertical vertices—then you can’t possibly have anything like [air quotes] “full” enlightenment, you know? That’s in Integral Spirituality too. It’s called the Wilber-Combs Lattice.

JASPER: Not fully enlightened?! Eckhart Tolle is one of the most enlightened beings on this planet! You obviously don’t know what the hell you’re— [He stops himself and closes his eyes, taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly. A moment later, he opens his eyes again, smiling gently.] I’m sorry. I got a bit carried away there—by my pain-body.

INTEGIRL: Your what?

JASPER: My pain-body. It’s what Eckhart calls the almost parasitic entity within us that is made of negative energy and emotion. It can take you over in an instant, almost like being possessed by a demon, if you aren’t being present enough. You must know what I mean. Everyone has a pain-body. Don’t you remember—he wrote about it in The Power of Now?

INTEGIRL [nodding]: Ohhh yeah—kinda. I think so. Sort of.

JASPER: Well, the first step toward becoming free of the pain-body is to recognize that you have one. And then, of course, the trick is to become present and alert enough so that you can stop yourself from acting on it when it arises—to basically sever the connection, so it’ll stop feeding the ego with negativity. I admit I haven’t fully disidentified from my pain-body yet. It still overwhelms me sometimes when I least expect it—that is, you know, when certain triggers provoke it.

INTEGIRL: So are you, like, okay?

JASPER: Yes, I’m fine. And I’m sorry. [He closes his eyes as he begins to speak slowly and deliberately.] Fortunately . . . simply by focusing one’s attention . . . on the subtle depth of the inner body . . . the pain-body fades into the background . . . and one stops reacting to . . . resisting . . . the isness of this moment. Then one is free . . . to let whatever happens . . . happen.

INTEGIRL: Well, um . . . can I tell you about the Wilber-Combs Lattice now?

JASPER [opening his eyes]: Sure—yes, go right ahead.

INTEGIRL: Cool. Man, it’s just awesome. You’re gonna love it. [She looks again at the diagrams emblazoned on the front of her vest, then unzips it and takes it off, scanning the plastic charts on the back. Realizing she’s missing one, she frowns and puts the vest down on the table.] Um, you got a pen?

JASPER: I think so.

[As Jasper searches his pockets, Integirl undoes her ponytail, shaking her long black-and-red hair loose and running her hands through it. She leans on the table, resting her chin on one hand and waiting patiently.]

JASPER [initially startled as he looks up, he smiles and hands her a pen]: Here you go.

INTEGIRL: Cool, thanks! [Grins.] You’re pretty cute when you get angry, you know that?

JASPER [raises his eyebrows]: Oh, really?

[Integirl winks at him and then begins sketching on a napkin the Wilber-Combs Lattice—a simple grid with four horizontal rows and four vertical columns, making a total of sixteen squares. To the left of the grid, she labels each ascending row with the words “egocentric,” “ethnocentric,” “worldcentric,” and “Kosmocentric”; across the top of the grid, she marks the vertical columns with “gross,” “subtle,” “causal,” and “nondual.”]

INTEGIRL: Alrighty, there’s a simplified version of the W-C Lattice.

JASPER: Okay . . .

INTEGIRL: Now, most scholars agree that over the course of human history, people have gone through at least three major stages of sociocultural development. That’s the Y axis here, the ascending horizontal scale of, like, major psychological structures of consciousness. It goes from egocentric, which means selfish and narcissistic, to ethnocentric, which is tribal and nationalistic, to worldcentric or, like, global and humanistic. Okay?

JASPER: “Structures” of the mind—right. Eckhart writes a lot about that, especially in his brilliant new book, A New Earth. He even says something like, “If the structures of the human mind remain unchanged, we will always end up re-creating the same dysfunctional world.” That’s why the evolution of consciousness is so important—especially now, when the collective insanity of the human species is off the charts.

INTEGIRL: Right on! Exactly. And Ken says that after egocentric, ethnocentric, and worldcentric levels, there’s a fourth major structure that human consciousness is just barely beginning to venture into—a tiny, tiny, like, fraction of a percentage of the Western population—and that’s the Kosmocentric level. [She points to the napkin.] That’s where you begin to identify with, like, the whole evolutionary force that’s driving forward the entire Kosmos of space and time, matter and mind, you know? It means you start caring deeply about the future—putting your attention on the future of life and evolution and consciousness.

JASPER: Well, I know that Eckhart doesn’t exactly advocate putting one’s attention on the future! Unless you’re a professional psychic, I suppose. [Smiles.] In A New Earth, he writes about an “evolutionary impulse” a couple of times, but I don’t think he means quite the same thing as what you’re describing. He says we can become conscious participants in the “evolutionary process” through what he calls “the denial of time.” By negating time, we discover our true purpose for being here—making human Being primary in our lives rather than human doing, which is always secondary. Because the so-called future is nothing but a byproduct of the Now, you see, a new and brighter future, the “new earth” that Eckhart writes about, will emerge very naturally out of each of us learning to bring conscious Presence to every moment of every day—just being very alert and undistracted in whatever we happen to be doing.

INTEGIRL [slyly]: Really? Even if we’re bank robbers, rapists, or ax murderers?

JASPER: What?!

INTEGIRL [shakes her head]: Nothing. Never mind. Anyway, Tolle’s definition of evolution just seems kinda weird to me. How is “denying time” going to ensure our continued evolution and a better future? Doesn’t evolution, like, require time? At least according to most dictionaries?

JASPER: Well . . . I suppose most dictionaries have probably been written from the state of egoic unconsciousness, haven’t they? So they don’t take into account this evolutionary leap out of bondage to time altogether that’s happening right now—humans awakening from identification with form, dissolving all old structures in the timeless ground of Now. Including, perhaps, the total dissolution of the world itself! Though that’s probably unlikely.

INTEGIRL: You want the world to dissolve? How’s that gonna help the evolutionary process? The whole point of developing to the Kosmocentric structure of consciousness is to identify with the world, with the entire Kosmos itself, and to take conscious responsibility for its future—not to sit around wondering if it’ll “dissolve”!

JASPER: Oh, I see. So Wilber’s “Kosmocentric” idea means that instead of people just ignorantly identifying with their individual bodies and minds, they should expand their egos to encompass the whole universe?! Identifying with all forms? That’s like some kind of “Kosmic narcissism”—ignorance taken to the nth degree! [Shakes his head and snorts.] The kind of egoic mind structure you’re envisioning literally sounds insane. Fortunately, as Eckhart observes in A New Earth, “All structures are unstable”—destined to return to the eternal Stillness whence they came.

INTEGIRL: Huh? What are you talking about? Like, I don’t think you understand any of what I’m even saying.

JASPER [raises his eyebrows]: No? You don’t think so?

INTEGIRL: No. I don’t. Just listen, okay? “Kosmocentric” is not an egoic structure—it’s like third tier, man! It’s a structure, a stage, a perspective, an altitude, a worldview of consciousness that is actually, like, the total leading edge of human evolution at this time in history. Especially when that high vertical structure is also supported by, or grounded in, what you’re talking about: a deep horizontal state of spiritual awareness—subtle, causal, or nondual. [She runs her finger across the top row of her W-C Lattice diagram.] And, you know, Kosmocentric still transcends and includes all levels of development that have come before it, so it still has, like, second-tier integral or high worldcentric structures within it too. But it isn’t just about a state, and it isn’t just worldcentric—unlike Eckhart Tolle and, you know, almost every other spiritual teacher out there these days, especially of the “be here now” variety.

JASPER: Well, come on, Jasmine, I don’t—

INTEGIRL [interrupts]: Shhh! This is important! At least from what I’ve read, Tolle is mostly green—which in Ken’s color-coded spectrum of consciousness is, like, a low sublevel of the worldcentric structure of development. It’s still first tier. Haven’t you ever wondered why so many of the things he writes about are the kinds of things you find in any New Agey spiritual book, despite his genuine spiritual awakening and depth? [She begins making frequent air quotes.] Like stuff on feeling the “inner energy body” or that there’s a “new species” of spiritually enlightened human beings overtaking the planet right now? [She looks around at people sitting at nearby tables.] I mean, it’s like, really? Where? But, anyway, it’s all because he’s green, dude! Just like every other so-called cultural creative of the boomer generation. You’ve gotta read Ken’s completely awesome book Boomeritis. It explains it all.

JASPER [frowning]: Jasmine, there’s nothing “New Agey” about the inner body! It’s part of who you are—a subtle but perfectly verifiable dimension of your own being.

INTEGIRL: Okay, fine, whatever. I dunno. But in any case, the green structure, or worldview, is, like, multicultural and pluralistic and humanistic, okay? Loving and caring and sharing and, like, respectful of all races, genders, castes, and creeds. Just basic postmodernity, you know? It’s what emerged in the sixties revolution. That’s the only problem, see? Tolle is obviously green, but that isn’t, like, a bad thing in itself. John Lennon was pure green too. But green emerged in full force over forty years ago! Things are changing fast these days, and green, you know, just isn’t the most advanced stage of consciousness anymore. There’s much higher manifestations of the worldcentric structure, like integral thinking, for instance—um, teal and turquoise in Ken’s model. And then, as I said, there’s the very advanced Kosmocentric level, too, which some rare individuals—like Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo—first began to, like, intuit as a possibility sometime in the last century.

JASPER: So your point is . . .?

INTEGIRL [exasperated]: My point is that if there is anything like [air quotes] “full” enlightenment, then according to Integral Spirituality and the W-C Lattice, it would have to mean being one with the deepest horizontal state of consciousness and one with the highest vertical structure of consciousness that have emerged at any given time in history. Both. Simultaneously. Get it? [With the pen she circles the square at the upper right corner of the grid drawn on her napkin.] You see? And today, like in the year 2006, that means if you’re only at the green structure of worldviews, morals, values, and cognitive development, then, dude, you’re still stuck in the sixties—no matter what kind of enlightened state you’re timelessly abiding in. Just look at the chart! You can be maxed out on the horizontal plane—the X axis—and awake to, like, all four major states of consciousness: gross, subtle, causal, and nondual, which some would consider to be [air quotes] “enlightenment.” But your vertical development, on the Y axis, could still be relatively low—many levels removed from, like, the real cutting edge of human evolution. Okay? You still with me?

JASPER [fuming]: No, I am not “with you”! How can I possibly be expected to be “with you” when you’re just pummeling me with an endless barrage of more and more . . . concepts?! Eh? Your beloved Ken Wilber has got you completely and utterly trapped in your mind! He tries to come off as some modern-day Zen master with his shiny bald head on the covers of all his books, baiting smart and sensitive souls with promises of spiritual enlightenment, but all he’s really doing is capturing people in more sophisticated or “integral” webs of sheerest ignorance! And you’re a perfect example. You’re the living proof. [Integirl frowns.] I mean, you keep going on about “enlightenment” this and that, but why do I strongly suspect that you don’t have any actual experience of spiritual depth at all? If you did, you’d be using the mind more creatively—there’d be a lot more space around your ideas, a lot more . . . silence. But there isn’t! So tell me, Jasmine, Integirl, whatever—do you ever stop? Do you ever just be? Do you meditate, Jasmine? Hmm?

INTEGIRL [quietly]: Well . . . I . . . I watched the “Big Mind” DVD that came with my Integral Life Practice kit.

JASPER: You watched a DVD?! That’s the extent of your spiritual experience?

[Integirl stares blankly into space. Jasper sighs, puts his elbows on the table, and rests his forehead in his hands. After a few seconds, he looks up to see Integirl looking down at the table, frowning and biting her lower lip.]

JASPER [more calmly]: Look, Jasmine . . . you’ve been going on about these “structures of consciousness” as if they somehow have anything to do with enlightenment. But as I’ve been saying—if you’d only listen—enlightenment means being free of all structures. It means rising above thought, above the mind, completely. And that’s why awakening to pure Presence, pure Consciousness, the silent intensity of the Now is so absolutely necessary to our collective evolution. Only that has the power to dissolve all thoughts, all forms, all layers of illusion. Only that allows us to see the world clearly. In fact, awakening to the Now is the only reason we’re even here. Because as long as people still believe in the inherent reality of thoughts and emotions—and all the painful limitation that comes from that false identification— then they’re really just a bunch of unconscious egos living in a dream. A dramatic, poignant, sometimes even beautiful dream—but a dream nonetheless.

[Integirl considers him for a moment, sullenly sipping on her now-cold coffee, thinking. Jasper is about to say something when she abruptly cuts him off.]

INTEGIRL [intensely]: You know what, dude? You know what? The problem with all of you obsessively mystical types—including Tolle and every other “be here now” junkie—is that you all think you’re so, like, radiant and perfect just because you can be in some unconditioned, thoughtless state of mind. But more often than not, it really is “thoughtless”! As Ken Wilber says . . . [She pauses a second to scowl at Jasper.] You don’t take into account the fact that there are serious pathological shadow elements in your psyche that no amount of meditation can ever purify, and you don’t take into account all the major cultural conditioning that every single spiritual experience gets filtered through. Your whole philosophical outlook on life is, like, painfully two-dimensional. And that’s why so many postmodern philosophers, like, went to town on religion, and mysticism, and all other patriarchal, hypermasculine, narrow-minded, navel-gazing paths to some supposedly universal “Truth.” You guys think that because you can experience a state of pure, unconditioned consciousness that you are then somehow automatically unconditioned too. But that’s impossible! [She slams her hand on the table, spilling coffee all over Jasper.]

JASPER [pushing himself away from the table]: Dammit! [He grabs his napkin and starts wiping off his shirt and pants, while a busboy hurries over to clean up the spill.]

INTEGIRL [embarrassed]: Oh, God—sorry. I guess I got a little carried away there. [She smiles sheepishly and grabs her vest, makeup, and W-C Lattice napkin off the table to keep them dry, setting them down beside her chair.] Oh—let me help you with that. [Borrowing one of the busboy’s dry towels, she leans over to help Jasper wipe off his shirt and pants, continuing her tirade.] But what I was saying is that we couldn’t even be having this conversation unless we were totally conditioned over millions of years—cognitively, linguistically, culturally, biologically, and even spiritually too. And if it wasn’t for all of that conditioning and, like, all those very real developmental structures that comprise our human psyches, neither of us would be able to, like, open our mouths. And you definitely wouldn’t be able to comprehend anything that your beloved Eckhart Tolle has written. There would be no freakin’ Power of Now! And not only that . . . [She’s about to continue wiping off his clothes, but hesitates when she realizes that he’s now glaring at her.] But, Jasper, you know this whole idea that you can, like, somehow see the world totally clearly and objectively just because you’re experiencing the so-called Now . . .? That’s what Ken calls the “Myth of the Given.” In reality, you can actually only perceive—or even experience as a nondual mystical oneness—the worldspace that’s, like, available to you and presented to you by whatever developmental structure or cognitive framework your one hundred percent conditioned psyche is actually at!

[Jasper grabs the towel out of her hand, throws it on the table, and takes both her hands in his. He leans in close, looking her in the eye.]

JASPER: What are you doing?! What are you saying?! Just listen to yourself! Do you have any idea how completely lost in your head you are?! Do you have even the slightest degree of awareness of how crazy you sound? [She breaks his gaze and looks downward.] You act like you’re some kind of perfectly enlightened Buddha, master of all the mysteries of consciousness, and yet you already made it clear that you don’t have any degree of spiritual experience whatsoever. So who are you kidding, eh? You obviously think you’re hot stuff because your mind spins around at a thousand kilometers an hour, but who would you be if that suddenly all STOPPED?! Eh? Do you have any idea? Oh, I’m sure you do. I’m sure you have plenty of ideas about it! [He scoffs, shaking his head.] Like I keep saying, all you’re throwing at me are concepts—ideas, thoughts, memories, theories, things you’ve read from Ken Wilber. But where are you in all of that? Where can I find Jasmine, eh, “Integirl”? Where could she be? And more importantly, given your professed knowledge of deeper “states,” where’s any sense of awareness of that formless depth of Being that you really are? Where’s the real subject behind the impenetrable wall of mental objects you keep constructing? [He pauses and lets go of her hands. Integirl is softly sniffling, her head downcast and eyes hidden behind the hair that’s fallen in front of her face.] Jasmine, you just know way, way too much about that which is forever Unknown. Or think you do, anyway. And if you ever really get interested in spirituality and enlightenment—and I mean, for real—that’ll probably be the biggest obstacle you’ll ever have to tackle, now that you’ve immersed yourself in it so thoroughly. Do you hear what I’m saying? Are you even listening?

[Integirl wipes her nose with the back of her sleeve and slowly looks up at Jasper.]

INTEGIRL [quietly, her voice cracking]: Ken says . . . you have to have a cog—a cognitive framework . . . a right view . . . or else . . . even meditation is blind.

JASPER: See?! You’re still doing it! And I don’t care what Ken says—you don’t need intellectual maps to meditate! Your maps are not the same as the actual territory.

INTEGIRL [wipes tears off her face]: I . . . I never said they were. But maps . . . Having maps is—is better than not having maps.

JASPER [shakes his head]: Or maybe the world’s so complicated because of the maps, hmm? Because everyone’s living in their heads, constantly obscuring the simple clarity of conscious Presence. [Integirl shuts her eyes and faces her lap again. Jasper takes a deep breath and then leans in close to her.] Look—I dare you to take what I’m saying seriously. Just for a second. I dare you to. Eh? [She nods.] Okay. Just . . . listen. [He closes his eyes, whispering into her ear.] Right now, in this moment, simply let go of everything you think you know. Take a risk—just try it. Relax your body, releasing all of the pain and tension within as you breathe in and out, in and out, paying careful attention to each breath. [Long pause.] Now, ask yourself: In this moment—not two minutes ago, not two hours from now, but right now—is there anything that’s actually wrong? As you let go of all your thoughts, all your concepts, all your maps—all your “stages,” your “quadrants,” your “states,” your “lattices,” your “structures”—is there anything missing from the deep stillness of this moment? [Integirl gives a faint murmur, her body visibly relaxing.] Beyond memory and fantasy, past and future, there is only the vast, mysterious eternity called Now. Just feel the stillness in the depths of your inner body, and listen to the primordial silence that underlies all sounds. Right here, right now. You see? Only now, only now. There’s nothing but God in all directions, the formless depth of limitless Being. It’s who you really are, Jasmine—the eternal “I Am.” It’s the only reality there is. [He opens his eyes and sits back, watching her.]

INTEGIRL [quietly]: I . . . I don’t know what to say. [She looks up, slowly shaking her head.] That’s . . . amazing. [She pushes her hair away from her face with both hands.] I’ve never experienced that before—like, space. Wow . . . Now I get why Ken does so much meditation himself and insists that having an intellectual understanding alone isn’t enough. I mean, he’s always stressing that without having experiences of deeper states, you’ll never even really understand his philosophy—let alone be able to live it! [Shakes her head.] I guess I just never believed him! [Laughs.] Anyway, Jasper, it was sweet of you to do that for me. Thanks. [She leans across the table and kisses him on the cheek.]

JASPER [grins]: Jeez, you sure are a tough nut to crack! You were scaring me there.

INTEGIRL: God, I’m sorry. I am pretty lost in my mind, aren’t I? It’s like, my whole entire life I’ve just been hiding from—from just being, like . . . exposed like that! [Shivers.] It’s terrifying, but it’s . . . awesome. [Smiles.] I just never thought it could be that simple, you know?

JASPER: Who ever said life was supposed to be difficult, eh? It was only unenlightened human beings—a whole world of collective ignorance—that taught us that. Not the stillness and beauty of Life itself.

INTEGIRL [nods]: Mmmm. Right.

JASPER: Now do you understand why I was getting so upset at you? I mean, I’m sorry, but it had to be done! A mind is a beautiful thing to waste, as they say—especially when it belongs to someone as beautiful as you.

INTEGIRL [blushing]: Um, thanks. [Pause.] And, yeah—thank you for helping me. I really should read The Power of Now again, huh?

JASPER: Yeah, that might be a good idea. It certainly couldn’t hurt!

[The two are silent for a moment, smiling at each other.]

JASPER: And you know, Jasmine, it isn’t just your personal problem. You shouldn’t think of it like that, okay? The ego is an impersonal phenomenon, functioning exactly the same way in every human being. It’s only the individual surface content that differs from one person to the next. Eckhart explains this at length in A New Earth, always coming back to the amazing fact that it’s becoming easier than ever before for human beings to disidentify from the ego and the pain-body—that unholy alliance of separation and negativity—so we can bring a new awakened consciousness into this world. [Integirl nods.] In fact, I’m convinced that by practicing the power of Now, I’m becoming what Eckhart calls a “frequency-holder”—meaning that I don’t even necessarily have to do anything, activity-wise, in the world of form. Just my Presence, my Beingness—my higher or deeper state, as you say—holds and helps to stabilize the frequency of the new consciousness, which is the only real solution to the countless crises facing the world today. I personally believe that even global warming is merely a result of humanity’s current state of time-bound ego-consciousness. As Eckhart says, the outer is a reflection of the inner—synchronistically.

INTEGIRL [frowns, shakes her head]: Huh? You think global warming is caused by people not being awake to the power of Now?

JASPER: Well, sure. That and all the other climatic and geographic events we’ve witnessed recently—hurricanes, the tsunami, the earthquake in Pakistan. Eckhart says in A New Earth that these kinds of “natural upheavals” are just a reflection of the extreme state of dysfunction in the collective human psyche right now, as well as an outward indication of the shift that’s under way as the new consciousness arises and the old structure of the ego begins to crumble and dissolve. [He leans in closer to Integirl, whispering conspiratorially.] You know, Jasmine, I sometimes wish I had even more money, so I could buy copies of Eckhart’s books for every person on the planet and teach everyone the power of Now. I mean, can you even imagine how fast the world would change if something radical and completely unprecedented like that were to happen?

INTEGIRL [looks at him askance]: Dude, are you mental? That would never work.

JASPER: What? How do you know? No one’s ever tried it, have they?

INTEGIRL: Well, no, I guess not. But, dude—just think it through. Would, like, air-dropping a million copies of The Power of Now into Iraq actually solve anything? I mean, I guess it might be productive if the books all, like, fell on the insurgents’ heads or something! [Laughs.] But, really, all you have to do is look at the Lattice. [She points to the napkin on the table.] The Iraqis are largely egocentric and ethnocentric, right? Or what Ken calls the “red” and “amber” levels of development. So that means that, you know, even if they all took a sudden leap to formal-operational cognition and understood Tolle’s book and had, like, some profound spiritual awakening as a result—it would probably only bolster their conviction in their fundamentalist beliefs! A very dangerous stage/state combination. You’d have a bunch of ethnocentric, mythic-membership, fascistic fundamentalists who are now convinced of their eternal, indestructible I AMness! Hooray! Just what the world needs, right? Like, a mob of red and amber maniacs being very, very present in the Now—totally undistracted by past or future—as they, like, drag your burning corpse through the dusty streets of Baghdad!

[Jasper, mouth agape, is clearly appalled.]

JASPER: That’s—that’s completely absurd! It’s outrageous! How can you even say something like that?

INTEGIRL: Well, because it’s just . . . true. [Shrugs.] That’s what would happen. And if you think that’s interesting, well . . . [She looks down, sighing and shaking her head.] Oh, God, I shouldn’t say it. It’s too horrible.

JASPER: What??

INTEGIRL [looks up, cringing]: Well, you see . . . even the Nazis practiced the power of Now!

[Jasper stares at her incredulously.]

INTEGIRL [grinning]: Dude, I’m sorry to break it to you, but it’s totally true! I saw it on the Discovery Channel! It was a year or two ago, and it explained the whole myth of the Aryan supermen who escaped from Atlantis and how Hitler was, like, trying to re-create that master race, with the Third Reich being essentially a kind of wacked ethnocentric religion. It went into, like, the ancient religious symbolism used by the Nazis, the weird rituals they performed, and, yes, even how the Nazis had, like, profound power-of-Now type mystical experiences. And the thing is, because they were ethnocentric—like the Iraqis—those experiences of nonduality and divine illumination only increased their conviction in their absolute superiority to all other races! Pretty freaky, huh?

JASPER: Are you . . . I mean . . . you’re actually . . . serious? You’re—you’re saying the . . . Nazis . . . practiced the power of Now?

INTEGIRL: Yeah, man. Glad you’re finally listening to me. [Smiles.] Oh yeah, and another thing—in Integral Spirituality, Ken even explains how—

JASPER [interrupts]: Jasmine, Jasmine, slow down! Just calm down a minute, eh? Relax.

INTEGIRL: Oh, right. [Cringes.] Sorry . . .

JASPER: It’s okay. Now, what you’re saying just doesn’t make sense. The power of Now is the source of peace, stillness, and Being—the exact opposite of everything the Nazis represented! In fact, just like with angry crowds, mobs, and some entire nations, they’re a perfect example of what Eckhart calls a “collective ego.”

INTEGIRL: Hey, man, I’m only telling you what I saw, and giving it, like, an integral interpretation. Don’t take it so personally! [She smiles and mimics a TV advertiser.] “And once you upgrade your mind to the IOS Integral Operating System, you, too, will begin to see the world in a whole new light!”

[Jasper bursts out laughing and then catches himself, shuts his eyes, and focuses on his breathing.]

JASPER [calmly]: Well . . . don’t believe everything you read, eh?

INTEGIRL [indignantly]: Yeah, well, don’t believe everything you read, either!

[Jasper opens his eyes, and for a tense moment, the two stare at each other, glowering. Then Jasper cracks a smile, and they both laugh.]

JASPER: You win.

[Integirl pulls back her sleeve to check her watch.]

INTEGIRL: Shoot! Dude, I gotta go! I’ve got fifteen minutes before the videoconference with Ken! [Pause.] Say . . . Jasper, do you want to expand your paltry philosophical horizons?

JASPER: You mean—

INTEGIRL: —come with me to the rest of the I-WET conference, yeah! It’d be great. [Seeing him hesitate, she gives him a playful nudge on the shoulder.] Dude, I’m sure you can afford it. Come on, it’ll be fun!

[She stands up, puts her vest on, and stuffs her mirror and makeup into her pocket while extending her free hand to Jasper. He takes it in his and stands up next to her—a full foot taller. He pulls a fifty dollar bill out of his wallet and puts it on the table and then picks up his Eternity Journal in one hand and the W-C Lattice napkin in the other, offering the napkin to Integirl.]

JASPER: You want this?

INTEGIRL: No, man, you need it more than me!

JASPER [smiles]: Well, okay—if I need that, then you need this. [He hands her his Eternity Journal.]

[A few minutes later, the sun is setting as they walk along the sidewalk.]

JASPER: You know, I was just thinking about the W-C Lattice.

INTEGIRL: Oh, yeah?

JASPER: Yeah. And I figure that between the two of us, combined, we might add up to a fully enlightened being.

INTEGIRL [laughs]: Sure—with just a few major pathologies!

JASPER [shrugs]: Hey, nobody’s perfect.

INTEGIRL [smiles]: Well, at least we can agree on something.

– the end –

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