Kheper Home | Ken Wilber Home | Wilber IV - Developmental Levels | Topics Index | New or Updated | Search

Wilber IV - Developmental Levels
previousnext

Ken Wilber - the Subtle Realm

The following page is from a research notes page by external link Allan Combs which is no longer on line (original url http://www.unca.edu/~combs/HCP/II/Narrative/8Subtle.htm ). I have kept the quotations, which are interesting, but left out the correspondences Of Wilber's Subtle Realm with other systems, as I feel these are - like the tables in the back of Wilber's Integral Psychology - rather forced. - MAK


Subtle Realm

An informal phenomenological narrative:

"It was just the other day, I can still remember it as if it’s happening right now, vivid, electric, weird. I was sitting alone, at home, and it’s around midnight maybe. I have the distinct feeling that somebody or something is in the house—you know that feeling? Well at first it really scared me, I was really scared. I finally got up the nerve to go through the house, checked it really well. I sit back down and it happens.

This really intense fireball, I don’t what else to call it, simply material­ized right there in front of me, right there in the living room. I know this sounds crazy, but this has never happened to me before, I don’t see things, you know? But it wasn’t just an electrical thing. I know this sounds crazy, but it was alive. Well, I’ll just say it: it was Love. It was a living fire of Love and Light. I know this as sure as I’m sitting here. It sort of moved in front of me to on top of my head, then back in front of me, then on top of my head. When it sits on top of my head my whole spine begins to vibrate, and shooting currents run up it, right to the top. Pretty crazy, huh? And then as soon as I knew that this was Love, it just disappeared, just like that. It just went away, but it scared the daylights out of me. But then it didn’t, I mean it didn’t scare me. It made me feel completely safe, I’ve never really felt like that.

I’ve heard about, you know, that light at the end of the tunnel? Except I wasn’t dead. But I know what I know, and I know that Love is some­where out there. My entire body feels different somehow. My spine hurts, like somebody plugged it into the wall socket, I don’t know ex­actly. But the truth is out there. I know that. Oh, and I know I’ve started praying, just to say thanks."

Amazon com One Taste; pp.147-148.

From descriptions of the major stages of insight meditation.

     Q:  So what about the next general stage, the subtle level?

     A:  As your identity begins to transcend the isolated and individual bodymind, you start to intuit that there is a Ground of Being or genuine Divinity, beyond ego, and beyond appeals to mythic god figures or ratio­nalistic scientism or existential bravery. This Deity form can actually be intuited. The more you develop beyond the isolated and existential bodymind, the more you develop toward Spirit, which, at the subtle level, is often experienced as Deity Form or archetypal Self. By that I mean, for example, very concrete experiences of profound Light, a Being of Light, or just of extreme clarity and brilliance of awareness.

The point is that you are seeing something beyond nature, beyond the existential, beyond the psychic, beyond even cosmic identity. You are starting to see the hidden or esoteric dimension, the dimension outside the ordinary cosmos, the dimension that transcends nature. You see the Light, and sometimes this Light literally shines like the light of a thou­sand suns. It overwhelms you, empowers you, energizes you, remakes you, drenches you. This is what scholars have called the “numinous” nature of subtle spirit. Numinous and luminous. This is, I believe, why saints are universally depicted with halos of light around their heads. That is actually what they see. Divine Light. My favorite reading from

Dante:

Fixing my gaze upon the Eternal Light

I saw within its depths,

Bound up with love together in one volume,

The scattered leaves of all the universe.

Within the luminous profound subsistence

Of that Exalted Light saw I three circles

Of three colors yet of one dimension

And by the second seemed the first reflected

As rainbow is by rainbow, and the third

Seemed fire that equally from both is breathed.

 

That is not mere poetry. That is an almost mathematical description of one type of experience of the subtle level. Anyway, you can also expe­rience this level as a discovery of your own higher self, your soul, the Holy Spirit. “He who knows himself knows God,” said Saint Clement.

Q: And the actual experience itself?

A: The actual experience varies. Here is one example: Say you are walking downtown, looking in shop windows. You’re looking at some of the merchandise, and all of a sudden you see a vague image dance in front of your eyes, the image of a person. Then all at once you realize that it is your own reflection in the shop window. You suddenly recog­nize yourself. Your recognize your Self, your higher Self. You suddenly recognize who you are. And who you are is—a luminous spark of the Divine. But it has that shock of recognition—”Oh, that!”

It’s a very concrete realization, and usually brings much laughter or much tears. The subtle Deity form or Light or Higher Self—those are all just archetypes of your own Being. You are encountering, via meditative development, and beginning a direct encounter with Spirit, with your own essence. So it shows up as light, as a being of light, as nada, as shabd, as clarity, numinosity, and so on. And sometimes it just shows up as a simple and clear awareness of what is—very simple, very clear. The point is that it is aware of all the dots on the wall. It is clearly aware of what is happening moment to moment, and therefore transcends the moment. It transcends this world, and starts to partake of the Divine. It has sacred outlook, however it might be expressed. That’s the subtle-a face to face introduction to the Divine. You actually participate in Divinity, and in the awareness and wisdom of Divinity. It is a practice. It can be done. It has been done, many times.

{An interview published in Quest, 1994 Spring , pp. 43-46.}

 

"The high-subtle begins at the sahasrara and extend into seven (or more) levels of extraordinary high-order transcendence, differentiation and integration…. I will simply say that this realm is universally and consistently said to be the realm of high religious intuition and literal inspiration; of bija mantra; of symbolic visions; of blue, gold and white light; of audible illuminations and brightness upon brightness; it is the realm of higher presences, guides, angelic forms, ishtadevas, and dhyani-buddhas; all of which- as we will soon explain- are simply high archetypal forms of one’s own being (although they initially and necessarily appear “other” .”

Amazon com Atman Project pg.78

 

“By visualizing that identification ‘we actually do become the deity. The subject is identified with the object of faith.(As it is said,)The worship, the worshipper and the worshipped, those three are not separate.”

Amazon com Atman Project pg.79  (re: Edward Conze, and the tantric mysticism of Tibet)

 

“At its peak, the soul becomes one, literally one. with the deity form, with the dhyani-Buddha, with God. One dissolves into Deity, as Deity- that Deity which, from the beginning, has been one’s own Self or highest Archetype. “

Amazon com Atman Project pg.79

 “Meditated through high-archetypal symbolic forms- the deity forms illuminative or audible consciousness is following a path of transformation upward which lead quite beyond the gross bodymind. This transformation upwards, like all the others we have studied, involves the emergence (via remembrance) of a higher-order deep structure and the differentiation or disidentification with the lower structures (in this case, the ego-mind).This amounts to a transcendence of the lower-order structures (the gross mind and body), which thus enables consciousness to operate on and integrate all of the lower structures.”

Amazon com Atman Project pg.80

“The ishtadeva is simply a high-archetypal deity form which is evoked (and thus emerges) in certain meditations and is literally visualized with the mind’s eye using the high-phantasy or vision-image process….The ishtadeva is real-more than real- in its emergence from the ground unconscious.”

Amazon com Atman Project pg81

“Hixon describes it thus: “The Form or Presence of the ishtadeva (which is evoked by vision-image as he clearly explains) appears as vibrantly alive, composed from the radiance of Consciousness. We are not projecting the ishtadeva. The primal radiance which assumes the form of the ishtadeva is actually projecting us and all the phenomena that we call the universe.” This high-archetypal symbol eventually mediates the ascension of consciousness to an identity with that Form: “Gradually we realize that the Divine Form or Presence is our own archetype, an image of our own essential nature.  ...This, however, is not a loss of consciousness but an intensification of consciousness through a higher-order development, evolution, transcendence and identification. “ The ishtadeva does not disappear into us; we as individuals disappear into the ishtadeva, which now remains alone. Yet there is no loss of individual being as we bled into the object of our contemplation, for it has been our own archetype from the beginning, the source of this fragmentary reflection we call our individual personality. ...The whole point is that the gross ego has not simply swallowed the high Archetypal form, but that the prior nature of the ego is revealed to be that Form, so that consciousness reverts to- or remembers- its own prior and higher identity: “ We remain now as a transcendental center of consciousness expressed through the Form or formless Presence of the ishtadeva. We are now experiencing the life of the ishtadeva from within. We are consciously meeting and becoming ( via higher identification) ourselves in our archetypal and eternal nature.” Such, then, is one form of true transformation or development into the subtle real, the discovery or remembrance of a higher-order unity that is now approaching Unity- that enters the transpersonal sphere of superconsciousness and discloses only Archetypal Essence.

Amazon com Atman Project pg.81 &  Hixon L. Coming home

 

 

The Subtle Level

“As your identity begins to transcend the isolated and individual bodymind, you start to intuit that there is a Ground of Being or genuine Divinity, beyond ego, and beyond appeals to mythic god figures or rational scientism or existential bravery. This Deity form can actually be intuited. The more you develop beyond the isolated and existential bodymind, the more you develop towards Spirit, which, at the subtle level, is often experienced as Deity Form or archetypal Self. By that I mean, for example, very concrete experiences of profound Light, a Being of Light, or just extreme clarity and brilliance of awareness.

    The point is that you are seeing something beyond nature, beyond the existential, beyond the psychic, beyond even cosmic identity. You are starting to see the hidden or esoteric dimension, the dimension outside the ordinary cosmos, the dimension that transcends nature. You see the Light, and sometimes this Light literally shines like the light of a thousand suns. It overwhelms you, empowers you, energizes you, remakes you, drenches you. This is what the scholars have called the “numinous” nature of subtle spirit. Numinous and luminous. This is, I believe, why saints are universally depicted with halos of light around their heads. That is actually what they see. Divine Light. My favorite reading from Dante:

            Fixing my gaze upon the Eternal Light

            I saw within its depths,

            Bound up with love together in one volume,

            The scattered leaves of all the universe.

            Within the luminous profound subsistence

            Of that Exalted Light saw I three circles

            Of three colors yet of one dimension

            And by the second seemed the first reflected

            As rainbow is by rainbow, and the third

            Seemed fire that equally from both is breathed.

 

    That is not mere poetry. That is an almost mathematical description of one type of experience of the subtle level. Anyway, you can also experience this level as a discovery of your own higher self, your soul, the Holy Spirit. 'He who knows himself knows God,' said Saint Clement.

            The actual experience varies. Here is one example: Say you are walking downtown, looking in shop windows. You’re looking at some of the merchandise, and all of a sudden you see a vague image dance in front of your eyes, the image of a person. Then all at once you realize that it is your reflection in the shop window. You suddenly recognize yourself. You recognize your Self, your higher Self. You suddenly recognize who you are. And who you are is- a luminous spark of the Divine. But it has the shock of recognition- “Oh, that!”

            It’s a very concrete realization that brings much laughter or much tears. The subtle Deity form or Light or Higher Self- those are all just archetypes of your own Being. You are encountering, via meditative development, and beginning a direct encounter with Spirit, with your own essence. So it shows up as light, as a being of light, as nada, as shabd, as clarity, numinosity, and so on. And sometimes it just shows up as a simple and clear awareness of what is- very simple, very clear. The point is that it is aware of all the dots on the wall. It is clearly of what is happening moment to moment, and therefore transcends the moment. It transcends this world, and starts to partake of the Divine. It has sacred outlook, however it might be expressed. That’s the subtle- a face to face introduction to the Divine. You actually participate in Divinity, and in the awareness and wisdom of Divinity. It is a practice. It can be done. It has been done many times.”

Wilber, K. (1999) Stages of Meditation. Collected Works, vol.4, pg. 358-360.



Wilber Correlates

 

General Self Sense : Soul

Specific Aspects : subtle self

Fulcrum: F-8 Subtle

Pathologies : failed integration, archetypal fragmentation

Pathology: Subtle

Treatment: Path of Saints

Moral Span: (Post-postconventional) bodhisattvic, panentheistic, all sentient beings in all realms without exception,

Locus: Brahma lokas

Affect: ananda, ecstasy love-bliss, saintly commitment

Levels of 'Food': a) God communion b) God union

Gender identity: archetypal gender union (tantra)

Worldview name:  Subtle ( archetypal, saintly)

Worldview general characteristics: union with creatrix of gross realm; deity mysticism, subtle realm unity

 



Low Subtle
High Subtle


For my own take on the Subtle realm (Integral Metaphysics), see Subtle - MAK




Kheper index page
Topics index page
Ken Wilber Home
Wilber Levels of Development main page


Kheper Home | Ken Wilber Home | Wilber IV - Developmental Levels | Topics Index | New or Updated | Search


images not loading? | error messages? | broken links? | suggestions? | criticism?
contact me

this page uploaded 29 November 2005