Existential Pathology ...
I was reading the book Transformations of Consciousness - Conventional and Contemplative Perspectives on Development by Wilber, Engler and Brown (which is an older book) this morning and came across this bit which I thought may be of interest. This chapter by Wilber is outlined in three general stages of development of prepersonal, personal and transpersonal, with three sub-stages or fulcrums under each of these, and this paragraph is from the third and last in the personal stage:
The "existential level," as I use the term here, refers to a specific level of basic structure development ("vision-logic") and the correlative stage of self-development ("centaur".) It is termed "existential" for three reasons: 1) If the formal-reflexive mind is Descartes, the existential mind is Heidegger: his whole philosophy is marvelously saturated with this level of consciousness (as an actual discovery, not as merely subjective fabrication); 2) the self-structure of this level, as Broughton (1975) demonstrated, is one where "mind and body are both experiences of an integrated self." This personal mind-body integration--hence "centaur"--seems to be the goal of these therapies that explicitly call themselves "humanistic-existential." (This does not refer to many popular approaches that call themselves "humanistic" or "existential," but, in fact, are pseudo-humanistic/existential, and embody powerful techniques for regression to, and glorification of, the phantasmic-emotional or the narcissistic "paradise," which are mistakenly identified with "higher consciousness"); 3) this level is the highest level of consciousness that many authentic humanistic-existential approaches seem to acknowledge.
I'm a little tempted to go on and list the syndromes involved, but not only is it more typing and I'm kind of lazy but there is that tendancy to identify with the pathology when it is only a description. Anyway hopefully this is enough to serve as a beginning point in the discussion, I may post some of the pathologies involved in the transpersonal stage later, which is perhaps more important as there is this tendency to 'hang out' with those because it is 'beyond' the personal, or as Wilber points out can be a mistaken identification.
Ok here is the stuff for the first stage (fulcrum 7) under transpersonal, which Wilber calls psychic. I only post this because we have seen it on this board to some extent before.. But again, don't get all caught up with the descriptions, there's always differences in the degree of these kinds of behavior - the point is not that someone is nuts but just to kind of understand what's going on. And if this makes no sense to you, you're probably healthy so no sense being too concerned with it:
If certain contemplative schools object to my use of the terms "psychic," "subtle," and "causal," I invite them to substitute more neutral terms, such as "beginning," "intermediate," and "advanced" stages. ---- The emergence of the psychic basic structure brings with it the possibility of another level of self-development and associated self-pathology. By "psychic pathology" (or "F-7 pathology") I mean specifically all the "lower-level" spiritual crises and pathologies that may 1) awaken spontaneously in any relatively developed soul; 2) invade any of the lower levels of development during periods of severe stress (e.g. psychotic episodes); and 3) beset the beginning practitioner of the contemplative discipline. 1. The most dramatic psychic pathology occurs in the spontaneous and usually unsought awakening of spiritual-psychic energies or capacities. At best, these crises are annoying; at worst, they can be devastating, even to one who is securely anchored in a centauric self. The awakening of Kundalini, for instance, can be psychological dynamite. Excellent examples of these psychic pathologies can be found in Gopi Krishna (1972), John White (1979), and William James (1961). 2. One of the most puzzling aspects of transient schizophrenic breaks of psychotic-like episodes is that they often channel rather profound spiritual insights, but they do so through a self-structure that is neurotic, borderline, or even frankly psychotic (particularly paranoid schizophrenic). Anybody familiar with the philosophia perennis can almost instantly spot whether any of the elements of the particular psychotic-like episode have any universal-spiritual components, and thus fairly easily differentiate the "spiritual-channel" psychoses-neuroses from the more mundane (and often more easily treatable) pathologies that originate solely on the psychotic or borderline levels. 3. Beginning practitioner--Psychic pathologies besetting the novitiate include: a) Psychic inflation--The universal-transpersonal energies and insights of the psychic level are exclusively applied to the individual ego or centaur, with extremely unbalancing results (particularly if there are narcissistic subphase residues in the self-structure). b) Structural imbalance due to faulty practice of the spiritual technique--This is particularly common in the paths of purification and purgation; in Kriya and Charya Yoga; and in the more subtle techniques, such as mantrayana. It usually manifests in mild, free-floating-anxiety, or in psychosomatic conversion symptoms (headaches, minor heart arrhythmia, intestinal discomforts, etc.). c) The Dark Night of the Soul--Once the soul obtains a direct taste or experience of the Divine, with concomitant vision, ecstasy, or clarity, and that experience begins to fade (which it initially does), the soul may suffer a profound abandonment depression (not to be confused with borderline, neurotic, or existential depression; in this case, the soul has seen its meaning in life, its daemon or destiny, only to have it fade--that is the Dark Night). d) Split life-goals--For example, "Do I stay in the world or retreat to meditation?" This can be extremely painful and psychologically paralyzing. It expresses one form of a profound splitting between upper and lower self-needs, analogous to text-splitting in script pathology, repression in psychoneuroses, etc. e) "Pseudo-duhkha"--In certain paths of meditation (e.g., Vipassana), where investigation into the very nature of phenomena of consciousness is stressed, the early phase of awareness training (particularly the "stage of reflection") brings a growing realization of the painful nature of manifest existence itself. Where this realization becomes overwhelming--more overwhelming than the training itself is supposed to invoke--we speak of "pseudo-duhkha." Pseudo-duhkha is often the result of residual existential, psychoneurotic, or, more often, residual borderline contamination of the psychic fulcrum of development. The individual does not gain an understanding of the sourness of life; he or she simply goes sour on life. This psychic depression may be one of the most difficult to treat effectively, particularly because it is often backed by the rationalization that, according to (misunderstood) Buddhism, the world is supposed to be suffering. In such cases, more Vipassana is exactly what is not needed. f) Pranic disorders--This refers to a misdirection of Kundalini energy in the early stages of its arousal. Various psychic (pranic) channels are over- or under-developed, crossed, or prematurely opened, e.g., "windhorse" (rlung) disorders in Tibetan Buddhism. Pranic disorders are usually caused by improper visualization and concentration. They are particularly prevalent in Raja Yoga, Siddha Yoga, Yoga Tantra, and Anu Yoga. Dramatic psychosomatic symptoms are usually prevalent, including barely controllable muscle spasms, violent headaches, breathing difficulties, etc. g) "Yogic illness" (Aurobindo)--This disorder, according to Aurobindo, results when the development of the higher or psychic levels of consciousness puts an undue strain on the physical-emotional body. The great intensity of psychic and subtle energies, can, as it were, overload the "lower circuits," resulting (according to Aurobindo) in everything from allergies to intestinal problems to heart disorders. Perhaps, if he were alive today, he would have added cancer, as witness the health problems of Ramana Maharshi, Suzuki Roshi, etc.
Interesting. When i started reading wilber, i fell off at the great uturn where involution turns around and starts evolution. It doesn't seem plausable that a natural process would stop like that and the go the other direction.
That said, wilber does have a lot of understanding. He is good at pointing out all of the pitfalls. Is there any where where he sets out the best ways for an initiate to proceed, or to get out of these pitfalls?
Yes there's a chapter on 'treatment,' but I haven't gotten to it yet. The first step is of course recognizing you're caught or have a tendancy to get caught in any of those states. Since we're dealing with consciousness, it becomes all the more challenging for someone to see beyond their current view. In a way these might be viewed as growing pains, but there are more extreme examples like my friend's friend who says enlightenment has something to do with cough syrup and actually gets hundreds of people to follow him as a teacher.
What may seem to be counter intuitive though is that often it is a matter of giving less attention to the problem, or viewing it as a problem, in that the whole point of view is undermined rather than opposed. For example in 3d, the whole thing is clearly a false dilemma to someone coming from a non-dual perspective - there is no difference between meditation and being in the world. Rather than directly negating any belief or assumption implicit in the individual's consciousness, questioning it by inquiry, even if in a general sense can atleast temporary 'snap them out of it' in my experience, even if it is very briefly. So this is a non-forceful way to prompt the other to open their view, but it is possible that the person needs to be allowed for it to come to a point where they are forced to see that they are causing their own suffering, which they are less likely to do if they believe (have an excuse to) you are somehow the cause even if you are just pointing out their own self-deception. But the point is it is not about holding one view instead of another, it's about dropping all such views. When that dynamic is no longer there the tension causing the suffering naturally drops as well.