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What is consciousness? For thousands of years this question has agonized some of the world's greatest hearts and minds—entire generations of mystics, philosophers, and scientists laying awake at night, staring into the inky abyss of their subjective space, driven halfway to madness by the ephemeral fumes of their own thoughts. The secrets of consciousness are somewhat of a Holy Grail for science and mysticism alike, especially as it becomes more and more apparent that the "black box" of consciousness is so much more than an evolutionary accident or epiphenomenal to the bio-chemical processes in our heads—consciousness is, in fact, fundamentally woven into the universe itself.
We are not saying that the only "really real" reality is sitting behind your eyes, nor are we implying that our consciousness is somehow "quaffing" reality into existence as we go. What we are saying is that some degree of subjectivity is indeed present all the way up and all the way down the evolutionary ladder, from the tiniest quarks to the biggest brains. This consciousness can be loosely described as a "perspective-making, perspective-taking" system that creates, collects, and organizes deeper, wider, more sophisticated points-of-view as it develops.
Because consciousness is such a mysterious and complex affair, and because so many different minds have approached the question from so many different directions throughout the years, it requires a truly comprehensive framework to begin putting all these models, methodologies, and philosophies together in a meaningful way. Only then can we begin to discern the patterns threading through the many facets of our ongoing experience, pulling them together into this unmistakable and self-evident whole of consciousness.
This comprehensive framework already exists. The Integral model as expressed by Ken Wilber is uniquely equipped to face the perennial problems of consciousness—not only because it is a powerful composite of nearly every other major philosophy in history, but because the mysteries of consciousness have been at the core of Ken's work from the very beginning, guiding his career for more than thirty years.
This week we are fortunate to be joined by Allan Combs, yet another pioneer of Integral thought and practice, whose name has already been etched in the walls of history through his collaboration with the now-famous "Wilber-Combs lattice" (see below). Allan speaks with Ken about his latest book, Consciousness Explained Better, exploring the notions of "growth" and "perspective" as they pertain to our own subjective experience of the world.
Written by Corey deVos
Image by Android Jones [+view gallery]
Charts and diagrams that may be useful for this discussion (click to enlarge).
About Allan Combs
Allan Combs is a Professor of Transformative Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies.and director of the Integral Focus of the doctoral program. His background is in consciousness studies, neuropsychology, and systems science. His recent book, Consciousness Explained Better, is available at major booksellers everywhere.
About Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.