No Boundary: A Union of Opposites

Ken Wilber Article, Free, Integral Basics, Integral Post, Perspectives, Spirituality 2 Comments

In this chapter from No Boundary (Kindle, iBooks), Ken Wilber explores the intrinsic dualism of the mind, offering a simple but cogent way to “transcend the pairs” and discover the nondual heart of the Always Already….

Have you ever wondered why life comes in opposites? Why everything you value is one of a pair of opposites? Why all decisions are between opposites? Why all desires are based on opposites?

Notice that all spatial and directional dimensions are opposites: up vs. down, inside vs. outside, high vs. low, long vs. short, North vs. South, big vs. small, here vs. there, top vs. bottom, left vs. right. And notice that all things we consider serious and important are one pole of a pair of opposites: good vs. evil, life vs. death, pleasure vs. pain, God vs. Satan, freedom vs. bondage.

So also, our social and esthetic values are always put in terns of opposites: success vs. failure, beautiful vs. ugly, strong vs. weak, intelligent vs. stupid. Even our highest abstractions rest on opposites. Logic, for instance, is concerned with the true vs. the false; epistemology, with appearance vs. reality; ontology, with being vs. non-being. Our world seems to be a massive collection of opposites.

This fact is so commonplace as to hardly need mentioning, but the more one ponders it the more it is strikingly peculiar. For nature, it seems, knows nothing of this world of opposites in which people live. Nature doesn’t grow true frogs and false frogs, nor moral trees and immoral trees, nor right oceans and wrong oceans. There is no trace in nature of ethical mountains and unethical mountains. Nor are there even such things as beautiful species and ugly species—at least not to Nature, for it is pleased to produce all kinds. Thoreau said Nature never apologizes, and apparently it’s because Nature doesn’t know the opposites of right and wrong and thus doesn’t recognize what humans imagine to be “errors.”

It is certainly true that some of the things which we call “opposites” appear to exist in Nature. There are, for instance, big frogs and small frogs, large trees and small trees, ripe oranges arid unripe oranges. But it isn’t a problem for them, it doesn’t throw them into paroxysms of anxiety. There might even be smart bears and dumb bears, but it doesn’t seem to concern them very much. You just don’t find inferiority complexes in bears.

Likewise, there is life and death in the world of nature, but again it doesn’t seem to hold the terrifying dimensions ascribed to it in the world of humans. A very old cat isn’t swept with torrents of terror over its impending death. It just calmly walks out to the woods, curls up under a tree, and dies. A terminally ill robin perches comfortably on the limb of a willow, and stares into the sunset. When finally it can see the light no more, it closes its eyes for the last time and drops gently to the ground. How different from the way humans face death:

Do not go gentle into that good night Rage, rage against the dying of the light.Dylan Thomas

While pain and pleasure do appear in the world of nature, they are not problems to worry over. When a dog is in pain, it yelps. When not, it just doesn’t worry about it. It doesn’t dread future pain nor regret past pain. It seems to be a very simple and natural affair.

We say all that is true because, put simply, Nature is dumb. But that won’t quite do for a reason. We are just starting to realize that Nature is much smarter than we would like to think. The great biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi gives a whimsical example:

[When I joined the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton] I did this in the hope that by rubbing elbows with those great atomic physicists and mathematicians I would learn something about living matters. But as soon as I revealed that in any living system there are more than two electrons, the physicists would not speak to me. With all their computers they could not say what the third electron might do. The remarkable thing is that it knows exactly what to do. So that little electron knows something that all the wise men of Princeton don’t, and this can only be something very simple.Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

I am afraid that Nature is not only smarter than we think, Nature is smarter than we can think. Nature, after all, also produced the human brain, which we flatter ourselves to be one of the most intelligent instruments in the cosmos. And can a total idiot fashion a genuine masterpiece?

According to the Book of Genesis, one of the first tasks given to Adam was to name the animals and plants existing in nature. For nature doesn’t come ready-labeled with name tags, and it would he a great convenience if we could classify and name all the various aspects of the natural world. Adam, in other words, was charged with sorting out the complexity of nature’s forms and processes and assigning names to them. “These animals look like one another and they don’t resemble those animals at all, so let’s call this group ‘lions’ and that group ‘bears.’ Let’s see, you can eat this group of things but not that group. Let’s call this group ‘grapes’ and that group ‘rocks.’ ”

But Adam’s real task was not so much thinking up names for the animals and plants, laborious as that undoubtedly was. Rather, the crucial part of his job was the sorting-out process itself. For, unless there were only one of each animal, which is unlikely, Adam had to group together those animals which were similar and learn to mentally differentiate them from dissimilar ones. He had to learn to draw a mental boundary line between the various groups of animals, because only after he did this could he fully recognize, and therefore name, the different beasts. In other words, the great task Adam initiated was the construction of mental or symbolic dividing lines. Adam was the first to delineate nature, to mentally divide it up, mark it off, diagram it. Adam was the first great mapmaker. Adam drew boundaries.

So successful was this mapping of nature that, to this day, our lives are largely spent in drawing boundaries. Every decision we make, our every action, our every word is based on the construction, conscious or unconscious, of boundaries. I am not now referring to just a self-identity boundary—important as that certainly is—but to all boundaries in the broadest sense. To make a decision means to draw a boundary line between what to choose and what not to choose. To desire something means to draw a boundary line between pleasurable and painful things and then move toward the former. To maintain an idea means to draw a boundary line between concepts felt to be true and concepts felt not to be true. To receive an education is to learn where and how to draw boundaries and then what to do with the bounded aspects. To maintain a judicial system is to draw a boundary line between those who fit society’s rules and those who don’t. To fight a war is to draw a boundary line between those who are for us and those who are against us. To study ethics is to learn how to draw a boundary line disclosing good and evil. To pursue Western medicine is to draw with greater clarity a boundary between sickness and health. Quite obviously, from minor incidents to major crises, from small decisions to big deals, from mild preferences to flaming passions, our lives are a process of drawing boundaries.

The peculiar thing about a boundary is that, however complex and rarefied it might be, it actually marks off nothing but an inside vs. an outside. For example, we can draw the very simplest form of a boundary line as a circle, and see that it discloses an inside versus an outside:

But notice that the opposites of inside vs. outside didn’t exist in themselves until we drew the boundary of the circle. It is the boundary line itself, in other words, which creates a pair of opposites. In short, to draw boundaries is to manufacture opposites. Thus we can start to see that the reason we live in a world of opposites is precisely because life as we know it is a process of drawing boundaries.

And the world of opposites is a world of conflict, as Adam himself would soon discover. Adam must have been fascinated with the power generated by drawing boundary lines and invoking names. Imagine: a simple sound such as “sky” could represent the whole immensity and vastness of the blue heavens, which were, by the power of boundary lines, recognized to be different from the earth, from water, from fire. So instead of handling and manipulating real objects, Adam could manipulate in his head these magic names which stood for the objects themselves. Before the invention of boundaries and names, for example, if Adam wanted to tell Eve that he thought she was as dumb as a jackass, he had to grab Eve and then wander around until he also found a jackass, and then point to the jackass, then point to Eve, then jump up and down and grunt and make stupid faces. But now, through the magic of words, Adam could just look up and say, “Good heavens, my dear, you are quite as dumb as a jackass.” Eve, who by the way was really much wiser than Adam, usually held her tongue. That is, she declined to reciprocate with word magic, for she knew in her heart that words were a two-edged sword, and that he who lives by the sword, perishes by the sword.

In the meantime, the results of Adam’s endeavors were spectacular, powerful, magical, and he understandably started to get a little cocky. He started extending boundaries into, and thus gaining knowledge over, places that were better left uncharted. This cocky behavior culminated at the Tree of Knowledge, which was really the tree of the opposites of good and evil. And when Adam recognized the difference between the opposites of good and evil, that is, when he drew a fatal boundary, his world fell apart. When Adam sinned, the entire world of opposites, which he himself had helped to create, returned to plague him. Pain vs. pleasure, good vs. evil, life vs. death, toil vs. play—the whole array of conflicting opposites swept down on humankind.

The exasperating fact which Adam learned was that every boundary line is also a potential battle line, so that just to draw a boundary is to prepare oneself for conflict. Specifically, the conflict of the war of opposites, the agonizing fight of life against death, pleasure against pain, good against evil. What Adam learned—and learned too late—is that “Where to draw the line?” really means, “Where the battle is to take place.”

The simple fact is that we live in a world of conflict and opposites because we live in a world of boundaries. Since every boundary line is also a battle line, here is the human predicament: the firmer one’s boundaries, the more entrenched are one’s battles. The more I hold onto pleasure, the more I necessarily fear pain. The more I pursue goodness, the more I am obsessed with evil. The more I seek success, the more I must dread failure. The harder I cling to life, the more terrifying death becomes. The more I value anything, the more obsessed I become with its loss. Most of our problems, in other words, are problems of boundaries and the opposites they create.

Now our habitual way of trying to solve these problems is to attempt to eradicate one of the opposites. We handle the problem of good vs. evil by trying to exterminate evil. We handle the problem of life vs. death by trying to hide death under symbolic immortalities. In philosophy we handle conceptual opposites by dismissing one of the poles or trying to reduce it to the other. The materialist tries to reduce mind to matter, while the idealist tries to reduce matter to mind. The monists try to reduce plurality to unity, the pluralists try to explain unity as plurality.

The point is that we always tend to treat the boundary as real and then manipulate the opposites created by the boundary. We never seem to question the existence of the boundary itself. Because we believe the boundary to be real, we staunchly imagine that the opposites are irreconcilable, separate, forever set apart. “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.” God and Satan, life and death, good and evil, love and hate, self and other—these are as different, we say, as night and day.

Thus we suppose that life would be perfectly enjoyable if we could only eradicate all the negative and unwanted poles of the pairs of opposites. If we could vanquish pain, evil, death, suffering, sickness, so that goodness, life, joy, and health would abound—that, indeed, would be the good life, and in fact, that is precisely many people’s idea of Heaven. Heaven has come to mean, not a transcendence of all opposites, but the place where all the positive halves of the pairs of opposites are accumulated, while Hell is the place where are massed all the negative halves: pain, suffering, torment, anxiety, sickness.

This goal of separating the opposites and then clinging to or pursuing the positive halves seems to be a distinguishing characteristic of progressive Western civilization—its religion, science, medicine, industry. Progress, after all, is simply progress toward the positive and away from the negative. Yet, despite the obvious comforts of medicine and agriculture, there is not the least bit of evidence to suggest that, after centuries of accentuating positives and trying to eliminate negatives, humanity is any happier, more content, or more at peace with itself. In fact, the available evidence suggests just the contrary: today is the “age of anxiety,” of “future shock,” of epidemic frustration and alienation, of boredom in the midst of wealth and meaninglessness in the midst of plenty.

It seems that “progress” and unhappiness might well be flip sides of the same restless coin. For the very urge to progress implies a discontent with the present state of affairs, so that the more I seek progress the more acutely I feel discontent. In blindly pursuing progress, our civilization has, in effect, institutionalized frustration. For in seeking to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, we have forgotten entirely that the positive is defined only in terms of the negative. The opposites might indeed be as different as night and day, but the essential point is that without night we would not even he able to recognize something called day. To destroy the negative is, at the same time, to destroy all possibility of enjoying the positive. Thus, the more we succeed in this adventure of progress, the more we actually fail, and hence the more acute becomes our sense of total frustration.

The root of the whole difficulty is our tendency to view the opposites as irreconcilable, as totally set apart and divorced from one another.

Even the simplest of opposites, such as buying versus selling, are viewed as two different and separate events. Now it is true that buying and selling are in some sense different, but they are also—and this is the point—completely inseparable. Any time you buy something, someone else has, in the same action, sold something. In other words, buying and selling are simply two ends of one event, namely, the single business transaction itself. And while the two ends of the transaction are “different,” the single event which they represent is one and the same.

In just the same way, all of the opposites share an implicit identity. That is, however vividly the differences between these opposites may strike us, they nevertheless remain completely inseparable and mutually-interdependent, and for the simple reason that the one could not exist without the other. Looked at in this way, there is obviously no inside without an outside, no up without down, no win without loss, no pleasure without pain, no life without death. Says the old Chinese sage Lao Tzu:

Is there a difference between yes and no? Is there a difference between good and evil? Must I fear what others fear? What nonsense! Having and not having arise together Difficult and easy complement each other Long and short contrast each other High and low rest upon each other Front and back follow one another.Lao Tzu

Chuang Tzu elaborates:

Thus, those who say that they would have right without its correlate, wrong; or good government without its correlate, misrule, do not apprehend the great principles of the universe, nor the nature of all creation. One might as well talk of the existence of Heaven without that of Earth, or of the negative principle without the positive, which is clearly impossible. Yet people keep on discussing it without stop; such people must be either fools or knaves.Chuang Tzu

The inner unity of opposites is hardly an idea confined to mystics, Eastern or Western. If we look to modern-day physics, the field in which the Western intellect has made its greatest advances, what we find is another version of reality as a union of opposites. In relativity theory, for example, the old opposites of rest vs. motion have become totally indistinguishable, that is, “each is both.” An object which appears at rest for one observer is, at the same time, in motion for a different observer. Likewise, the split between wave and particle vanishes into “wavicles,” and the contrast of structure vs. function evaporates. Even the age-old separation of mass from energy has fallen to Einstein’s E = mc2, and these ancient “opposites” are not viewed as merely two aspects of one reality, a reality to which Hiroshima so violently bore witness. Likewise, such opposites as subject vs. object and time vs. space are now seen as being so mutually interdependent that they form an inter-woven continuum, a single unified pattern. What we call “subject” and “object” are, like buying and selling, just two different ways of approaching one single process. And because the same holds true for time and space, we can no longer speak of an object being located in space or happening in time, but only of a spacetime occurrence. Modern physics, in short, proclaims that reality can only be considered a union of opposites. In the words of biophysicist Ludwig von Bertalanffy:

If what has been said is true, reality is what Nicholas of Cusa called the coincidentia oppositorum. Discursive thinking always represents only one aspect of ultimate reality, called God in Cusa’s terminology; it can never exhaust its infinite manifoldness. Hence ultimate reality is a unity of opposites.Ludwig von Bertalanffy

From the viewpoint of coincidentia oppositorum—”the coincidence of opposites”—what we thought were totally separate and irreconcilable opposites turn out to be, in von Bertalanffy’s phrase, “complimentary aspects of one and the same reality.”

It is for all these reasons that Alfred North Whitehead, one of the most influential philosophers of this century, set forth his philosophy of “organism” and “vibratory existence,” which suggests that all the “ultimate elements are in their essence vibratory.” That is, all the things and events we usually consider are irreconcilable, such as cause and effect, past and future, subject and object, are actually just like the crest and trough of a single wave, a single vibration. For a wave, although itself a single event, only expresses itself through the opposites of crest and trough, high point and low point. For that very reason, the reality is not found in the crest nor the trough alone, but in their unity (try to imagine a wave with crests but no troughs). Obviously, there’s no such thing as a crest without a trough, a high point without a low point. Crest and trough—indeed all opposites—are inseparable aspects of one underlying activity. Thus, as Whitehead puts it, each element of the universe is “a vibratory ebb and flow of an underlying energy or activity.”

Nowhere is this inner unity of opposites set forth more clearly than in the Gestalt theory of perception. According to Gestalt, we are never aware of any object or event or figure save in relation to a contrasting background. For example, something we call “light” is really a light figure standing out against a dark background. When I look up to the heavens on a dark night and perceive the brilliance of a bright star, what I am really seeing—what my eye actually “takes in”—is not the separate star, but the entire field or Gestalt of “bright star plus dark background.” However drastic the contrast between the bright star and its background of darkness, the point is that without the one I could never perceive the other. “Light” and “dark” are thus two correlative aspects of one single sensory Gestalt. Likewise, I cannot perceive motion except in relation to rest, nor effort without ease, nor complexity without simplicity, nor attraction without repulsion.

In the same way, I am never aware of pleasure except in relation to pain. I might indeed be feeling very comfortable and pleasurable at this moment, but I would never be able to realize that were it not for the background existence of discomfort and pain. This is why pleasure and pain always seem to alternate, for it is only in their mutual contrast and alternation that the existence of each can be recognized. Thus, as much as I like the one and loathe the other, the attempt to isolate them is futile. As Whitehead would say, pleasure and pain are just the inseparable crest and trough of a single wave of awareness, and to try to accentuate the positive crest and eliminate the negative trough is to try to eliminate the wave of awareness itself.

Perhaps we can begin to understand why life, when viewed as a world of separate opposites, is so totally frustrating, and why progress has actually become not a growth but a cancer. In trying to separate the opposites and cling to those we judge positive, such as pleasure without pain, life without death, good without evil, we are really striving after phantoms without the least reality. Might as well strive for a world of crests and no troughs, buyers and no sellers, lefts and no rights, ins and no outs. Thus, as Wittgenstein pointed out, because our goals are not lofty but illusory, our problems are not difficult but nonsensical.

That all opposites—such as mass and energy, subject and object, life and death—are so much each other that they are perfectly inseparable, still strikes most of us as hard to believe. But this is only because we accept as real the boundary line between the opposites. It is, recall, the boundaries themselves which create the seeming existence of separate opposites. To put it plainly, to say that “ultimate reality is a unity of opposites” is actually to say that in ultimate reality there are no boundaries. Anywhere.

The fact is, we are so bewitched by boundaries, so under the spell of Adam’s sin, that we have totally forgotten the actual nature of boundary lines themselves. For boundary lines, of any type, are never found in the real world itself, but only in the imagination of mapmakers. To be sure, there are many kinds of lines in the natural world, such as the shoreline situated between continents and the oceans surrounding them. There are, in fact, all sorts of lines and surfaces in nature—outlines of leaves and skins of organisms, skylines and tree lines and lake lines, surfaces of light and shade, and lines setting off all objects from their environment. Obviously those surfaces and lines are actually there, but those lines, such as the shoreline between land and water, don’t merely represent a separation of land and water, as we generally suppose. As Alan Watts pointed out so often, those so-called “dividing lines” equally represent precisely those places where the land and water touch each other. That is, those lines join and unite just as much as they divide and distinguish. These lines, in other words, aren’t boundaries! There is a vast difference between a line and a boundary, as we shall presently see.

The point, then, is that lines join the opposites as well as distinguish them. And that precisely is the essence and function of all real lines and surfaces in nature. They explicitly mark off the opposites while at the same time they implicitly unify them. For example, let’s draw the line representing a concave figure, as follows:

But notice immediately that with the very same line I have also created a convex figure. This is what the Taoist sage Lao Tzu meant when he said that all opposites arise simultaneously and mutually. Like concave and convex in this example, they come into existence together. Further, we cannot say that the line separates concave from convex, because there is only one line and it is wholly shared by both. The line, far from separating concave and convex, makes it absolutely impossible for the one to exist without the other. Because of that single line, no matter how we draw a concave, we have also drawn a convex, because the outline of the concave is the inline of the convex. Thus, you will never find a concave without a convex, for these, like all opposites, are fated to intimately embrace one another for all time.

The point is that all of the lines we find in nature, or even construct ourselves, do not merely distinguish different opposites, but also bind the two together in an inseparable unity. A line, in other words, is not a boundary. For a line, whether mental, natural, or logical doesn’t just divide and separate, it also joins and unites. Boundaries, on the other hand, are pure illusions—they pretend to separate what is not in fact separable. In this sense, the actual world contains lines but no real boundaries.

A real line becomes an illusory boundary when we imagine its two sides to be separated and unrelated; that is, when we acknowledge the outer difference of the two opposites but ignore their inner unity. A line becomes a boundary when we forget that the inside co-exists with the outside. A line becomes a boundary when we imagine that it just separates but doesn’t unite at the same time. It is fine to draw lines, provided we do not mistake them for boundaries. It is fine to distinguish pleasure from pain; it is impossible to separate pleasure from pain.

Now we generate the illusions of boundaries in much the same way Adam originally did, for the sins of the fathers have been visited on their sons and daughters. We begin by either following the lines of nature— shorelines, forest lines, sky lines, rock surfaces, skin surfaces, and so on—or by constructing our own mental lines (which are ideas and concepts). By this process we sort out and classify aspects of our world. We learn to recognize the difference between the inside and outside of our classes: between what are rocks and what are not rocks, between what is pleasure and what is not pleasure, between what is tall and what is not tall, between what is good and what is not good…

Already our lines are in danger of becoming boundaries, for we are recognizing explicit differences and forgetting the implicit unity. And this error is facilitated as we proceed to name, to attach a word or symbol to, the inside and outside of the class. For the words we use for the inside of the class, such as “light,” “up,” “pleasure,” are definitely detachable and separate from the words we use for the outside of the class, such as “dark,” “down,” and “pain.”

Thus, we can manipulate the symbols independently of their mandatory opposites. For instance, I can create a sentence which says, “I want pleasure,” and there is no reference in that sentence to pleasure’s necessary opposite, pain. I can separate pleasure and pain in words, in my thoughts, even though in the real world the one is never found apart from the other. At this point, the line between pleasure and pain becomes a boundary, and the illusion that the two are separate seems convincing. Not seeing that the opposites are just two different names for one process, I imagine there are two different processes set against each other. Commenting on this, L. L. Whyte said, “Thus, the immature mind, unable to escape its own prejudice … is condemned to struggle in the straitjacket of its dualisms: subject/object, time/space, spirit/matter, freedom/necessity, free will/law. The truth, which must be single, is ridden with contradiction. Man cannot think where he is, for he has created two worlds from one.”

Our problem, it seems, is that we create a conventional map, complete with boundaries, of the actual territory of nature, which has no boundaries, and then thoroughly confuse the two. As Korzybski and the general semanticists have pointed out, our words, symbols, signs, thoughts and ideas are merely maps of reality, not reality itself, because “the map is not the territory.” The word “water” won’t satisfy your thirst. But we live in the world of maps and words as if it were the real world. Following in the footsteps of Adam, we have become totally lost in a world of purely fantasy maps and boundaries. And these illusory boundaries, with the opposites they create, have become our impassioned battles.

Most of our “problems of living,” then, are based on the illusion that the opposites can and should be separated and isolated from one another. But since all opposites are actually aspects of one underlying reality, this is like trying to totally separate the two ends of a single rubber band. All you can do is pull harder and harder—until something violently snaps. Thus we might be able to understand that, in all the mystical traditions the world over, one who sees through the illusion of the opposites is called “liberated.” Because he is “freed from the pairs” of opposites, he is freed in this life from the fundamentally nonsensical problems and conflicts involved in the war of opposites. He no longer manipulates the opposites one against the other in his search for peace, but instead transcends them both. Not good vs. evil but beyond good and evil. Not life against death but a center of awareness that transcends both. The point is not to separate the opposites and make “positive progress,” but rather to unify and harmonize the opposites, both positive and negative, by discovering a ground which transcends and encompasses them both. And that ground, as we will soon see, is unity consciousness itself. In the meantime, let us note, as does the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita, that liberation is not freedom from the negative, but freedom from the pairs altogether:

Content with getting what arrives of itself    Passed beyond the pairs, free from envy, Not attached to success nor failure,    Even acting, he is not bound. He is to be recognized as eternally free    Who neither loathes nor craves;For he that is freed from the pairs, Is easily freed from conflict.Bhagavad Gita

This being “freed from the pairs” is, in Western terms, the discovery of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, even though the popular evangelists have forgotten it. For Heaven is not, as pop religion would have it, a state of all positives and no negatives, but the state of realizing “no-opposites” or “not-two-ness,” at least according to the Gospel of St. Thomas:

They said to Him: Shall we then, being children, enter the Kingdom? Jesus said to them: When you make the two one, and when you make the inner as the outer and the outer as the inner and the above as the below, and when you make the male and the female into a single one, then you shall enter the Kingdom.Gospel of St. Thomas

This idea of no-opposites and not-two-ness is the essence of Advaita Hinduism (advaita means “nondual” or “not-two”) and of Mahayana Buddhism. The idea is beautifully expressed in one of the most important Buddhist texts, the Lankavatara Sutra:

False-imagination teaches that such things as light and shade, long and short, black and white are different and are to be discriminated; but they are not independent of each other; they are only different aspects of the same thing, they are terms of relation, not of reality. Conditions of existence are not of a mutually exclusive character; in essence things are not two but one.Lankavatara Sutra

We could multiply these quotes indefinitely, but they would all point to the same thing: ultimate reality is a union of opposites. And since it is expressly the boundaries which we superimpose on reality that slice it up into innumerable pairs of opposites, the claim of all these traditions that reality is freed from the pairs of opposites is a claim that reality is freed from all boundaries. That reality is not-two means that reality is no-boundary.

Thus the solution to the war of the opposites requires the surrendering of all boundaries, and not the progressive juggling of the opposites against each other. The war of opposites is a symptom of a boundary taken to be real, and to cure the symptoms we must go to the root of the matter itself: our illusory boundaries.

But, we ask, what will happen to our drive for progress if we see all opposites are one? Well, with any luck, it will stop—and with it that peculiar discontent that thrives on the illusion that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But we should be clear about this. I do not mean that we will cease making advancements of a sort in medicine, agriculture, and technology. We will only cease to harbor the illusion that happiness depends on it. For when we see through the illusions of our boundaries, we will see, here and now, the universe as Adam saw it before the Fall: an organic unity, a harmony of opposites, a melody of positive and negative, delight with the play of our vibratory existence. When the opposites are realized to be one, discord melts into concord, battles become dances, and old enemies become lovers. We are then in a position to make friends with all of our universe, and not just one half of it.

Ken Wilber

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”.