Tipping Points and the Eye of Contemplation

Ken WilberAudio, Conversations, Perspectives, Spiritual, Spirituality, The Loft Series, Worldviews 2 Comments

Ken Wilber explores the profound changes that occur when a newly-evolved set of visions, views, and values reaches a cultural tipping point and begin to saturate the rest of society. He then turns his attention to the question of how we come to know Spirit, and how that ‘knowing’ differs from other forms of knowledge.

You’ve probably heard one of Ken’s most famous predictions — namely, that once 10% of a population reaches an integral wave of development, integral values will begin permeating mainstream culture. But, have you heard that its been proven? Well, it has, at least according to Facebook—along with a group of RPI scientists—who’ve published their lower-right account of the cultural development in an obscure journal on soft matter physics. You can find it right next to the article on isochronal chaos synchronization of delay-coupled optoelectronic oscillators. How’s that for a mouthful?

Perhaps a bit of voice dialogue is in order: “Can we talk to the voice of the skeptic?” To be fair, the journal in question (Physical Review E) does have a section on interdisciplinary physics—and, whether interdisciplinary or not, we really don’t have an issue with physics (or physicists), but we are recommending that this topic be approached with a healthy dose of critical thinking. A few perspectives that head in that direction begin this month’s Loft Series talk, where Ken starts off by rightfully pointing out that these researchers are reporting on the functional dispersion of ideas across networks, and not on levels of consciousness, values, or beliefs. The simulation data referenced in this research does indeed indicate that the rate of adoption of minority-held ideas increases rapidly once committed believers reach 10%—but this in no way suggests, for example, that once we see 10% of the current population reach an integral wave of development that a rapid acceleration of development toward integral will ensue. In reflection, Ken aptly points out that a reverse of that flow (that is, not values rushing toward integral, but values spreading down from integral) might be a far more interesting topic to consider, and he even seems to implies that these findings may be partially applicable to a scenario that works like this. As 10% of a given population reaches a given level of development (say green), the ideas and values of that level (say environmental sustainability) start to trickle down and permeate the prior levels of development still present in a given culture. Then, instead of seeing amber or orange levels accelerate in development toward green, we do see amber and orange versions or articulations of the newly popular green values.

It’s at this point in the talk that Ken takes an abrupt turn away from the week’s most exciting internet meme and toward a discussion on how we come to know Spirit. At first this turn seemed a bit jarring, maybe even disconnected, but after another listen we picked up on an important thread, one which may have very well been an embedded lesson (or challenge) to connect a subtle point of the teaching back to the manner in which we assess the tipping point article. This subtle thread concerns the three eyes of knowing, a concept first introduced in Ken’s 1983 book Eye to Eye, along with the there strands of valid knowing. In short, it goes like this: The eye of flesh reveals a realm of data called sensibilia; the eye of mind reveals a realm of intelligibilia; the eye of contemplation (or Spirit) reveals a realm of transcendelia. Anything revealed through any of these eyes, if it is to be taken as real or valid, must adhere to the three strands of knowing: injunction, data, and communal confirmation. You might very well recognize this as the general flow of the scientific method, but, the difference here is that the injunction strand is specific to each eye, and not merely confined to empirical investigation. So, if you’d like to validate the existence of Spirit, an injunction that looks through the eye of flesh (think brain scans) will get you nowhere fast. Instead, you must engage an injunction that looks through the eye of contemplation (think meditation). And if you do, transcendeila (and data of that variety alone) will be disclosed. Finally, confirm your experience—accounting for cultural and tradition-specific variance as you do—with a group of folks engaging the same injunction and see if you can validate the existence of Spirt.

So, how does this connect to the tipping point article? Well, instead of just giving everything away, we’d like to pass on Ken’s challenge to you. But, we’ll give you a hint. It has nothing to do with Spirit—look instead toward discrepancies between the eye of flesh and the eye of mind.

Written by Clint Fuhs

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”.


  1. Avatar

    Lovely talk and accessible commentary. Typo: it’s “the three stands of valid knowing…”

    1. Corey deVos

      Hi Stephen, so glad you enjoyed the dialogue!

      Ken has actually been referring to these as the “three strands” ever since Eye to Eye in 1983, (e.g “We can now give some examples of these three strands as they appear in the realms of sensibilia, intelligibilia, and transcendelia.”) I’ve never actually heard the phrase “the three stands” before, but I kind of like it!

Leave a Comment