In this feature presentation from the 2016 SAND Conference, Ken Wilber explains why the path of “waking up” (spiritual awakening) needs to be complemented by the path of “growing up” (psychological maturity) in order to renew and replenish our understanding of enlightenment in the 21st century.
“It is often said in the great wisdom Traditions that typical, conventional life is like a dream, an illusion, a mistaken reality. And what it’s mistaken for is the real Reality, an ultimate unity, oneness, infinite harmony and interconnectedness with the entire universe—the discovery of our real Self, Big Mind, the groundless Ground of all Being, the Supreme Identity, the Great Liberation in infinite Spirit. Mindfulness meditation, for example, was created as a practice that will help us experience this Enlightenment, Awakening, ultimate Transformation. This is the profound path of Waking Up, and it is found in the great Traditions around the world.
On the other hand, according to these Traditions, the typical, conventional, orthodox Western psychologies only deal with the illusory self—the finite, conventional, skin‑encapsulated ego. Its typical developmental processes are altogether called the path of Growing Up.
So we have the path of Waking Up—which deals with ultimate Reality, with the Ground of all Being, with the divine Self and infinite Spirit—and we have the path of Growing Up—which deals with the finite self, the ordinary, conventional, typical small self and its changes, the path of Growing Up.
But even the great Traditions acknowledge that both of these realities, both of these paths, are important—one being relatively real (Growing Up), and one being ultimately real (Waking Up)—or relative and ultimate truth. But as profound as the Great Traditions are, their major limitation is that they don’t deal with the path of Growing Up in any detailed fashion; they point to the absolute Self, but don’t know how to help the relative self function and thrive. Western psychologies, on the other hand, have mapped out upwards of a dozen major stages that the relative self goes through on its way to maturity, and even somebody who is Enlightened will go through these stages (even if they aren’t exclusively identified with them, as the typical person is). The relative self is, in fact, the vehicle or vessel through which the absolute Self will express itself, manifest itself, communicate itself. The more mature the relative self of an Enlightened person is, then the more impressive, coherent, and inspiring the Enlightened person’s absolute Self and its message will be.”
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”.