The Ego and Integralism


The fact that any citizen can be its leader is a beautiful myth and one I want to cultivate. No shame in that. I also don’t have any problem with teenagers wanting to be Taylor Swift, Beyoncé or Selena Gomez (ok maybe this one). I don’t see these people as famous for just being famous (like the Kardashians), they are artists and uniquely talented.


Hi again Mbohu,

Hearing a little bit about your history as a monk in community, I can appreciate even more your inquiries into the nature of ego, and also your view of the moralizing that goes on in some traditions, their leaders perhaps living in the “rule/role” mind. As to ego, have you checked out the topic on this site “Are we missing something in development”? There are comments there about the healthy and unhealthy aspects of egocentrism as a stage of development.

Also, since you mentioned some of your “beyond ego” meditative experiences, I’m wondering if you see those experiences, cumulatively, as having an effect on one’s “limited self-definition”?


Hi, LaWanna,

Yes, I would say they do. I think it’s not so much about making that self-definition better or more evolved, or anything like that, but it makes your grip on that self-definition a little less tight. As you realize that “oh, I am not (just) THAT”, you start to be able to shift a bit between different self-definitions. Even when you’re stuck on one, you can at least cognitively realize that it may not be as true or important as your attachment may have you think.

As for the moralizing, it goes deeper than just the attitude of leaders and groups: I have so far found that almost every value judgement in the spiritual realm (which may be useful for some time) can outlive its validity and actually be turned into its opposite. 2 examples:

This entire “I am not the body” thing, that probably most people first start out with when they start to be attracted to a spiritual practice: It makes sense, our culture is focused on physical things to the exclusion of everything else (or more accurately on upper-right objects) and to realize there is more than the body can be very enlivening. But it can soon turn to a very disembodied type of spirituality. Turning back towards the body can bring some of the most powerful spiritual experiences and transformations. “I AM the body”, every single living cell of it (and not some dis-embodied “soul” remote-controlling it) can be an extremely enlightening experience! (Of course, here the body is not a concept in our mind, but a lived internal experience.)

Example 2, as it came up in our exploration of ego: DESIRES…the big bad boys of spirituality (in Christianity it’s mostly the sexual desires that are deemed as bad, bad bad. In Eastern Philosophy it’s more the supposed possessiveness of desires that is the focus…but they are considered bad in either system).
Well, there really is no spiritual progress without desire. What is it, after all that attracts us to spirituality and motivates us to go through all kinds of trials and tribulations to achieve something? You may call it longing, aspiration, or whatever other word you can come up with, in essence it is desire; the primal mover and shaker in our human existence!
Now, you may say there is a difference between the grosser desires and the more subtle ones, but if you say that the problem is the pain that they can bring, my experience is that ALL of them can bring pain when they are thwarted (and often also when they are fulfilled.) The grosser ones bring grosser pain, the subtler ones bring subtler pains.
So, then we have the non-dualists, who say the solution is simply to not want anything. To not long for spiritual things, to not long for material things, to simply be completely satisfied with whatever is: There is no enlightenment, there is no progress, there is no evolution; everything simply is as it is.
As much of truth as there may be in that, I find most of the people who say this to be either the most lifeless, joyless kinds of seekers (well, actually they don’t seek, of course!) or the most nihilistic and sarcastic ones.

So: Desires–good, bad, ugly? Who knows. Both and neither is probably the best bet!


In 1966, you had 4 white guys and 1 white woman…in 2016…you have one white guy, one white woman, one Latina, one African American woman and one African American male.


In the ITP there is not much on soul-here is a small segment: “Soul work is not equivalent to shadow work because it concerns an entirely different category of shadow-not into what was repressed, but into what is just barely emergent. It is not equivalent to the work of the Spirit module because it awakens downward into the personal and particular rather than waking up into Suchness.
Nonetheless soul work connects and integrates with both shadow and spirit…But being a person isn’t easy. We resist it. So that’s where soul work starts.”


How observant you are. So that’s one marker of progress. While I agree there’s talent in the 2016 list, one doesn’t know if talent is why teens want to be like them, or if it’s simply fame and fortune, or even looks and clothing. My guess is that Taylor, Beyonce and Gomez were selected by girls–don’t you think? Can’t imagine a teen-age boy saying he’d most like to be like Selena Gomez. So boys maybe (we don’t know) went with the two presidents. Interesting.


Thanks @LaWanna. I remember being asked at the freshmen orientation the person we most admire (I think that was how it was phrased) and I picked Mike D of the Beastie Boys (lol). I admired his creativity and way of life.
I would assume the women in that list were picked by girls or those with feminine directions. I hope the boys wouldn’t just pick the presidents, but maybe?
Still trying to get an idea what you think a soul culture looks like…


Yes, I agree with that. It seems to me that disembodied spirituality can be a case of failure to “include” in the sense of “transcending and including.” On the other hand, for some people the spiritual experience is very connected to body and the sacred is not seen or experienced as separate from the body (and by extension, the earth). I’m thinking of the awakening of kundalini shakti which can be a very physical experience, to one degree or another, and Tantric paths as examples, but I’m also thinking of the (stereo-?)typical female/feminine orientation to spirituality. I remember a phase in my own development when the earth as source of spiritual connection began to wither. It was disconcerting for quite a while. I already knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was not just and was in fact quite more than the body, and I also knew that I was in a process of further disidentification with and transcendence of the gross-physical realm, but for some reason, to feel a spiritual aridity or lack of feeling about the earth really troubled me. I felt I was losing a Mother, a Lover/Friend, a Spiritual Sanctuary, a Home. Then one day, Rupert Sheldrake came to the rescue (again). I was reading a piece by him in which he said (paraphrasing) that “we all have to eventually emancipate from the earth.” That one sentence, with the word ‘emancipate,’ did it for me; rather than continuing to frame the experience I was having as a loss, it became an experience indicating liberation, greater freedom. Seems so obvious now, but at the time, it wasn’t; I was too focused on those feelings of loss. And of course, there is still the “include” part, meaning eventually I had feelings for the earth as manifest Spirit again, just not in same clutchy way.

This made me think of that familiar verse from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:

You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.

I think there’s a difference between not-wanting-anything as a practice, and not-wanting-anything as a lived experience/reality. I don’t doubt that there are people, spiritual leaders/teachers, who have a lived experience of not-wanting-anything, and who see the value in that. Offered to students as a practice, it might not be very effective and as you say, result in joylessness, etc.
But I will say, I have also experienced a phase in which I truly did not desire much of anything. It didn’t feel lifeless to me, it just felt, again as you say, like being satisfied with “whatever is.” This phase, I would also add, came right on the heels of a 7-year period in which I was intensely living to the best of my ability that verse quoted above from the Upanishads. So in my case, it seemed that I was experiencing the polarities back-to-back: desire and not-desire.


Seems like we might want to talk about what soul is first, what people say it is, and/or what we experience it as.

Back in the day when KW and Andrew Cohen were doing The Guru and the Pandit conversations, they did one called “The Nature of the Soul,” which I thought was outstanding. I haven’t been able to locate that online; it was a part of The Spiritual TV Channel and presented in 2012 by EnlightenNext and Integral Life. While I know Andrew Cohen is viewed by many as a dishonorable figure, if anyone can locate this, it’s worth a listen, imo. Anything I would say about soul would include some of that.

Do you Ixvythrs want to say anything about soul, other than what you’ve posted?


Beautiful. I love that!

As so often, the Upanishads come to the rescue! :wink:

How interesting. For me it was quite the opposite: I started out yearning for the freedom of transcending the earth and the physical, and only later in my journey did I have to come back to learn to include and find the power of the lower chakras again (I experienced it like I’ve been listening to the most beautiful, airy space-music, and suddenly the base dropped in–what power!)

I also find that “internal body awareness” really is a type of meditation that transcends the conceptual boundaries between body, subtle body, astral, soul, causal, etc. When I am focused on feeling the light particles that seemingly make up this awareness for me, it does not make much difference if I started out feeling deep inside my body or high above my head. There is a simple continuum of energy/presence that, if anything contains what we call “the body” rather than being contained by it.
–but of course, that is only one experience.

A couple people that at least seem to hold the non-dual perspective in their experience are Ramana Maharshi and (maybe to a lesser extent?) Byron Katie. They, at least, do not feel joyless to me–but many others who try to counter every argument with some reference to “it’s all one; nothing matters”, do. (I just have this nagging feeling that many people simply read spiritual writings, extract out of them, what the “highest” achievement is supposed to be and then simply try to adopt that as their “belief” and really pretend to be at that place by spouting it, as if a cognitive adaption of the correct belief would be anywhere near an actual experience. (I think I’ve developed an allergy to this kind of stuff over my years of interacting with “spiritual” people):rofl:

The quote: " Questioner: How are we to treat others? Ramana Maharshi: There are no others." is actually quite full of humor!


Speaking only for myself, I am doing my best to use my intuition as to what the soul is, without over complicating it. Also in religion of tomorrow, wilber discusses the idea of the soul learning the lessons of life, storing them, and then when reincarnated that soul returns with not having to repeat those lessons but can sort of it use as a starting marker. He emphasizes that integral theory doesn’t endorse reincarnation, but as an all inclusive metatheory keeps it as a hypothesis.
Soul is what transcends this life.
It is our divine spark.
It is our unique gift that we bring to this life…


Great simile!

And yes yes yes.

Yes again.

Wish I’d written that…

Just curious if you’re tuning into the “Inhabit” Embodiment series at Integral Life with Corey and Ryan Oelke, or maybe you have your own methods of working/playing with embodiment?


Great start, you man of few words. Me, I’m a lot wordier, and as soon as I get those words organized, I’ll be back. I agree with what you’ve said, and think that using your intuition to know what soul is, is itself an act of soul.

Edit, adding to the above comments. So yes, individual spark of the Divine, personal and unique.
Considered by some religions to be the life-giving, life-sustaining principle.
Considered immortal or everlasting by some religions. Considered the part of us that reincarnates by some Eastern traditions, as well as some Native American tribes, and as such gives continuity to the self, lifetime to lifetime.

In Indian and yogic philosophy, the soul holds our samskaras, imprints or karmic impressions, both positive and negative, formed by our tendencies (in speech, thought, and deed),habits, addictions, attachments and aversions. Also holds karmic imprints/impressions of our most extraordinary experiences–from severe traumas to profound spiritual experiences/raptures.

As you said, it is viewed as a repository for lessons learned, including the general learning of the ego. It is a reservoir of creativity and creative energy; talents and skills stored there as well.

The source of moral virtue and higher qualities of love and wisdom.

Is a part of the subtle body, and associated with and accessed interiorly through subtle states of consciousness–dreaming and “waking-dreams” (such as shamanic journeying for some), as well as meditation/deep prayer/contemplation, etc. Subtle states afford perception beyond the five physical senses (while including them), so psychism, hunches and intuition, light phenomena/luminations, visions and such, including non-physical sounds, aromas, tastes, “sensings/feelings/touchings”. Awareness of subtle energy and presences, both deity and otherwise. The soul/subtle-self is not bound to the space-time construction.

The soul is subject to evolving, like the ego-self.

I think of the soul as encompassing both a higher or transcendent form of human love and a personal, intimate spiritual love.


I finally finished Religion of Tomorrow. That chapter on Integral Semiotics and a New-God talk was epic! I will try to summarize a couple of key points and see if I can tie it to this subject of soul culture.
First of all, I think his point on needing a new language is dead on. I have even reflected lately that I am not even sure Spirituality is a very useful word these days because it can mean so many things and can leave two people attempting to have a discussion on the subject more confused at the end compared to where they began.
“Integral semiotics is about recognizing that every thing or event (every referent) has a Kosmic Address–it exists in some particular worldspace somewhere in the AQAL Matrix–and that if you want to be able to see that real thing or event (the real referent), you have to put yourself in the same vicinity as the Kosmic Address of the event you want to see or experience; your Kosmic Address must generally align with the Kosmic Address of the thing you want to experience, or it won’t happen.”
I think it is interesting that Ken mentions how the ego “in all its actions… is always something in final reference to the sensorimotor realm…The soul on the other head is oriented to interiors.” And goes on to say that “Although the leading edge of culture in the Western world today (on average) is orange/green altitude (in structures) with gross/egoic states (on average), it should be, at the least, at orange/green with a subtle-state center.”
I think this is an interesting point. I’ve kind of been searching for what are the requirements to be Integral and I think this kind of brings it hope to me: you can be integral and still have a center of gravity at gross/egoic. I didn’t think this was possible at first but I kind of get it now, especially in the West. We are still Growing Up but not exactly Waking Up. It speaks to some of the frustration I’ve heard in the Integral community about Integral not doing enough (Ken speaks directly to this in this chapter as well). What they are saying is that they are not doing enough in the gross sensorimotor world. I definitely get what he means about ego addiction and “the larger consciousness of the soul is being funneled (and narrowed downwardly) into merely egoic desires, wants, needs, and values…the extraordinary growth in technology made the gross realm continue to yield up, in ever-increasing amounts more and more material things that the ego craves-a highly technologized world is an ego’s ultimate heaven.” This speaks to some sort of fallacy in which a person might think they can satisfy the needs of the soul with more and more toys or tech.
Maybe it is not as sexy to chase deeper interiors? It certainly seems that there should be some attention to this. I think that is where Integral Semiotics comes in. The world might be fuller at Integral but it wouldn’t be any Freer if we remain fixated at gross/egoic states.
Speaking to the another thread on here about addiction. It is no wonder that we are chasing altered states (using drugs) as a culture-we rarely know how to address the next realm-the soul.


Hi LaWanna,
I have not yet tuned into the “Inhabit” Embodiment series at Integral Life, but I will certainly do so now. Thank you for the recommendation.
My working & playing (lovely word to use!) with embodiment includes various methods, the two major ones I am connecting with right now come from my training as a Brennan Healing Science Practitioner and from some of the work of Thomas Hübl.


Hi Ixvythrs,

I see that this conversation about soul culture, subtle states, etc. is also happening under another thread, so I’ll post that thread here–“Inhabit: Your Spiritual Life.” So there, my need for organization is at least temporarily taken care of. Some great points there by Corey, answering your question.

If you have a copy of “Integral Spirituality,” Wilber addresses 4 meanings of the word ‘spiritual’ starting on pg. 100, four ways in which people use the word (not always knowing they are using it in that particular way). If you don’t have that book, I’ll be glad to briefly summarize here if you want me to.

With all this talk about soul and soul culture, I noticed a youtube video on “Healing Practices for the Soul” with Caroline Myss. Since I hadn’t tuned in to her work in quite a while, I checked it out, and heard her saying in her own language many of the same things KW/Integralists talk about, e.g. perspectives at different levels, and the need for a “new theology” (she was once a Catholic nun) and new spiritual language (semiotics). She also spoke of ‘religious mythologies have got to come down,’ and how new kosmic structures are incarnating, transcendent of (the usual mainstream) religions, and the need for mystical religion (rather than political religion), and that evolution demands transformation!!!

She also spoke of soul needing to be considered outside of these usual religious mythologies, and said several things about soul that I found relevant. She spoke of the soul as “having eyes of its own” (e.g. multisensory) and the “delicate perceptions” of the subtle-state, and of the “extreme experiences” of mystics of the nature of “God,” (having visions, seeing apparitions, angels, bilocation experiences, etc–all potential experiences of the high-subtle state/self).

Perhaps more useful to the average one of us wanting better understanding of soul, she said that soul is “the loudest part of your life and your inner being” because it “compulsively makes you restless in wanting understanding of why you’re here.” This speaks to meaning and purpose, and their being found in the interiors, not solely in exteriors. (And I would add that other existential issues, such as dealing with aloneness, loneliness, and isolation as well as relationships; dealing with uncertainty and with our limits/limitations, also are fruitfully addressed by turning within, not just by relying solely on exteriors.)

This I also really liked: soul is the part of you that has a craving to be significant, where the craving for significance is a “deep desire to matter, to make a difference, to have the world be a better place because I was here.” This is differentiated from the ego’s cravings for attention, to be noticed, to be acknowledged, to be important for the sake of being important, to matter so it can “get.”

Back to subtle states again, in TRofT, Wilber spoke in the section on soul-culture (around page 444), that unlike with structure-stages of development, which have been widely researched, there have been ‘few critiques of the state center of gravity’ in Western culture. So very little attention is being paid to states of consciousness in society, or rather, to the stagnation we find ourselves in at the gross-egoic state. People do talk about the bane of materialism and consumerism, but those conversations never seem to move in the direction of asking why or “what’s next?” So it’s important we’re talking about this, and maybe Wilber will jump-start a cultural conversation by writing a book solely on this subject. He could call it “Foolishly-Offered-Everywhere Kindness: Soul Culture and Subtle States of Consciousness.” The phrase ‘foolishly-offered…’ is from TRofT, pg. 662, one of my favorite flavors of the day. If that flavor is the most that might result from our becoming a soul culture, that’s a lot, so much more than we have today.


I assume this is also addressed in the Semiotics chapter? 1) saying what Spirit is, 2) saying what Spirit is not, 3) saying what Spirit is like, and 4) “most importantly, and ultimately the only technically ‘correct’ type of language, is injunctive, which provides the instructions the instructions and directions for the practices, paradigms, and actions required to put out consciousness in the same vicinity as the Kosmic Address of the specific dimension of Spirit being sought, there to experience the referent directly for oneself.” I loved it. It is still seeping in, specifically the number 4 definition.

He also addresses this point in the second part of this:

Interesting perspective on “foolishly offered everywhere kindness”- as being a feature/result of soul culture. :slight_smile:


That’s a great chapter, isn’t it? Love that book.

What I was speaking of though is how people specifically use the word “spiritual” itself. Per “Integral Spirituality”-- 1) To mean the highest levels in any of the lines of development (like values, morals, etc.) or 2) to mean spirituality as a separate line itself (i.e. spiritual intelligence) or 3) to mean an extraordinary religious or spiritual peak experience or state or 4) to mean a particular attitude or feeling such as love, compassion, wisdom.

Also pointed out here is that there are levels/stages of religion/spirituality (magic to mythic to rational…etc.) across four states (gross, subtle, causal, non-dual) which are also four types or classes (nature, deity, formless, non-dual), plus, spirituality as expressed through quadrants (Great Self or I, Great You/Thou, Great It).

A lot of ways to speak of Spirit, spiritual, spirituality!


Something I was contemplating last night was the “what Spirit is not” question. I have had some Christians come by my door a few times recently and they asked me if I thought God was responsible for (insert the most natural disaster or crime, etc.) It’s usually in the context of " Do you ever think “How can God allow this to happen?”. They then quote the Bible and have either pointed to Satan or those who have turned away from God as the reasons for this suffering.
Anyways, I was reflecting on the four different ways of speaking of Spirit and thought the “what Spirit is not” question to be of interest.


Maybe the ego is just a culmination of the various personas we use to relate to the outside world. It might be that integrating the (ego) into the self in an organic way makes more sense than , killing it or trying to escape it. It is more like a messenger to interact with others, If you embrace your ego with thw same kindness and generosity you might your inner child, maybe it will (behave) more in a fashion you will like to see representing you to the rest of the world. Maybe?