Vishen: Hi, I’m Vishen Lakhiani, Founder of Mindvalley, the school for human transformation.
You’re listening to the “Mindvalley Podcast,” where we’ll be bringing you the greatest teachers and thought leaders on the planet, to discuss the world’s most powerful ideas in personal growth of the mind, body, spirit, and work.
I’m Vishen Lakhiani, and this is the “Mindvalley Podcast.”
Hi everyone, this is Vishen Lakhiani, and with me, I have the legendary Ken Wilber. Ken, how are you today?
Ken: Hello, my friend. Good to hear your voice, and I’m delighted to be here with all of you.
Vishen: So what we did for all of you listening is, I put up several posts on my Facebook, I got several dozen people to ask their deepest, most interesting questions to Ken on a variety of topics, from the world we live in, and understanding geopolitics and how things are playing out today, to education, to personal growth, and deep questions such as what are stages beyond kosmocentricness, as well as questions on God and religion itself. So it’s been a very interesting conversation. And we’ll be talking about education and the world we live in.
So, we’re gonna start with the first question, and this came from Shalla Anna Lucia. Shalla asks, is it possible to bring about health on this planet if every newborn was given the right upbringing education? Followed by, what would the ideal education model for humanity look like?
So Ken, that’s a big one, I’d love to hear your take on it.
Ken: Yeah, it is a big one and so we need to cover just a few components to make sure we’re touching all the bases. And one of the things we have to remember here is that the human being is a complex combination of various aspects. Different dimensions, different levels of development, different lines of development or multiple intelligences, different states of consciousness, including ones like enlightenment or awakening, different types, and so on.
In integral theory, we summarize all these with a framework. It’s technically called AQAL, A-Q-A-L, which is short for all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, all types. But those are really just ways to summarize all of these various components of a human being. And if we’re gonna have a truly whole education, we’re gonna have to touch on all of these areas.
So, I mentioned quadrants, and quadrants just means different perspectives, like I, we, it. Those are three very real, very important, but very different domains. They are the basis of things like the good, the true, and the beautiful. The good is the we, or how we treat each other, ethics. The true is the it domain, or objective truth, or facts. The realm of science. And beauty is the I domain, or beauty in the eye of the beholder. Are all the great individual and personal potentials of any human. All three of those domains are important.
But today most education focuses just on the it domain or teaching facts and objective truths. It leaves out or ignores the we domain or interpersonal intelligence and social interaction and ethical values, and it’s very thin on the I domain, personal realities and values and purpose and potentials.
And it turns out that the I domain is actually very important, especially in education. And it consists of things including different lines of development or multiple intelligences. Usually education just focuses on only one or two of our multiple intelligences. But we now know human beings have upwards of a dozen different multiple intelligences, most of which are just thoroughly ignored.
Education mostly focuses on cognitive intelligence or book smarts, but there’s also emotional intelligence, moral intelligence, values intelligence, aesthetic intelligence, spiritual intelligence, among others, and all of those are incredibly important. They’re all very real, they actually exist, they’re not just theoretical, and they’re all almost completely ignored.
What we’ve also learned, which is absolutely fundamental, is that all those lines of development grow and evolve through a series of stages or levels of development. One version of those levels for example goes from magic, to mythic, to rational, to pluralistic, to integral. These others are really important because they’re the basic frameworks or grids or world views through which we see and interpret and experience our world, and any of our multiple intelligences.
That’s for example the post-modern teacher of culture anywhere nowadays is something called the culture wars. And the culture wars are ongoing cultural battles between what are widely recognized as three different world views or value systems. And these are simply the three most common values, or the three most common of these levels that I just mentioned.
In other words, the three combatants in the culture wars are, one, traditional, religious, usually with what’s called the mythic literal world view, then two, modern science with a rational world view, and then three, post-modern multiculturalism, with a pluralistic or relativistic world view.
In short, the culture wars are pre-modern, modern, versus post-modern. Or mythic, rational, versus pluralistic. And what none of the individuals who are involved in these culture wars seem to realize, is that those are three of the major levels of development available to all human beings. But we don’t educate for any of that. Even though it’s the predominant feature in today’s culture, present everywhere and unrelentingly.
What’s more is research shows there are yet higher levels of development or levels of consciousness, which only a very small portion of the population has developed to so far, such as the integral level. And we don’t teach those because we mostly just aren’t aware of them. So, families don’t teach them, education doesn’t teach them, and the culture at large certainly doesn’t teach them.
So humanity is flying way under its full potential, simply because we do not educate for the whole or complete human being. We educate for just a small part, a slice, a fragment of what’s possible for us.
And we certainly see this with another element in the AQAL framework, namely states of consciousness. Because according to the great wisdom traditions around the world, not only do humans possess typical states of consciousness like waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, there are some possessed profoundly high states of consciousness like enlightenment or awakening, so called moksha, satori, noesis, metamorphosis, the great liberation. And none of our standard educational systems teach any of that.
Now, all these factors I’ve mentioned, from the good and the true and the beautiful, or I, we, and it, to multiple intelligences, to levels of development, to states of enlightenment, or waking up, none of these are rare, isolated, esoteric, far out, strange, or occult. They’re all some of the very most basic and most fundamental potentials of a human being everywhere. They’re simply human 101, yet we don’t educate human 101. We educate something like human one-tenth. We’re educating very partial, very fragmented, very broken people. It’s tragic really. And then we wonder why the planet and humanity itself is in such trouble.
So yes, I firmly believe that we could bring about health on this planet, for the planet and for the humans on it. If we started educating the whole person with all their fundamental potentials and capacities and skills, and stopped this fragmented, partial, broken system that we have now, absolutely. And not doing so really is just tragic.
Vishen: Thank you Ken, that was a very, very detailed answer.
What I’m gonna do for those of you listening, is I’m gonna include a couple of graphs that will help you understand the various quadrants in the AQAL model that Ken speaks of.
So, you talk about the three different culture wars, traditional, religious, modern science, post-modern. How does this relate to the world views we spoke about in the earlier part of this interview? In other words, going from ethnocentric, to worldcentric, to kosmocentric?
Ken: Exactly. Well, what we find is that human identity runs a spectrum going from egocentric, where the individuals identify just with themselves, to ethnocentric, where they are identified with a group or a chosen group, or their own clan or family or tribe, or perhaps even nation. And that’s an us-versus-them type of mentality, and then from there to worldcentric. And worldcentric means we identify with all humans, regardless of race, color, sex, or creed.
And so there are a couple of stages of worldcentric, and then it moves into the very higher stages of kosmocentric, and there we identify not just with human beings, but with all sentient beings, with all of manifest reality. Basically, a unity consciousness, one with the entire manifest universe.
So then if we give names to the various world views, and those go from magic, to mythic, to rational, to pluralistic, to integral, then magic tends to be very egocentric. It’s focused just on a single tribe, and we’re talking about early tribes now, we’re not talking about tribes that exist today, because they’ve continued to evolve. We’re talking about all humans some 500,000 years ago.
And there an individual was related in terms of kinship ties, or biological ties. If a tribe met another tribe, they didn’t know how to relate to them. And so they took them either as being non-human, or demonic. And warfare was usually the result. So, that’s what happens when you’re just egocentrically identified really with just yourself and a small group.
As tribes began to expand and come together, then they began to be related not just by blood, but by belief in a mythic origin. So the 12 tribes of Israel for example, they couldn’t get united because each of the tribes actually had a different blood lineage, and they each had their own uncles and grandparents and so on. And you were only related if you had the same genetics, if you were blood-related. So there were no way to get the 12 tribes together.
But when all of the tribes began to believe in a mythic God called Yahweh, then all of them, regardless of their actual blood relationship, could all say that they were brothers and sisters of Yahweh. And so the 12 tribes of Israel came together into a larger, much more unified society.
And so this was ethnocentric, this was not just based on a person or just a small group, but an entire group orientation, and based on a given race or creed or religion or religious belief. And that’s what mythic did, and that’s why mythic was so important, and is why mythic is the beginning of the great foundation of civilizations that we see around the world of Greece and Roman and Mesopotamian and Indus Valley and China and so on.
And so that was a very, very important move, but we still couldn’t get the different ethnic segments together. It was still the Franks versus the Titans, and one empire versus another empire. And as we reached worldcentric, where people felt identified with all humans, regardless of race, color, sex, or creed, then we had the Western enlightenment, and it added pluses and minuses, but there they started to talk about universal rights of humans, not just the rights of us versus them, but the rights of all of us. And so this was the first truly universal gathering of humanity and that was profoundly important.
And then as that moved on into the post-modern era, we began to really look very closely at all the different cultures, and we realized that not just one truth is true for all of them, but that different cultures each have their own important truths, and that what’s true for one culture is not necessarily true for other cultures, even though we’re all part of one humanity.
And so we started to give emphasis, not that there’s just one greatest culture, the Western culture, but that there are Persian cultures and Eastern cultures and Mid-Eastern cultures and African cultures and so on, and all of them are to be given equal respect and equal dignity.
But we didn’t know how to fit those together, and that’s what integral managed to do, is find a way to fit all of the world’s cultures together under one tent. And so that was a profound move forward, and we’re really just on the edge of that right now.
So in each case, in each of these evolutionary unfoldings, you see identity get bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. Going from the smallest identity with just one human, to an identity with just one tribe or one family, to an identity with a group of tribes brought together in one nation, to an identity with all nations, all humans, and into an identity with all of reality, all sentient beings.
So we see this holistic drive, this drive to greater wholeness and greater unity, and so it becomes very clear that the universe, driven by evolution, is not winding down, the universe is winding up. It’s producing greater and greater wholes, greater unities, and much more inclusive entities. So that’s a really profound and important notion.
And a lot of people would see that as a spirit in action, spirit driving towards greater wholeness, greater unity, greater interconnectivity.
Vishen: Ken, I need to ask you a question here. Okay, so what you’re referring to, going from AQAL to integral on that scale, I wanna make sure I understand. I believe that is one scale of human development, I think that’s called Gebser’s world views. Am I correct?
Ken: Yes. And there are over a hundred different developmental models, and they all show a great deal of similarity, in terms of these major levels, but Gebser’s is one version. There are several.
Vishen: And the scale from egocentric to kosmocentric is the same thing, it’s just a different philosopher’s world view, but it measures the same state of awareness. Or is it very different?
Ken: Yes, that particular scale going from egocentric to ethnocentric, to worldcentric, to kosmocentric, that measures the degree of identity of a human being. Am I identified just with myself, am I identified as my family, my clan, my tribe, am I identified with my nation, am I identified with all of humanity, am I identified with all of reality? So my identity is bigger and bigger and bigger.
Vishen: I see. Now Gebser’s world view, so if you had to define that, what is that measuring?
Ken: Gebser’s world view, look, it’s just generally what’s called world view. And what a world view is, is everybody has some general idea about what the world is like. What it’s made of, what’s important, what its components are. Some people have a more scientific world view, some people have a more religious world view, some people have a more artistic world view, some people have a more moral world view.
So it’s just a way that we look at the world around us, and a way that we think about it, the way we categorize it, the terms we use to explain it, and how we explain it to ourselves.
Vishen: I see. And so what you’re saying then, Ken, is that if you look at Gebser’s world view, education isn’t catering for multiple world views?
Ken: Well, exactly. And what education…or we would say almost every era of human development has had some form of education. Even tribes educated their young into their tribal world view, and that tribal world view was a specific level of development. It was one of the earlier levels of development, it had some very positive aspects about it, but it was also very young and just developing in many ways.
So there was no understanding of atoms and no understandings of ways to cure viral diseases. The average lifespan in the original tribal societies was about 28 years. The average care and capacity of a tribe was about 40 people. So if you had more infants than that, you “threw them away,” you committed infanticide because you couldn’t support them with the amount of food you could generate. Most of your time was spent hunting and gathering, in other words, looking for food. It was a survival mechanism.
And then as we learned to farm and plant food, then just a few people could grow food for everybody. And that meant that a lot of other people were free to pursue other pursuits. And so mathematics was invented, writing was invented, forms of government were invented, and we started to see the flourishing of great civilizations, because not every person had to be out spending their time hunting every day just to stay alive. Just a handful people could farm, that would keep everybody alive, and all these other people could specialize. And so we started to learn new techniques and so on.
Vishen: So, what you were saying earlier, was that education needs to evolve to make sure that we are also educating people within the mythic, the rational, and the pluralistic world view?
Ken: We wanna educate because what those turn out to be, those world views that humanity at large went through, it turns out that today individuals, from birth, go through those same world views. So, an individual is born, and the first year they’re at the archaic stage, an individual in today’s world. And today’s world is rational or pluralistic, it’s not archaic or magic or mythic. But individuals will still grow through those early stages.
So a child in the first year of life is primarily at the archaic stage. Then from around ages one or two, to age five or six, they’re at the magic stage, and they act magically. They’ll stick their head under a pillow, and think that because they can’t see you, you can’t see them. And so they’ll hide in front of a whole group of people by sticking their head under a pillow. That’s pure magic. Voodoo is magic. If you make a doll representing a person, and you stick a pin in that doll, then the real person will actually be hurt, magically hurt.
Vishen: And Ken, so if we would educate kids and young adults in that way, what would that education look like? I’d love to get your views on the curriculum. What exactly would your vision of an ideal education curriculum look like? And what age would it start, and how would it involve as someone gets older?
Ken: Well, that’s the thing, archaic the first year or so. The education is really just how the infant learns to get around the sensorimotor world. So they learn that if they bite an object and it doesn’t hurt, and they bite their thumb and it does hurt, there’s a difference between their thumb and the object, the chair. When they’re first born they can’t tell the different between their body…where their body stop and a chair starts. So they have to learn that.
And that’s during the archaic period and the first couple of years of life, called the sensorimotor stage today. That’s what infants are learning, that’s their education. Learning about their own physical body, and eating and getting food and water and all the basic necessities for that stage.
When they move into magic, their thinking becomes fantasy, and so it’s appropriate that a certain kind of fantasy thinking is allowed, and that kids be allowed to pursue most the fantasy thinking. And we do this automatically every Saturday morning on cartoon shows. Because cartoon shows, every major superhero is a source of magic. They can fly, they can walk through walls, they have X-ray vision. That’s all magic. That’s a complete magic world view. And the kids are immersed in that. That’s how they think, that’s what they wanna be, that’s what they wanna grow up to be. And that’s fine, it’s just giving those capacities a chance to get exercised, and to get used.
Sooner or later they find out that magic doesn’t work very well, and also magic can’t take the role of other. Magic is very egocentric.
So, an infant in the magic stage, if you put a ball that’s colored green on one side and red on the other between you and a five-year old, you turn the ball several times so that the five-year-old can see that it’s colored green on one half and red on the other. So you turn it so the green side is facing the child, the red side is facing you, and you say, “What color are you looking at?” to the child. They’re looking at green, and so you say, “What color are you looking at?” And they will correctly say, “Green.”
Then if you say, “What color am I looking at?” You’re looking at red, they’ll say, “Green.” They can’t see through your perspective, they can’t take your point of view, they can’t take the role of other. And that’s what magic is like.
And so as mythic starts to emerge at around age six or seven, one of the things that happens is you can take the role of other, so you can start to identify with others, not just yourself.
So now education moves to a whole group setting, and you need to learn how to get along with other human beings, you have to learn roles, you have to learn rules that you have to follow in the society, you have to start to learn certain laws and certain restrictions, you have to learn how to get along with other group of people. And so education needs to focus on that.
And then as you continue to grow into the rational stage of development in early adolescent, then all of a sudden you can take up a third-person perspective, you can think objectively, all of a sudden all the sciences come into being, and so you start to learn about chemistry and biology, and you start to learn mathematics, and you start to learn rational world view.
And so the point is that as education unfolds, we’re going through all of these levels of development and fulfilling them, flushing them out, learning our way around in them, so that we can move on to the next higher level. And so that’s one of the most important things that we wanna do in education. And we do it, but we do it in a very sort of haphazard way. And we don’t include educating in the same way for quadrants and for multiple lines of development, multiple intelligences, we don’t teach those very well, we don’t teach states of consciousness very well.
So that was my point, is that we’re fairly limited in how we teach the whole panoply of human potentials.
Vishen: So Ken, what are we doing education-wise? Like, what are we teaching right now, or what should we teach for the pluralistic and the integral world views? Because you stopped at rational and early adolescent. Is that where our modern education stops?
Ken: Well, what happens is that each of these world views, whether it’s traditional, mythic, ethnocentric, or whether it’s rational, worldcentric, or whether it’s pluralistic, post-modern, or whether it’s integral, each of those has upwards of a dozen different developmental lines. So each of those has a cognitive component, each of those has an emotional component, each of those has a moral component, each of those has an aesthetic component, each of those has a spiritual component, each of those has a linguistic component, and so on to the 12 or so multiple intelligences that we have.
The problem is that we still only teach primarily cognitive intelligence and linguistic intelligence. And so those are still the two major forms of like an SAT test. You’re tested for math, and you’re tested for verbal. There’s no testing for your emotional intelligence, your spiritual intelligence, your aesthetic intelligence, your interpersonal intelligence, your kinesthetic intelligence. I mean, we’re leaving out bucketfuls of intelligences that are just getting no attention at all.
And through each of those levels, mythic, rational, pluralistic, integral, each of those in a complete way deals with all 12 of those multiple intelligences. And each of those multiple intelligences advances a stage, goes to a higher level with each of these major levels of development. And that’s exactly what we’re not doing, except in just cognitive and just linguistic.
So we’re leaving out those parts of a human being that are emotional, that are interpersonal, that are social, that are spiritual, that are aesthetic. It is a terribly, terribly limited view of what a human being is, and therefore a very limited view about what we should educate them for, and that’s our problem.
Vishen: Now, Ken, traditionally, we tend to think of seven different types of intelligence. You suggest they are 12.
Ken: There are dozens of different theorists who have proposed different numbers of multiple intelligences. So the first that sort of made news with this was indeed Howard Gardner. And Gardner suggested seven major intelligences. But he subsequently added several, and he’s talked about the possibility of several others.
Well, many other theorists that are also very, very bright, had given reasons to include upwards of another half dozen intelligences. So when I say a dozen right now, we have very good theorists recommending I say up to a dozen, sometimes more of these intelligences. But is clearly more than seven, and even Howard Gardner agrees to that.
Vishen: I see. So then if we were looking at, say, reforming a school curriculum, we should be looking at world views going all the way from mythic, rational, pluralistic, and then the dozen or so multiple intelligences within these world views, and that would sort of give us a framework for designing a new curriculum?
Ken: That’s correct.
Vishen: Okay, could you give us an example? Because I’m sure you’ve thought about this, could you give us an example of some interesting classes or activities or learnings that you think a future school designed in this way might incorporate? So let’s say we go on to the pluralistic world view, what would some of the lessons be?
Ken: Sure. If we take, let’s say, the moral intelligence for example, which is not being educated for now, and yet we have models of moral development that have now been tested in over 40 different cultures, and the cognitive components of those have been tested in over 40 different cultures. These models have been tested in Amazonian rain tribes, they’ve been tested in Australian Aborigines, in Mexican workers, in German citizens, no major exceptions have been found to their stages.
So this is very real information and it’s not being used. So if we just take one intelligence that’s not being used, moral intelligence. Well, if we start and we notice that overall development is running just generically from egocentric, to ethnocentric, to worldcentric, to kosmocentric, and at the pluralistic stage it’s moving from worldcentric, towards kosmocentric. So, what does that mean?
Well, a person’s morals when they’re at the egocentric stage, at the magic stage, when they’re three or four years old, they’re identified just with themselves, and they care only about themselves. And so that’s the only moral that the person at that stage can be expected to learn. If we try to cram more morals down them at that point, they will just collapse. They don’t get it, it’s over their head, they won’t understand it.
But when you move from magic to mythic, now you have a second-person perspective. You can take the role of other, and therefore you can start to care about others. And so this is a very important point.
And so as the child moves from the world view of magic to the world view of mythic, one of the first things you’re doing since we’re tracing moral, is you start to teach them how to care for others. It might be their peer group or for some of their friends or their family, possibly you could just care for their nation, and patriotism is okay to introduce at this stage, not higher, but certainly at this stage. And so they get a chance to feel what it’s like to care for somebody other than themselves.
Right now, we don’t do that. We just sort of, you know, kind of say every now and then, that’s not nice, you should treat that person nice or something like that. But we don’t have formal training in how to do morals.
Then when the person at that ethnocentric moral stage, they still have a very strong us versus them. So they’ve identified with an us now, which is good, but not them. Them are the bad guys, them are the infidels, them are pagans, them are unbelievers, whoever they are. And they are not to be trusted and so on. And that’s the best that a person at ethnocentric can do.
And that’s why fundamentalist religions that are at ethnocentric, that’s why they have this very strong us versus them. We have the right way to God, everybody else is wrong. And we therefore have a right to jihad. Jihad is an Islamic term, but every fundamentalist believes it. Which is that you have the right to convince, coerce, or kill unbelievers. Because unbelievers don’t have souls. So that’s that strong ethnocentric morals.
It’s still caring for more people than just yourself, so it’s a move up. But when we move from ethnocentric to worldcentric, when we move from mythic to rational, now all of a sudden, we care for all people. This is a huge leap, and it’s one of the major leaps that fundamentalist religions have to make. And the Catholic Church at Vatican II actually made that leap from ethnocentric to worldcentric. They actually said, paraphrasing, “A comparable religious salvation can be found in religions other than Christianity.” That’s the first time in their 2,000-year history that they admitted that, that they moved from their ethnocentric, we’ve got the only way, you must believe in Christ or you burn in hell forever. And they repudiated that and they said no, other religions do have sources of salvation, and we acknowledge that. And that was profound.
So that was the moral stage, moving up in the rational and worldcentric.
Vishen: That was incredible when that happened. I believe that was the recent pope, right?
Ken: That happened in Vatican II, in the 1960s. The next two popes tended to ignore it, this recent pope, he’s starting to pay attention to it. That’s why he’s causing such furor. Yeah, Francis is much more pluralistic, frankly. And so when you get into pluralistic, then you apply this all inclusive, implies inclusive nature with a vengeance. And that’s why this pluralistic stage drove things like the Civil Rights Movement, where we just get incensed if anybody’s rights were abridged, or taken away, or oppressed. And so it becomes a very strong moral drive at that point.
And that’s one of the positive things about that pluralistic stage. And pluralistic means that, it means that everybody is essentially right. You know, you can’t say that one culture is superior to another. This is exactly the topic that will come up when we discuss things like the Indiana freedom of religion, because there’s some contradictions in this that get very tricky, and we’ll get to those as soon as we get to that.
But that’s what’s coming up here, is are there any cultures that can be considered superior? And for the general pluralistic stage, they’d say absolutely not. No truth is better than another truth, what’s true for you is true for me, and those don’t have to agree. And so that’s a very powerful moral stance.
Now, again as I say, it turns out to have some problems, but that’s the way it’s viewed at that stage. And then when we get to integral, it increases the moral span by starting to expand it to all sentient beings. And so now, all of a sudden, things like animal rights come up, and of course there are differences in animal rights. I mean, not every animal has the same amount of rights. The greater the degree of depth an animal has, the more complex it is, the more evolved it is, the more rights it has. So a gorilla has more rights than a virus. Kill one virus or kill one gorilla, which is worse? Killing a gorilla, clearly. So we have to keep that in mind, we can’t have just an egalitarianism.
If we did that, every HIV person produces a billion HIV viruses a day. If we had real bio equality and every living thing is given one vote, then the HIV virus would be one of the best, most moral things that had ever happened. By a vote of a billion to one, HIV is better than a human. That’s where animal rights people get a little bit confused, because they do wanna extend rights to animals, but they don’t take into account the degree of complexity and the degree of consciousness.
So like Alan Watts said, he was a vegetarian because cows scream louder than carrots when you kill them. And so he’s at least got that in there in his understanding that there’s differences here. You can’t just say a carrot is the same worth as a cow.
Vishen: Ken, you said something earlier and you left an open loop. You said in general pluralistic stage they will say that no one truth is better than another truth.
Ken: That’s right.
Vishen: Okay. But you said there might be problems with that.
Ken: Sure. Starting with pluralistic, the problem when they say, no truth is better than another truth, and there are no universal truths, there are only individual, cultural, multicultural truths. No one is better than another. And you say, “Well, why?” And I say, “Well, because all knowledge is relative, all knowledge is interpretive, it’s not given, it’s an interpretation. All know knowledge is based on contextualism, constructivism, and no privileged perspective.
Now, they say that all of those items are true for all people in all cultures, in all places, at all times. When they just said you can’t say that there’s one truth that’s true for everybody, they just gave six truths that they maintain are true for absolutely everybody. So they’re violating their own rules, they’re doing what they claim you can’t do and you shouldn’t do. They’re doing it in spades.
So they say you shouldn’t have a big picture, they have a very big picture about why big pictures are wrong. They say there are no universal truths, but they maintain their truth is universally true, and true for all people. So they’re contradicting themselves, and social philosophers call this a performative contradiction. They are doing what they say you can’t do.
So they get to have all of their truths, and they get to have all of their universals, and they get to have all of their big pictures, but nobody else does, and that’s a blatant contradiction.
Vishen: So I think we’ve given a very thorough answer to the question, what would the ideal education model for humanity look like? And I know it’s a big question. But what I like is you’ve laid out a matrix-type vision which we can fill out. On hand furthermost left column could be levels of intelligence, such as Gardner’s levels of intelligence, and then the horizontal rows would be the various world views, ranging from magic to mythic to pluricentric.
So, let’s go on to the second question which is from Myra, who wrote in from France. Can you please explain the spiritual traits of children today? How could we help them get a spiritual upgrade or prevent their spirituality from being blocked by limited beliefs?
Ken: What we’ve learned from all these factors that I just mentioned, is that they all develop. So like virtually everything in nature from eggs to chickens and acorns and oaks, living things grow and evolve and develop. The human being starts out as a single cell, a fertilized zygote, and that cell divides into 2, which divides into 4, which divides into 16, then 32, then 64, and so on. And as the cells are dividing and differentiating, they’re also integrating into various systems. A circulatory system, a nervous system, a muscular system, a digestive system, and so on. And all of those are integrated into an overall fully functioning, total organism. And then that organism grows from infancy, into childhood, into adolescence, adulthood, and elderhood.
So development itself is a continuous process of transcend and include, transcend and include, transcend and include. Each stage moves beyond or transcends the previous stage, but also enwraps or unfolds or includes it. Like atoms to molecules, to cells, to organisms. Molecules go beyond atoms, but they also include them. They actually unfold them as ingredients. And cells go beyond molecules, but they also include them, they actually unfold them, and so on. And this goes on throughout evolution.
When the human body first showed up, it had all of the major ingredients that had been produced in the Kosmos since the Big Bang. Every human body had quarks, and then those were taken up into subatomic particles, those were taken up into atoms, the human body had all of those, it had molecules, then it had cells, and then it had cells going all the way up through…like the reptilian brain stem, paleomammalian limbic system, the mammalian cortex, and the human neocortex. Every single major ingredient produced by evolution was contained in the human body. So we see that transcend and include, transcend and include.
And we see the same thing on the interior of humans as well. So, we talk about, for example, human identity goes from egocentric to ethnocentric, to worldcentric, to kosmocentric. And each one of those is more and more inclusive. So identity goes from me to us, to all of us, to all beings. Each stage transcends and includes. Each stage goes beyond the previous stage, but also includes or unfolds it, until consciousness has transcended everything and included everything. And that’s known as cosmic consciousness or unity consciousness.
And in this process, something can go wrong at every stage. Dogs get cancer, atoms don’t. So each stage as it gets more complex and it transcends and includes, it introduces more problems. It solves the problems of the previous stage, but then can introduce its own problems.
So, something can go wrong with transcend and include. If we don’t transcend the lower stage properly, then we remain stuck or fixated to that lower stage. But if we don’t include the lower stage properly, we only end up repressing it or dissociating that stage, which causes all sorts of neurosis and psychosis and other dysfunctions.
So this means starting the very earliest years of life, we want to help children engage this developmental or evolutionary process in a healthy, functional, happy way. So we don’t want limiting beliefs, oppressive social conditions, or things like disease or poverty, all of which derail this developmental process. And this means it will also profoundly limit the child’s spiritual development, both in what we call growing up and in waking up.
So we definitely want to watch this in children and do everything we can to help the overall process unfold in healthy and happy ways.
Vishen: And Ken, do you know of any experiments in the world today? Any philosophers, any teachers, any educators who are creating a vision for education that you are excited about?
Ken: Yes. Actually, there are more and more attempts at getting education out in more and more creative ways. And this goes along a lot of different avenues.
One is just simply taking the material and putting it online essentially for free. So we have right now most of the really large universities, MIT is doing this, Harvard is doing it, Stanford is doing it, Berkeley is doing it. They’re taking some of their best courses, and they are creating online versions, and they’re giving them out for free.
And there are…the course that was done on artificial intelligence through Stanford, over 160,000 people took that course, and over 400 of them scored higher than the highest students doing it at Stanford. So, those are 400 kids that are smarter than anybody at Stanford, that would never have gotten that education.
Vishen: But beyond that, because we’ve all heard of the MOOCs, right? We’re talking about curriculum. Stanford is still teaching a very limited set of curriculum based on the data that you outlined. Do you know of any attempts, particularly not at the college level, but for pre-college, all the way down to elementary school and kindergarten, do you know of any attempts that excite you there, where the focus is not on technology or distribution, but on a new curriculum?
Ken: Yes. And that’s why I said there’s a lot of experiments happening in a lot of different ways, and that first one was just one way, and that just had to do with getting it out to numbers. But the way they’re doing that is indeed standard traditional education. So, that’s not as exciting as finding new ways to actually teach a human being all of its potentials. And that’s really what we’re talking about when we talk about education, is teaching human 101. We’re not even doing that. As I said, we’re just teaching one or two lines, we’re not teaching levels, we’re not teaching states, we’re not teaching quadrants. It’s pathetic.
But there is for example one university that’s just starting up now, and it just has its first students, it just opened its doors, and it’s called Ubiquity University. And Ubiquity is in six different countries, it’s expanding to 12, and then 30 and 40, and is looking to be really a worldwide university, and is also really thought to keep costs very, very low. So you can get a bachelor’s degree for right around $5,000. And these are highly acclaimed teachers, and fully accredited courses.
But what makes it unique, is that they’re using the AQAL framework to teach all of their material. So, when a student signs up in their freshman year, they’re given an introductory course that explains the AQAL framework. And it says, here’s a framework of the universe that you’re now in. You’re in a universe that has these quadrants, that has the good, the true, and the beautiful, and that it has art, morals, and science, I, we, and it, and so on.
And so you’re gonna learn things in all of those. And each of those have also their own specific educational components.
So, in the upper left, which is one of the quadrants, you’ll be learning about lines of development, you’ll be learning about levels of development, you’ll be learning about states of consciousness, and you’ll be doing personal work, like shadow work, in addition to learning all about facts in the information in the right-hand quadrant.
And so from day one, that student taking that course has an overview, an integral overview of their world, where they are in it, and then more than that, every course they take in the coming four years, they’ll know how it fits in that overall integral framework. It will be pointed out to them. And so they’ll know when they go in and they learn quantum physics, they’ll know how that fits with cultural studies, and ethnomethodology, and history, and art, and psychotherapy, and surgery, and medicine. They won’t just be given this course and said, oh, and physics explains everything, and it’s the queen of sciences, and you don’t have to learn anything else, just learn physics and you know it all.
That will never happen to these kids. They will be getting a truly holistic education from day one, and every course they take will fit in to that holistic framework. And so that’s gonna be resonating in their being as well, because it’s gonna resonate with those aspects that exist in their own consciousness, in their own awareness, in their own being. And so they’ll be growing while they’re learning about this world. That’s truly encouraging, that’s a very optimistic approach, and we just can’t wait to see how that works out.
Vishen: That’s beautiful, Ken. I’m on the website right now, ubiquityuniversity.org. Is this something you’re involved with?
Ken: I am. They actually asked me to be chancellor of it.
Vishen: I see, that’s beautiful.
Now, is there anything happening for kids under 18? Elementary school and high school?
Ken: What I hear now are several groups that are all taking integral ideas and are attempting to apply that to all different levels of education. And it is being done. I mean, we hear about it happening. In Hong Kong, for example, there’s a high school that’s doing it. We hear about it happening in Pasadena, there are several books that have been written on it, one is called I think “Educating Brilliance,” or “Luminosity,” and that talks about applying everything from college courses, down into first grade, second grade, and K-1 to K-12.
So we’re right at the beginning, but it’s a hot topic and it’s really out there, and it really is starting to get done in a lot of ways.
So I would say in the next five years we’re gonna see some truly encouraging and very impressive moves to start really educating human 101.
Vishen: I see, that’s a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful vision.
I hope you enjoyed that episode, guys. That was a long episode. When you’re talking to a man as brilliant as Ken Wilbur, you wanna go deep, you wanna really understand how he thinks. And I hope you enjoyed that.
Now, given how long this episode is, I know some of you might wanna get, you know, resources and materials and transcripts, you can get that all from podcast.mindvalley.com/ken-wilber. I’ll see you again soon on our next episode.
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