Confusing The Planes Part 2b: AQAL and Conclusion

The second model I’d like to look at (albeit in less detail)is Ken Wilber’s “AQAL” or “All Quadrant, All Level” schema. This is a subject of no little controversy, much of which is utterly irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make. Certain fine details aren’t really important here. What matters is the structural concept of “Inner/Outer” and “Personal/Collective.”

The “AQAL” model views a phenomena or “holon” as having four aspects. It has an inside and an outside, and exists both as an individual and as part of a collective. Which sounds kind of prosaic until you realize that the “inside” is basically made of up a number of things that modern society has tended to reject. Things like a distinct “consiousness” that is more than the result of brain fire and chemicals. It is vehemently anti-reductionist, and thus annoys reductionists.

Wilber gives a progressive model of individual development, which in many cases maps exactly to the Eight Circuit Model. He divides things a little differently, but the train of development is still from individual concern to social, and beyond. Another aspect of the “AQAL” model that pertains directly to the discussion of confusing the planes is what Wilbur calls the “pre/trans fallacy” and the “level/line fallacy.”

A pre/trans fallacy mistakes a pre-conventional state of consciousness (the infantile oral stage for example, which is characterized by a lack of differentiation between self and other) for a post-conventional one (fifth circuit rapture, which also has a diffuse, “floaty” feeling). We see this in the magickal community, particularly Thelema, all too often.

Take the adoption of Nietzsche as “core” to Thelema, based largely on the superficial similarities that lead to Crowley to call the benighted philosopher a “prophet” of the New Aeon. (Never mind the corpus of Western Hermeticism that Thelemic magick arises from and depends on and which Nietzsche would have considered more Platonic drivel.) There is a pre-conventional, narcissistic way to engage ideas such as being “beyond good and evil” and a post-conventional one.

If we follow Wilber’s divisions, which are fairly straightforward, a person begins life in a totally self-centered state. First, there literally is no other. Then, there is a recognition of otherness, but this otherness is completely centered on the individual. A child at this phase could be called “beyond good and evil” if one considers the phrase to mean “totally self absorbed and unable to recognize other people as anything but tools for gratification.”

There is also a post-conventional view, developed after an individual has expanded their awareness to include not only others with whom they have in common, but with the species. This happens, if at all, when the infantile stages have been left behind, as well as the programmed rules of the society an individual was raised in. It is not a lack of concern for the well being of others. It is profoundly aware of others, and of the limitations cultures put on people’s development through rules arising largely from a series of historical accidents.

A sentence such as “the slaves shall serve” has a very different meaning depending on which viewpoint one is coming from. For the arrested infants, it is a reassurance that the world they live and any privilege they may have is absolutely fair, and they will have people to take care of the things that are too messy for them to bother with. For the truly post-conventional, it is more of a resignation, a recognition that some people will never grow out of the box they were put into as children and that you can’t force them out.

It’s the difference, really, between being a narcissistic douchebag who is always trying to force others to acknowledge a borrowed “individuality” and someone who actually is interested in Enlightenment.

These are just examples of how drastic an error it can be to confuse the planes in Assiah. To take one level of cognition or development and translate it into the language of another causes needless misunderstanding at one end, and delusion at the other extreme. How much worse do we error when we mistake the phenomena of one type of awareness or “plane of existence” with another?

The message, in the end is “make sure you know the address, cause you might end up in a cage fight instead of an orgy.”


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