In the aftermath of my post on Wilber's developmental AQAL theory I had some thoughts about systems altogether, and it reminded me of my own, private venture in systems-making. As some of you may know, in my last phase of involvement in Adidam, I became Adi Da's personal “court astrologer” by an odd happenstance. Never having been into astrology, and having been a lifelong scoffer at all things astrological, I decided one day to investigate it, and ended up writing a long paper on it for Adi Da, which he seems to have been impressed by, and made me his astrologer. Thus began a crash course in learning astrology, much of which I felt was such bullshit that I felt compelled to come up with my own understanding of the subject, and ended up over the next few years creating an astrological system which tried to base astrology in a spiritual understanding of consciousness. In the end it wasn't a bad system altogether, and probably has the best approach to astrology I've ever seen, though of course that isn't saying much.
I did get to appreciate some of the advantages of the astrological way of looking at things, especially in relation to psychology and human development. I won't go into details, but I began to see the astrological “chart” as a map of human development from birth through death in endless repetition that described the basic “pattern” of an individual in consciousness, as a combination of energy and attention. I even created my own understanding of these in “quadrant” form, which is of course natural because of the two axis of any astrological chart, the ascendent and midheaven. I assigned the ascendent to “attention”, and saw the houses (which are based on the ascendent position) as the cycle of attention from the bare birth of attention to its fixation on objects, its development of relationship to objects, its discovery of the “other”, its development of relationship to the other, and its dissolution, from which proceeds a new form of attention. The Midheaven axis represents energy descending into life, and the signs represent the cycle of energy through the constellations. The intersection of the two, of energy and attention, houses and signs, represents the particular way these two manifest in the individual. Anyway, that's probably more information than most people can process without knowing the details of astrology, but the point is, as mundane as it is, using something as absurd as astrology as a model for the developmental process turns out, I think, to be superior to Wilber's AQAL model.
Why? Because as silly as astrology can be, it at the least is based on a view of nature that is more realistic than Wilber's. By that, I mean that astrology sees nature as a series of endlessly repeating cycles, rather than as a linear developmental process that moves from lower to higher. It's not that astrology sees no levels, quandrants, or types, it's full of such things. It's just that it doesn't see any of them as inherently higher or lower than any others. The cycle of the constellation signs begins at Ares and ends at Pisces, and in some sense they are the “low” and the “high” points of development, but not in absolute terms, because Pisces leads right back into Ares, and the cycle renews. This is aligned to the cycles of nature, in which Ares comes at the spring equinox, representing the rebirth of life in the springtime, and then matures through the signs until it dies, because universal, and then is reborn again the following spring. And this, I would suggest, is actually a better way of looking at life, if one must create a system around it, than seeing it in the AQAL model Wilber has created. It's more natural, it has deeper resonance, and it includes the qualities of tragedy, impermanence, and repetition that life is most deeply characterized by.
Even the astrological view of character and types is superior, I think, to the psychological, developmental view that Wilber uses. In astrology everyone is a combination of qualities in balance or imbalance with one another, and these are not in themselves changeable. Each person has a basic character that is unique, but only because there are endless combinations of energy and attention that nature can spit out, endless combinations of star and planetary patterns that can be manifested in various houses. The purpose is not to evolve one's pattern into some higher pattern, but simply to understand that pattern for what it is and not react to it, but simply observe it.
When I used to give astrological readings, I found it very interesting that merely bringing attention to a person's own pattern was quite “liberating”. The problem I encountered there was that people, deep down, are really nuts, myself included. Just doing astrology readings gave me a window on the dynamics of the cult of psychology, of workshops, of gaining insight, of how desperate and seeking people are, and how ready they are to put themselves at the mercy of a charismatic “teacher”, me, if only for a couple of hours of an astrology reading.
When I gave up the practice, it was for that reason most of all – I didn't like the dynamic of using a system combining with charisma and insight to “wow” people. I didn't like what it said about me, about other people, about the desperation of human beings to find an “answer” outside themselves. I could see the potential for such at thing, and Wilber's integral institute is of course a natural outgrowth of that kind of desire, the kind of thing I wanted to stay away from. It's a business, like the astrology business, that takes advantage of a certain dynamic potential in the creation of any “system” for reading people. And ultimately, like the cycles of nature, it just repeats itself ad nauseum. It may appear to help people in some respects, but it basically locks a person into a cycle that leads nowhere. The good thing about astrology in my view is that its basic structure points this out – the cycles of astrology, after one views them with any depth, reveal a univese that really is Buddhist in nature, and endlessly repeating wheel of signs and symbols that simple entrap consciousness in its own mire.
It's a narcissistic enterprise, in other words. The advantage is that the structure of astrology points this out rather readily, whereas the AQAL structure leads to the illusion of finality, of continuous upwards and outwards growth, culminating in a final realization of infinite consciousness. Astrology is more honest in its bullshit, one could say, whereas AQAL tries to mask its bullshit behind ultimate developmental notions. Studying astrology actually helped me to see that what I was up to lead nowhere, and that the only real “answer” was to get off the wheel. In some very real sense it helped me get off the wheel of Adidam, the wheel of all the things I had been up to, and at the very least consider those spiritual teachings which are more serious about bringing samsara to an end, rather than perpetuating it.
Wilber doesn't seem to have gotten to that point, and part of the reason is that his system is masking the real nature of conditional life, which is cycles of repetition rather than ongoing development in ever higher stages and levels. That maskign allows him to think he can have his cake and eat it, he can develop himself as an individual and also transcend his individuality in ultimate non-dual realization. He can't. No one can. That's simply not the nature of this maya. It ensnares anyone who think they can beat the game. That's how it ensnares us, by holding out the goal, and seeming to provide a path to the goal, all of which is merely an image in a mirror that is dangled in front of us, which we chase, and seem to ever get closer to, but all that does is involve us further in the chase. Wilbber doesn't realize that it's a circular path, that the tiger's tail he thinks he's gotten hold of is just his own tail, that it leads nowhere but back to himself, that he's no “higher” than he ever was, but no “lower” too. Coming to realize that is part of the enlightening process that allows us to simply stand in place, going nowhere, neither up nor down, simply examining ourselves instead as we are, not trying to develop ourselves or change ourselves, but letting all those fantasies go. Anyone can do that at any time. They don't have to develop themselves to do it. They just have to get off the wheel.