“First-person Spirit is the great I AM, the pure radical subjectivity or witness in every sentient being.” If you have used Buddhist prompts to meditate, this dimension of Spirit may be familiar to you. As I interpret Wilber’s description, it’s found in the deepest part of our selves, the Higher Self, the Christ.
“Spirit in second person is the great Thou,” something immeasurably greater than we can possibly imagine, something before which surrender and devotion and submission and gratitude are the only appropriate responses. This is Transcendence, the Beyond, the great Other, what I’ve called the More. To this Majesty we bend the knee and surrender, utterly.
“And Spirit in third person is the great web of life, the Great Perfection of everything that is arising,” the cosmic process.
Wilber and Cohen give the greatest attention to the second dimension which directs our intimate relations with what we call God—our subjective spirituality. They warn that the latest generation of Westerners doesn’t get this one because the last half-century has trained them to seek “my pleasure, my happiness, my success” in self-centered narcissism. Surrender to Thou is mistaken for craven, “slavish, devotional, obsequious slobbering.” The circles I know—family, friends, acquaintances—don’t fit this category but I recognize it in the wider American culture, the consuming, throw-away, acquisitive society.
Wilber and Cohen advise us to embrace “hierarchy,” which can be misunderstood as condoning the tyrannical acts of domineering Catholic bishops, for example. The word has triggered some confusion, frustration and resistance in my circle, which is accustomed to rules from church hierarchs who claim that obedience to “the magisterium” is the same as obeying God. But gurus Wilber and Cohen obviously have in mind a different case than Catholics of my generation when they promote respect for hierarchy. They mean we should recognize higher levels of spiritual perfection and take direction from individuals who have evolved to a higher level.
Each higher level doesn’t oppress the previous level—it loves it; it embraces it. Molecules do not go around oppressing atoms! . . .Without using traditional, patriarchal symbols of trinity or even mentioning the word “trinity,” Ken Wilber gives a satisfying reflection on it entirely consistent with Christian theology. He successfully bridges Christian orthodoxy with post-Christian spirituality.
This hierarchical perspective is not a way to put you down . . . ; it’s a way for me to understand my own unfolding, . . . to help me grow, develop, evolve. . . .
Start this practice by just using a simple phrase like “consent to the presence of God,” just spontaneously letting that phrase go through [your] mind daily. Now of course people are going to respond to the presence of God in the way that corresponds to where their ego is. But if their heart is in the right place . . . some higher, deeper, wider aspects of their awareness will kick in . . . [to recognize] the second face of Spirit.
I take it as more evidence that we can find common ground between widely divergent spiritual beliefs.