“No Boundary” is the third book I have read by Ken Wilber. The first, “A Brief History Of Everything” was a phenomenal introduction to his work, which intrigued me to continue on. The second book, “The Spectrum Of Consciousness” was more enlightening, although it was difficult reading at times. “No Boundary” was a great follow-up to “The Spectrum Of Consciousness” – this is because many of the concepts in that book were addressed in “No Boundary” but in a simplified, conversational manner that I had become accustomed to in “A Brief History Of Everything”.
This article outlines the major insights that I received from this book, some new, and some expanded upon the other Ken Wilber books I had read. In particular these topics include:
3. The Spectrum Of Consciousness
4. The Centaur Level
5. The Transpersonal Bands
6. Unity Consciousness
Each of these topics are briefly addressed. In addition, some of my notes and thoughts are provided, and noteworthy quotes from the author.
As may be surmised from the title, boundaries are the main topic of this book. Why boundaries exist, why they are necessary, and why they must be overcome to achieve ultimate consciousness, or the base of the spectrum of consciousness. The importance of boundaries is discussed:
“Every decision we make, our every action, our every word is based on the construction, conscious or unconscious, of boundaries. I am not now referencing to a self-identity boundary – important as that certainly is – but to all boundaries in the broadest sense. To make a decision means to draw a boundary line between what to choose and what not to choose. To desire something means to draw a boundary line between pleasurable and painful things and then move toward the former. To maintain an idea means to draw a boundary line between concepts felt to be true and concepts felt not to be true. To receive an education is to learn where and how to draw boundaries and then what to do with the bounded aspects. To maintain a judicial system is to draw a boundary line between those who fit society’s rules and those who don’t. To fight a war is to draw a boundary line between those who are for us and those who are against us. To study ethics is to learn how to draw a boundary line disclosing good and evil. To pursue Western medicine is to draw with greater clarity a boundary between sickness and health. Quite obviously, from minor incidents to major crises, from small decisions to big deals, from mild preferences to flaming passions, our lives are a process of drawing boundaries.” (Pages 17-18)
Although to some extent boundaries are necessary, they appear to be the cause of ill in addition to good. To create a boundary is to classify, yet it is also to alienate. Regardless of complexity, a boundary does not mark off anything but an inside vs. an outside. This is shown below in a diagram reproduced from “No Boundary”:
Prior to drawing the diagram and creating the boundary, the opposites of inside vs. outside did not exist. The boundary creates opposites – to draw boundaries creates opposites. We live in a world of opposites because life as we know it is a process of drawing boundaries.
In addition to marking off opposites, a boundary line may unify them. Consider the following diagram reproduced from “No Boundary”:
In the preceding diagram, by drawing a concave illustration, the convex was created simultaneously. They are opposite, yet unified. Taoist Lao Tzu captures this phenomenon by stating that all opposites arise simultaneously and mutually.
Ken Wilber provides a fascinating definition of growth in “No Boundary”. His definition of growth as it applies to one’s journey through the Spectrum Of Consciousness is provided below:
“Growth fundamentally means an enlarging and expanding of one’s horizons, a growth of one’s boundaries, outwardly in perspective and inwardly in depth. But that is precisely the definition of descending the spectrum. When a person descends a level of the spectrum he has in effect re-mapped his soul to enlarge its territory. Growth is re-apportionment; re-zoning; re-mapping; an acknowledgement, and then enrichment, of ever deeper and more encompassing levels of one’s own self.” Page 13
The spectrum of consciousness, just as the name implies, is a spectrum of bands which each represent a level of consciousness. There are five levels, or bands:
1. Persona Level – Partial mind, unwanted aspects are projected to the shadow.
2. Ego Level – The complete mind.
3. Total Organism – The complete mind and body, otherwise referred to as the centaur.
4. Transpersonal Bands – Beyond oneself.
5. Unity Consciousness – “One harmonious whole.”
The top level, or Persona Level is the least conscious. Unity Consciousness is the most conscious band which is represented by the greatest depth. With Unity Consciousness, an individual is said to be one with the universe through the eternal present which is a moment of simultaneity representative of all time and space. Traveling up the spectrum, the individual narrows or restricts their sense of self by creating boundaries. The base of the spectrum, or Unity Consciousness, represents the absence of these boundaries.
The Spectrum of Consciousness may be likened to the electromagnetic spectrum in concept.
A psychological researcher will acknowledge all levels above the one they are researching but will deny the reality of any levels deeper than their own and will declare them pathological, illusionary, or nonexistent. Freud’s work was in the Persona Level, whereas Carl Jung managed to push down to the Transpersonal Bands. Freud could not see or comprehend the bands below his expertise, where as Jung could grasp the lower and higher bands to include the areas where Freud operated.
In order to descend to a new level, one must dis-identify with one aspect, while expanding with another. For example, to descend to the centaur level, a person extends his identity to the body while dis-identifying with the ego alone.
Once accessing a lower level, the individual may return to higher levels at will. The boundary is the stopping point, once the boundaries are overcome, an individual may move freely between the bands.
The Centaur Level
The centaur is the combined mind and body. The centaur is the home of:
3. Existential or life-death concerns
The benefit of living in the Centaur:
“Most of our everyday problems and worries stem from trying to control or manipulate processes which the organism would be handling perfectly if it weren’t from the intervention of the ego. For example, the ego misguidedly attempts to manufacture happiness, pleasure, or simple joy of living. We feel that pleasure is something intrinsically lacking in the present situation, and that we must manufacture it by surrounding ourselves with sophisticated toys and gadgets. This reinforces the illusion that happiness and pleasure can be piped in from the outside, an illusion which itself is responsible for blocking pleasure, so that we end up striving for that which prevents our own joy.” (Page 117)
Happiness is within:
“To come back to the centaur is to realize that mental and physical well-being already circulate within the total psychophysical organism. ‘Energy is eternal delight, and is from the body,’ said Blake, and this is a delight which does not depend upon eternal rewards and promises.” (Page 118)
Happiness exists beyond the ego:
“For once you have developed an accurate and healthy ego, what then? Once you have met your egoic goals, once you have have accumulated material goods and professional recognition – once all of that what then? When history runs out of meaning for the soul, when material pursuits in the outer world go flat in their appeal, when it dawns on you for certain that death alone awaits you, what then?” (Page 119)
At one point I had asked myself the preceding questions after achieving a degree of success, the evolutionary path in my case was to become an entrepreneur. This self-questioning seems to be natural evolution of sorts among evolving individuals, at least in the higher bands.
The meaning of life – Just be:
“To find egoic meaning in life is to do something in life, and up to a point that is appropriate. But beyond the ego is beyond the type of meaning – to a meaning that is less of doing and more of being. As e.e. cummings put it, ‘If you can be, be. If not, cheer up and go on about other peoples’ business, doing and undoing onto others ‘til you drop.
To find centauric meaning in life – fundamental meaning – is to find that the very processes of life itself generate joy. Meaning is found, not in outward actions or possessions, but in the inner radiant currents of your own being, and in the release and relationship of these currents to the world, to friends, to humanity at large, and to infinity itself.” (Pages 119 – 120)
The Transpersonal Bands
The Transpersonal Bands are characterized by:
“As we now leave the centaur level and move on toward the transpersonal bands, we leave behind familiarity and common sense orientations to ourselves and our worlds. For we are entering the world of beyond and above, where we begin to touch an awareness that transcends the individual and discloses to a person something which passes far beyond himself. Any sort of legitimate discipline on this level sooner or later opens the individual to an awareness in himself that is so deep and profound that it may lift him out of himself into the vast and subtle world of the transpersonal.” (Page 124)
The perspective of an individual who has access to the Transpersonal Bands:
“Let us examine, in this context of mythological awareness, just how this shift to a deeper self, a transpersonal self, might occur. As the individual begins to reflect on his life through the eyes of the archetypes and mythological images common to mankind, his awareness may begin to shift to a more universal perspective. He is looking at himself not through his own eyes, which are in some ways prejudiced, but through the eyes of the collective human spirit – a different view indeed! He is no longer exclusively preoccupied with his own personal vantage point. In fact, if this process quickens correctly, his identity, his very self, expands qualitatively to these more or less global dimensions, and his soul becomes saturated with depth. He is no longer exclusively identified with just his ego or centaur, and thus he is no longer suffocated by purely personal problems and dramas. In a sense he can let go of his individual concerns and view them with a creative detachment, realizing that whatever problems his personal self faces, his deeper self transcends them to remain untouched, free, and open. He finds, haltingly at first then with an ever-increasing certainty, a quiet source of inner strength that persists unperturbed, like the depths of the ocean, even through the surface waves of consciousness are swept with torrents of pain, anxiety, and despair.” (Pages 127-128)
The Transpersonal Bands have the individual serving as a witness to their minds and bodies. Events, problems, and successes still occur within the personal self, they just do not take on a life or death seriousness. This witnessing is referred to as a transpersonal witness. Events are not good, bad or indifferent, they just are:
“The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing; it refuses nothing; it receives, but does not keep.” – Chuang Tzu (Page 132)
“If you are at all successful in developing this type of detached witnessing (it does take time), you will be able to look upon the events occurring in your mind-and-body with the very same impartiality that you would look upon clouds floating through the sky, water rushing in a stream, rain cascading on a roof, or any other objects in your field of awareness. In other words, your relationship to your mind-and-body becomes the same as your relationship to all other objects. Heretofore, you have been using your mind-and-body as something with which to look at the world. Thus, you became intimately attached to them and bound to their limited perspective. You became identified exclusively with them and thus you were tied and bound to their problems, pains, and distresses. But by persistently looking at them, you realize they are merely objects of awareness-in fact, objects of the transpersonal witness. ‘I have a mind and body and emotions, but I am not a mind and body and emotions.” (Page 132)
Unity Consciousness is one and the same with the eternal present or timeless moment. It is not a partial state like the others, and therefore has no boundaries, it is all inclusive of space and time. As a result, the harder one tries to reach this band, the more it eludes their grasp:
“Our very search, our own desire, forestalls the discovery. In short, we are always trying to move away from present experience, whereas in fact it is this present experience which always holds the key to our search. We are not really searching for the answer – we are fleeing it.” (Page 143)
The grand paradox of unity consciousness:
“You can’t really do anything to get it – I think that is at least theoretically clear. And yet it is even more obvious that if we don’t do something, we’ll remain just as we are.” (Pages 143-144)
One stalls their gaining of Unity Consciousness by their very resistance:
“If there is some aspect of life that you dislike, there is some aspect of unity consciousness that you are resisting. Thus we actively, if secretly, deny and resist unity consciousness. The understanding of this secret resistance is the ultimate key to enlightenment.” (Page 146)
Individual doesn’t realize they are resisting. Discover how and why you are resisting. Once discovered, can gradually lower resistance.
“This primal resistance results in what we ordinarily call perception. That is to say, we perceive all sorts of objects as if they were separate from us. And we resist, we actually fight, the awareness of unity with all these perceived objects, just as we once fought unity with the shadow and unity with the whole-bodied centaur. We fight, in short, unity consciousness.” (Page 149)
Special conditions of spiritual practices expose and then frustrate, undermine, and dissolve primal resistances. This process moves one closer to Unity Consciousness.
The loss of Unity Consciousness throws us into a world of boundaries, space, time, suffering, and mortality.
At the least likely moment and when all seems lost, Unity Consciousness emerges:
“At this very point where absolutely everything seems wrong, everything spontaneously becomes right. When the individual truly sees that every move he makes is a move away, a resistance, then the entire machination of resistance winds down. When he sees this resistance in every move he makes, then, quite spontaneously he surrenders resistance altogether. And the surrendering of this resistance is the opening of unity consciousness, the actualization of no-boundary awareness. He awakens, as if from a long and foggy dream, to find what he knew all along: he, as a separate self, does not exist. His real self, the All, was never born, will never die. There is only Consciousness as Such in all directions, absolute and all-pervading, radiant through and as all conditions, the source and suchness of everything that arises moment to moment, utterly prior to this world but not other than this world. All things are just a ripple in this pond; all arising is a gesture of this one.” (Page 157)
1. Ken Wilber: http://www.kenwilber.com
2. Ken Wilber. A Brief History of Everything:
3. Ken Wilber. No Boundary:
4. Ken Wilber. The Spectrum of Consciousness: