2nd-Person God As An Active Force In Our Lives



By David Sunfellow
Integral Life
September 2, 2008

Original Link

I have two questions related to what Ken Wilber describes as the 2nd-person of Spirit.

The first question concerns the idea that there is a 2nd-person aspect of God that tends to be greatly overlooked — both in “new paradigm spiritual movements” (as Wilber refers to them), and, perhaps, in many integral circles.

Question 1: Since Wilber sees the 2nd-person aspect of Spirit as “the great ego killer” and since overlooking this aspect of Spirit tends to, according to Wilber, go “hand in hand with boomeritis”, shouldn’t there be greater emphasis in integral circles on acknowledging and forming a devotional relationship with the Great Thou within us?

This has become personal for me because when I have spoken about the devotional relationship I experience with the 2nd-person aspect of Spirit in my life, my integral brethren have suggested I might be attached to, or perhaps even stuck in, lower stages of development.

Here’s a quote from Ken Wilber, “Integral Spirituality”, that brings this concern into sharp focus:

“In today’s ‘new paradigm’ spiritual movements, we usually see… a complete loss of the Spirit in 2nd-person. What we find instead are extensive descriptions of Spirit in its 3rd-person mode, such as Gaia, the Web of Life, systems theory, akashic fields, chaos theory, and so on. This is coupled, to the extent there is a practice, with Spirit in 1st-person modes: meditation, contemplation, Big Mind, Big Self, Big Me. But no conceptions of a Great Thou, to whom surrender and devotion is the only response.

“This amounts to nothing less that the repression of Spirit in 2nd-person. Remember, all three 3 faces of Spirit are simply faces of your deepest, formless Self… In short, failing to acknowledge your own Spirit in 2nd-person is a repression of a dimension of your very being-in-the-world.

“In today’s America, the repression of the Great Thou often goes hand in hand with boomeritis. By emphasizing either a 3rd-person conception of Spirit as a great Web of Life, or a 1st-person conception of Spirit as Big Mind or Big Self, there is nothing before which ‘I’ must bow and surrender. The ego can actually hide out in 1st- and 3rd-person approaches…

“Spirit in 2nd-person is the great devotional leveler, the great ego killer, that before which the ego is humbled into Emptiness. Vipassana, Zen, shikan-taza, Vedanta, TM, and so on, simply do not confront my interior with something greater than me, only higher levels of me. But without higher levels of Thou as well — the quadrants go all the way up! — then one remains subtly or not so subtly fixated to variations on I-ness and 1st-person. That is why the merely 1st-person approaches often retain a deep-seated arrogance.

“It is understandable why so many individuals abandoned the mythic-amber God, usually when they reached college and switched to orange and green worldviews. Abandon the mythic God they should — but not abandon Spirit in 2nd-person! Find, instead, the turquoise God, the indigo God, all the way up to the ultraviolet God, which is the Great Thou that is the 2nd-person face of Spirit alongside the ultraviolet I-I and the Great It of Dharmadhatu (or realm of Reality). These are the 3 dimensions of your own formless primordial Spirit as it manifest in the world of Form, and repressing any of them is repressing your own deepest realities.”

My second question is more sweeping and, as far as I know, has not been fleshed out very much in integral circles yet. It came to a head for me when we began talking about helping our local community discover integrally-informed visions for themselves. As we discussed this topic, I became acutely aware that there didn’t appear to be any kind of vision questing process in the integral world. The idea that God, in the 2nd-person, was an active force in our lives with specific plans, purposes, and callings for each of us, as well as specific ways to manifest those plans, purposes, and callings, seemed to be a completely alien concept.

Since all of the world’s spiritual traditions are full of examples of God, in some form, actively interacting with human beings of all stripes — appearing, for example, in visions, dreams, voices, intuitions, chance encounters, signs and synchronicities — I am assuming that there must be some way to address this need/perspective in today’s integral framework. The mythic God may move differently in our hearts and minds than the turquoise, indigo, and ultraviolet God, but it seems to me that they all continue to move, nonetheless. In whatever form they take, we would continue to experience them as a loving, caring 2nd-person Presence that is acutely interested in helping us learn, grow, and become increasingly full blown reflections of the Divine in the manifest world.

Ditto with the world at large.

Along with being the Force that is propelling the created universe to ever increasing complexity and awareness, I’ve come to believe that this Force also raises people up at specific moments in history when unique personalities, perspectives, and skill sets are required to move the world (human and otherwise) to the next level of development.

From my perspective, near-death experiences and reincarnation are two other areas where there is compelling evidence that this Force has clear intensions for us.

In the case of near-death experiences there is growing evidence that there are foundational truths that underpin all thought and action — truths that emphasize the importance of love and relationships; of how we hold ourselves accountable for all of our actions, large and small; of how we enter this realm with lessons to learn and specific things to accomplish. Different cultures report variations on the near-death experience itself, but appear to share the core elements mentioned above.

In the case of reincarnation, especially research that has been done with children reporting verifiable past life experiences, we find themes of lessons to learn, relationships to honor, reasons for being born, purposeful attractions to certain families and cultures, and something propelling them from one life to the next.

The theme that ties all of these things together is, again, that there is an aspect of God that is actively engaged in all aspects of the created universe, including the most intimate details of our personal lives. It has a plan for us and is actively engaged in bringing that plan to fruition.

Now my second question: Does the current integral framework address these concerns and, if not, do any of the rest of you see a need for this to be included?

Personally, I would like to see two things: first, an acknowledgement that there is an aspect of God that is actively involved in our personal and collective evolution that can and should be turned to for guidance, direction, healing, support, etc.; and second, that there is a need for a core practice that involves consciously seeking to become aware of this Force and aligned with It.

I welcome any and all thoughts…