So, where is “love” in Ken Wilber’s AQAL model which we have been exploring the past 2 days?  On our first day (What the Heck is Integral Theory and Why Should I Care?) we looked at why I find it interesting and how it can be useful to our intentions for the highest future.  Yesterday (Integral Theory Made Simple) we looked at the nuts and bolts of the AQAL model.  Today we move beyond the intellectual aspect of integral (the “head”) and down into the “heart”.

This question swirled around in my mind after a recent meeting I attended. On that evening, a gentleman was giving an overview of Ken Wilber’s work and his AQAL model. In addition, he and an assistant were also attempting to cover Spiral Dynamics as a part of the presentation. Knowing a bit about both subjects and having taught them both, I listened not only to the content but the manner of their presentation to see if I could glean a new way of describing things. I also thought about each of the questions from the audience and considered  how I would respond.  Generally, I was fairly pleased with my internal answers.

It was the question on “love” in today’s title that stopped me dead in my tracks. The answer given by the instructors seemed somewhat incomplete or unclear. As for myself, although some general thoughts came to mind, I realized I was going to have to think more on the issue. So, without checking in with Wilber’s writings to see what he says, I gave it some thought and here is where I am at the moment:

As most religions and mystics have claimed, God is love. What is love, though? Although I am sure there are lots of writings out there to define it (including a couple of my own that have discussed love in recent weeks!), I would at this moment say that love is some feeling that comes from within us that seems to percolate out of our essence and in our awareness is directed out beyond us. This feeling can seem to overwhelm us at times. It moves us to sense of connectedness for which there are no words which even seem to adequately describe what we are feeling. We do know that the feeling is positive and something within us calls us to experience it more and more.

This feeling’s outward direction tends to lead us into focusing on certain specific things in our environment to which we attach the feeling. In early life, our feeling of love is directed to our parents and caretakers, our family, our pets, those things in our immediate environment. Later in life, we “fall in love” with one or more significant others who we hope will walk through life with us. Still later, many have children who become the objects of their love. Although most of us keep this attachment of the feeling of love to others in our lives, at some point we also expand beyond those in our lives to a broader sense of love. Yes, the description here obviously relates to the movement through the moral stages of development…..from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric and beyond…but we are also talking about a sense of love that begins to transcend people and be less specifically directed. We begin to love our experiences, our life, our sense of something transcendent, and recognizing that everything out there that we are “loving” is also a part of inside us, we begin to love ourselves as a part of that Oneness.

Ultimately, we begin to realize that love is a gift from Spirit. The ability to experience love was placed within everyone of us. We were given the free will to choose in this life how to use and express this gift. We can express it in only a limited manner if we choose, although generally such choices are not totally “conscious” ones. Such limited uses may have us not express love or only express it with a few people. We may never reach a sense of feeling love for the world and everyone in it. We may never sense a love of Spirit. We may never love ourselves. However, the possibility is always there.

What is the ultimate purpose of this gift? In a sense it relates to the old story about Spirit looking for a place to hide our Truth or Essence and then after giving up on placing it anywhere in the world “out there” ends up hiding our Essence within us. Love then becomes the “clue” Spirit gives us to guide us where to look. Love feels good and grabs our attention. We want more of it. We follow its path. It takes us to other people and things and events and ultimately to Life, to Spirit, and back to where Spirit was hiding all along, within us.

But what really is Spirit? Wilber tells us that the term along with “spiritual” can have up to six different meanings: (1) God, consciousness, ground of all being. (2) The conscious energy of life such as prana, qi, Holy Spirit, etc. (3) The higher levels of development in every line where we experience some transpersonal sense that we might label “spiritual”. (4) A specific “spiritual” intelligence line of development through which we grow. (5) Peak numinous experiences or states of consciousness that can be called “spiritual”. (6) Finally, “Spiritual” can refer to a special attitude involving love or compassion or wisdom.

So where is love in AQAL?

Love is part of this special attitude that we label spiritual. And again, God is love. At the highest level of development in each line or intelligence, we experience God. Therefore, God or Spirit is in everything. in all quadrants, lines, levels, types, and states. Hence, love is in all aspects of the AQAL model.

Love is an evolutionary spiritual force. Love is the feeling that guides us and moves us towards our knowing of Spirit.




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