The Three Ups

The Three Ups

Tami Simon of SoundsTrue has done a Waking Up interview series to celebrate their 30th Anniversary. A friend sent me her interview with Ken Wilber as we’d been discussing Turiya and Turiyatita. Wilber used those terms in their conversation.

Turiya means “the fourth” and refers to a state of consciousness along with waking, dreaming and sleep. Like the other three states, it is temporary and is measurable in the physiology. The Fourth is known by names like samadhi, transcendental consciousness or pure awareness. It is what meditation and related practices culture. It also arises in expansive moments of awe or release.

Turiyatita means “beyond the fourth” and refers to when we shift from having passing experiences of pure awareness to becoming it, a shift that is called Self Realization or Cosmic Consciousness. This is the true long-sought spiritual awakening.

But in the interview, Wilber defined Turiya as the witness and Turiyatita as Unity. This is not a good understanding, and he was mushing together things that are distinct. I emphasize the difference between variations in experience and variations in stage of development to reduce this.

He also made it clear that for him, the eternal sense of Self still comes and goes. He does practices to strengthen it. This suggests it’s still an experience (Turiya) as continuity of Self is one of the key features of Turiyatita. Unity comes later.

Another alternative explanation is a non-abiding awakening where the shift has happened but it’s not yet subjectively clear. But his description didn’t suggest variable clarity but an experience that comes and goes. Further, a non-abiding stage generally becomes clear within some months or years.

The distinctions between being close and being there are subtle in description but very distinct in reality. It’s very tricky to judge another’s stage. But when they’re a public figure claiming expertise, then it’s useful to have a sense of where they’re coming from.

Note that someone awake isn’t always noticing they’re awake. When one is focused on a task, for example, the task absorbs the attention. But then, if they pause to check, That is always there. And always has been.

It was also interesting that Wilber has never met anyone who claims to live Oneness ongoing that he believed. I would have asked him to clarify as he may not have been asking the right question. It’s not the me that wakes up so people would not claim “I am in Unity” quite that way. Awake people tend to make more exact comments like “it is always here and always has been” or “what is here is everywhere” rather than “I am ever awake”. This isn’t because the last statement is false but misleading for someone who experiences their “I” as something local.

The Three Ups
Later in the interview Wilber raised a very good point. He said there’s three parts of the journey. He suggested that most traditions only focus on one of them. A few cover two. But a more complete model that is gradually coming to light includes all three.

1) Growing Up (psychology)
2) Waking Up (spiritual traditions)
3) Cleaning Up (energy healing)

As he noted, without all three, you get spiritual luminaries who are bigoted controllers, or act out their garbage on their students, and so forth. This is why I talk about all of it. This was also part of the Sofia Panel discussion.

Ironically, his dubiousness about his example (Adi Da) being fully awake was probably more related to Growing and Cleaning Up than Waking Up.

I disagree that the three are mutually exclusive. One does help the others. But equally, major development in one can also amplify problems in another, like the spiritualized ego.

Last Updated on May 21, 2023 by Davidya

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  1. For me, Davidya, the practical takeaway from this series of three ups… is making sure that we find the resources that work for us.

    Growing up — can be done naturally, or passively. Or people can find appropriate help to complete components of growing up where the person has been stuck.

    Likewise waking up — can happen as it comes. Or one might choose a teacher wisely, with discernment.

    As for cleaning up — this too can be done in a haphazard manner, a sort of “Take it as it comes” enterprise. Or one can seek out resources with discernment and follow up accordingly.

    We can act responsibly in the pursuit of all three types of up-liftment.

    1. Hi Rose
      I agree- all are natural processes that can be greatly aided by help in areas where we’re stuck.

      But that would be valid help, not concepts or wishes. Help chosen with self-authority, not by giving away responsibility.

  2. michael


    First, you are right the 3 are not exclusive…how could that ever be?

    Second, I would say he does not know what he is talking about. Psychology is not good for growing up, period.
    I work in that field. It does not heal in anyway and it matures only to a not very mature point. Basically what it does is creating stories about the stories who run our life. That can be stabilizing if we come from a very unstructred state but beyond that it is only of value if we use it as a pointer to look into our selves. It is way too mental!!

    Maturing means emotional maturation. This also matures what some call personal essence. We grow a lot by what we have felt through to the end. Feeling something trough to the end brings silence.
    Becoming less and less reactive to outer stimuli, projecting less and less onto the external world, that is what makes us mature. Healing the “inner child” by feeling through its pains, fears and rages matures us not some story why we behave in a certain way because “our parents did this or that”. Real understanding comes after having felt something to the end.

    I have only met very few mature psychologists (and i have met many) and they were mature because they found out for themselves that allowing ourselves to feel without a story why we are feeling it brings deeper freedom….

    So to bring this to an end 🙂
    For anyone beyond a basic stage is psychology a barrier. Instead deepening our understanding of works like Michael Brown or Scott Kiloby “produces” much, much better results and they sometimes make one very prone for an awakening expierence… which is an extra plus.

    David you know that is my theme…it had to be long 😉

    1. (laughs) well – I’ve never been a big fan of Wilber. I’ve seen him take systems and bend them to fit his model to “prove” his conception. Or write off celestial perception as a “mythic throwback to a bygone era”.

      The interview did serve several things to riff on though.

      That was a very brief summary of his comments on the Ups. I doubt his approach to Growing Up is based on standard psychology. But I agree. I originally made some comments about Emotional Intelligence but it didn’t fit well so I cut it.

      You describe what I’d call digesting or processing. Completing an experience, including it’s energetic and emotional content. Then we learn and grow. Otherwise, it’s more like building resistance, more layers of ego protection, and festering.

      So yeah, we’re on the same page there.

  3. K

    Hi – my question may be a bit tangential but something which has puzzled me a bit

    Why does the awakening mechanism involve so much healing. It seems that the set up is -1. there is trauma (psychic, spiritual, physical) 2. Healing is needed at the individual and the global sense 3. healing makes progress toward awakening. It seems that a problem is created and then the problem needs solving. Why this particular dance of trauma and healing? Thank you

    1. Hi K
      Because it’s not just about waking up but living that in the world. Embodying the clarity right in the physical. That means what is between source and physical needs to be clear enough for the light to shine through.

      The early levels of expression are clear and open. But as we get into denser levels of reality, we get into increasing distinctions and “weight”, for want of a better word. Inertia reduces light.

      Because growth has a cyclic nature, there are times when clarity is dominant and shorter times when the experience gets more lost in form. We’re coming out of one of the second.

      It may seem pointless and unnecessary but how are we to know inertia unless we live it? How do we know light without experiencing darkness?

      Most of the healing that’s needed is in the mental and emotional aspects. Individual vs global is only a difference in perspective. Healing isn’t really separate from awakening either. Take the mud off the window and the light shines in.

  4. michael

    Thanks David! 🙂

    That was a beautiful expression of yours (and so to the point!)
    (from your answer to K):
    “Healing isn’t really separate from awakening either. Take the mud off the window and the light shines in.”

  5. michael

    Just today found an article who ilustrates beautifully what i wrote above (the problem with psychotherapy etc.)
    …..and with better writing 😉

    From it:
    Resting and inquiring in this way requires real honesty. Real, gut-level honesty about what it is we’re experiencing and how we feel about it. There’s a tightness in my chest that feels like despair. I wish it would go away. This takes us beyond the layers of artifice that nearly all of us have accrued after a lifetime of alternately justifying and rejecting our feelings. We can’t hide behind spiritual or religious teachings, psychotherapeutic models or any other concepts or intellectual structures. Whilst these may at times be useful as maps or guides, there is no substitute for being with our raw experience exactly as it is, and simply looking and feeling. As we do so, we begin to unwind the layers of feeling and reaction; our bodies are able to get down to the business of feeling what’s here, unencumbered by our ideas about what or how we should be feeling or not. In my experience, regardless of whether the feeling is painful, there’s a deep relief in finally feeling it.

    the whole text:


    1. It’s a beautiful description of the process. For me this happened spontaneously as I gradually became conscious of some of the inner dynamics. Learning to be OK with what is here is key. And it helped that I was witnessing.

      For many, it only needs to be pointed out, and the process of noticing when there is resistance and releasing gradually unfolds. We get good at it pretty quickly, although it isn’t always easy and can sometimes seem endless.

      The load it takes off and the energy it frees is amazing.

    2. Amaryllis

      Hi Michael, I have been reading your comments about the value of psychotherapy with great interest, as I am studying psychotherapy at postgraduate level at the moment. I agree, psychology is like a little box with no back door, and at times I have truly wondered what I am doing.

      However it has recently come to me that there is service to be rendered to others in meeting them where they are, and for most people, that is in the realm of the psychological, at least at the beginning of their process. It is my hope that in meeting them beyond that space (although I make no claims to be awakened; it is very much in process), that some might resonate to the field beyond the psychological.

      I know many people who are deeply suffering, and none of them are remotely interested in a spiritual path, so I am hoping that psychotherapy, undertaken from a wider perspective, can be a bridge. On the other hand, I am aware (not least because of David’s recent post) that I might be deluding myself in service of ego aggrandisement (shudders). It doesn’t feel like it, but I’m putting this out there to sort of test my idea in other people’s reality (hope this makes sense).

      1. michael

        Hi Amaryllis!

        Thanks for your comment! 🙂
        …..and yes makes total sense!

        Follow your own path….what feels right for you… now. Davids posts are great pointers but we have to take out of them what is valuable for us… now.

        I work in a hospital for psychosomatic medicine.

        My perspective is that there is a place for classical psychotherapy because most people are not willing yet to really look at there stuff so “writing” some new stories can help them create a more stable ego….and if a ego is more stable it becomes less defended and with that more open (to new experiences, views etc.).

        Here in Germany there is great resistance (especially in the older generations but also in the younger ones) to go to psychotherapy because “only people who are mentally ill need that”.

        I was trying to point out its limits as i see too much reliance on it now (as in the panel discussion where David was) as a healing tool. This inner work is much more simple and boils down to allowing ourselfes to be with all the words, pictures and especially our emotions without condition. Scott Kiloby told me that he has worked with quite a lot of awakened people (in Davids terms CC; Scott calls them head awakening) and most still did not want to feel!

        My understanding is, that one of the next great steps in human evolution means becoming skilled in being able to feel without condition (not makeing stories up) and become conscious of the projection mechanism (how the world reflects back our own unconscious emotional loads).

        Which brings me back to psychotherapy 😉
        Most patients i see (if not too low structured) often find great relief when i tell them “not to fight against the bad emotions” and they often tell me “why do the psychotherapists not tell me this?”.
        So there is a fine line which one can take between classical psychotherapy and the very first levels of acceptance.

        I would suggest to look into Scott Kilobys and Michael Browns (if you not have done allready) work both for yourself and your coming clients.

        All the best on your way!

        1. Nicely put, Michael.
          If you don’t mind me putting a few cents in…
          On the panel I was on, a couple of them where formal therapists and they use that framework as a bridge into spiritual support.

          In N. America, it became almost fashionable to have a therapist. But there is still that underlying fear of “mental illness”.

          And yes – after the head comes the heart. So a lot of people have challenging processing to do after awakening if they’ve not dealt with it prior. One of the reasons it can be premature to start teaching then. Some manage to move further in consciousness without that but it’s part of the reason why terms like “emptiness” dominate. Fullness requires an open(ing) heart.

          And yes, if we’re going to live in heaven on earth, those steps certainly have to be taken.

          1. Amaryllis

            Hi David,

            Wonderful to hear this: “On the panel I was on, a couple of them where formal therapists and they use that framework as a bridge into spiritual support.”

            That is what I am hoping will unfold in my practice … & I can see that the key, as with all things, is to remain open to what actually unfolds, without setting up an agenda …

            “And yes – after the head comes the heart.” I wonder, is it possible for the heart to come first?

            Warmest …

          2. Hi Amaryllis
            The Consult tab has links to a few kinds of support that it would be useful to be aware of. For example, if someone comes to you for therapy when they’re clearly having energy issues, you can recognize it.

            Right – not having an agenda but being well informed.

            On head and heart. From a kundalini perspective, the heart comes first. But post awakening, it’s head, then heart in a descent. Of course there are subjective variations in this. And someone with a heart orientation, like on a devotional path, may frame it differently.

        2. Amaryllis

          Hi Michael :),

          I really appreciate your comments on this, not least because it is a delightful experience to read a commentary which is completely in synch with my own experience!

          I want to head my own practice of psychotherapy with clients in exactly the direction you articulated: “…becoming skilled in being able to feel without condition (not making stories up) and become conscious of the projection mechanism.”

          Yes, yes! This is it exactly. In all the personal healing work I have done, this is the only thing that allows me the freedom to be simple (simply present/without conditions) in life. Any time I interpret or project, the contraction back into suffering begins.

          “So there is a fine line which one can take between classical psychotherapy and the very first levels of acceptance.” Beautifully put! This is where I am aiming; (although truthfully as far away from the former, and as close to the latter as I can manage/get away with).

          “patients … often find great relief when i tell them “not to fight against the bad emotions” Exactly. Learning to tolerate uncomfortable feelings without reacting (or, in more formal Buddhist language, without attachment or aversion), is the first step towards relaxation and freedom.

          & thanks for the suggestion to check out Scott Kiloby & Michael Brown, I’ll do that. My best to you …

  6. michael

    You wrote:” We get good at it pretty quickly, although it isn’t always easy and can sometimes seem endless. ”

    I thought that too! But i have seen that most people struggle a lot with this kind of work if they had not had an awakening before starting that work (at least into witnessing for some days or so).

    There seems to be the tendency to slip back into unconscious projection because there is still so much identity attached to these supressed stuff.
    Scott Kiloby also confirms my observation about people and this work.

    But yes, once it is really understood it becomes second nature.

    1. Good point. My reference point is from witnessing. Being a detached observer makes letting go vastly easier. It’s nowhere near as entangled.

      Yes, we mostly tend to run from habit-mind and its stories that are not very conscious. You have to be able to see it to begin to let it go.

      Thats why I emphasize samadhi. It will bring us that observer clarity. Then some simple experiences of see and release and it becomes second nature.

  7. Jesper

    I actually like Ken Wilber quite a lot, so I would like to give me thoughts on him to balance the conversation out a bit – I think his has some valuable points (as you point out David), although he seems to lack understanding in several areas as well. I also want to make certain of his arguments, as I understand them, more clear to better understand their value.

    To understand Wilber I think it is important to understand where he is coming from. It seems that he has had bad experiences with enlightened gurus who believe that they have all the answers and that all their actions are divine, which cause them to behave in a negative manner – such as Adi Dam. He recognizes that some cleaning up does happen when you get enlightened just by witnessing. However, he also argues that certain areas of one’s personality is so subconscious that it won’t be (or is very difficult) to resolves just by witnessing. Hence, he argues that in most cases one need some extra tools like you (David) advocate – Rose’s healing for instance.

    To get to the subconscious areas he likes psychology to first integrate the shadow parts that are really subconscious. For instance, I might recognize that the anger I see in the people around me is actually my own anger. Sometimes that recognition dissolves that anger, but often one needs to feel/witness/let go, so that the emotion gets healed. So integrating the anger is growing up and feeling the anger so it dissolves is cleaning up.
    With Rose, without being an expert at all, it seems that growing up and cleaning up are both part of the healing process (but I’m not sure).

    Ken Wilber also targets the areas of subjectivity and objectivity in his theory. He wanted to deal with the concept that there only exist objective reality (modernism) and the succeeding period, now, where objective reality is more or less thought to be nonexisting, and that reality is only subjective (postmodernism). Wilber argues that both are right – there is an objective reality and a subjective reality. This is part of this “integral” perspective on the world. A bit like what you (David) talk about here:

    His theory is also an attempt to connect the spiritual and scientific worlds as much as possible, which I can appreciate. Although as he says, the map is not the territory.

    However, I agree that, without being enlightened myself, he seems to have a partly wrong understanding about enlightenment, and talking to much about it isn’t too wise if it isn’t your reality.
    I also think that he has a bias against the more mystical sides of life, such as angels, even though he recognizes that paranormal phenomena do exist. I think it is true that not everything that is mystical is real, but some are, however he probably aren’t the best to decide exactly which.
    He also seems to consider the more complex paths more advanced than the simple where I would consider it the opposite.

    I haven’t studied Ken Wilber’s theories a lot but did do it a bit a few years ago, when I started getting into meditation, so I may be a bit off in some areas.

    I hope it all makes sense and has some value.

    1. Hi Jesper
      Wilber is no doubt a brilliant man. He’s synthesized aspects of the sciences and world religions into grand models. And he understands a great deal of the process.

      However, I also found he bent models to fit his and dismissed things he disagreed with – including the entire spectrum of refinement. Yet once the stages have unfolded, the process is entirely about that.

      While he has undoubtedly had good experiences, the majority is driven by mind, not realization. And thats where we get into problems. We start leaning on the map rather than the road.

      So yes, there is value in what he’s been doing but he’s also leading people astray.

      Yes, he had some bad experiences with Adi Da who was a rather controversial character. (and changed his name several times) But for someone who teaches this stuff to say he’s never met anyone living Unity? It means he doesn’t get out much or his concepts of it are getting in the way. And it means it’s all in his head.

      On witnessing, what that gives you is greater detachment. This makes letting go easier but witnessing itself is not a skill nor means of release. We shouldn’t confuse a way of being with a process.

      On subjective vs objective, there is no one right answer there. Saying one or other is the truth or that both are the truth is just different perspectives. As our relationship with consciousness changes, so does our relationship with the layers of reality and what we see as subjective or objective.

      This is why I harp on the stages. When we understand the main points, it makes it a little easier to avoid looking for the One Right Answer.

      In summary – I agree with many of Wilber’s points but he’s driven largely by that mind of his. Fascinating stuff, but where does it get you? There’s a big difference between someone who speaks from their mind and someone who speaks from source.

  8. Jesper

    Hi David

    Thanks for your feedback and clarification. All what you wrote makes sense to me.

    Btw. as you say, his theory can be fascinating, but doesn’t help much, in my experience, so I don’t personally use his map/approach.

    Ps. his name is spelled Wilber 😉

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