From ‘Waking Up’ to ‘Growing Up’ With Ken Wilbur

“Our life is frittered away by detail…Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! Let our affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand.”
-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Anyone can complicate matters, but it can take a genius to simplify matters.

And that is what philosopher, author and futurist Ken Wilbur is; a modern Einstein-like genius who has developed and written about integral thinking in his 25–30 books over the last half-century — of which my favorite is A Brief History of Everything.

My experience reading Ken two years ago — because he is such a big thinker — I was a bit challenged to hold all of his integrated thinking together while digesting his expansive vocabulary. In other words, his books can be tough sledding at first, for me anyway.

Which is why I was very pleased to discover how Ken has recently simplified his vital message of integration of 60+ life disciplines into a simple, how to lift your consciousness levels upward in his new 90-minute Mindvalley online webinar entitled “Integral Spiritual Life Practices.”

For example, rather than going into the details of the 6–9 levels of consciousness which have been detailed by a variety of psychologists (From Baldwin, to Freud, to Jung) and spiritual teachers (From Buddhism, to Taoism, to Hinduism, to Christianity) Wilbur offers a simple path to move from spiritually “waking up” to “growing up” … and beyond.

His premise is simple: As we move up in the four basic consciousness levels — from Egocentric…to Ethnocentric… to Worldcentric… to Cosmocentric — we follow the same pattern found in of all creation — which is while we transcend old levels we also include all previous levels.

(These 9-levels are explained in detail in a my story on spiritual attraction)

In other words, rather than judging the mindset of any/all previous lower consciousness levels, we are instead called to reflect a compassionate, loving acceptance of the mindset we once occupied prior to encountering some type of major “waking up” experience our self.

According to Wilbur, waking up is just the first stage of moral development which is promoted by all major wisdom traditions and often boiled down to “The Golden Rule.” While we may intellectually ascend to such lofty life goals, the key question is how do we actually learn to live it out. (You have no doubt encountered “woke” people who are can still be quite unloving.)

Wilbur says that following “waking up” the next big step up is surrendering to the process of “growing up” — which takes time, inner work, and frankly a fair amount of letting to of the small false self in pursuit of the larger True Self.

I found it interesting that this “growing up” stage of development is a fairly new spiritual growth concept, gaining traction only in the last 100 or so years according to Wilbur.

This helps explain why virtually none of the major wisdom traditions, founded thousands of years ago, details the further steps beyond “waking up”.

And it was only a bit surprising to find out that about 60–70% of the world population today is stuck at either the Egocentric or Ethnocentric levels of consciousness. This helps to explain the mindless, crazy political behaviors that dominate the news.

The Good News: Thanks to the work of visionary spiritual geniuses like Ken Wilbur, Richard Rohr, Matthew Fox, Eckart Tolle, Barbara Brown Taylor, Mirabai Starr, (to name a few) and a rapidly growing flock of modern mystics — the world is slowly waking up AND growing up!

Franciscan author, teacher and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation Richard Rohr further simplifies our path upward in consciousness in his excellent book “Things Hidden: Scripture As Spirituality”.

Rohr boils it down to a movement from “My Story” (egocentric)… to “Our Story” (ethnocentric)… to “The Story” (cosmocentric). He affirms that we need all three stages, but ultimate spiritual union is only possible as we learn to fit ‘my/our’ story into a larger ‘the’ story of unconconditional love — for everyone and everything.

Today we blessed with a growing number of wise teachers who are helping us move from basic mindfulness to enlarged heartfulness — which prioritizes loving God, our neighbor and even our enemies!

Wilbur estimates that about 25–30% of the world is now progressing to the next level of Worldcentric consciousness. This is the path toward a truly Cosmocentric consciousness — which includes a self-realization of the unity consciousness we are all born into — but somehow we must eventually learn how to shed these inbred dualisms to recover, either through spiritual practices in life… or as a final “enlightenment at gunpoint” in our death.

Ken winds up his interview with a teaser about the further three levels of consciousness that await those along the path of “growing up” which include; “Cleaning up, Showing up and Opening Up.” I won’t spoil the teaser in this short summary, but if any of this has caught your interest you can sign up for The Integral Life with Ken Wilbur free webinar at

For those interested in other approaches to both “waking up” and “growing up,” I have just released a compilation of ten book reviews of spiritual growth bestsellers entitled, Blissfull Books & Ballads which is available for a limited time FREE at this pdf link: … All I ask is for a few reviews that can be posted at the new book/audio cd website

May your 2021 be filled with both awakening and growth!

Contemplative reader, writer, musician

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