- Shunryu Suzuki Index  - WHAT'S NEW - table of contents

Others Contribute

Loring Palmer on the 4th Turning
(of the Wheel of the Dharma)

Loring's cuke page

To David Chadwick, et al---


This past April, 2014, The Integral Institute in Boulder CO, held The Fourth Turning Conference (1), presided over by Ken Wilber, as well as other notable Buddhists. I was able to attend "virtually" via the Internet. Buddhism continues to develop and unfold in this ever changing world. However, it's been around a thousand years since the last Turning of the Wheel of Dharma, the Third, and there has been a plethora of discoveries and events in the West that have taken place since then, in philosophy, science and technology, particularly with Darwin and evolution, and Freud in psychology with the discovery of the inner life.


Buddhism has emerged through three major revolutions, or "Turnings".


"These three stages have been characterized respectively as:


1) Realism emphasizing the "radical pluralism" implicit in the reality of "psychological atoms" of dharmas;


2) Dialectical criticism dominated by the concept of emptiness and by the towering figure of Nargarjuna;


3) Idealism represented by the "absolutist idealism" of Cittamatrin or the "mind only" school."


We know these stages more popularly as:


1) Traditional or original Buddhism, sometimes called 'Hinayana' Buddhism. This reflects Gautama's enlightenment and revelation of the Four Noble Truths and the Aryan Eight Fold Path, as stated in his teachings, 'the Nikayas.'  This is the Path of monastic, individual liberation with the ideal of the Arahat. This Way is maintained by the Theravada.


2) Mahayana Buddhism transcends and includes the teachings of the First Turning but its revolutionary aspect is the insight of emptiness, sunyata; thus a via negativa approach:  all dharmas are empty of form. Also introduced was the egalitarian and compassionate approach that recognizes that all beings have buddha nature and a 'way seeking mind' and thus possess the potential for enlightenment. The ideal person is the Bodhisattva who is dedicated to saving all beings from the suffering of relative reality. The scripture, 'suttras', of Mahayana include the Prajnaparamitas and the Madhyamika. An example of this form is Zen Buddhism.


3) Vajrayana Buddhism was the third leap in consciousness. It includes the first two yanas, but softens the perceived negativity of the emptiness seen in the Mahayana. The Yogacara phenominology in this path brings us back to the world of form, the relative, and proclaims that it's the same as the absolute:  a via positiva approach. Rather than emptiness, we discover fulness. We are already free and enlightened. No problem. It's only our mind that denies this. We create our own world via the mind. In fact, we are the world, the universe. Vajrayana practice is designed to allow us the realization of this. Our dilemma is that "our minds are currently running in an operating system that we could call dualistic thinking, which distinguishes things in terms of pairs of opposites---this/that, here/there, now/then, inside/outside, etc." (3) The ideal of the Vajrayana is Vajrasattva, associated with primordial purity. The scripture, commentary and tantras are based on the Yogacara. An example is Tibetan Buddhism and Shingon, in Japan.


What is Integral Philosophy? 


The following is an excerpt by evolutionary and integral philosopher, Steve McIntosh. *see article (4)


"Integral philosophy is a spiritual philosophy of evolution that emphsizes the evolution of consciousness and culture as a central factor in the process of evolution overall. Integral philosopy itself has evolved over the last century through the work of Henri Bergson, Alfred North Whitehead, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Sri Aurobindo, Ken Wilber, and others. This philosophy also draws on the discoveries of the developmental psychology and other social sciences, and it has been influenced by related forms of social philosophy, such as the widely respected work of German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas. Although these founders of integral philosophy differ on many points, they have all recognized that a grater understanding of consciousness is the key to a more complete conception of reality.


"According to integral philosophy, however, the evolution of consciousness is dependent on the evolution of human culture."


"This understanding of the co-evolution of consciousness and culture leads to another central tenet of integral philosophy, which recognizes the sequential emergence of values-based stages of human reveals a recurring theme in humanity's narrative story. The unfolding of this theme or pattern results in a dialectical structure of conflict and resolution, which is created by the interaction of specific worldview stages or levels of historical development."


    "Evolution is the expression in the ability to experience

         what is intrinsically valuable."  -Alfred North Whitehead


Integral philosophy sees that there's a direction to evolution, that we can see the movement from simplicity to complexity, the emergence of higher consciousness. And we can see this shift happening as we push off of the old paradigm of the competitive, materialistic, destructive, nihilistic world view that we're now in the throws of---towards a cosmo-centric embrace of this world and the cosmos. Ken Wilber's attempt is to restore spirituality, big heart and mind, soul, love, to the center of both the individual and culture; that their evolution of consciousness is mutually dependent. 


Integral philosophy is a complement to Buddhism and not a replacement.

Integral Buddhism can be seen as the Fourth Turning because it transcends and includes the teachings and practices of the previous three turnings and adds the excitement of the new discoveries of science and technology without being colonised by them. As Trungpa Rinpoche urged, we can create a new society together; that heaven on earth is a possibility. Integral Buddhism can make this a reality.


David, I humbly submit this, realizing its incompleteness. I hope that this is helpful in understanding the proposition that Integral is the Fourth Turning.

Questions and comments are urged.










More on integral:


*Ken Wilber site: --'what is the integral movement?'


*Institute for Cultural Evolution:


*Naropa graduate, Jeff Salzman, gives a weekly news update from the integral perspective


*Spiral Dynamics Integral, Don Beck:

Also, books by Ken W.