In this second article of the series ‚Science of Spirituality’, I will introduce you to the development stage theory by Ken Wilber, an American philosopher and co-founder of the Center for World Spirituality (now Center for Integral Wisdom). What are the steps of the Development of consciousness?
Levels of Development of consciousness
Ken Wilber divides ten levels of consciousness development. Each person starts at level one and remains in each level for a long period of time, and then ascends to the next highest level.
The entire spectrum of human consciousness growth includes the following levels:
1) Archaic / Primary Matrix
This is the first stage of consciousness development and includes the unborn and newborn baby. At this stage, the child is not yet self-aware. The behavior can be described as sensomotoric. Movements are controlled by sensory feedback.
2) Archaic / Sensori-physical
In infancy and early childhood, identity remains limited to the physical body. At this stage the child only perceives the material level. Life is about instinctual survival.
3) Magical / Phantasmic-emotional
In mid-childhood, we reach the magical level, which is characterized by an animistic perception and everyday fantasies. Here egocentric attitude develops. It is determined by sensations, perceptions and feelings and is carried by the life energy (Prana, Qui). The child fully identifies with his feelings. Characteristics are selfishness, word magic and a self-centredness The child can not differentiate between subject and object (eg “The chair kicked me”). Because of the egocentricity the child thinks it can influence the world in a direct and magical way. At this level the behavior is emotionally impulsive.
The level is reached in late childhood. It is characterized by the formation of a concrete operational consciousness. The magical power of the ego expands and now includes other people or medial heroes. These heroes can also be religious institutions with their dogmas, because they seem to work wonders. Everything is about the logic of duality (good and evil, we and the strangers, struggle and victory). By extending the focus to others, first forms of self-reflection are possible. The behavior is conformist. The child follows rules and role models.
A strong differentiation of consciousness sets in with the beginning of adolescence. The formal operational phase begins here. Myths are rejected and logical thinking starts. The world appears as permeated with legitimacy and regularity. Self-realization and individualization starts with the help of self-confident autonomous behavior.
With adulthood a unifying mode of knowledge should prevail. The diversity of opinions are tolerated or accepted. At this stage, the desires of others are taken into account. The identity grows from ‘me’ to ‘us’. The behavior is solidary and socio-centric.
This is the first stage of transpersonal or spiritual existence. The person experiences an intense mystical union with the whole material world (Gaia). Nature is considered godlike. You experience yourself as part of a bigger picture. Solidarity includes all living beings. The behavior is world-centric.
At this stage the person starts practicing spiritual forms of perception. These include yoga, meditation, shamanism and subtle visions. With those practices the structures of the non-manifest world are shown. This is where real mysticism begins, like it is practiced by shamans and yogis. Solidarity extends from living beings of the earth to beings and structures of the non-manifest world.
On this level the formless non-manifest (nirvana, ayn, pure emptiness) becomes visible. For this, every identification with the ego (lower self) has to be abandoned. This is the realm of formless mysticism.
10) Non-Dual / Integral
On the one hand, this is the highest of all levels and, on the other hand, the omnipresent basis of all levels. At this stage we experience the unity of emptiness and form and maintain it in our own life practice.
Levels of Development of consciousness according to Ken Wilber
|1. Archaic/ primary matrix
|2. Archaic / Sensori-physical
|3. Magical / Phantasmic-emotional
|Logical thinking, Legitimacy
|Acceptance, Solidarity, Socio-centric
|Formless non-manifest world
|10. Non-Dual / Integral
|Overcoming of duality
To fully understand consciousness development and spirituality, we need to recognize the difference between pre-rational (pre-personal) and trans-rational (trans-personal) states.
Pre-rational levels are: Archaic, magical and mythical. Images, emotions and fantasies control the experiences.The perception is limited to a physical level. The behavior is predominantly controlled by instincts.
On the other hand, transrational levels are: Psychic, Subtle, Causal, and Integral. At these levels, rational elements such as logical and symbolic thinking are used together with aspects such as intuition, spirituality and mysticism.
Pre-rational and trans-rational are both not rational states, and therefore they can be confused with one another. This can lead to two misunderstandings:
- If a higher and trans-rational states is reduced to a pre-rational state, we call it ‘reductionism’. (For example, real mystical experiences are interpreted as primitive autism) Freud, for example, took this path with his psychoanalysis. He was not open-minded to higher mystical states. Indicators of reductionism are e.g. uncertainty about one’s own spirituality or an intact ego.
- If pre-rational states are considered trans-rational, we speak of ‘elevationism’. This happens e.g. in the esotericism (in today’s common definition as ‘purchase of magic’ and not in the original definition as ‘the secret doctrine of the inner circle’). A pre-rational experience is elevated as a trans-rational and spiritual experience and the experiencing person is worshiped. Elevationism can be recognized by the discrepancy between speech and action as well as inauthenticity.
Central problems of Development of consciousness
Wilbert took the first few states (primary matrix to rational) from Jean Piaget’s Theory ‘The four Stages of Cognitive Development’. This approach is verifiable in all cultures and is recognized by most researchers.
Ken Wilber extends this developmental spectrum of consciousness and points out the following problem: In our world, people of all levels of development live next to each other, so there is an enormous heterogeneity of identity concepts. This causes misunderstandings between people, even if they live in the same place at the same time. Of course, this also happens on a global level.
Wilber assumes that most people reach the level of rational consciousness and the state of Vision-logic. At that level the development stagnates. As a reason for this, he names the absence of institutions which provide necessary knowledge and practices for personal growth.
It often happens that a person reaches different states of consciousness in different social contexts. For example, one can be at level 5 at the job, at level 4 or even 3 in private and intimate life, and at level 7 in meditation class. The development stage is only completed when the lower levels are integrated into the higher levels.
Solutions for Development of consciousness
In our world, rational consciousness (logic of science) dominates. It therefore requires a dose of courage and determination to expand one’s own consciousness. With our yoga school and healing center, we provide help and practices (yoga, shamanism, …) for personal growth, so you can ascend to higher levels of consciousness.
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