A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.
— Albert Einstein, 1954
Consider this a primer for a much more extensive treatment on two specific models that have had a huge influence on my thinking and actions. I hope it will serve to help people think outside of the box. Both systems, Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory are not very well-known, but I find them utterly fascinating. The following really doesn’t do them proper justice but that’s never stopped me before…
I’m a trained clinician and it informs my work when it comes to individual/ social transformation. That also means that I don’t just go out there, balls out, and try to effect change. I like to say I have the heart of a poet but the mind of a scientist. In other words, there’s a method to my madness. It would be unethical of me not to have an empirical grounding in the workings of the mind/ body and using that in the service of change.
I use what I will call at this time a “map” to help me create a holistic or “integral” perspective that helps me tease out all these nuances.
But before I get to that, I have to revisit briefly to something I’ve written about before: stages of consciousness. While states of consciousness are temporary, stages of development are permanent. Stages represent the actual growth and development. Once you are at a stage, it is an enduring acquisition. For example, once a child develops and acquires linguistic skills or the linguistic stages of development, the child has permanent access to language. Language isn’t present one minute and gone the next. The same thing happens with other types of growth. Once you reach a stage of growth and development, you can access the qualities of that stage — such as greater consciousness, a more inclusive love, higher ethical callings, greater intelligence and awareness — virtually any time you want. At this point, temporary states have been transformed to permanent traits.
To show what is involved with levels or stages, let’s use a very simple example using only three of them. If we look at moral development, for example, we find that an infant at birth has not yet been socialized into the culture’s ethics and conventions; this is called the preconventional stage. It is also called egocentric, in that the infant’s consciousness is largely preoccupied with a narrow focus of self. But as a child begins to adapt to its culture’s conditioning, it grows into the conventional stage of morals. This stage is also called ethnocentric, in that it is preoccupied almost exclusively with the child’s particular kin, tribe, community, or nation, and it tends to exclude care for those not of one’s group. But at the next major stage of moral development, the postconventional stage, the individual’s identity expands once again, this time to include a care and concern for all peoples, regardless of race, color, sex, or creed, which is why this stage is also called worldcentric. Therefore, moral development tends to move from “me” (egocentric) to “us” (ethnocentric) to “all of us” (worldcentric) — a good example of the unfolding stages of consciousness.
Another way to picture these three stages is as body, mind, and spirit. Those words all have many equally valid meanings, but in this context they mean:
Stage 1, which is dominated by my physical reality, is the “body” stage (using body in its normal meaning of gross body). Since you are identified merely with the separate bodily organism and its survival drives, this is also the “me” stage.
Stage 2 is the “mind” stage, where identity expands from the body and starts to share relationships with many others, based perhaps on shared values, mutual interests, common ideals, or shared goals. Because I can use the mind to take the role of others — to put myself in their shoes and feel what it is like to be them (empathy) — my identity expands from “me” to “us” (the move from egocentric to ethnocentric).
With stage 3, my identity expands once again, this time from an identity with “us” to an identity with “all of us” (the move from ethnocentric to worldcentric).
At this stage I begin to understand that, in addition to the wonderful diversity of humans and cultures, there are also similarities and shared commonalities. Discovering the commonality of all beings is the move from ethnocentric to worldcentric, and is “spiritual” in the sense of things common to all sentient beings. That is one way to view the unfolding from body to mind to spirit, where each of them is considered as a stage, wave, or level of expanding care and consciousness, moving from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric.
I promise to explore stages of consciousness (as well as lines, levels, tiers, etc) more deeply in my next submission, but for today these two examples will suffice. Suffice it to say that an individual at the lower rungs of development will experience life, love, religion, and politics much differently than an individual operating from a higher stage of consciousness.
The Good, The True, The Beautiful
Did you ever notice that languages have what are called first-person, second-person, and third person pronouns? First-person means “the person who is speaking,” so that includes pronouns like I, me, mine (in the singular), and we, us, ours (in the plural). Second-person means “the person who is spoken to,” which includes pronouns like you and yours. Third-person means “the person or thing being spoken about,” such as he, him, she, her, they, them, it, and its.
Therefore, if I am speaking to you about my new suit, “I” am first person, “you” are second person, and the new suit (or “it”) is third person. Now, if you and I are talking and communicating, we will indicate this by using the word “we,” for example, “We understand each other.” “We” is technically first-person plural, but if you and I are communicating, then your second person and my first person are part of this “we.” Therefore second person is sometimes indicated as “you/we,” or sometimes just “we.” So we can therefore simplify first-, second-, and third-person as “I,” “we,” and “it.”
That all seems inconsequential, doesn’t it? So what? So let’s try this: instead of saying “we,” “it,” and “I,” what if we said the Good, the True, and the Beautiful?
And what if we submitted or agreed to say that the Good, the True, and the Beautiful are dimensions of your very own being at each and every level of growth and development? And that through an integral transformative practice, you can discover deeper and deeper dimensions of your own Goodness, your own Truth, and your own Beauty?
If you find this interesting, then this is what Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory are attempting to map out.
The Good, the True, and the Beautiful are simply variations on first-, second-, and third-person pronouns found in all major languages, and they are found in all major languages because Truth, Goodness, and Beauty are very real facets of reality to which language has adapted. Put concisely, third-person (or “it”) refers to objective truth, which is best explored by science. Second-person (or “you/we”) refers to Goodness, or the ways that we– that you and I — treat each other, and whether we do so with decency, honesty, and respect — in other words, basic morality. And first-person deals with the “I,” with self and self-expression, art and aesthetics, and the beauty that is in the eye of the beholder.
So the “I,” “we,” and “it” dimensions of experience actually refer to: art, morals, and science. Or self, culture, and nature. Or the Beautiful, the Good, and the True.
And the point is that every event in our experience of the world has all three of those dimensions. You can look at any event from the point of view of the “I” (or how I personally see and feel about the event); from the point of view of the “we” (how not just I but others see the event); and as an “it” (or the accepted objective facts of the event).
Therefore, an integrally informed approach will take all of those dimensions into account, and in that way arrive at a more comprehensive and effective approach — in the “I” and the “we” and the “it” — or in self, culture, and nature.
If you leave out science, or leave out art, or leave out morals, you will be omitting a part of the picture, your map will suck, something won’t work or will be missing. Self and culture and nature are liberated together or not at all. I hope to get into more detail on all this and also offer case histories on I have used this to create, or be part of a process of change.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…