As is well known in physics, natural light comprises just one small band on the overall spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. In like fashion the conventional stages of (natural) personality development - dealt with in Western psychology - comprise just one small band on the overall spectrum of psychological understanding.
This book is an account of the full spectrum of development. As I proceed with the outlining of this spectrum, a simple but remarkably precise mathematical map - intimately based on the number system - will gradually unfold providing a more satisfactory means for classifying all its principal levels and stages.
I will conclude with a brief outline of this "number" map.
It will be useful at the onset to
mention some key terms. These will be used consistently throughout in the
sense now defined and are central to all that follows.
PROCESSES OF UNDERSTANDING
There are three primary processes that interact in varying degrees in all forms of understanding. They relate fundamentally to the way in which we deal with the polarities or opposites of experience.
Conscious (separation of opposites)
Here, opposites are treated as essentially separate e.g. mind and matter, subject and object, space and time etc. This enables us to differentiate phenomena, form independent units, analyse reality in a fixed static fashion, and then define clearly absolute notions of truth.
It is essentially the means by which we achieve a sense of autonomy and individual identity, and exercise a degree of control over our environment.
Conscious differentiation always involves reductionism and fragmentation.
Equally we could say, using mathematical terminology that it involves the positing of phenomena (+), and is essentially one dimensional (i.e. linear) and horizontal in scope.
Unconscious (complementarity of opposites)
In this process, by contrast, opposites are treated as complementary. In other words, polarities which appear separate at a conscious level, now are seen to form an essential and dynamic unity, This in turn enables us to integrate and see reality in holistic terms. Here everything interacts and is interdependent, so that all notions of truth - interpreted from a conscious perspective - are in some degree partial and relative.
It is essentially the means by which we achieve a sense of universality, establish a community and social identity, and are enabled to respond to our environment.
The unconscious is the direct means by which we attempt to unify and make whole in experience.
Using mathematical terminology it involves the fusion of both positive (+) and negative (-) in the one undivided experience. It is essentially circular and two dimensional (from a conscious perspective) and vertical in scope.
Essential (Harmonisation of Conscious and Unconscious)
The above primary processes are themselves complementary. Lack of sufficient development of the conscious sets limits to the development of the unconscious, and in turn insufficient development of the unconscious impedes conscious development.
The problem is that though each of these, though complementary, are very different and not capable of assimilation through the alternative process.
There really is always another process present, never directly manifest, which inherently represents a desire for spiritual meaning and fulfilment.
This is the spirit or self - the centre or mid-point of the personality - which is both the source and goal of all activity conscious and unconscious.
Diversity without unity (the conscious mode), is unbalanced.
Equally unity, without diversity (the unconscious mode), is unbalanced.
This central spiritual process is the means by which dynamic co-ordination of both conscious and unconscious activity is achieved.
Perhaps, mathematically it is best
described as infinite, and is diagonal in scope, co-ordinating within and
between differing levels of experience.
MODES OF UNDERSTANDING
Related to the previous processes
we can identify three primary modes of understanding. The first two represent
complementary opposites which are harmonised through the third.
This mode is the rational approach and corresponds closely with the conscious process. It is the way by which polar opposites are separated e.g. objective and subjective knowledge. It is formal and impersonal in nature and a means of exercising control in experience. Its merit is in the enabling of commonly agreed general procedures to evaluating truth.
As a paradigm it dominates the scientific approach and so much of Western culture.
Indeed "reality" is often misleadingly identified with what can be known rationally.
This mode is the emotional approach and corresponds - at least initially - closely with the unconscious process. It is the means by which polar opposites are united. In a direct sense, emotion always involves subject and object in a common experience. It is spontaneous and personal in nature and the means by which we are enabled to respond to our environment. It has a certain unique quality which renders it more difficult than reason to formally evaluate.
There is often an attempt - where the rational paradigm is paramount - to reduce the affective to the cognitive mode.
This mode operates through the central mode of will and is that mysterious manner through which purpose and moral responsibility arise. It is the primary driving force directing experience, and is the means through which we attempt to harmonise reason and emotion in a meaningful fashion.
In essence it is spiritual and ineffable, though once more, it is usual for it to be reduced to materialistic terms.
These modes of experience though
very closely related to corresponding processes are not identical with
them. Thus, for example, the conscious process through reductionism in
experience can express itself through each of the three modes.
DIRECTIONS OF UNDERSTANDING
There are likewise primary directions. Again the first two complement each other leading in harmony to the third.
This is the objective approach where the direction of understanding is turned outwards to achieve knowledge of the world.
This direction dominates our Western culture.
This is the subjective approach where the direction of understanding is turned inwards to achieve knowledge of the self.
This is much emphasised in authentic spiritual development.
There is a great lack of this direction in our culture, being frequently reduced to objective format.
This involves neither the objective nor subjective approaches as such but rather
the harmonisation of both in understanding
without direction (i.e. purely spiritual)
TENDENCIES IN UNDERSTANDING
Continuing in similar fashion we can identify three key tendencies
Fundamentally, this involves bringing to conscious experience, what is hidden in the unconscious.
It is the process of polarising and separating opposites in understanding. Prior to this they remain undifferentiated in the unconscious.
In psychology, as in mathematics, it is associated with change in experience.
When we look at differentiation in mathematics it always involves a process of reductionism.
For example, if y is a function of a variable x,
e.g. y = x2, then differentiating y with respect to x gives us 2x. In other words a two dimensional quantity has been reduced to a one dimensional format.
Also, what was vertical i.e. the exponent or dimension, i.e. 2, now becomes a horizontal quantity.
In like manner, when we look at differentiation in psychology, it also involves a process of reductionism.
Experience can be looked on as a function of psychological structures.
When we differentiate experience, with respect to one of the psychological structures (e.g. reason), the dimension of experience is reduced.
Most simply, the two dimensional structure of the unconscious, now becomes the one dimensional structure of the conscious.
Also, what was vertical, i.e. the quality or dimension of experience now collapses to quantitative expression within a given dimension.
There are two key tasks in terms of explaining this differentiation process:
(i) how experience is differentiated with respect to a given structure.
(ii) how experience both changes direction, and switches between differing structures.
In other words, we need to precisely explain the means which enables us to switch as between (conscious) experience externally and internally, and as between cognitive and affective experience.
Again this is complementary to differentiation.
It is the reverse procedure, by which we return to the unconscious what has been differentiated at a conscious level. This is necessary to avoid ego centred identification with the phenomena of (conscious) experience.
In this way, we attempt to unify and make whole what has been separated through conscious activity.
Again, there are strong similarities as between the processes of integration both in mathematics and psychology.
In mathematics, (simple) integration involves a quantity being transformed into a dimension or power. If, for example, the differential of y with respect to x is 2x, then y = x2.
Likewise, in psychology, integration involves a change in dimension, from a quantitative to a qualitative manner of experience.
We will try to explain
(i) how integration takes place within a given mode
(ii) how integration takes place as between modes.
The attempt to
1) differentiate experience without attention to the corresponding need for integration or
2) integrate experience without the corresponding need for differentiation
is unbalanced and distorted.
Ultimately both these polarised tendencies
must be harmonised in what is essentially a purely spiritual experience.
LEVELS OF UNDERSTANDING
We can - for convenience - identify four primary levels of understanding.
The (straight) line symbolises the conscious mind, and this level - which is the prevailing convention - is based on the specialisation of conscious understanding. Reality is experienced in terms of opposite poles which are clearly separated. Understanding at this level is therefore dualistic.
One of its most distinctive features is the belief that all events are connected by cause and effect, and move - in one direction only - forward in space and time.
It is the level of diversity and multiplicity, and analytic in nature.
Its supreme expression is the abstract rational approach, where all experience is reduced to, and interpreted within one dimension of understanding. This is why it can be referred to as the horizontal level.
In Eastern psychology this is identified as the gross realm.
Western psychology rarely goes beyond this level, avoiding the transcendent and limiting analysis mainly to the personal in experience. However in both Western and Eastern mystical traditions, there is a recognition that authentic spiritual development requires radical detachment from the merely linear, in what in Christian terms is referred to as the purgative way.
The circle is a good symbol of the unconscious mind and this level is based on the specialisation of unconscious understanding, where reality is now experienced in terms of opposite poles which are complementary, and in truth, comprise a dynamic unity.
Seen from a conscious perspective, such understanding seems deeply paradoxical.
Absolute notions of phenomenal truth have no validity here. All events are seen as interdependent and relative in space and time.
It is the level of wholeness and unity, and synthetic in nature.
Its supreme experience is pure contemplation or intuition. This capacity develops through moving through many differing paradigms of reality, eventually seeing them all as comprising a seamless web which is indivisible. Because of this heightened appreciation of differing levels of reality, it can be referred to as the vertical level.
It is best exemplified through the lives of the great contemplatives.
In the East, this is known as the subtle realm. It is only now being recognised in some degree by Western psychology and relates to what is transpersonal in experience. In Christian theology, it is known as the illuminative way.
Specialisation of conscious or unconscious alone is unbalanced. The most complete form of development involves the harmonisation of conscious and unconscious in a new dynamic synthesis.
In fact it is very much based on the specialisation of the centre of the personality i.e. spirit (will) now seen as inseparable from cosmic spirit (will). It is simple in the sense that there is no ego consciousness, and it is ineffable. The point is the simplest mathematical entity and a good symbol of this level. If we picture a line (diameter) within a circle, at the centre of both is the same point. Likewise it is the spiritual centre of the personality which harmonises conscious and unconscious experience.
It involves the basis for understanding reality both within a given level (horizontal), and at numerous differing levels (vertical), and - most importantly - integrating all experience into ever more meaningful patterns. This is why I refer to it as the diagonal level.
Great contemplatives from various ages and cultures, having undergone profound inner transformation, exemplify this level.
In the East it is known as the causal realm. In Christian theology, it is often included with the previous level. The stage of spiritual espousal (betrothal), used by some writers, though not precise, would approximate.
Radial (Horizontal, Vertical and Diagonal)
Whereas the previous stages involve the differentiation and specialisation of new structures, this stage is largely concerned with the integration of those structures (which have already been fully differentiated).
It involves the restoration of psychic energy to all of the levels simultaneously. One acquires the ability to switch to each of the main levels i.e. horizontal, vertical and diagonal, and then understand from the perspective of these levels in a (relatively) separate fashion, while simultaneously being able to integrate all levels. Thus it combines the (relative) independence of each level with the mutual interpenetration of all levels.
The famous spiritual figures of history acting as powerful agents of transformation in society best exemplify this level. Some others, though exercising a less dramatic influence are also capable of reaching this level.
In the East it is sometimes referred
to as ultimate reality. In the Western mystical tradition it is commonly
referred to as spiritual marriage or alternatively the unitive way.
I have identified four main levels of personality development. It is also helpful to identify sub levels. For convenience each level is comprised of both a physical aspect (where the emphasis is on sensible features of reality), a mental aspect (where the emphasis is more on the general conceptual structure of reality), and a spiritual aspect which harmonises both, and represents the direct essence of reality.
Thus, for example at the first level (linear) the earlier sub-level is concerned with experience of the physical environment, the next sub-level with mental development, where one comes to terms with the very nature of thought processes and finally a spiritual sub-level, which though contained in the previous development also goes considerably beyond it.
In practice there is often quite
a high degree of interaction and overlap as between these sub-levels.
PARADIGMS OF UNDERSTANDING
Associated with each level of understanding is a typical way of looking at reality which can be termed a paradigm.
For each main level of development, there is a major paradigm - a sort of master programme through which reality is structured.
At the linear level, we have the rational (analytical) paradigm, which is the unquestioned basis of so much modern knowledge e.g. science.
At the circular level, we have the intuitive (holistic) paradigm, which informs authentic (esp. contemplative) spiritual experience.
At the point level, we have the transrational (complex) paradigm, which represents the mature dynamic integration of reason and intuition.
At the radial level we have the ultimate (integrated) paradigm involving the seamless interpenetration of previous paradigms, where now all levels are seen as but different aspects of the same level. It is best exemplified by saintly leaders in all ages who - in the light of deep spiritual conviction - are destined to transform society.
Within each major paradigm, we can identify various manifestations. For example, there is not just one rational paradigm but many, each one associated with a particular stage in development.
One of my particular concerns is
to try and clarify the great subtlety of the various paradigms through
which reality can be interpreted.
STRUCTURES OF UNDERSTANDING
The application of the mode of understanding at each level generates various structures of understanding. Thus we can have the development of cognitive, affective and - in a qualified sense - volitional structures emerging at each level of development which can have either positive (objective) or negative (subjective) directions.
These in general have two key aspects:
i) a deep structure, where we can identify a common pattern wherever development takes place, regardless of personality and cultural characteristics. This deep structure in fact constitutes a paradigm within which to interpret reality.
Thus the rational paradigm emerges from the specialised development of the cognitive mode at the linear (mental) level. Of course the specialised use of the cognitive mode at other levels (circular and point), leads to the creation of different paradigms.
ii) a superficial structure, where a paradigm is applied to a specific interpretation or translation of experience. The results of this interpretation will depend considerably on personality and cultural factors.
Very often when experience is evaluated, far too much attention is paid to superficial rather than deep structures.
Thus for example, people who have reached similar levels of development in terms of deep structures - even though they come from widely differing religious traditions, (or even none), - have fundamentally more in common with each other, than people from similar traditions not sharing this deep structure development.
In fact, from an authentic perspective, what really distinguishes one group spiritually from another is not the surface structures of varying religious traditions and cultures but rather the deep structure of radical spiritual insight.
In what follows I will be mainly
interested in investigating the development of deep psychological structures
at each level of development.
STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT
The unfolding of these deep psychological structures, at different levels in experience, gives rise to various stages in development.
Within a given mode at each stage, many distinct sub stages can be identified. The classification of all these stages is always somewhat arbitrary.
However, I hope to be able to bring a somewhat different rationale to bear in terms of making this classification.
The sequence of evolution of these structures is worth noting.
Though there is always likely to be considerable overlap, when we are considering conscious development, the external direction precedes internal i.e. understanding of objective reality (the world), precedes understanding subjective reality (the self).
Also, affective development through the senses precedes cognitive development through reason.
However, when we are considering unconscious development these directions are reversed.
Thus for someone - largely confined to the linear level of mere personal development - the first half of life is likely to be more externalised and active, with more introversion in the second half.
However for one - who has gone through the circular level of transpersonal development, the first half will be given more to interior development, with growing immersion in "transforming" external activity later.