Developmental Stages

Developmental Stages: Piaget

Sensorimotor Stage
0-2 years—Child begins to make use of imitation, memory, and thought.
Begins to recognize that objects do not cease to exist when they are hidden.
Moves from reflex action to goal-oriented action.
Preoperational Stage
2-7 years—The preoperational stage occurs between two and six. Language development is one of the hallmarks of this period. Piaget noted that children in this stage do not yet understand concrete logic, cannot mentally manipulate information, and are unable to take the point of view of other people, which he termed egocentrism.
During the preoperational stage, children also become increasingly adept at using symbols, as evidenced by the increase in playing and pretending. For example, a child is able to use an object to represent something else, such as pretending a broom is a horse. Role playing also becomes important during this stage. Children often play the role of “mommy,” “daddy,” doctor,” and many others.
Egocentrism: Piaget used a number of clever techniques to study the mental abilities of children. One of the famous techniques regarding egocentrism involved using a three-dimensional display of a mountain scene. Children were asked to choose a picture that showed the scene they had observed. Most children are able to do this with little difficulty. Next, children are asked to select a picture showing what someone else would have observed looking at the mountain from a different viewpoint. Invariably, children almost always choose the scene showing their own view of the mountain scene. According to Piaget, children experience this difficulty because they are unable to take on another person’s perspective.
Conservation: Another well-known experiment involves demonstrating a child’s understanding of conservation. In one experiment, equal amounts of liquid are poured into identical containers. The liquid in one container is then poured into a different shaped cup, such as a tall, thin cup, or a short and wide cup. Children are then asked which cup holds the most liquid. Despite seeing that the liquid amounts were equal, children almost always choose the cup that appears fuller.
Concrete Operational
7-11 years—During this stage children begin thinking logically about concrete events, but have difficulty understanding abstract or hypothetical concepts.
Logic: Piaget determined that children in the concrete operational stage were fairly good at the use of inductive logic (going from a specific experience to a general principle). On the other hand, children at this age have difficulty using deductive logic (using a general principle to determine the outcome of a specific event.
Reversibility: One of the most important developments in this stage is an understanding of reversibility, or awareness that actions can be reversed. An example of this is being able to reverse the order of relationships between mental categories. For example, a child might be able to recognize that his or her dog is a Labrador, that a Labrador is a dog, and that a dog is an animal.
Formal Operational
11-15 years—The formal operational stage begins at age twelve and lasts into adulthood. During this time, people develop the ability to think about abstract concepts. Skills such as logical thought, deductive reasoning, and systematic planning also emerge during this state.
Logic: Piaget believed that deductive logic becomes important during this stage. Deductive logic involves hypothetical situations and is often required in science and mathematics.
Abstract Thought: While children tend to think very concretely and specifically in earlier stages, the ability to think about abstract concepts emerges during this stage. Instead of relying solely on previous experiences, children begin to consider possible outcomes and consequences of their actions.
Problem Solving: In earlier stages, children use trial-and-error to solve problems. At the formal operational stage children approach problems in a logical and methodical manner.



Level 1 Preconventional Morality

Stage 1 Obedience and Punishment Orientation
Kohlberg’s stage 1 is similar to Piaget’s first stage of moral thought. The child assumes that powerful authorities hand down a fixed set of rules which he or she must unquestioningly obey. To the Heinz dilemma, the child typically says that Heinz was wrong to steal the drug because “It’s against the law,” or “It’s bad to steal,” as if this were all there were to it. When asked to elaborate, the child usually responds in terms of the consequences involved, explaining that stealing is bad “because you’ll get punished” (Kohlberg, 1958b).
Although the vast majority of children at stage 1 oppose Heinz’s theft, it is still possible for a child to support the action and still employ stage 1 reasoning. For example, a child might say, “Heinz can steal it because he asked first and it’s not like he stole something big; he won’t get punished” (see Rest, 1973). Even though the child agrees with Heinz’s action, the reasoning is still stage 1; the concern is with what authorities permit and punish.
Kohlberg calls stage 1 thinking “preconventional” because children do not yet speak as members of society. Instead, they see morality as something external to themselves, as that which the big people say they must do.
Stage 2 Individualism and Exchange
At this stage children recognize that there is not just one right view that is handed down by the authorities. Different individuals have different viewpoints. “Heinz,” they might point out, “might think it’s right to take the drug, the druggist would not.” Since everything is relative, each person is free to pursue his or her individual interests. One boy said that Heinz might steal the drug if he wanted his wife to live, but that he doesn’t have to if he wants to marry someone younger and better-looking (Kohlberg, 1963, p. 24). Another boy said Heinz might steal it because…maybe they had children and he might need someone at home to look after them. But maybe he shouldn’t steal it because they might put him in prison for more years than he could stand. (Colby and Kauffman. 1983, p. 300)
What is right for Heinz, then, is what meets his own self-interests.
You might have noticed that children at both stages 1 and 2 talk about punishment. However, they perceive it differently. At stage 1 punishment is tied up in the child’s mind with wrongness; punishment “proves” that disobedience is wrong. At stage 2, in contrast, punishment is simply a risk that one naturally wants to avoid.
Although stage 2 respondents sometimes sound amoral, they do have some sense of right action. This is a notion of fair exchange or fair deals. The philosophy is one of returning favors–“If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” To the Heinz story, subjects often say that Heinz was right to steal the drug because the druggist was unwilling to make a fair deal; he was “trying to rip Heinz off,” Or they might say that he should steal for his wife “because she might return the favor some day” (Gibbs et al., 1983, p. 19).
Respondents at stage 2 are still said to reason at the preconventional level because they speak as isolated individuals rather than as members of society. They see individuals exchanging favors, but there is still no identification with the values of the family or community.

Level II. Conventional Morality

Stage 3. Good Interpersonal Relationships.
At this stage children–who are by now usually entering their teens–see morality as more than simple deals. They believe that people should live up to the expectations of the family and community and behave in “good” ways. Good behavior means having good motives and interpersonal feelings such as love, empathy, trust, and concern for others. Heinz, they typically argue, was right to steal the drug because “He was a good man for wanting to save her,” and “His intentions were good, that of saving the life of someone he loves.” Even if Heinz doesn’t love his wife, these subjects often say, he should steal the drug because “I don’t think any husband should sit back and watch his wife die” (Gibbs et al., 1983, pp. 36-42; Kohlberg, 1958b).
If Heinz’s motives were good, the druggist’s were bad. The druggist, stage 3 subjects emphasize, was “selfish,” “greedy,” and “only interested in himself, not another life.” Sometimes the respondents become so angry with the druggist that they say that he ought to be put in jail (Gibbs et al., 1983, pp. 26-29, 40-42). A typical stage 3 response is that of Don, age 13:
It was really the druggist’s fault, he was unfair, trying to overcharge and letting someone die. Heinz loved his wife and wanted to save her. I think anyone would. I don’t think they would put him in jail. The judge would look at all sides, and see that the druggist was charging too much. (Kohlberg, 1963, p. 25)
We see that Don defines the issue in terms of the actors’ character traits and motives. He talks about the loving husband, the unfair druggist, and the understanding judge. His answer deserves the label “conventional “morality” because it assumes that the attitude expressed would be shared by the entire community—”anyone” would be right to do what Heinz did (Kohlberg, 1963, p. 25).
As mentioned earlier, there are similarities between Kohlberg’s first three stages and Piaget’s two stages. In both sequences there is a shift from unquestioning obedience to a relativistic outlook and to a concern for good motives. For Kohlberg, however, these shifts occur in three stages rather than two.
Stage 4. Maintaining the Social Order
Stage 3 reasoning works best in two-person relationships with family members or close friends, where one can make a real effort to get to know the other’s feelings and needs and try to help. At stage 4, in contrast, the respondent becomes more broadly concerned with society as a whole. Now the emphasis is on obeying laws, respecting authority, and performing one’s duties so that the social order is maintained. In response to the Heinz story, many subjects say they understand that Heinz’s motives were good, but they cannot condone the theft. What would happen if we all started breaking the laws whenever we felt we had a good reason? The result would be chaos; society couldn’t function. As one subject explained, I don’t want to sound like Spiro Agnew, law and order and wave the flag, but if everybody did as he wanted to do, set up his own beliefs as to right and wrong, then I think you would have chaos. The only thing I think we have in civilization nowadays is some sort of legal structure which people are sort of bound to follow. [Society needs] a centralizing framework. (Gibbs et al., 1983, pp. 140-41). Because stage 4, subjects make moral decisions from the perspective of society as a whole, they think from a full-fledged member-of-society perspective (Colby and Kohlberg, 1983, p. 27). You will recall that stage 1 children also generally oppose stealing because it breaks the law. Superficially, stage 1 and stage 4 subjects are giving the same response, so we see here why Kohlberg insists that we must probe into the reasoning behind the overt response. Stage 1 children say, “It’s wrong to steal” and “It’s against the law,” but they cannot elaborate any further, except to say that stealing can get a person jailed. Stage 4 respondents, in contrast, have a conception of the function of laws for society as a whole–a conception which far exceeds the grasp of the younger child.

Level III. Postconventional Morality
Stage 5. Social Contract and Individual Rights.
At stage 4, people want to keep society functioning. However, a smoothly functioning society is not necessarily a good one. A totalitarian society might be well-organized, but it is hardly the moral ideal. At stage 5, people begin to ask, “What makes for a good society?” They begin to think about society in a very theoretical way, stepping back from their own society and considering the rights and values that a society ought to uphold. They then evaluate existing societies in terms of these prior considerations. They are said to take a “prior-to-society” perspective (Colby and Kohlberg, 1983, p. 22).
Stage 5 respondents basically believe that a good society is best conceived as a social contract into which people freely enter to work toward the benefit of all They recognize that different social groups within a society will have different values, but they believe that all rational people would agree on two points. First they would all want certain basic rights, such as liberty and life, to be protected Second, they would want some democratic procedures for changing unfair law and for improving society. In response to the Heinz dilemma, stage 5 respondents make it clear that they do not generally favor breaking laws; laws are social contracts that we agree to uphold until we can change them by democratic means. Nevertheless, the wife’s right to live is a moral right that must be protected. Thus, stage 5 respondent sometimes defend Heinz’s theft in strong language:
It is the husband’s duty to save his wife. The fact that her life is in danger transcends every other standard you might use to judge his action. Life is more important than property. This young man went on to say that “from a moral standpoint” Heinz should save the life of even a stranger, since to be consistent, the value of a life means any life. When asked if the judge should punish Heinz, he replied: Usually the moral and legal standpoints coincide. Here they conflict. The judge should weight the moral standpoint more heavily but preserve the legal law in punishing Heinz lightly. (Kohlberg, 1976, p. 38). Stage 5 subjects,- then, talk about “morality” and “rights” that take some priority over particular laws. Kohlberg insists, however, that we do not judge people to be at stage 5 merely from their verbal labels. We need to look at their social perspective and mode of reasoning. At stage 4, too, subjects frequently talk about the “right to
life,” but for them this right is legitimized by the authority of their social or religious group (e.g., by the Bible). Presumably, if their group valued property over life, they would too. At stage 5, in contrast, people are making more of an independent effort to think out what any society ought to value. They often reason, for example, that property has little meaning without life. They are trying to determine logically what a society ought to be like (Kohlberg, 1981, pp. 21-22; Gibbs et al., 1983, p. 83).
Stage 6: Universal Principles.
Stage 5 respondents are working toward a conception of the good society. They suggest that we need to (a) protect certain individual rights and (b) settle disputes through democratic processes. However, democratic processes alone do not always result in outcomes that we intuitively sense are just. A majority, for example, may vote for a law that hinders a minority. Thus, Kohlberg believes that there must be a higher stage–stage 6–which defines the principles by which we achieve justice.
Kohlberg’s conception of justice follows that of the philosophers Kant and Rawls, as well as great moral leaders such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King. According to these people, the principles of justice require us to treat the claims of all parties in an impartial manner, respecting the basic dignity, of all people as individuals. The principles of justice are therefore universal; they apply to all. Thus, for example, we would not vote for a law that aids some people but hurts others. The principles of justice guide us toward decisions based on an equal respect for all.
In actual practice, Kohlberg says, we can reach just decisions by looking at a situation through one another’s eyes. In the Heinz dilemma, this would mean that all parties–the druggist, Heinz, and his wife–take the roles of the others. To do this in an impartial manner, people can assume a “veil of ignorance” (Rawls, 1971), acting as if they do not know which role they will eventually occupy. If the druggist did this, even he would recognize that life must take priority over property; for he wouldn’t want to risk finding himself in the wife’s shoes with property valued over life. Thus, they would all agree that the wife must be saved–this would be the fair solution. Such a solution, we must note, requires not only impartiality, but the principle that everyone is given full and equal respect. If the wife were considered of less value than the others, a just solution could not be reached.
Until recently, Kohlberg had been scoring some of his subjects at stage 6, but he has temporarily stopped doing so, For one thing, he and other researchers had not been finding subjects who consistently reasoned at this stage. Also, Kohlberg has concluded that his interview dilemmas are not useful for distinguishing between stage 5 and stage 6 thinking. He believes that stage 6 has a clearer and broader conception of universal principles (which include justice as well as individual rights), but feels that his interview fails to draw out this broader understanding. Consequently, he has temporarily dropped stage 6 from his scoring manual, calling it a “theoretical stage” and scoring all postconventional responses as stage 5 (Colby and Kohlberg, 1983, p. 28).
Theoretically, one issue that distinguishes stage 5 from stage 6 is civil disobedience. Stage 5 would be more hesitant to endorse civil disobedience because of its commitment to the social contract and to changing laws through democratic agreements. Only when an individual right is clearly at stake does violating the law seem justified. At stage 6, in contrast, a commitment to
justice makes the rationale for civil disobedience stronger and broader. Martin Luther King, for example, argued that laws are only valid insofar as they are grounded in justice, and that a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws. King also recognized, of course, the general need for laws and democratic processes (stages 4 and 5), and he was therefore willing to accept the penalties for his actions. Nevertheless, he believed that the higher principle of justice required civil disobedience (Kohlberg, 198 1, p. 43).
At stage 1 children think of what is right as that which authority says is right. Doing the right thing is obeying authority and avoiding punishment. At stage 2, children are no longer so impressed by any single authority; they see that there are different sides to any issue. Since everything is relative, one is free to pursue one’s own interests, although it is often useful to make deals and exchange favors with others.
At stages 3 and 4, young people think as members of the conventional society with its values, norms, and expectations. At stage 3, they emphasize being a good person, which basically means having helpful motives toward people close to one At stage 4, the concern shifts toward obeying laws to maintain society as a whole.
At stages 5 and 6 people are less concerned with maintaining society for it own sake, and more concerned with the principles and values that make for a good society. At stage 5 they emphasize basic rights and the democratic processes that give everyone a say, and at stage 6 they define the principles by which agreement will be most just.


Developmental Stages: Ken Wilber
Sensorimotor: 0-2 (Archaic and Archaic-Magic):

By the time of birth, the human being has developed from protoplasmic irritability to sensation to perception to impulse to proto-emotion…But none of these functions is yet clearly differentiated (or integrated), and the first years of life are a quick coming-to-terms with the physiosphere (non-biological features of the universe, including stars and planets) and the biosphere (the domain of life, includes but transcends the physiosphere) both within and without, in preparation for the emergence of the noosphere (includes complex sentient life, such as mammals and humans), which begins in earnest around age two with the emergence of language.
Thus Piaget, for example, in speaking of the first year of life, says that “the self is here material, so to speak.” It is still, that is, embedded primarily in the physiosphere. In the first place, the infant cannot easily distinguish between subject and object or self and material environment, but instead lives in a state of “primary narcissism” (Freud) or “oceanic adualism” (Arieti) or “pleromatic fusion” (Jung) or primary “indissociation” (Piaget). The infants self and material environment (and especially the mother) are in a state of primitive nondifferentiation or indissociation. On the psychosexual side, this is the “oral phase” because the infant is coming to terms with food, physical nourishment, life in the physiosphere.
Sometime between the fourth and ninth month, this archaic indissociation gives way to a physical bodyself differentiated from the physical environment—the “real birth” of the individual physical self. Margaret Mahler actually refers to it as “hatching.” The infant bites its thumb and it hurts, bites the blanket and it doesn’t. There is a difference, it learns, between the physical self and the physical other.
Another way to put this is to say that, with this first major differentiation consciousness seats itself in the physical body, grounds itself in the physiosphere…Many researchers…have concluded that if, due to physiological/genetic factors or repeated trauma, consciousness fails to seat itself in the physical self, the result is psychosis of one sort or another. Psychosis is many things…but it certainly includes a failure to establish a rounded physical self clearly differentiated from the environment. The psychotic, R.D. Laing put it, is constantly “jumping out of the body”; he or she cannot easily differentiate where the body stops and the chair begins; subject and object collapse in a state of fusion and confusion, with hallucinatory blurring of boundaries, and so forth. Psychosis, we may say, is a failure to differentiate and integrate the physiosphere.
If all goes relatively well, then the infant transcends the archaic fusion state and emerges or hatches as a grounded self.
The sensorimotor period (0-2) is thus predominantly concerned with differentiating the physical self from the physical environment, and results, toward the end of the second year, in what Piaget calls physical “object permanence,” the capacity of the infant to understand that physical objects exist independently of him or her (i.e., the physical world exists independently of ones egocentric wishes about it).
Thus, out of an initial state of primary indissociation (“protoplasmic,” Piaget also calls it), the physical self and the physical other emerges.
It is through a progressive differentiation that the internal world comes into being and is contrasted with the external. Neither of these two terms is given at the start…During the
early stages the [physical] world and the self are one; neither term is distinguished from the other. But when they become distinct, these two terms begin by remaining very close to each other: the world is still conscious and full of intentions, the self is still material, so to speak, and only slightly interiorized. At every stage there remain in the conception of nature what we might call “adherences,” fragments of internal experience still cling to the external world.
At the end of the sensorimotor period, the physical self and physical other are clearly differentiated, but as the mind begins to emerge with preop, the mental images and symbols themselves are initially fused and confused with the external world, leading to what Piaget calls “adherences,” which children themselves will eventually reject as being inadequate and misleading. We have distinguished [several] varieties of adherences defined in this way. There are, to begin with, during a very early stage, feelings of participation accompanied sometimes by magical beliefs; the sun and moon follow us, and if we walk, it is enough to make them move along; things notice us and obey us, like the wind, the clouds, the night, etc.; the moon, the street lamps, etc., send us dreams “to annoy us,” etc., etc. In short, the world is filled with tendencies and intentions which are [centered on} our own. A second form of adherence, closely allied to the preceding, is that constituted by animism, which makes a child endow things with consciousness and life [oriented solely toward the child]…In this magico-animistic order: on the one hand, we issue commands to things (the sun and the moon, the clouds and the sky follow us), on the other hand, these things acquiesce in our desires because they wish to do so. A third form is artificialism [anthropocentrism]. The child begins by thinking of things in terms of his own “I”: the things around him take notice of man and are made for man; everything about them is willed and intentional, everything is organized for the good of men. If we ask the child, or the child asks himself, how things began, he has recourse to man to explain them. Thus artificialism is based on feelings of participation which constitute a very special and very important class of adherences.
As we shall see, Piaget believes that the major and in many way defining characteristic of all adherences is egocentrism, or an early and initial inability to transcend one’s own perspective and understand that reality is not self-centered. Development proceeds slowly from egocentrism to perspectivism, from realism to reciprocity and mutuality, and from absolutism to relativity:
This formula means that the child, after having regarded his own point of view as absolute,
comes to discover the possibility of other points of view and to conceive of reality as constituted, no longer by what is immediately given, but by what is common to all points of view taken together. One of the first aspects of this process is the passage from realism of perception to interpretation properly so called. All the younger children take their immediate perceptions as true, and then proceed to interpret them according to their own egocentric relations.
The most striking example is that of the clouds and the heavenly bodies, of which children believe that they follow us. The sun and moon are small globes traveling a little way above the level of the roofs of houses and following us about on our walks. Even the child of 6-8 years does not hesitate to take this perception as the expression of truth, and, curiously enough, he never thinks of asking himself whether these heavenly bodies do not also follow other people.
When we ask the cautious question as to which of two people walking in the opposite direction the sun would prefer to follow, the child is taken aback and shows how new the question is to him. [Older children,} on the other hand, have discovered that the sun follows everybody. From this they conclude that the truth lies in the reciprocity of the points of view: that the sun is very high up, that it follows no one…
Piaget is at pains to indicate that the process of differentiation/ integration between internal and external world is a long and slow one. It is not, for example, that magico-animistic beliefs are present at one stage and then completely disappear at the next, but rather that cognitions referred to as “magical” become progressively less and less as development proceeds, moving from a “pure magical autism” to mental egocentricity to reciprocal and mutual sharing. In a very important passage Piaget gets to the heart of the matter.
For the construction of the objective world and the elaboration of strict reasoning both consist in a gradual reduction of egocentricity in favor of…reciprocity of viewpoints. In both cases, the initial state is marked by the fact that the self is confused with the external world and with other
people.; the vision of the world is falsified by subjective adherences, and the vision of other people is falsified by the fact that the personal point of view predominates, almost to the exclusion of all others. Thus in both cases, truth is obscured by the ego. Then, as the child discovers that others do not think as he does, he makes efforts to adapt himself to them, he bows to exigencies of control and verification which are implied by discussion and argument, and thus comes to replace egocentric logic by the logic created by social life. We saw that exactly the same process took place with regard to the idea of reality. There is therefore an egocentric logic and an egocentric ontology, of which the consequences are parallel; they both falsify the perspective of relations and of things, because they both start from the assumption that other people understand us and agree with us from the first, and that things’ revolve around us with the sole purpose of serving us and resembling us.
A note on terminology: Piaget divides each of the major cognitive stages into at least two substages (early and late preop, early and late conop, early and late formop), and I have generally followed Piaget in this regard. Since we have also been using Gebser’s general worldview terminology of archaic, magic, mythic, and mental (with clear implication that they are referring to essentially similar stages), I will often hybridize Gebser’s terminology to match Piaget’s substages, so that we have a continuum of archaic, archaic-magic, mythic, mythic-rational, rational, rational-existential (and into vision-logic, psychic, etc.)…
The preponderance of indissociations and adherences at the sensorimotor and early preoperational have lead Piaget to refer to this general early period as one of “magical cognitions” or “magic proper.” As he explains:
The first [general stage] is that which precedes any clear consciousness of the self, and may be arbitrarily set down as lasting until the age of 2-3, that is, till the appearance of the first “whys,” which symbolize in a way the first awareness of resistance in the external world. As far as we can conjecture, two phenomena characterize this first stage [the overall archaic-magic]. From the [internal] point of view, it is pure autism, or thought akin to dreams and daydreams, thought in which truth is confused with desire. To every desire corresponds immediately an image or illusion which transforms this desire into reality, thanks to a sort of pseudo-hallucination or play. No objective observation or reasoning is possible: there is only a perpetual play which transforms perceptions and creates situations in accordance with the subject’s pleasure [this is a stage that is often eulogized and “elevated” by the Romantics, such as Norman O. Brown, to a “spiritual non dual” state, whereas it is actually, as we have seen, a very egocentric, narcissistic state: operational, not transrational. From the ontological viewpoint, what corresponds to this manner of thinking is primitive psychological causality, probably in a form that implies magic proper: the belief that any desire whatsoever can influence objects, the belief in the obedience of external things. Magic and autism are therefore two different sides of one and the same phenomena—that confusion between the self and the world…
Preoperational (Magic And Magic—Mythic) 2-7 Years
If all goes relatively well, the infant transcends the early archaic fusion state and emerges or hatches as a grounded physical self. But if the infant’s physical body is now separated from the environment, its emotional body is not. The infant’s emotional self still exists in a state of indissociation from other emotional objects, in particular the mothering one. But then, around eighteen months or so, the infant learns to differentiate its feelings from the feelings of others (this is the second major differentiation, or “second fulcrum”). Its own biosphere is differentiated from the biosphere of those around it—in other words, it transcends its embeddedness in the undifferentiated biosphere…
Mahler refers to this crucial transformation (the second fulcrum) as the “separation-individuation phase,” or the differentiation-and-integration of a stable emotional self (whereas the previous fulcrum, as we saw, was the differentiation/integration of the physical self.) Mahler actually calls this fulcrum “the psychological birth of the infant,” because the infant emerges from its emotional fusion with the (m)other.
A developmental miscarriage at this crucial fulcrum (according to Mahler, Kernberg, and others) results in narcissistic and borderline pathologies, because if the infant does not differentiate-separate its feelings from the feelings of those around it, then it is open to being “flooded” and “swept away” by its emotional environment, on the one hand (the borderline syndromes), or it can treat the entire world as a mere extension of its own feelings (the narcissistic condition)—both of which result from a failure to transcend an embeddedness in the undifferentiated biosphere. One remains in indissociation with, or “merged” with, the biosphere, stuck in the biosphere, just as with the previous psychoses one remains merged with or stuck in the physiosphere.
By around age three, if all has gone well, the young child has a stable and coherent physical and emotional self; it has differentiated and integrated, transcended and preserved, its own physiosphere and biosphere. By this time language has begun to emerge, and development in the noosphere begins in earnest.
Thus, the intensity of the early archaic-magic declines with the differentiation of the emotional self and the emotional other (24-36 months)—but, according to Piaget, magical cognitions continue to dominate the entire preoperational period (2-4 years), the period I simply call “magic.”
In other words, the first major layer of the noosphere is magical. During this period, the newly emerging images and symbols do not merely represent objects; they are thought to be concretely part of the things they represent, and thus “word magic” abounds:
Up to the age 4-5, [the child] thinks that he is “forcing” or compelling the moon to move; the relation takes on an aspect of dynamic participation or of magic. From 4-5 he is more inclined to think that the moon is trying to follow him: the relation is animistic. Closely akin to this participation is magical causality, magic being in many respects simply participation: the subject regards his gestures, his thoughts, or the objects he handles, as charged with efficacy, thanks to the very participations which he establishes between those gestures, etc., and the things around him [“adherences”]. Thus, a certain word acts upon a certain thing; a certain gesture will protect one from a certain danger; a certain white pebble will bring about the growth of the water lilies, and so on…
Piaget refers to such magical cognitions as a form of “participation”— that is, the subject and the object, and various objects themselves, are “linked” by certain types of adherences, or felt connections, connections that nonetheless violate the rich fabric of relations actually constituting the object.
This is very much what Freud referred to as the primary process, which is governed by two general laws, that of displacement and that of condensation. In displacement, two different objects are equated or “linked” because they share similar parts or predicates (a relation of
similarity; if one Asian person is bad, all Asians must be bad). In condensation, different objects are related because they exist in the same space (a relation of contiguity: a lock of hair of a great warrior “contains” in condensed form the power of the warrior)…
Put simply, such primary process or magical cognition…does not set whole and part in a rich network of mutual relationships, but short-circuits the process by merely collapsing or confusing various wholes and parts—what Piaget called syncretism and juxtaposition (again, similarity and contiguity). Magical cognition, then, is fused and confused wholes and parts, and not mutually related wholes and parts. These “fused networks” of “syncretic whole” appear very holistic (or “holographic”), but are actually not very coherent and do not even match the already available sensorimotor evidence.
[This] type of relation is participation. This type is more frequent than would at first appear
to be the case, but it disappears after the age of 5-6. It’s first principle is the following: two things between which there subsist relations either of resemblance [similarity; metaphor] or of general affinity [contiguity; metonym], are conceived as having something in common which enables them to act upon one another at a distance, or more precisely, to regard one as a source of emanation, the other as the emanation of the first. Thus air or shadows in a room emanate from the air and shadows out of doors. Thus also dreams, which are sent to us by birds “who like the wind.” [The child] begins, indeed, as we do, by feeling the analogy of the shadow cast by the brook with the shadows of trees, houses, etc. But this analogy does not lead him to identify the particular cases with one another. So that we have here, not an analogy proper, but syncretism. The child argues as follows: “This book makes a shadow; trees, houses, etc., make shadows. The book’s shadow (therefore) comes from the trees and the houses. Thus, from the point of view of the cause or of the structure of the object, there is participation, syncretistic schemas resulting from the fusion of singular terms…
The Shift From Magic to Mythic
As we move from early preoperational (2-4 years; “magic”) to late peroperational (4-7 years; “magic-mythic”), similar types of adherences continue to dominate awareness. But one crucial difference comes to the fore: magic proper—the belief that the subject can magically alter the object—diminishes rapidly. Continued interaction with the world eventually leads the subject to realize that his or her thoughts do not egocentrically control, create, or govern the world. The “hidden linkages” don’t hold up in reality.
Magic proper thus diminishes, or rather, the omnipotent magic of the individual subject—a magic that no longer “works”—is simply transferred to other subjects. Maybe I can’t order the world around, but Daddy (or God or the volcano spirit) can.
And thus onto the scene come crashing a hundred gods and goddesses, all capable of doing what I can no longer do: miraculously alter the patterns of nature in order to cater to my wants. Whereas in the earlier magical stages proper, the secret of the universe was to learn the right type of magic that would directly alter the world, the focus now is to learn the right rituals and prayers that will make the gods and goddesses intervene and alter the world for me. Piaget:
The possibility of miracles is, of course, admitted, or rather, miracles form the part of the child’s conception of the world, since law [at this stage] is a moral thing with the possibility of numerous exceptions [“suspended by God” or a powerful other]. Children have been quoted who asked their parents to stop the rain, to turn spinach into potatoes, etc.
Thus the shift from magic to magic-mythic. Piaget: “The first stage is magical: we make the clouds move by walking. The cloud obeys us at a distance. The average age of this stage is 5. The second stage [magic-mythic] is both artificialist and animistic. Clouds move because God or [other] men make them move. The average age of this stage is 6.” It is from this magic-mythic structure that so many of the world’s classical mythologies seem in large part to issue. As Phillip Cowan points out, “During the [late preop or magic-mythic] stage, there is still a confusion between physical and personal causality; the physical world appears to operate much the way people do. All of these examples [show that the late preop] children already have developed elaborate mythologies about cosmic questions such as the nature of life (and death) and the cause of wind [and so forth}. Further, these mythologies show many similarities from child to child across cultures and do not seem to have been directly taught by adults.”
Myth And Archetype
This directly brings us, of course, to the work of Carl Jung and his conclusion that the essential forms and motifs of the world’s great mythologies—the “archaic forms” or “archetypes”—are inherited in the individual psyche of each of us.
It is not often realized that Freud was in complete agreement with Jung about the existence of this archaic heritage. Freud was struck by the fact that individuals in therapy kept reproducing essentially similar “phantasies,” phantasies that seemed therefore somehow to be collectively inherited. “Whence comes the necessity for these phantasies and the material for them?” he asks. “How is it to be explained that the same phantasies are always formed with the same content? I have an answer to this which I know will seem to you very daring. I believe that these primal phantasies are a phylogenetic possession. In them the individual stretches out to the experiences of past ages.”
This phylogenetic or “archaic heritage” includes, according to Freud, “abbreviated repetitions of the evolution undergone by the whole human race through the long-drawn-out periods and from the pre-historic ages.” Although, as we will see, Freud and Jung differed profoundly over the actual nature of this archaic heritage, Freud nevertheless made it very clear that “I fully agree with Jung in recognizing the existence of this phylogenetic heritage.”
Piaget has also written extensively on his essential agreement with and appreciation of Jung’s work. But he differs with Jung in that he does not see the archetypes themselves as being directly inherited from past ages, but rather as being the secondary by-products of cognitive structures which themselves are similar where ever they develop and which, in interpreting a common physical world, generate common motifs.
But whether we follow Freud, Jung, or Piaget, the conclusion is essentially the same: all the world’s great mythologies exist today in each of us, in me and in you. They are produced, and can at any time be produced, by the archaic, the magic, and the mythic structures of our own compound individuality (and classically by the magic-mythic structure).
The question then centers—and here Freud and Jung bitterly parted ways—on the nature and function of these mythic motifs, these archetypes. Are they merely infantile and regressive (Freud), or do they also contain a rich source of spiritual wisdom (Jung)? Piaget, needless to say, sided with Freud on this particular issue. I have already suggested that I do not see these particular “archetypes” as being quite the high source of transpersonal wisdom that Jung
believed; but the situation is very subtle and complex, and we will return to it later…in connection with Joseph Campbell…
Campbell, we will see, believes that in certain circumstances…the early mythic archetypes can carry profound religious and spiritual meaning and power. But even Campbell clearly acknowledges (and indeed stresses) that the early and late preoperational stages themselves are both marked by a great deal of egocentrism, anthropocentrism, and geocentrism.
Put differently, still lying “close to the body,” preoperational cognition does not easily take the role of other, nor does it still clearly differentiate the noosphere and the biosphere. Even in late preoperational thinking, the child firmly believes that names are a part of, or actually exist in, the objects named. “What are names for?” a child of five was asked. “They are what you see when you look at things.” “Where is the name of the sun?” “Inside the sun.” As one child summarized it: “If there weren’t any words it would be very bad. You couldn’t make anything. How could things have been made?” Joseph Campbell comments:
In the cosmologies of archaic man, as in those of infancy, the main concern of the creator was in the weal and woe of man. Light was made so that we should see; night so that we might sleep; stars to foretell the weather; clouds to warn of rain. The child’s view of the world is not only geocentric, but egocentric. And if we add to this simple structure the tendency recognized by Freud, to experience all things in association with the subjective formula of the family romance[Oedipus/Electra], we have a rather tight and very slight vocabulary of elementary ideas, which we may expect to see variously inflected and applied in the mythologies of the world.
The emergence of the noosphere: First images (at around 7 months), then symbols (the first full-fledged symbol probably being the word “no!”), then concepts (around 3-4 years), all aided immeasurably by the emergence of language.
“No” is the first form of specifically mental transcendence. Images begin this mental transcendence, but images are tied to their sensory referents. With “no” I can for the first time decline to act on my bodily impulses or on your desires (which every parent discovers in the child during the “terrible twos”). For the first time in development, the child can begin to transcend its merely biological or biocentric or egocentric embeddedness, begin to exert control over bodily desires and bodily discharges and bodily instincts, while also “separating-individuating” itself from the will of others. The Freudian fuss over “toilet training” and the “anal phase” simply refers to the fact that a mental-linguistic self is beginning to emerge and beginning to exert some type of conscious will and conscious control over its spontaneous biospheric productions, and over its being “controlled” by others as well.
In short, it is only with language that the child can differentiate its mind and body, differentiate its mental will and its bodily impulses, and then begin to integrate its mind and body. This is the third major differentiation, or the third fulcrum. The failure to differentiate mind and body—the failure to transcend this stage—is another way to say “remains stuck in the body or the biosphere,” which…is the primary developmental lesion underlying the narcissistic/borderline pathologies.
But “no!” can go too far, and therein lies all the horrors of the noosphere. For it is indeed with language that the child can differentiate mind and body, differentiate the noosphere and the biosphere, that differentiation (as always) can go too far and result in disassociation. The mind does not just transcend and include the body, it represses the body, represses its sensuality, represses its sexuality, represses its rich roots in the biosphere. Repression, in the Freudian (and Jungian) sense, comes into existence only with the “language barrier,” with a “no!” carried to extremes. And the result of this extreme “no!” is technically called “neurosis” or “psychoneurosis.”
Every neurosis, in other words, is a miniature ecological crises. It is a refusal to include in the compound individual some aspect of organic life, emotional-sexual life, reproductive life, sensuous life, libidinal life, biospheric life. It is a denial of our roots and our foundation. Neurosis, in this sense, is an assault on the biosphere by the noosphere…neurotic symptoms—anxieties and depressions and obsessions…now (forces) itself into consciousness in hidden forms, attempts to get the noosphere off its back.
And the neurotic symptoms disappear, or are healed, only as consciousness relaxes its repression, recontacts and befriends the biosphere that exists in its own being, and then reintegrates that biosphere with the newly emergent noosphere…This is called “uncovering the shadow,” and the shadow is…the biosphere.
Thus, if remaining stuck in the biosphere results in the borderline/ narcissistic conditions, going to the other extreme and alienating the biosphere results directly in the psychoneuroses. It follows that our present-day worldwide ecological crises is, in the very strictest sense of the terms, a worldwide collective neuroses—and is about to result in a worldwide nervous breakdown.
This crises is…in no way going to “destroy the biosphere”—the biosphere will survive, in some form or another (even if just viral and bacterial), no matter what we do to it. What we are doing, rather, is altering the biosphere in a way that will not support higher life forms and especially will not support the noosphere. That ‘alteration’ is, in fact, a repression, an alienation, a denial of our common ancestry, a denial of our relational existence with all of life. It is not a destruction of the biosphere but a denial of the biosphere, and that is the precise definition of psychoneurosis.
What Freud found his patients doing on a couch in Vienna, we have now collectively managed to do to the world at large. And who shall be our doctor?
Concrete Operational (7-12, Mythic And Mythic-Rational)
Assuming development goes relatively smoothly, then with the first significant differentiation of the mind and the body, the mind can transcend its embeddedness in a merely bodily orientation—absorbed in itself (egocentric)—and begin to enter the world of other minds. But to learn to do so it must learn to take the role of other—a new, emergent, and very difficult task.
In other words, the self has gone from a physiocentric identity (first fulcrum) to a biocentric identity (second fulcrum) to an early noospheric identity (third fulcrum), all of which are thoroughly egocentric and anthropocentric (magic and magic-mythic all centered on the self and oriented exclusively to the self, however “otherworldly” or “sacred” it might all appear).
If the sensorimotor and preoperational world is egocentric, the concrete operational world is sociocentric (centered not so much on a bodily identity as on a role identity, as we shall see). It still contains “mythic” and “anthropocentric” elements because, as Cowan puts it, “there are still various colorings of the previous stages” (which is why I call early and late conop, respectively, mythic and mythic-rational). A more differentiate causation by “five elements” (water, earth, fire, ether) tends to replace more syncretic explanation, and there often emerges a belief in causation by “preformation” (the acorn contains a fully formed but miniature oak tree).
But by far the most significant transformation or transcendence occurs in the capacity to take the role of other—not just to realize that others have a different perspective, but to be able to mentally reconstruct that perspective, to put oneself in the other’s shoes.
In what became known as the Three Mountains Task, Piaget exposed children from four to twelve years old to a play set that contained three clay mountains, each of a different color, and a toy doll. The questions were simple: what do you see, and what does the doll see?
The typical response of the preoperational child is that the doll sees the same thing that the child is looking at, even if the doll is facing only, say, the green mountain. The child does not understand that there are different perspectives involved. At a later stage of preop, the child will correctly indicate that the doll has a different perspective, but the child cannot say exactly what it is.
But with the emergence of concrete operational, the child will easily and readily describe the true perspective of the doll (e.g., “I am looking at all three mountains, but the doll is only looking at the green mountain”).
Investigation of these and similar tasks…has confirmed the general conclusion: only with the emergence of concrete operational thought can the child transcend his or he egocentric perspective and take the role of other. As Habermas would put it, a role identity supplements a natural (or bodily) identity (the body cannot take the role of other). The child learns his or her role in a society of other roles, and must now learn to differentiate that role from the role of others and then integrate that role in the newly emergent worldspace (this is the fourth major fulcrum, the fourth major differentiation/integration of self-development). The fundamental locus of self-identity thus switches from egocentric to sociocentric.
Initially the child is indissociated from his or her role, is embedded or “stuck” in it (just as he or she was initially stuck in the physiosphere and then stuck in the biosphere). This unavoidable (and initially necessary) “sociocentric embeddedness” leas to what is variously know as the conventional stages of morality (Kohlberg/Gilligan), the belongingness needs (Maslow), the conformist mode (Loevinger).
Which is why pathology at this stage is known generally as “script pathology.” One is having trouble not with the physiosphere (psychoses), not with the biosphere (borderline and neuroses)—rather, one is stuck in the early roles and scripts given by one’s parents, one’s society, one’s peer group: scripts that are not, and initially cannot be, checked against further evidence, and therefore scripts that are often outmoded, wrong, even cruel (“I’m no good, I’m rotten to the core, I can’t do anything right,” etc.; these do not so much concern bodily impulses, as in the psychoneuroses, but rather social judgments about one’s social standing, one’s role).
Therapy here involves digging up these scripts and exposing these myths to the light of more mature reason and more accurate information, thus “rewriting the script.” (This is, for example,
the primary approach of cognitive therapy and interpersonal therapy; not so much the digging up of buried and alienated bodily impulses, as important as that may be, but replacing false and distorting cognitive maps with more reasonable judgments).
Equally important to the taking of roles is the capacity of conop to work with mental rules. We saw that preop works with images (pictorial representation), symbols (nonpictorial representation), and concepts (which represent an entire class of things). Rules go one step further and operate upon concrete classes, and thus these rules (like multiplication, class inclusion, hierarchization) begin to grasp the incredibly rich relationships between various wholes and parts.
That is, concrete operational is the first structure that can clearly grasp the nature of a holon, of that which in one relationship is a whole and at the same time in another is merely a part (which is why value holarchies start to emerge spontaneously at that point; they switch from the rather strong “either-or” desires of preop to a continuum of preferences). All of this, of course, depends upon the capacity of conop to begin to take different perspectives and relate those perspectives to each other.
Because of its capacity to operate with both rules and roles, I also call this structure the rule/role mind. In relation to the previous stages, it represents a greater transcendence, a greater autonomy, a greater interiority, a higher and wider identity, a greater consciousness, but one that, as in all previous stages, is initially “captured” by the self and the objects—now a social self and now social objects (roles)—that dominate this stage.
And thus a self now open to new and higher pathologies, which demand new and different therapies. No longer stuck in the physiosphere, stuck in the biosphere, or stuck in the early “egosphere,” the pathological self is here stuck in the sociosphere, embedded in a particular society’s rules and myths and dogmas, with no way to transcend that mythic-membership, and thus destined to play out the roles and rules of a particular and isolated society.
Mythic-membership is sociocentric and thus ethnocentric: one is in the culture ( a member of the culture) if one accepts the prevailing mythology, and one is excommunicated from the culture is the belief system is not embraced. In this structure, there is no way a global or planetary culture can even be conceived unless it involves the imposing of one’s particular mythology on all people’s: which is just what we saw with the mythic imperialism of the great empires, from the Greek and Roman to the Khans and Sargons to the Incas and Aztecs. These great empires all overcame the egocentrism of local and warring tribes by subsuming their regimes into that of the empire (thus negating and preserving them in a larger reach or communion), and this was accomplished in part…the umbrella of a mythology that unified different tribes, not by blood or kinship (for that is impossible, since each tribe has a different lineage), but rather by a common mythological origin that could unite the various roles (as the twelve Tribes of Israel were united by a common Yahweh).
But as mature eogic-rationality begins to emerge, ethonocentric gives way to worldcentric.
The Ego
We saw that Habermas referred to the transcendence from conop to formop as a transformation from a role identity to an ego identity. “Ego” here doesn’t mean “egocentric”’; on the contrary, it means moving from a sociocentric to a worldcentric capacity, a capacity to distance oneself from one’s egocentrtic and ethnocentric embeddedness and consider what would be fair for all peoples and not merely one’s own.
It would be helpful, then, to discuss the meaning of the word ego. Particularly in transpersonal circles, no word has caused more confusion. Ego, along with rationality, is generally the dirty word in mystical, transpersonal, New Age circles, but few researchers seem even to define it, and those who do, do so differently.
We can, of course, define ego any way we like as long as we are consistent. Most New Age writers use the term very loosely to mean a separate-self sense, isolated from others and from a spiritual Ground. Unfortunately, these writers do not clearly distinguish states that are pre-egoic from those that are transegoic, and thus half of their recommendations for salvation are often recommendations for various ways to regress, and this rightly sends alarms through orthodox researchers. Nontheless, their general conclusion is that all truly spiritual states are ‘beyond ego,” which is true enough as far as it goes, but which terribly confuses the picture unless it is carefully qualified.
In most psychoanalytically oriented writers, the ego has come to mean “the process of organizing the psyche,” and in this regard many researchers, such as Heinz Kohut, now prefer the more general term self. The ego (or self), as the principle that gives unity to the mind, is thus a crucial and fundamental organizing pattern, and to try to go “beyond ego” would mean not transcendence but disaster, and so these orthodox theorists are utterly perplexed by what “beyond ego” could possibly mean, and who could possibly desire it—and, as far as that definition goes, they too are quite right.
Furthermore, according to such philosophers as Fichte, this pure Ego is one with absolute Spirit, which is precisely the Hindu formula Atman=Brahman. To hear Spirit described as pure Ego often confuses New Agers, who generally want ego to mean only “the devil” (even though they heartily embrace the identical notion Atman=Brahman).
They are equally confused when someone like Jack Engler, a theorist studying the interface of psychiatry and meditation, states that “meditation increases ego strength,” which it most certainly does, because “ego strength” in the psychiatric sense means “capacity for disinterested witnessing.” But the New Agers think that meditation means “beyond ego,” and thus anything that strengthens the ego is simply more of the devil. And so the confusions go.
Ego is simply Latin for “I.” Freud, for example, never used the term ego; he used the German pronoun das Ich, or “the I,” which was unfortunately translated as the ‘ego.” And contrasted to “the I” was what Freud called the Es, which is German for “it,” and which, also unfortunately, was translated as the “id” (Latin for “it”), a term Freud never used. Thus Freud’s great book The Ego and the Id was really called “The I and the It.” Freud’s point was that people have a sense of I-ness or selfness, but sometimes part of their own self appears foreign, alien, separate from them—appears, that is, as an “it” (we say, “The anxiety, it makes me uncomfortable,” or “The desire to eat, it’s stronger than me!” and so forth, thus relinquishing responsibility for our own states). When parts of the I are split off or repressed, they appear as symptoms or “its” over which we have no control.
Freud’s basic aim in therapy was therefore to reunite the I and the it and thus heal the split between them. His most famous statement of the goal of therapy—“Where id was, there ego shall be”—actually reads, “Where it was, there I shall be.” Whether one is a Freudian or not, this is still the most accurate and succinct summary of all forms of uncovering psychotherapy, and it simply points to an expansion of ego, an expansion of I-ness, into a higher and wider identity that integrates previously alienated processes.
The term ego obviously can be used in a large number of quite different ways, from the very broad to the very narrow, and it is altogether necessary to specify which usage one intends, or else interminable arguments arise that are generated only by an arbitrary semantic choice.
In the broadest sense, ego means “self” or “subject,” and thus when Piaget speaks of the earliest stages being “egocentric,” he does not mean that there is a clearly differentiated self or ego set apart from the world. He means just the opposite: the self is not differentiated from the world, there is no strong ego, and thus the world is treated as an extension of the self, “egocentrically.” Only with the emergence of a strong and differentiated ego (which occurs from the third to the fifth fulcrums, culminating in formop, or rational perspectivism)—only with the emergence of the mature ego does egocentrism die down! The “pre-egoic” stages are the most egocentric!
Thus, it is only at the level of formal operational thought that a truly strong and differentiated self or ego emerges from its embeddedness in bodily impulses and pre-given social roles; and that, indeed, is what Habermas refers to as ego identity, a fully separated-individuated sense of self.
To repeat: the “ego,” as used by psychoanalysis, Piaget, and Habermas (and others), is thus less egocentric than its pre-eogic predecessors!
I will most often use the term ego in that specific sense, similar to Freud, Piaget, Habermas, and others—a rational, individuated sense of self, differentiated from the external world, from its social roles (and the superego), and from its internal nature (id).
In this usage, there are pre-egoic realms where the self is poorly differentiated from the internal and external world (there is only “ego nuclei,” as psychoanalysis puts it). These pre-egoic realms are, to repeat, the most egocentric (since the infant or child doesn’t have a strong ego, it thinks that the world feels what it feels, wants what it wants, caters to its every desire: it does not clearly separate self and other, and thus treats the other as an extension of the self).
The ego begins to emerge more stably in the mythic stage (as a persona or role) and finally emerges, in the formal operational stage, as a self clearly differentiated from the external world and from it various roles (personae), which is the culmination of the overall egoic realms. Higher developments into more spiritual realms are then referred to as being transegoic, with the clear understanding that the ego is being negated but also preserved (as a functional self in conventional reality). The self in these higher stages I will refer to as the Self (and not the pure Ego, unless otherwise indicated, because this confuses everybody), and I will explain all of that in more detail as we proceed.
These three large realms are also referred to, in very general terms, as the subconscious (pre-egoic), the self-conscious (egoic), and the superconscious (transegoic); or as the prepersonal, the personal, and the transpersonal; or as the prerational, the rational, and the transrational.
The point is that each of those stages is a lessening of egocentrism as one moves closer to the pure Self. The maximum of egocentrism, as Piaget demonstrated, occurs in the primary or physical indissociation (the first fulcrum, where self-identity is physiocentric), because the entire material world is absorbed in the self-sense and cannot even be considered apart from the self-sense. This archaic-autistic stage is not “one with the entire world in bliss and joy,” as many Romantics think, but a swallowing of the material world into the self: the child is all mouth, and everything else is merely food.
As identity switches from the physiocentric to biocentric or ecocentric (fulcrum-2), there is a lessening of “pure autism” (“self-only!”) but a blossoming of emotional narcissism or emotional egocentrism (fulcrum-2), which Mahler summarized as “narcissism at its peak!” (She also summarized it as “the world is the infant’s oyster”: grandiose-omnipotent fantasies). The emergence of preop mind (fulcrum-3) is a lessening of that emotional egocentrism, but a blossoming of egocentric (and geocentric) magic—less primitive than the previous stage, but still shot through with egocentric adherences: the world exists centered on humans.
The emergence of the conop mind (fulcrum-4) is a lessening of that egocentric magic (where the self is central to the cosmos), but it is replaced with ethnocentrism, where one’s particular group, culture, or race is supreme. Nontheless, at the same time this allows the beginning of what Piaget calls decentering, where one can decenter or stand aside from egocentrism of the early mind and instead take the role of other, and this comes to a fruition with a further decentering, a further lessening of egocentrism, in formal operational (where one can take the perspective, not just of others in one’s group, but of others in other groups: worldcentric or non-ethnocentric).
As we will see when we follow evolution into the transpersonal domain, these developments converge on an intuition of the Divine as one’s very Self, common in and to all peoples (in fact, all sentient beings), a Self that is the great omega point of this entire series of decreasing egocentrism, of decentering from the small self in order to find the big Self—a Self common in and to all beings and thus escaping the egocentrism (and ethnocentrism) of each. The completely decentered self is the all-embracing Self (as Zen would say, the Self that is no-self).
Formal Operational (12-17+)
At this point, we are tracing the emergence of a strong rational ego out of its embeddedness in mythic-membership, and this brings us to Piaget’s formal operational stage.
Formal operational awareness transcends but includes concrete operational thought, and thus formop can operate upon the holons that constitute conop—and that, in fact, is the primary definition of formal operational. Where concrete operational uses rules of thought to transcend and operate on the concrete world, formal operational uses a new interiority to transcend and operate on the rules of thought themselves. It is a new differentiation allowing a new integration (and a deeper and wider identity).
First and foremost, formal operational awareness brings with it a new world of feelings, of dreams, of wild passions and idealistic strivings. It is true that rationality introduces a new and more abstract understanding of mathematics, logic, and philosophy, but those are all quite secondary to the primary and defining mark of reason: reason is a space of possibilities, possibilities not tied to the obvious, the given, the mundane, the profane. Reason, we said earlier, is the great gateway to the unseen, the beginning of the invisible worlds, which is usually the last way people think of rationality.
But think of the great mystics such as Plato and Pythagoras, who saw rational Forms or Ideas as the grand patterns upon which all of manifestation was based, patterns that were utterly invisible to the eye of flesh and could only be seen interiorly, with the eye of the mind. Or think of the great physicists such as Heisenberg and Jeans, who maintained that the ultimate building blocks of the universe are mathematical Forms, also seen only with the mind’s eye. Or of the great Vedantin and Mahayana sages, who maintained that the entire visible world is just a precipitate of the mind’s interior Forms or “seed-syllables.” For all of these theorists, Reason was not an abstraction from the concrete physical world; rather, the concrete world was a reduction or condensation of the great Forms lying beyond the grasp of the senses, Forms which contained en potentia all possible manifest worlds.
Piaget approaches this whole topic by showing that, whereas the concrete operational child can indeed operate upon the concrete world, the child at that stage ultimately remains tied to the obvious and the given and the phenomenal, whereas the formal operational adolescent will mentally see various and different possible arrangements of the given.
(In) a typical Piagetian experiment a child is presented with five glasses which contain colorless liquids. Three of the glasses contain liquids that, if mixed together, will produce a yellow color. The child is asked to produce a yellow color.
The preop child will randomly combine a few glasses, then give up. If she accidentally hits upon the right solution, she will give a magical explanation (“The sun made it happen”; “It came from the clouds”).
The conop child will eagerly begin by combining the various glasses, three at a time. She does this concretely; she will continue the concrete mixing until she hits upon the right solution or eventually gets tire and quits.
The formop will begin by telling you that you have to try all the possible combinations of three glasses. She has a mental plan or formal operation that lets her see, however vaguely, that all possible combinations have to be tried. She doesn’t have to stumble through the actual concrete operations to understand this. Rather, she sees, with the mind’s eye, that all possibilities must be taken into account.
In other words, this is a very relational type of awareness: all the possible relations that things can have with each other need to be held in awareness—and that is radically new. This is not the “wholeness” of syncretic fusion, where the integrity of wholes and parts is violated in a magical fusion, but rather a relationship of mutual interaction and mutual interpenetration, where wholes and parts, while remaining perfectly discrete and intact, are also seen to be what they are by virtue of their relationships to each other. The preop child, and to a lesser extent the conop child, thinks the color yellow is a simple property of the liquids; the formop adolescent understands that the color is a relationship of various liquids.
Formal operational awareness, then, is the first truly ecological mode of awareness, in the sense of grasping mutual interrelationships. It is not embedded in ecology (it transcends ecology without denying it), and thus can reflect on the web of relationships constituting it. As various researchers have pointed out, to use Cowan’s particular phrasing: “Again the emphasis in formal schemes is on the coordination of [various] systems. Not only can adolescents [at this stage] observe and reason about changes in the interior of [and individual], they can also be concerned with the reciprocal changes in the surrounding environment. Only then, for example, will they be able to conceptualize an ecological system in which changes in one aspect may lead to a whole system of changes in the balance between other aspects of nature.
So the first formulation is : formal operational = ecological
The fact that formop is also strong enough to potentially repress the biosphere, resulting in ecological catastrophe, indicates merely that ecological catastrophe is an unfortunate possibility, but not an inherent component, of rationality. We want to tease apart the pathological manifestations of any stage from its authentic achievements, and celebrate the latter even as we try to redress the former. The fact that ecological awareness becomes even greater at the next stage, the centauric, should not detract from the fact that it begins here, with the formal operational understanding of mutual relationships.
The second equation we need is: formal operational = understanding of relativity.
The capacity to take different perspectives, we saw, begins in earnest with conop. But with the emergence of formop, all the various perspectives can be held in mind, however loosely, and thus all of them become relative to each other. “In a set of experiments, a snail moves along a board, which itself is moving along a table. Only children at the formal operational stage can understand the distance which the snail travels relative to the board and to the table. Here we find the intellectual equipment necessary for conceptions of relativity—that time taken or space traveled cannot be absolute, but must be measured relative to some arbitrary point.”
The third equation we need is: formal operational = non-anthropocentric
The egocentric, geocentric, anthropocentric notions of reality, so prevalent in the earlier magic and mythic stages, and so defining of those stages, finally begin to wind down and lose their grip on awareness…
And not merely egocentrism but sociocentrism or ethnocentrism begins to wind down. With the coming of formop, the rules and the norms of any given society can themselves be reflected upon and judged by more universal principles, principles that apply not just to this or that culture, or this or that tribe, but to the multiculturalism of universal perspectivism. Not “My country right or wrong,” but “Is my country actually right?” Not concrete moral rules such as the Ten Commandments (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”—intertribal squabbling), but more universal statements, principles of justice and mercy and compassion, of reciprocity and equality, based on mutual respect for individuals and the dictates of conscience based on rights and responsibilities…
Thus Kohlberg, Gilligan, and Habermas all refer to this general stage as postconventional…Socrates vs. Athens. Martin Luther King, Jr., vs. segregation. Gandhi vs. cultural imperialism.
Thus, we have seen moral development move from a preconventional orientation, which is strongly egocentric, geocentric, biocentric, narcissistic, bound to the body’s feelings and nature’s
impulses (the first three fulcrums), to a conventional or sociocentric or ethnocentric orientation bound to one’s society, culture, tribe, or race, to a postconventional or worldcentric orientation, operating in the space of universal pluralism and global grasp…
For all these reasons, the individual at this stage, who can no longer rely on society’s given roles in order to establish an identity, is thus thrown back on his or her own resources. Who am I?” becomes, for the first time, a burning question, and the self-esteem needs to emerge from the belongingness needs (Maslow), or a “conscientious” self emerges from a “conformist” mode (Lovinger).
A failure to negotiate this painfully self-conscious ;phase (fulcrum 5”)—a differentiation from ethnocentrism and sociocentrism—results in the characteristic pathology of this stage, which Erickson called an “identity crisis.” This is not a problem of merely finding an appropriate role in society (that would be script pathology); it is one of finding a self that may or may not fit with society at all (Thoreau on civil disobedience comes to mind).
In addition to formal operational awareness being ecological, relational, and nonanthropocentric, we have already mentioned several of its other properties: it is the first structure that is highly reflexive and highly introspective; it is experimental and relies on evidence to settle issues; it is universal as pluralism and perspectivism; and it is propositional (can understand “what if” and “as if” statements; the fact that formop is the first structure to grasp “as if” statements turns out to be extremely important when it comes to interpreting mythology, as we will see in the following section on Joseph Campbell). But all of these are just variations on the central theme: reason is a space of possibilities.
No wonder adolescence and the emergence of formop is a time of wild passions and explosive idealisms, of fantastic dreaming and heroic urges, of utopian yells and revolutionary upsurge, of desires to change the entire world and idealistically straighter it all out, of feelings and emotions unleashed from the merely given and offered instead the space of all possibilities, a space through which they roam and rampage with love and passion and wildest terror. And all of this, all of it, comes from being able to see the possibilities of what might be, possibilities seen only with the mind’s eye, possibilities that point toward worlds not yet in existence and worlds not yet really seen, the great, great doorway to the invisible and the beyond, as Plate, and Pythagoras, and Shankara, and every mystic worth his or her salt has always known.
The higher the developments do indeed lie beyond reason, but never beneath it.
Joseph Campbell
There is no greater friend of mythology than Joseph Campbell, and I mean that in a good sense. In a series of articulate and extremely well-researched books, Campbell has done more than any other person, with the possible exception of Mircea Eliade and Carl Jung, to champion the position that mythological thought is the primary carrier of spiritual and mystical awareness. I and countless researchers have drawn on his works time and again, and his meticulous scholarship and detailed analysis never fail to inspire…
And yet his position, I believe, is finally untenable, and can be demonstrated to be so using his own assumptions and his own conclusions. For his position is, in the last analysis, a form of elevationism, and it is necessary to face this directly if we are ever to make sense of the truly deeper or higher developments of genuine spiritual and mystical experience. For one of the best ways to know what authentic mystical experience is, is to know what it is not.
To begin with, Campbell openly accepts the essentials of the Piagetian system. That is, he accepts the fact that the basic motifs of mythological thought are produced by the infantile and childhood structures of preop and early conop, and he explicitly say so using Piagetian terms. As just one of hundreds of instances:
The two orders—the infantile and the religious—are at least analogous, and it may well be that the latter is simply a translation of the former to a sphere out of range of critical observation [reason]. Piaget has pointed out that although the little myths of genesis invented by children to explain the origins of themselves and of things may differ, the basic assumption underlying all is the same: namely, that things have been made by someone, and that they are alive and responsive to the commands of their creators. The origin myths of the world’s mythological systems differ too; but in all the conviction is held [as in childhood], without proof, that the living universe is the handiwork…of some mother-father God [artificialism/anthropocentrism].
These three principles [magical participation, animism, and anthropocentrism] may be said to constitute the axiomatic, spontaneously supposed frame of reference of all childhood experience, no matter what the local details of this experience happen to be. And these three principles, it is no less apparent, are precisely those most generally represented in the mythologies and religious systems of the world.
Campbell cheerfully, and even enthusiastically acknowledges all of this, and he does so because he has a plan. He has a plan, this is, to salvage mythology, to prove that mythology is “really” religious and genuinely spiritual, and is not, in fact, merely a device of childhood.
The plan is this: The mythological productions of preop and conop, he says, are always taken literally and concretely, a point I have also been at pains to emphasize. But, Campbell says, in a very few individuals, the myths are not taken literally, but are rather taken in an “as if” fashion (his terms), in a playful fashion that releases one from the concrete myth and ushers one into more transcendental realms.
And this, he says, is the real function of myth, and therefore this is how all myths have to be judged. For the masses it remains true that myth is an illusion, a distortion, an infantile and childish approach to reality (all his phrases), but for the very few who can see through them, myths become the gateway to the genuinely mystical. And he belabors the point that myths, not reason, alone can do this, and this is their wonderful function. And here he starts running into grave difficulties.
When myths are take concretely and literally, Campbell says, they serve the mundane function of integrating individuals into the society and worldview of a given culture, and in that ordinary function, he says, they serve no spiritually transcendental or mystical purpose at all, which is true enough. I myself see that mundane integration as the central, enduring, and extremely important function of myths at that stage of development—simple cultural meaning and correlative social integration (at a preop and conop level).
Campbell acknowledges that function, but since he is looking for a way to elevate myths to a transpersonal status, those functions become quite secondary to him. In fact, he says, when people take myths literally—which, he says,99.9% of mythic believers do—then those myths become distorted. He is emphatic about this: “It must be conceded, as a basic principle of our natural history of the gods and heroes, that whenever a myth has been taken literally its sense has been perverted.”
Let us ignore, for the moment, that this implies that 99.9% of mythic believers are perverted (instead of stage-specifically quite adequate), and look instead to those very few individuals who do not take myth literally but rather in an “as if” fashion. By “as if” Campbell explicitly means the use given to it by Kant in his Prolegomena to Every Future System of Metaphysics, where Kant says that we can hold our knowledge of the world in an “as if” or “possible realities” fashion. Campbell then drives to the heart of his argument:
I am willing to accept the world of Kant, as representing the view of a considerable metaphysician. And applying it to the range of festival games and attitudes just reviewed [by which he means the attitude that does not take the myth seriously or literally]—from the mask of the consecrated host and temple image, transubstantiated worshiper and transubstantiated world—I can see, for believe I can see, that the principle of release operates throughout the series by way of an “as if”;and that, through this, the impact of all so-called “reality” upon the psyche is transubstantiated.
In other words, a myth is being a “real myth” when it is not being taken as true, when it is being held in an “as if” fashion. And Campbell knows perfectly well that an “as if” stance is possible only with formal operational awareness. Thus, according to his own conclusions, a myth offers its “release” only when it is transcended by, and held firmly in, the space of possibilities and as-ifs offered by rationality. It is reason, and reason alone, that can release myth from its concrete literalness and hold it in a playful, as-if, what-if fashion, using it as an analogy of what higher states might be like, which is something that myth, by itself, could never do (as Campbell bizarrely concedes).
It is people such as Campbell and Jung and Eliade, operating from a widespread access to rationality something the originators of myth did not have—who then read deeply symbolic “as ifs” into them, and who like to play with myths and use them as analogies and have great good fun with them, whereas the actual myth-believers do not play with the myths at all, but take them deadly seriously and refuse in the least to open them to reasonable discourse of any sort of “as if” at all.
In short, a myth serves Campbell’s main function only when it ceases to be a myth and is released into the space of reason, into the space of alternatives and possibilities and as-ifs. What structure does he think Kant is operating from?
Thus, in all of Campbell’s presentations, he takes two tacks: he first lays out the concrete and literal way that 99.9 percent of believers take the myth. And here he is not often kind. He clearly despises concrete mythic-beliefs (“On the popular side, in their popular cults, the Indians [i.e., from India] are, of course, as positivistic in their readings of their myths as any farmer in Tennessee, rabbi in the Bronx, or pope in Rome. Krishna actually danced in manifold rapture with the gopis, and the Buddha walked on water”).
Instead of seeing the concrete myth as the only way that myth can be believed as that stage of development, and thus being perfectly adequate and noble (if partial and limited) for that stage, he takes the concrete belief in magic and myth as a “perversion,” as if this structure actually had a choice for which it could be condemned. He is in fact denigrating an entire series of developmental stages that represented extraordinary advances in their own ways, and were no more a perversion of spiritual development than an acorn is a perversion of an oak. But he must condemn these stages per se because he judges them against his elevated version of “real mythology,” whereas I am not condemning these stages per se because they were the real McCoy, they genuine item: they were doing exactly what is appropriate and definitive and stage-specific for mythology.
Second, Campbell then suggests the ways that those very few (who do not take the myth literally) have used to transcend the myth (and are therefore, I would like to point out, no longer doing anything that could remotely be called mythology). This involves first and foremost, for Campbell, holding the myth in the space of “as if”; that is, holding it in the space of reason (with the possibility of then going further and transcending reason as well).
And here Campbell commits the classic pre/trans fallacy. Since the prerational realms are definitely mythological, then Campbell wants to call the transrational realms “mythological” as well, since they too are nonrational (and since he wants to salvage mythology with a field promotion). So on one side he lumps together all nonrational endeavors (from primitive mythology to highly developed contemplative encounters), and on the other side—the “bad” side—he dumps poor reason, even as he himself is in fact (and rather hypocritically) using the space of reason to salvage his myths. “Mythological symbols touch and exhilarate centers of life beyond the reach of the vocabularies of reason.” There is indeed a “beyond reason,” but how much more so is it “beyond mythology.”
And, in fact, it is not “in praise of mythology,” but rather “beyond mythology,” to which the entire corpus of Campbell’s work inexorably points. In surveying his truly magnificent, four-volume masterpiece, The Masks Of God, Campbell leaves us with one final message: As any ethnologist, archaeologist, or historian would observe, the myths of the differing civilizations have sensibly varied throughout the centuries and broad reaches of mankind’s residence in the world, indeed to such a degree that the “virtue” of one mythology has often been the “vice” of another, and the heaven of the one the other’s hell. Moreover, with the old horizons now gone that formerly separated and protected the various culture worlds and their pantheons, a veritable Gotterdammerung has flung its flames across the universe. Communities that were once comfortable in the consciousness of their own mythologically guaranteed godliness find, abruptly, that they are devils in the eyes of their neighbors.
The ethnocentric and divisive nature of mythology is fully conceded. Lamenting this state of affairs (even though it is inherent in mythology as mythic-imperialism), Campbell concludes that some more global understanding “of a broader, deeper kind than anything envisioned anywhere in the past is now required.” The hope, indeed, lies beyond parochial and provincial mythology. And beyond mythology is global and universal reason (and then beyond reason…).
Nowhere is Campbell’s pre/trans confusion more painfully obvious than in his attempt to displace or deconstruct rational science (and thus simultaneously elevate mythology). And again, the embarrassment is established by his own premises and his own logical conclusions, which a mind as fine as Campbell’s can ignore only by prejudice.
Since Campbell’s aim is to prove that reason and science are in no sense “higher” than “real” mythology, he begins fist by pointing out that even the worldview of science is actually a mythology. If he can do this successfully, he will have put science and mythology on the same level. He proceeds to outline four factors (or four functions) that all mythologies have in common. The first he calls “metaphysical,” whose function is “to reconcile waking consciousness to…the universe as it is.” The second function is to provide “an interpretative total image of the same,” an interpretive cosmology. The third is sociocultural, “the validation and maintenance of a social order.” And the fourth is psychological, or individual orientation and integration…
And, of course, defined that way, science (or the scientific worldview) does indeed perform all four functions of mythology. But then, adds Campbell, science of course does some other things that mythology per se does not, such as its spectacular discoveries in evolution, medicine, engineering, and so forth.
In other words, rationality/science does everything myth does, plus something extra.
That, of course, is the definition of a higher stage. Campbell recognizes that mythology originates from a particular stage of human development (which he happily concedes is the childhood of men and women), and then he also defines it as what all stages have in common…By this sneaky dual definition he hopes to be able both to concede mythology’s childishness and run it through all higher stages, thus allowing him not only to salvage mythology (since it is now what all stages have in common) but also to push it all the way to infinity, all the way to transpersonal Spirit.
But the four functions…are not a definition of mythology’s functions; they are a definition of evolution’s functions…Which only leaves Campbell’s other definition: mythology can only rightly lay claim to the childhood of men and women.
And running that definition to infinity simply results in the infantalization of Spirit. Campbell’s dual definitions actually undo each other, and point instead to the inexorable conclusion: beyond mythology is reason, and beyond both is Spirit…
The capacity to go beyond and look at rationality results in going beyond rationality, and the first stage of that going-beyond is vision-logic. If you are aware of being rational, what is the nature of that awareness, since it is now bigger than rationality? To be aware of rationality is no longer to have only rationality, yes?
Numerous psychologists (Bruner, Flavell, Arieti, Cowan, Kramer, Commons, Basseches, Arlin, etc.) have pointed out that there is much evidence for a stage beyond Piaget’s formal operational. It has been called “dialectical,” “integrative,” “creative synthetic,” “integral-aperspectival,” “postformal,” and so forth. I…am using the term vision-logic or network logic. But the conclusions are all essentially the same: “Piaget’s formal operational is considered to be a problem-solving stage. But beyond this stage are the truly creative scientists and thinkers who define important problems and ask important questions. While Piaget’s form model is adequate to describe the cognitive structures of adolescents and competent adults, it is not adequate to describe the towering intellect of Nobel laureates, great statesmen and stateswomen, poets, and so on.
True enough. But I would like to give a different emphasis to this structure, for while very few people might actually gain the “towering status of a Nobel laureate,” the space of vision-logic (its worldspace or worldview) is available for any who wish to continue their growth and development. In other words, to progress through the various stages of growth does not mean
that one has to extraordinarily master each and every stage, and demonstrate a genius comprehension at that stage before one can progress beyond it. This would be like saying that no individuals can move beyond the oral stage until they become gourmet cooks.
It is not necessary to be able to articulate the characteristics of a particular stage (children progress beyond preop without ever being able to define it). It is merely necessary to develop an adequate competence at that stage, in order for it to serve just fine as a platform for the transcendence to the next stage. In order to transcend the verbal, it is not necessary to first become Shakespeare.
Likewise, in order to develop formal rationality, it is not necessary to learn calculus and propositional logic. Every time you imagine different outcomes, every time you see a possible future different from today’s, every time you dream the dream of what might be, you are using formal operational awareness. And from that platform you can enter vision-logic, which means not that you have to become a Hegel or a Whitehead in order to advance, but only that you have to think globally, which is no so hard at all. Those who will master this stage, or any stage for that matter, will always be relatively few; but all are invited to pass through.
Because vision-logic transcends but includes formal operational, it completes and brings to fruition many of the trends begun with universal rationality itself (which is why many writers refer to vision-logic as “mature reason” or “dialectical reason” or “synthetic reason,” and so on.
In other words, rationality is global, vision-logic is more global. Take Habermas, for example…Formal operational rationality establishes the postconventional stages of, first, “civil liberties” or “legal freedom” for “all those bound by law,” and then, in a more developed stage, it demands not just legal freedom but also “moral freedom” for “all human as private persons.” But even further, mature and communicative reason (our vision-logic) demands both “moral and political freedom” for “all human beings as members of a world society.” Thus, where rationality began the worldcentric orientation of universal pluralism, vision-logic brings it to a mature fruition by demanding not just legal and moral freedom, but legal and moral and political freedom…
In just the same way, ecological and relational awareness, which started to emerge in formal operational, come to a major fruition with vision-logic and centauric worldview. For, in beginning to differentiate from rationality (look at it, operate upon it), vision-logic can, for the first time, integrate reason with its predecessors, including life and matter…
In other words…centauric vision-logic can integrate physiosphere, biosphere, and noosphere in its own compound individuality (and this is…the next major leading-edge global transformation, even though most of the “work yet to be done” is still getting the globe up to decentered universal pluralism in the first place).
This overall integration (physiosphere, biosphere, and noosphere, or matter, body, mind) is borne out, for example, by the researches of Broughton, Loevinger, Selman, Maslow, and others. As only one example…we can take the work of John Broughton.
As usual, this new centauric stage possesses not just a new cognitive capacity (vision-logic)—it also involves a new sense of identity (centauric), with new desires, new drives, new needs, new perceptions, new terrors, and new pathologies: it is a new and higher self in a new and wider world of others. And Broughton has very carefully mapped out the developmental stages of self and knowing that lead up to this new centauric mode of being-in-the-world.
To simplify considerably, Broughton asked individuals from preschool age to early adulthood: what or where is your self?
Since this was a verbal study, Broughton began with the late preop child (magic-mythic), which he calls level zero. At this stage, children uniformly reply that the self is “inside” and reality is “outside.” Thoughts are not distinguished from their objects (still magical adherences).
At level one, still in the late preop stage, children believe that the self is identified with the physical body, but the mind controls the self and can tell it what to do, so it is the mind that moves the body. The relation of mind to body is one of authority: the mind controls the self and can tell it what to do, so it is the mind that moves the body. The relation of mind to body is one of authority: the mind is the big person and the body is a little person (i.e., mind and body are slowly differentiating). Likewise, thoughts are distinguished from objects, but there is no distinction between reality and appearance (“naïve realism”).
Level two occurs at about ages seven to twelve years (conop). Mind and body are initially differentiated at this level (completion of fulcrum three) and the child speaks of the self as being, not a body, but a person (a social role or persona, fulcrum four), and the person includes both mind and body. Although thoughts and things are distinguished, there is still a strong personalistic flavor to knowledge (remnants of egocentrism), so facts and personal opinions are not easily differentiated.
At level three, occurring around eleven to seventeen years (early formop), “the social personality or role is seen as false outer appearance, different from the true inner self.” Here we see clearly the differentiation of the self (the rational ego) from its embeddedness in sociocentric roles—the emergence of a new identity or relative autonomy which is aware of, and thus transcends or disidentifies from, overt social roles. “The self is what the person’s nature normally is: it is a kind of essence that remains itself over changes in mental contents.”
At level four, or late formop, the person becomes capable of hypothetic deductive awareness (what if, as if), and reality is conceived in terms of relativity and interrelationships…The self is viewed as a postulate “lending unity and integrity to personality, experience, and behavior” (this is the “mature ego”).
But, and this is very telling, development can take a cynical turn at this stage. Instead of being the principle lending unity and integrity to experience and behavior, the self is simply identified with experience and behavior. In the cynical behavioristic turn of this stage, “the person is a cybernetic guided to fulfillment of its material wants [quick note—“the essential goal of cybernetics is to understand and define the functions and processes of systems that have goals and that participate in circular, causal chains that move from action to sensing to comparison with desired goal, and again to action.” Wikipedia]. At this level, radical emphasis on seeing everything within a relativistic or subjective frame of reference leaves a person close to a solipsistic position.”                                                                                                          The world is seen as a great relativistic cybernetic system so “holistic” that it leaves no room for the actual subject in the objective framework. The self therefore hovers above reality, disengaged, disenchanted, disembodied. It is “close to a solipsistic position”: hyperagency cut off from all communions. And this, as we have seen, is essentially the fundamental
Enlightenment paradigm: a perfectly holistic world that leaves a perfectly atomistic self.
A transcendental self can bond with other transcendental selves, whereas a merely enlightened empirical self disappears into the empirical web and interlocking order, never to be heard from again. (No strand in the web is ever or can be ever aware of the whole web; if it could, then it would cease to be merely a strand. This is not allowed by systems theory, which is why, as Habermas demonstrated, systems theory always ends of isolationist and egocentric, or “solipsistic.”)
But for a transcendental self to emerge, it has first to differentiate from the merely empirical self, and thus we find, with Broughton: “At level five the self as observer is distinguishing from the self-concept as known.” In other words, something resembling a pure observing Self (a transcendental Witness or Atman, which we will investigate in a moment) is beginning to be clearly distinguished from the empirical ego or objective self—it is new interiority, a new going within that goes beyond, a new emergence that transcends but includes the empirical ego. This beginning transcendence of the ego we are, of course, calling the centaur (the beginning of fulcrum six, or the sixth major differentiation that we have seen so far in the development of consciousness). This is the realm of vision-logic leading to centauric integration, which is why at this stage, Broughton found that “reality is defined by the coherence of the interpretive framework.”
This integrative stage comes to fruition at Broughton’s last major level (late centauric), where “mind and body are both experiences of an integrated self,” which is the phrase I have most often used to define the centauric or bodymind-integrated self. Precisely because awareness has differentiated from (or disidentified from, or transcended) an exclusive identification with body, persona, ego, and mind, it can now integrate them in a unified fashion, in a unified fashion, in a new and higher holon with each of them as junior partners. Physiosphere, bioshpere, noosphere—exclusively identified with none of them, therefore capable of integrating all of them.
But everything is not sweetness and light with the centaur. As always, new and higher capacities bring with them the potential for new and higher pathologies. As vision-logic adds up all the possibilities given to the mind’s eye, it eventually reaches a dismal conclusion: personal life is a brief spark in the cosmic void. Not matter how wonderful it all might be now, we are still going to die: dread, as Heidegger said, is the authentic response to the existential (centauric) being, a dread that calls us back from self-forgetting to self-presence, a dread that seizes not this or that part of me (body or persona or ego or mind), but rather the totality of my being-in-the-world. When I authentically see my life, I see its ending, I see its death; and I see why that my “other selves,” my ego, my personas, were all sustained by inauthenticity, by an avoidance of the awareness of lonely death.
A profound existential malaise can set in—the characteristic pathology of this stage (fulcrum six). No longer protected by anthropocentric gods and goddesses, reason gone flat in its happy capacity to explain away the Mystery, not yet delivered into the hands of the superconsious—we stare blankly into that dark and gloomy night, which will very shortly swallow us up as surely as it once spat us forth. Tolstoy:
The question, which in my fiftieth year had brought me to the notion
of suicide, was the simplest of all questions, lying in every soul of every man: “What will come from what I am doing now, and may do tomorrow?
What will come from my whole life?” Otherwise expressed—“Why should I live? Why should I wish for anything?” Again, in other words, “Is there any meaning in my life which will not be destroyed by the
Inevitable death awaiting me?”
That question would never arise to the magical structure; that structure has abundant, even exorbitant meaning because the universe centers always on it, was made for it, caters to it daily: every raindrop soothes its soul because every confirming drop reassures it of its cosmocentricity: the great spirit wraps it in the wind and whispers to it always, I exist for you.
That question would never arise to the mythic-believer: the soul exists only for its God, a God that, by a happy coincidence, will save this soul eternally if it professes belief in this God: a mutual admiration society destined for a bad infinity. A crises of faith and meaning is impossible from within this circle ( a crises occurs only when this soul suspects this God).
That question would never beset the happy rationalist, who long ago became a happy rationalist by deciding never to ask such questions again, and then forgetting, rendering unconscious, this question, and sustaining the unconscious by ridiculing those who ask it.
No, that question arises from a self that knows too much, sees too much, feels too much. The consolations are gone; the skull will grin in at the banquet; it can no longer tranquilize itself with the trivial. From the depths, it cries out to gods no longer there, searches for a meaning not yet disclosed, still to be incarnated. Its very agony is worth a million happy magics and a thousand believing myths, and yet its only consolation is it unrelenting pain—a pain, a dread, an emptiness that feels beyond the comforts and distractions of the body, the persona, the ego, looks bravely into the face of the Void, and can no longer explain away either the Mystery or the Terror. It is a soul that is much too awake. It is a soul on the brink of the transpersonal.
The Transpersonal Domains
We have repeatedly seen that the problems of one stage are only “defused” at the next stage, and thus the only cure for existential angst is the transcendence of the existential condition, that is, the transcendence of the centaur, negating and preserving it in a yet higher and wider awareness. For we are here beginning to pass out of the noosphere and into the theosphere, into the transpersonal domains, the domains not just of the self-conscious but the superconscious.
A great number of issues need to be clarified as we follow evolution…into the higher or deeper forms of transpersonal unfolding.
First and foremost, if this higher unfolding is to be called “religious” or “spiritual,” it is a very far cry from what is ordinarily meant by those terms. We have…painstakingly (reviewed) the earlier developments of the archaic, magic, and mythic structures (which are usually associated with the world’s great religions), precisely because those structures are what transpersonal and contemplative development is not. And here we can definitely agree with Campbell: if 99.9 percent of people want to call magic and mythic “real religion,” then so be it for them (that is a legitimate use); but that is not what the world’s greatest yogis, saints, and sages mean by mystical or “really religious” development, and in any event is not what I have in mind.
Campbell, however, is quite right that a very, very few individuals, during the magic and mythic and rational eras, were indeed able to go beyond magic, beyond mythic, and beyond rational—into the transrational and transpersonal domains. And even if their teachings (such as those of Buddha, Christ, Pantanjali, Padmasambhava, Rumi and Chih-I) were snapped up by the masses and translated downward into magic and mythic and egoic terms—“the salvation of the individual soul”—that is not what their teachings clearly and even blatantly stated, no did they intentionally lend support to such endeavors. Their teachings were about the release from individuality, and not about its everlasting perpetuation, a grotesque notion that was equated flat-out with hell or samsara.
Their teachings, and their contemplative endeavors, were (and are) transrational through and through. That is, all of the contemplative traditions aim at going within and beyond reason, and they all start with reason, start with the notion that truth is to be established by evidence, that truth is the result of experimental methods, that truth is to be tested in the laboratory of personal experience, that these truths are open to all those who wish to try the experiment and thus disclose for themselves the truth or falsity of the spiritual claims—and that dogmas or given beliefs are precisely what hinder the emergence of deeper truths and wider visions.
Thus, each of these spiritual or transpersonal endeavors…claims that there exist higher domains of awareness, embrace, love, identity, reality, self, and truth. But these claims are not dogmatic; they are not believed in merely because an authority proclaimed them, or because sociocentric tradition hands them down, or because salvation depends upon being a “true believer.” Rather, the claims about these higher domains are a conclusion based on hundreds of years of experimental introspection and communal verification. False claims are rejected on the basis of consensual evidence, and further evidence is used to adjust and fine-tune the experimental conclusions.
These spiritual endeavors, in other words, are scientific in any meaningful sense of the word, and the systematic presentations of these endeavors follow precisely those of any reconstructive science.
Objections To The Transpersonal
The common objections to these contemplative sciences are not very compelling. The most typical objection is that these mystical states are private and interior and cannot be publicly validated; they are “merely subjective.”
This simply is not true; or rather, if it is true, then it applies to any and all nonempirical endeavors, from mathematics to literature to linguistics to psychoanalysis to historical interpretation. Nobody has ever seen, “out there”
in the “sensory world,” the square root of a negative one. That is a mathematical symbol seen only inwardly, “privately,” with the mind’s eye. Yet a community of trained mathematicians know exactly what that symbol means, and they can share that symbol easily in intersubjective awareness, and they can confirm or reject the proper and consistent uses of that symbol. Just so, the “private” experiences of contemplative scientists can be shared with a community of trained contemplatives, grounded in a common and shared experience, and open to confirmation or rebuttal based on public evidence…
There is, of course, one proviso: the experimenter must, in his or her own case, have developed the requisite cognitive tools. If, for example, we want to investigate concrete operational thought, a community of those who have only developed to the preoperational level will not do. If you take a preop child, and in front of the child pour the water from a short fat glass into a tall thin glass, the child will tell you that the tall glass has more water. If you say, no, there is the same amount of water in both glasses, because you saw me pour the same water from one glass to the other, the child will have no idea what you’re talking about. “No, the tall glass has more water.” No matter how many times you pour the water back and forth between the two glasses, the child will deny they have the same amount of water…The preop child is immersed in a world that includes conop realities, is drenched in those realities, and yet cannot “see” them: they are all “otherworldly.”


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