Significance: Modes of awareness and experiential biases
Human Development Project |
1. Absence of official recognition
Although, as indicated above, intergovernmental and official academic
bodies are prepared to give limited attention to the non-economic aspects
of human development, there is no indication whatsoever that they are prepared
to distinguish the range of modes of awareness characteristic of such development.
Even when, as in the case of UNESCO, emphasis is placed on "cultural development",
no acknowledgement is made of the modes of awareness recognized by the
religious and cultural figures frequently honoured by such bodies as contributors
to the cultural heritage of particular regions. The focus is on their products
not on their subjective experience, however much the products were designed
to draw attention to such experience and to articulate it.
It is characteristic of the tragic hypocrisy and collective schizophrenia
of the present time, that delegates to intergovernmental meetings discussing
"human development" may be deeply aware of the subjective range of states
of consciousness, for many are indeed deeply religious. Whether or not
they are, most would take great care, for purely political reasons, to
avoid offending those for whom such dimensions are important. And yet in
debate no attention is drawn to these dimensions and to their relevance.
Although the Constitution of UNESCO commences with the much cited phrase:
"since wars begin in the minds of men, it is the minds of men that the
defences of peace must be constructed", it is difficult to trace any
acknowledgement of the experiences occurring in the minds of men in the
programmes of bodies such as UNESCO, or in those taking their lead from
The principal reason for not drawing attention to such dimensions is
obvious. Such modes of awareness may be associated in the minds of many
with religious experience. In many cases they are defined by particular
religions. Any such discussion would thus arouse too much controversy in
an international community already torn by ideological controversy. Ironically,
it is the bitter conflict between such religions which hinders any recognition
of the importance of such modes of awareness by the international community.
A secondary reason is that the weight of expertise within the international
community is oriented towards the hard facts of politics, economics and
science. Where it might be assumed that some of the social sciences would
acknowledge such dimensions, this has proven to be very far from being
the case. Ironically, again, it is the bitter conflict between those social
science disciplines which purport to be sensitive to these dimensions which
hinders any recognition of the importance of modes of awareness by the
2. Explosion of popular interest
This situation at the governmental and intergovernmental level has however
been totally undermined over the past decade by the explosion of popular
and scientific interest in these dimensions. For example, books on individual
human development have proved one of the strongest growth areas in publishing.
There is now a total cleavage between the content of human development
as understood by intergovernmental bodies and the content associated with
it by those interested in it personally (as opposed to professionally).
Of all the governments, surprisingly it is the USSR, with its materialist
ideological commitment, which has broken through the disciplinary obfuscation
of the sciences to promote extensive research on a variety of paranormal
states of consciousness. Even more surprising is the remarkable synthesis
by the Soviet mathematician V V Nalimov (1982, 1985) "using the major
concepts of mathematics, physics, linguistics, psychology, psychiatry,
history, philosophy, culturology, anthropology and theology". He covers
all manifestations of the unconscious not encompassed within logic, synthesizing
semantics, probability theory, mysticism and art into a startling new view
of how the human mind perceives the world.
What is forgotten by the establishments that deny the significance of
such experiences, is that people are strongly attracted to them irrespective
of such denials, or possibly even because of the alternative they offer
to the sterile concepts of human development promoted by such establishments.
However well-meaning, such concepts are at present alienating to those
bored by the claustrophobic analyses of political economics which prevail
within the international community. For an increasing number of people,
whether attracted to traditional or to contemporary approaches, the variety
of modes of awareness defines human potential in a much more direct and
attractive manner than has been otherwise possible. It becomes a process
in which people wish to be engaged. For them human development can be both
challenging and fun.
It is a sobering thought that, whilst official bodies and disciplines
deny the significance of these dimensions, the amount of money invested
in the achievement of alternate states of awareness through the use of
drugs is now quite formidable. It has been estimated that the illegal drug
trade in 1990 is only exceeded in international financial importance by
the oil trade, which is commercially the principal traded product. In France
it has been estimated that the individual expenditure in the "occult sciences"
is three times the expenditure on consultation of general practitioners.
3. Experiential bias
The many perspectives indicated above suggest a strong case for opening
up the debate on the nature of human development (as well as for finding
out why it is so carefully closed off into isolated compartments). What
in fact are the various meanings to be attached to the term? What are the
related concepts? What images of human beings do such concepts imply? With
what concepts or experiences do people themselves identify when considering
their own development? What alternative and better varieties of experience
and states of being do they suggest as being open to exploration? What
methods may be used to facilitate such forms of personal development?
The following points give an indication that there are some very positive
ways in which human development may be understood, and which are the justification
for the collection of information undertaken for this section:
(a) In 1974, a well-respected establishment group, the Center for the
Study of Social Policy of the Stanford Research Institute, prepared a policy
research report for the Charles Kettering Foundation noting: "If the
post-industrial era of the future is dominated by the industrial-era premises,
images, and policies of the past, the control of deviant behaviour needed
to make societal regulation possible would in all likelihood require the
application of powerful socio- and psycho-technologies. The result could
well be akin to what has been termed friendly fascism - a managed society
which rules by a faceless and widely dispersed complex of warfare- welfare-industrial-communications-police
bureaucracies with a technocratic ideology. Evidence exists that this sort
of future is already nascent. In contrast to such a technological-extrapolationist
future, this report envisions an evolutionary transformation for society
as a more hopeful possibility.
Some characteristics of an adequate image of mankind for the post-industrial
future were derived by: (1) noting the direction in which premises underlying
the industrial present would have to change in order to bring about a more
workable society; (2) from examination of the ways in which images of humankind
have shaped societies in the past; and (3) from observation of some significant
new directions in scientific research.
A future image of man meeting these conditions would:
A framework is developed in the report which demonstrates that it is
at least conceptually feasible to fulfil these characteristics. Further,
the report provides guidelines for actions through which fulfilment of
the needed characteristics might be stimulated."
convey a holistic sense of perspective or understanding of life;
entail an ecological ethic, emphasizing the total community of life-in-nature
and the oneness of the human race;
entail a self-realization ethic, placing the highest value on development
of selfhood and declaring that an appropriate function of all social institutions
is the fostering of human development;
be multi-levelled, multi-faceted, and integrative, accommodating various
culture and personality types;
involve balancing and coordination of satisfactions along many dimensions
rather than the maximizing of concerns along one narrowly defined dimension
(eg economics); and
be experimental, open-ended, and evolutionary.
(b) As a result of the work of Abraham Maslow (1971) and the humanistic
school of psychology, a distinction has now been established between basic
deficiency needs in a human being and what have been called self-realization
or being needs. He suggested, on the basis of empirical observation, that
only about 1 per cent of any sample out of the population of contemporary
Americans are examples of self-actualizing individuals, namely individuals
who continue to attempt to develop and manifest their latent potentialities.
This would seem to imply that at least 99 per cent of the population of
one of the most developed countries may be considered to be psychologically
underdeveloped, or at least only "developing", to employ the international
Robert Jungk, in an address to the 1974 conference of the Irish Management
Institute, argued that cultural man is underdeveloped. The characteristics
identified for such self-actualizing individuals include: a capacity for
acceptance, efficient perception of reality, spontaneity, transcendence
of self-concern, detachment, transcendence of environment, social feeling
and compassion, tolerance and respect, ethical certainty, and creativeness.
It is suggested that consciously or unconsciously every person is seeking
some form of self- realization or to become a self-actualizing person,
fully expressing his own innate potentialities as an individual, and in
full recognition of his own uniqueness as a personality. It is believed
that there are a variety of methods and processes by which self-actualization
emerges, and that this diversity should itself be protected.
(c) From the 1970s, many groups, institutes and journals have emerged
to explore new understandings of consciousness that recognize the experiential
4. Challenging need for new paradigms
Such interest is stimulated in part by new approaches to the relationship
between consciousness and insights in fundamental physics (David Bohm (1980),
Ken Wilbur (1982), and their specific relation to health (Larry Dossey,
1982). With this burgeoning interest in human development and states of
consciousness (whether "altered" or not), it might be expected that there
would be clear indications as to what these states or modes are to which
people may aspire in the course of the process of human development. In
fact the literature is mainly characterized by the priorities of the authors.
These may, or may not, include: research on drug-induced states, research
on mystical experience, states identified by traditional religions within
a well-defined framework, conditions identified by various schools of psychoanalysis
and psychotherapy, and conditions emerging from the explorations of charismatic
leaders of new growth movements.
There is a general assumption that the different forms of awareness
identified within each context may, in some cases at least, be identical.
But there is little effort to catalogue these varieties of modes of awareness
in their own terms, leaving open the question of what is identical with
what. And the result of grouping such modes into a limited number of theoretical
categories, as in the pioneering work of Charles Tart (1975), tends to
denature the experiences described even further, however interesting such
classificatory exercises may be from an academic point of view.
Part of the challenge lies in the manner in which many of the modes
of awareness accessible to man in the process of human development are
incomprehensible within classical scientific paradigms. They call for new
approaches and new languages in which to communicate them, as argued in
Section KD. These are emerging, as is indicated by Nalimov's work, for
example (1985, 1981). But both the traditional and the new approaches rely
to a large extent on metaphor for descriptive purposes (R S Valle and R
von Eckartsberg, 1981).
As discussed in Section M, not only is human experience metaphorical
in nature, but also that metaphor is an essential constituent of the structure
of human experience. That is, part of the meaning of any experience is
elusive, and it is the use of metaphor that formulates this elusive meaning
and makes it available through an understandable figure of speech (Robert
Romanyshyn, 1981). Part of the difficulty lies in the large number of modes
which have been described, whatever similarities the descriptions conceal.
This raises the question as to whether it is possible to interrelate these
modes in any coherent manner without denaturing them. What are the "metabolic
pathways" of intra-personal processes? Some of those identified are interlinked
into sets, representing stages in a process, whether linear or cyclic.
But it is clear that new ways of interlinking metaphors are required to
offer a language for maintaining continuity between different modes of
This is one of the reasons for experimenting with metaphors and patterns,
especially with the possibility of "pattern languages" discussed there.
5. Beyond human development consumerism
Despite well-recognized excesses of human development enthusiasts, is
it appropriate to ignore the insights which prompt efforts at "revisioning
psychology" (James Hillman, 1975) or to navigate through the dross of excesses
and extreme positions? Robert E Ornstein, in a book appropriately entitled
The Mind Field (1976, p.ix) indicates the problem: "We are now
on the threshold of a new understanding of man and of consciousness, one
which might unite the scientific, objective, external approach of Western
civilization and the personal, inward disciplines of the East. The emergence
of this new synthesis has caused many to flock, unthinkingly, to rudimentary
spiritual sideshows, which are quick, cheap, and often flashy. These reductions
have given strength to others' total lack of interest. I write to develop
a more secure position, one of interested yet candid assessment, somewhere
between the two dominant positions: the almost reflexive rejection of what
is conventionally understood as "mysticism", by many in the "hard" areas
of contemporary life; the reflexive adulation characteristic of the slavish
consumers of guruism, "instant enlightenment training", and other degenerations."
Such reassessments merit attention. Where would society be if, for example,
"economic development" were to be rejected because of the excesses of its
Only by opening up the debate on these matters, identifying the variety
of concepts currently in use, and how they are related to one another,
will it become possible to establish the connections between such concerns
and the topics of economic and social development problems which have been
favoured by the international and academic communities with such questionable
results. Given that a major obstacle to such socio-economic development
is the so-called "lack of political will to change", it may be that this
intangible factor is intimately related to intangible factors in individual
development, however it is conceived.
From Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential