Method: Criteria and definitions
Human Development Project |
There are many ways in which human development is understood and many
concepts that imply particular understandings of human development. Some
of these are very narrow in focus. Some are very broad. In the case of
modes of human awareness the situation is even more confused, with many
denying the existence of states that others consider essential to an understanding
of humanity and its future potential. To clarify the situation, without
imposing yet another set of constraints, a very broad approach has been
taken in selecting material for inclusion. The criteria are such that the
user is confronted with the challenge of deciding whether particular items
are relevant or irrelevant to an understanding of human development, either
in western or other cultures.
The whole question of modes of awareness is further confused by the
meaning, if any, to be attached to "consciousness". The short response
would appear to be that nobody knows what it means, or rather numerous
concepts, theories, models, and analogies have been proposed, but little
agreement has been reached. Even without taking into account the very extensive
explorations in eastern philosophy, in the west the very definition of
the word remains in doubt. At one extreme, it is held that such concepts
simply reflect a particular use of words. Many intermediate views derive
from different positions on the classical mind-body controversy, including
various forms of dualism and monism. Although psychology was originally
conceived as the science of consciousness, behaviourists have sought to
eliminate any reference to it, with some regarding it as an epiphenomenon
of little significance.
Despite this lack of consensus on the definition or nature of consciousness,
some of its characteristics have been generally accepted and might be described
as follows: "Consciousness is a personal state, characteristic at least
of humans, which involves selective awareness of both external and internal
events, which exemplifies knowing, allows insight, evidences memory and
is to a large extent subservient to the will....What has become clear is
that not only may it be said to function at various levels, but that it
is composed of many sub-systems. Furthermore, it seems probable that these
are arranged hierarchically, as are our physical systems. Perhaps we should
concern ourselves...not with an assumed totality, nor with separate components,
but with their interrelationships" (Graham Reed, The Psychology of
Anomalous Experience, 1988, p.161-2).
Both in the case of modes of awareness and human development concepts,
the prime concern has not been the analysis of the extant concepts in order
to group them into some apparently suitable order. Apparent duplicates
have been combined under certain circumstances but allowed to stand as
separate entries, possibly even with the same descriptor, where their advocates
would have considered such treatment appropriate. The aim has been to allow
users to consider the advantages and disadvantages of greater "rationalization"
of the material presented.
2. Human development concepts: exclusion
In identifying aspects of human development in order to build up the
sequence of entries, some criteria are obviously required either to include
or to exclude material. Since a principal objective was to identify the
range of human development concepts, it was considered unwise to develop
a precise definition of what was to be included and both easier and usefully
open-ended to define what was to be excluded. A set of provisional exclusion
criteria was therefore used. When the collection of material was well-advanced,
a set of provisional inclusion criteria was developed. These criteria continue
(a) Physical development: Body building, and the improvement
of particular physical capabilities and other approaches to health, when
conceived solely as a question of body tone; also augmentation of the physical
body using technological devices. In particular no consideration has been
given to the many dietary concerns, whether or not they focus solely on
the physical body.
(b) Personality development: Techniques used to increase the
ability to influence others in personal contact, as well as techniques
of persuasion and the use of personal magnetism.
(c) Aesthetic development: Development of taste and artistic
(d) Mental development: "Mind improvement" techniques where these
are completely divorced from other aspects of the human being and intended
mainly to improve the individual's economic status and power in society.
(e) Human development for the collective: Techniques of human
development conceived as a means of racial development for political or
(f) Non-development orientation: Material concerned with the
condition of man rather than focused on the development of the whole man;
ie, material without a practical application. This also excludes
philosophical approaches which consider the question of defining conceptual
frameworks in which the development of man may be conceived.
(g) Human relations: The industrial approach to the improvement
of human relations to the extent that its major thrust is to improve the
productivity of the individual for the benefit of the corporation rather
than help the human being to grow, whatever the implications for efficiency.
(h) Unnamed concepts: Human development practices to which no
name has been given.
(i) Belief-related practices: Human development concepts associated
with particular belief systems and "-isms".
(j) Goals of development: As reflected in different schools of
thought (eg maturity, cosmic consciousness, completeness/wholeness, harmony,
fulfilment, and self-awareness), although these are included as modes of
3. Human development concepts: inclusion
(a) Processes of development: With which "human development"
may be confused (eg cognitive development, perceptual development, intellectual
development, psychic development, emotional growth, and individuation).
(b) Facilitative techniques: Including non-therapeutic, non-technological
techniques (eg meditation, dance, prayer, and ritual); non-therapeutic,
technological techniques (eg biofeedback, and martial arts); therapeutic,
non-technological techniques (eg experiential therapy, motivational development,
client-centred therapy, and growth games); therapeutic, technological techniques
(eg drug treatment).
(c) Focusing devices or symbolic systems: Including mandalas,
astrology, I Ching, Tarot, and the like.
(d) Negative techniques: Including thought reform and brainwashing.
(e) Narrow concepts of human development: Including mind control
and genital maturity.
(f) Religions and spiritual orthodoxy: To the extent possible,
entries have been included on traditional religions as forms of human development.
The emphasis however has been to focus primarily on material from any tradition
which emphasizes the process of human development, especially through spiritual
or religious experience, or those cases where the religion itself necessitates
a self-referential approach. Eastern religions are particularly rich in
4. Modes of awareness: inclusion
It was not considered useful or possible to make hard and fast distinctions
between a level or state of consciousness as such and the less specific
modes of awareness which might encompass such states or observe them. Entries
were included on:
(a) Inner experiences: Articulation of the nature of various
types of "lived interior experience", where some generalization is considered
possible by the experiencers.
(b) Experiential goals of development: Concepts which in previous
editions would have appeared in the human development section, including
goals of development as reflected in different schools of thought (eg cosmic
consciousness, completeness/wholeness, harmony, fulfilment and self-awareness).
(c) Sets of states: Sequential or related states as described
by different religious and secular sources, including very specific entries
(eg individual states in the Ascension Stages Game of Tibetan Buddhism).
(d) Induced states: States induced by specific techniques, whether
therapeutic technological, symbolic systems, or negative programming (eg
under conditions of brainwashing).
(e) Common states: Commonly experienced modes in normal everyday
life (eg waking, sleeping, dreaming - including emotional variations).
(f) Anomalous experiences: Anomalous experiences of attention,
perception and recall (eg déjà vu).
(g) States associated with abnormal conditions: States experienced
under abnormal conditions (eg mental disorders, self-administered drugs).
(h) Personality specific modes: Modes intrinsic to specific personality
5. Concepts and modes identified by symbol or metaphor
In many traditions the process of human development, and the modes of
awareness encountered, are identified to a high degree by metaphor or symbol.
This is especially true of non-western cultures. The metaphor of a journey,
for example, is frequently used in all cultures. The stages on the journey
correspond to particular insights or modes of awareness.
In Buddhism there is an important technical term dhatu. This refers
both to psychological realms (altered states of consciousness) and to cosmological
realms (including "hells" and "heavens"), namely places in which the practioner
can exist and be reborn and live out one (or many) lives. In this sense
to attain a particular altered state of consciousness is also (temporarily)
to exist in the corresponding cosmological realm and possibly to be reborn
there. This intimate relationship between the psychological and the cosmological
is absent from the western traditions, except in those of magic. Practitioners
of magic are in part concerned with contacting such "worlds" and entering
them. These domains can all be understood as distinct states of consciousness
(often in some ascending series) although their identification as such
tends to be allusive. They are held to be accessible through particular
meditational disciplines and other practices.
A number of traditions understand a human being as composed of several
distinct "bodies", usually three or more. Each of these may be understood
as providing a unique perspective or mode of awareness. Development of
the person may progressively lead to the unfoldment of these modes as he
becomes aware of that body.
In many traditions, states of consciousness may be symbolized by spiritual
beings, notably gods. The encounter with a particular god is associated
with entry into a particular state of consciousness. Repetition of the
name of that god is one technique for conditioning the mind to awareness
of that state. In a monotheistic system, God may be held to have many Divine
Names, which can also be used to evoke distinct modes of awareness, to
be associated with such modes, or to determine them.
Of greater concern is the extent to which some traditions, notably Buddhism,
associate modes of awareness with all classes of phenomena. Cognition of
a particular phenomenon thus involves a particular mode of awareness. Any
classification of phenomena may then be understood as a classification
of modes of awareness.
A very pragmatic approach has been taken to all such symbolic material.
A principal concern was to avoid including sets of symbols which were not
actively held to be associated with states of consciousness by some living
tradition. Little attention was therefore given to material in which gods
were simply worshipped unless that material identified a distinct state
associated with the encounter with the god. Furthermore, even if there
were strong indications that such states were recognized but no material
could be located to give some content to that experience other than in
terms of imagery, then such potential entries were not included.
6. Restrictions on coverage
Human development concepts (Section HH) emphasize the positive side
of the individual's development, with far more entries describing methods
of improving the human condition than activities detrimental to development.
There has been some attempt to indicate possible negative consequences
of human development concepts, but in the main, and where possible, the
positive side has been emphasized. The material on modes of awareness (Section
HM) covers all states whether positive or negative.
Section HM focuses on the experience of the mode rather than it's existence
as such. States of unconscious (sleep, trance, etc) are given less full
treatment than waking states. Minimal effort was given to philosophical,
theological, psychological or other intellectual attempts to theorize about
modes of awareness. The emphasis is on the experiential dimension, especially
when some special personal discipline is advocated, however inadequate
the articulation of the insight.
In its final form however a number of the entries and references included
could validly have been excluded according to one or more of the above
criteria. They have however been included either in order to mark the existence
of borderlines or where it could easily have been assumed that they should
have been in (whether because of confusion of terminology or because they
were closely related to other concepts of human development). The core
concepts of human development should therefore emerge by contrast with
such borderline cases.
Inclusion of concepts and modes is based on availability of source material.
Higher priority was given to material that could be readily processed.
For this reason concepts from some traditions and disciplines may be better
represented than others. Some material called for more work than resources
Recognizing the limitations of collecting material from a wide variety
of cultures, where material was available describing states, entries were
often made even if the description was felt to be unsatisfactory. Even
if the description could only be formulated in poetic or symbolic terms,
and even if only a single sentence distinguished it from related states,
the entry was included as a pointer to an experience considered meaningful
in a particular tradition. Such minimalistic entries can then be extended
at a later stage if richer or more explicit material is located.
7. Distinguishing concepts from modes
Clearly, the entries in section H are descriptions of objective concepts
which can be described, assessed objectively and accepted or dismissed
as one's rational mind decides or one's intuitive mind relates; and those
in section M are attempts to decribe another's experience, something which
cannot be accepted or dismissed rationally, only as one sympathizes intuitively
or relates to one's own experience.
However, despite the apparent simplicity in distinguishing between the
objective means by which an individual develops and the subjective awareness
arising from those means, the distinction is not as hard and fast as it
sounds. Many systems involve a pathway (part HH) which is mapped out by
subjective experience (part HM). The two may be so interrelated that it
is unclear when the pathway is objective and when experiential. There are
thus a number of cases, particularly in the hierarchies of Buddhist paths
and experiences, where the selection of H or M section for a particular
item seems arbitrary and may be argued on a number of grounds. A number
of descriptions designated "M" could therefore conceivably have been designated
"H" and vice versa. It may be that some "H" entries are more experiential
than some "M" entries on the basis of subjective decisions that cannot
be argued at all. It is hoped that this will not interfere with the reader's
enjoyment of the contents or of their usefulness.
From Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential