Human Development Project |
The entries included cover a very wide range of approaches and insights,
as was the original intention. It is to be expected that the inclusion
of some of the entries should be queried. The question to be asked is when
is it appropriate to exclude an insight into human development that can
be judged as naive, misguided or even dangerously misleading. There is
a case for using the procedure for descriptions of world problems in which
a "counter-claim" paragraph can be inserted to present such judgements
and clarifications. It should be stressed that inclusion of entries in
no way constitutes an endorsement of the insights or practices described.
Given the method used, which limits the degree to which related entries
are treated as duplicates, what significance should be attached to the
inclusion of 3049 entries on supposedly distinct modes of human awareness
? A more rigid editorial policy could have been applied to group certain
"related" entries into a single description.
More important however, the question remains as to how appropriate it
is to maintain separate entries for modes of experience which are clearly
similar even though they derive from different traditions. It is also clear
that attempts at rationalizing the information further are liable to create
as many problems as they resolve.
There is also the question as to whether the distinctions made are not
to a high degree a consequence of the language and cultural tradition from
which they derive (a point discussed in a following note, 5.4). It is not
clear to what extent the more subtle modes of awareness are conditioned
by the mindset or discipline with which they are approached. The question
of "how many" modes of awareness there "really" are remains open. It may
indeed be a quite inappropriate question. Taken to an extreme, the 3049
descriptions could almost be 3049 ways of seeing the same thing.
2. Challenge to comprehension
There is obviously a fundamental question concerning the significance,
if any, that can be associated with many of the concepts and modes of awareness,
especially by anyone from outside the tradition within which they emerge.
Even within any such tradition, it is often claimed that much can only
be understood after passing through particular stages in the process of
The ability to produce some kind of description, whose words can be
understood, is therefore no guarantee whatsoever that the reader is comprehending
much of what is intended, especially for those modes of awareness which
call for an experiential transcendence of conventional modes of comprehension.
In such circumstances entries can only serve to point vaguely in the
direction of a domain of understanding, offering hints and allusions which
may be less than helpful. This limitation is partially corrected by setting
an entry in a context of cross-references to other entries, especially
when these reflect a progression of modes of awareness from others that
are more meaningful.
The many entries of eastern origin tend to be understood in the West
as associated with the religious dimension of belief and revealed knowledge,
and the same is true to a lesser extent of concepts arising from western
religions. It is interesting to consider whether descriptions of such concepts
can be meaningful to those who do not have belief in the religion from
which they are derived, without some "reprocessing" by scientific disciplines
to relate them to western concepts of human development that are largely
independent of particular religions.
The challenge to comprehension is sharpened through awareness of the
"pre/trans fallacy" as described by Ken Wilbur (1982). In any development
of insight, growth will tend to proceed from stage pre-X, through stage
X, to stage trans-X. Because both stage pre-X and stage trans-X are, in
their own ways, non-X, they may be understood as similar, even identical,
to the untutored eye. This is particularly the case with pre-personal and
trans-personal, pre-rational or trans-rational, or pre-egoic and trans-egoic.
According to Wilbur, once these two conceptually and developmentally distinct
realms of experience are theoretically confused, there is a tendency either
to elevate pre-personal events to trans-personal status or to reduce trans-personal
events to pre-personal status.
3. Comparative evaluation
It is not the purpose of this section to provide any form of comparative
evaluation of modes of awareness or forms of human development. The intent
has been limited to pointing to the existence of modes distinguished in
the literature and to indicate, where possible, the sequence of experiences
through which it is alleged that they may be encountered.
In the light of more profound experiences, other modes may be held to
be superficial and even a dangerous error. In particular, the many reactions
in the West to the limitations of materialism and the suffocating constraints
of finite existence tend to be governed by the Cartesian dualism which
reinforced those perspectives. For many this reaction means, almost unconsciously,
attraction to its opposite pole, namely the non-material, without there
being any discrimination within that domain. Interest in psychic phenomena
or "trips" of any kind, may tend to obscure the nature and rich complexity
of the spiritual dimension.
The entries therefore reflect different degrees of delusion as much
as they reflect different degrees of insight. Juxtaposing them in this
way is an aid to orientation but without any attempt to recommend the more
fruitful directions for any particular individual to explore.
This question is of great concern in some traditions: "From the Sufi
point of view, which has always distinguished clearly between the psychic
and the spiritual, so many of those who claim to speak in the name of the
Spirit today are really speaking in the name of the psyche, and are taking
advantage of the thirst of modern man for something beyond the range of
experiences that modern industrial civilization has made possible for him.
It is precisely this confusion which lies at the heart of the profound
disorder one observes in the religious field in the West today, and which
enables elements that are as far removed as possible from the sacred to
absorb the energies of men of good intention and to dissipate rather than
to integrate their psychic forces" (Nasr, 1965).
4. Comparison through related Human Values
One specific way of comparing different concepts and modes of awareness
is through the human "value" words used in the title(s) or text of the
description. Preliminary results following computer screening of descriptions,
after some weeding, appear in the Human
Values and Wisdom Section, both under constructive values (VC) and
destructive values (VD). This experiment has brought out some surprisingly
interesting juxtapositions and is clearly an area for further work. Of
additional interest is the listing, under destructive values (VD) of world
problems related to those values, which again can be seen as a fruitful
means of associating concepts and modes with problems which they either
aggravate or, hopefully, may be used to tackle. Currently there are 8,335
cross references to human development concepts and modes of awareness in
the Human Values and Wisdom section.
5. Challenge of spiritual development
The juxtaposition of entries on many different aspects of human development
and modes of awareness suggests the possibility of a continuum of distinct
emphases and insights. It is the tendency to give prominence to one form
rather than another which is the source of many difficulties. The neglect
of spiritual development is one such consequence, whether or not it is
Morris Berman (1989) suggests that the personal discovery of interiority,
and the emergence of inwardness in society, have always been recognized
as a major threat to established institutions and ways of thinking. He
cites the suppression of the Cathars and the deep distrust of ecstatic
experience during the Enlightenment.
Other dangers are signalled by a Quaker author, Lorna Marsden (The Guardian),
"At this moment, a reawakening to the essentiality of the spiritual
within the human experience carries two dangers -- a possibly excessive
reaction which might induce or revive extremes of superstition, or (which
is indeed happening) a retreat from challenge into fundamentalism within
both Christianity and other religions."
Berman draws attention to a fundamental distinction between the "ascent
experience" (with which spiritual development is most frequently understood)
and embodied or "horizontal" consciousness. Entrapment by such metaphors
is discussed in a following note. He argues that: "The real goal of a spiritual
tradition should not be ascent, but openness, vulnerability, and this does
not require great experiences but, on the contrary, very ordinary ones.
Charisma is easy; presence, self-remembering (Gurdjieff's term), is terribly
difficult and is where the real work lies." He sees much current interest
with "spiritual development" to be basically an effort to escape the body
rather than to work through it.
This kind of concern is also expressed in relation to the superficial
assumption that mental understanding of some of the conditions and insights
described constitutes full realization of their truths. "This illusion,
which is the result of the separation between the mental activity of certain
men and the rest of their being, and which is directly related to a lack
of spiritual virtues, is a major hindrance in the application of sacred
teachings of various traditions to the present needs of Western men....Such
people mistake their vision of the mountain peak, theoria in its original
sense, for actually being on top of the mountain. They therefore tend to
belittle all the practical, moral and operative teachings of tradition
as being below their level of concern. Most of all they mistake the emphasis
on the attainment of spiritual virtues...for sentimentality, and faith...for
'common religion' belonging only to the exoteric level, forgetting the
fact that the greatest saints and sages have spoken most of all of spiritual
virtues" (Nasr, 1965). Without spiritual poverty, for example, "no
spiritual attainment is possible, no matter how keen the intelligence may
be" (Nasr, 1965).
A related point is made by a Catholic author in describing the approach
of Meister Eckhart: "Real spiritual life is about loss of self, sacrifice,
inner transformation and change." In this context, "mysticism" is not
concerned with "trips" or results of any tangible or obvious kind. "Neither
is it about what we call today 'expansion of consciousness'. It is not
concerned with trying to induce abnormal states, either blissful or otherwise;
it is concerned with trying to develop within ourselves a certain attitude
which is healthy, realistic and life-giving, and will remain constant within
us during all states of consciousness, normal or abnormal, pleasant or
unpleasant...Rather than talking about 'expansion' of consciousness, we
should talk of 'breaking through' consciousness; that is, finding within
ourselves some inner centre of stability and unity which remains intact
throughout the manifold fluctuations of conscious states." (Smith,
From Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential