Developmental Stages and Faith
In Paul McClean’s model of the triune brain, the brain is divided into three separate segments developed at different times in our evolutionary history. The reptilian complex was the name MacLean gave to the basal ganglia, structures derived from the floor of the forebrain during development. MacLean proposed that the reptilian complex was responsible for instinctual behaviors involved in aggression, dominance, and territoriality. The paleomammalian brain consists of the septum, amygdalae, hypothalamus, hippocampal complex, and cingulate cortex. MacLean first introduced the term “limbic system” to refer to this set of interconnected brain structures. He maintained that the structures of the limbic system arose early in mammalian evolution and were responsible for the motivation and emotion involved in feeding, reproductive behavior, and parental behavior. The neomammalian complex consists of the cerebral neocortex, a structure found uniquely in mammals. MacLean regarded its addition as the most recent step in the evolution of the mamamilian brain, conferring the ability for language, abstraction, planning, and perception.
In simpler terms, the brain is divided into an instinctual center, an emotional or affective center, and a cognitive or intellectual center.
Following David Bohm (see my blog on field consciousness) my thesis is that, until the ego or false self goes through the psychological process of atom smashing, emotion and thought bottom out in biological instinct and what Russell called ‘chemical imperialism.’
Every living thing is a sort of imperialist, seeking to transform as much as possible of its environment into itself…. When we compare the (present) human population of the globe with … that of former times, we see that ‘chemical imperialism’ has been … the main end to which human intelligence has been devoted.”
~ Bertrand Russell
The philosopher and mystic Gurdjieff felt all mankind operated primarily from one of these three centers (the instinctual, the emotional, and the intellectual). He felt each center to be equally mechanistic, the differences being mostly in the style of interfacing the world. Our western culture, on the other hand, tends to view the intellectual center as superior to the other centers. My idea of the false center is relevant here, as it helps to shed light on why thinking is mechanical–until the ego is deconstructed, ‘thought’ is rooted in a reified self and its reified world, and can only serve as support for that false self.
But let’s return for a moment to the idea of hacking the Mindplex, or putting the global mind on the couch and seeking to ferret out the seeming contradictions with the idea that if there is truth, it is one. I will argue that, ultimately, only a theological argument can make sense of all the facts. But it is also clear to me that the traditional theological view is in need of modification if it is to have real efficacy.
What follows is an examination of the idea of ‘faith’ from a developmental perspective. The idea is that a Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, or Christian at a similar developmental stage will have more in common with each other than with someone of their own faith at a different developmental stage. So if we are to examine conflicting worldviews, we’ll need to examine those differences on a developmental as well as a philosophical axis. So the developmental can be seen as an affective aspect of the cognitive (hence the discussion of the triune brain).
To return to Gurdjieff for a moment, he asserted that, for instance, the intellectual center contained an affective and instinctive element, and so on for all three centers, so integration or synthesis is within as well as between centers.
The first part of what follows is a short summary of Piaget’s developmental stages. It defines the terminology that is used in the second section.
Developmental Stages: Piaget
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.
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.
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.
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.
Developmental Stages: James W. Fowler, Stages of Faith
“Faith is not always religious in its content or context…Faith is a person’s or group’s way of moving into the force field of life. It is our way of finding coherence in and giving meaning to the multiple forces and relations that make up our lives. Faith is a person’s way of seeing him- or herself in relation to others against a background of shared meaning and purpose.
Even our nearest relatives in the animal world are endowed with far more set and specific instinctive guidance systems than are we. Matters such as dating, building dens or lairs, searching for food and knowing how to care for their young are far more programmed even in the chimpanzee than they are in us. But as far as we know none of these other creatures bear the glory and burden we carry of asking what life is about. They do not struggle under the self-consciousness of shaping their lives through the commitments they make or of searching for images of meaning by which to give sense to things. H*** poeta Ernest Becker call us, man the meaning maker. We do not live by bread alone, sex alone, success alone, and certainly not by instinct alone. We require meaning. We need purpose and priorities; we must have some grasp on the big picture.
In the 1950’s Paul Tillich published a small book that became a classic. Dynamics of Faith struck a fresh note of honesty about the ways we order our lives and the hungers we have. Pushing aside a too easy identification of faith with religion or belief, Tillich challenges his readers to ask themselves what values have centering power in their lives. The “god values” in our lives are those things that concern us ultimately. Our real worship, or true devotion directs itself toward the objects of our ultimate concern. That ultimate concern may center finally in our own ego or its extensions—work, prestige and recognition, power and influence, wealth. One’s ultimate concern may be invested in family, university, nation, or church. Love, sex and a loved partner might be the passionate center of one’s ultimate concern. Ultimate concern is a much more powerful matter than claimed belief in a creed or a set of doctrinal propositions. Faith as a state of being ultimately concerned may or may not find its expression in institutional or cultic religious forms. Faith so understood is very serious business. It involves how we make our life wagers. It shapes the ways we invest our deepest loves and our most costly loyalties…another theologian, H. Richard Niebuhr…sees faith in the shared visions and values that hold human groups together…in the overarching, integrating and grounding trust in a center of value and power sufficiently worthy to give our lives unity and meaning.”
(Let me interject the idea that, in this light, science is a soteriology, as it seeks to ‘save us’ from, or act as a buffer to, the natural world. It’s power lies in its efficacy; its weakness in the fact that its efficacy is narrow and short. Narrow in that it acts precipitously in service to mankind with little regard to the cost to the rest of the biosphere on which mankind depends. Short, in that most of the benefits accrue to those humans in the immediate present while the cost is passed on to future generations.)
“Faith…is a universal human concern. Prior to our being religious or irreligious, before we come to think of ourselves as Catholics, Protestants, Jews or Muslims, we are already engaged with issues of faith. Whether we become nonbelievers, agnostics or atheists, we are concerned with how to put our lives together and with what will make life worth living. Moreover, we look for something to love that loves us, something to value that gives us value, something to honor and respect that has the power to sustain our being…
As a way of clarifying these issues some of the more recent work of the comparative religionist Wilfred Cantwell Smith claims our attention. Smith is one of the very few students of the history of religion who has the linguistic competence to study most of the major religious traditions in the languages of their primary sources. For nearly two decades he has devoted himself to, among other things, the task of researching and interpreting the contribution each of the central world religious traditions makes to our understanding of faith…
In The Meaning and End of Religion Smith makes his first, seminal distinctions between religion and faith. Speaking of religions as “cumulative tradition,” he suggests that we see a cumulative tradition as the various expressions of the faith of people in the past. A cumulative tradition may be constituted by texts of scripture or law, including narratives, myths, prophecies, accounts of revelations, and so forth; it may include visual and other kids of symbols, oral traditions, music, dance, ethical teachings, theologies, creeds, rites, liturgies, architecture and a host of other elements…Faith, at once deeper and more personal than religion, is the person’s or group’s way of responding to transcendent value and power as perceived and grasped through the forms of the cumulative tradition. Faith and religion, in this view, are reciprocal. Each is dynamic; each grows or is renewed through its interaction with the other…
Smith says, somewhat wistfully, “Faith is meant to be religious.” But in fact, faith struggles to be formed and maintained in many persons today who feel they have no usable access to any viable cumulative religious tradition.
This situation, Smith believes, results in part from certain confusions that have arisen in our understandings of religion, faith, and belief. Having demonstrated that faith needs to be distinguished from religion, Smith turns…to the task of exposing as an error the widespread identification of faith with belief. This is an error both in an accurate reading of the history of religious traditions and in any adequate effort to describe the nature and functions of faith…
If we examine…religious traditions in the light of contemporary religio-historical knowledge, Smith says, we recognize that the variety of religious belief and practice is far greater than we might have imagined. But in like manner we find that the similarities in religious faith also turn out to be greater than we might have expected. In explaining why, he characterizes faith in contrast to belief:
Faith is deeper, richer, more personal. It is engendered by a religious tradition, in some cases and to some degree by its doctrines; but it is a quality of the person, not of the system. It is an orientation of the personality, to oneself, to one’s neighbor, to the universe; a total response; a way of seeing whatever one sees and of handling whatever one handles; a capacity to live at more than a mundane level; to see, to feel, to act in terms of, a transcendent dimension.
Belief he takes to be “the holding of certain ideas.” Belief, in religious contexts at least, arises out of the effort to translate experiences of and relation to transcendence into concepts or propositions. Belief may be one of the ways faith expresses itself. But one does not have faith in a proposition or concept. Faith, rather, is the relation of trust in and loyalty to the transcendent about which concepts or propositions—beliefs—are fashioned. Smith again writes:
Faith, then, is a quality of human living. At its best it has taken the form of serenity and courage and loyalty and service: a quiet confidence and joy which enable one to feel at home in the universe, and to find meaning in the world and in one’s own life, a meaning that is profound and ultimate, and is stable no matter what may happen to oneself at the level of immediate event. Men and women of this kind of faith face catastrophe and confusion, affluence and sorrow, unperturbed; face opportunity with conviction and drive, and face others with cheerful charity.
…Smith gives a persuasive demonstration that the language dealing with faith in the classical writings of the major religious traditions never speaks of it in ways that can be translated by the modern meanings of belief or believing. Rather, faith involves an alignment of the heart or will, a commitment of loyalty and trust. His treatment of the Hindu term for faith, sraddha, perhaps puts it best: “It means, almost without equivocation, to set one’s heart on.” To set one’s heart onsomeone or something requires that one has “seen” or “sees the point of” that to which one is loyal. Faith, therefore, involves vision. It is a mode of knowing, of acknowledgment. One commits oneself to that which is known or acknowledged, and lives loyally, with life and character being shaped by that commitment.
The Hebrew (aman he’ min, munah), the Greek (pistuo, Pistis), and the Latin (credo, credere) words for faith parallel those from Buddhist, Moslem and Hindu sources. They cannot mean belief or believing in the modern sense. For the ancient Jew or Christian to have said, “I believe there is a God,” or “I believe God exists,” would have been a strange circumlocution. The being or existence of God was taken for granted and therefore was not an issue…
The failure to probe beneath this shallowing of faith, equating it with the modern understanding of belief, means to perpetuate and widen the modern divorce of belief and faith. If faith is reduced to belief in credal statements and doctrinal formulations, then sensitive and responsible persons are likely to judge that they must live “without faith.” But if faith is understood as trust in another and as loyalty to a transcendent center of value and power, then the issue of faith—and the possibility of religious faith—becomes lively and open again. Smith’s work makes an extraordinary contribution to our grasping the need for re-imaging faith. No summary can adequately evoke the rich new perspective that results from a meditative reading of these writings, but perhaps I have shared enough to enable us to benefit from a review of his major conclusions:
1. Faith, rather than belief or religion, is the most fundamental category in the human quest for relation to transcendence.
2. Faith, it appears, is generic, a universal feature of human living, recognizably similar everywhere despite the remarkable variety of forms and contents of religious practice and belief.
3. Each of the major religious traditions studied speaks about faith in ways that make the same phenomena visible. In each and all, faith involves an alignment of the will, a resting of the heart, in accordance with a vision of transcendent value and power, one’s ultimate concern.
4. Faith, classically understood, is not a separate dimension of life, a compartmentalized specialty. Faith is an orientation of the total person, giving purpose and goal to one’s hopes and strivings, thoughts and actions.
The unity and recognizability of faith, despite the myriad variants of religions and beliefs, support the struggle to maintain and develop a theory of religious relativity in which the religions—and the faith they evoke and shape—are seen as relative apprehensions of our relatedness to that which is universal. This work toward a “universal theory as to the relation between truth itself and truth articulated in the midst of the relativity of human life and history” represents a rejection of faith in “relativism,” (the philosophy or common sense view that religious claims and experience have no necessary validity beyond the bounds of the communities that hold them) and serves a commitment to press the question of truth in the living and in the study of faith.
Stage 1: Intuitive—Projective
This stage is the fantasy-filled, imitative phase in which one is powerfully and permanently influenced by examples, moods, actions, and stories of the beliefs of primarily related adults.
The stage most typical of the child three to seven, it is marked by a relative fluidity of thought patterns. The child is continually encountering novelties for which no stable operations of knowing have been formed. The imaginative processes underlying fantasy are unrestrained and uninhibited by logical thought. In league with forms of knowing dominated by perception, imagination in this stage is extremely productive of long lasting images and feelings (positive and negative) that later, more stable and self-reflective valuing and thinking will have to order and sort out. This is the stage of first self-awareness. The “self-aware” child is egocentric as regards the perspectives of others. Here we find first awareness of death and sex and the strong taboos by which cultures and families insulate those powerful areas.
The gift or emergent strength of this stage is the birth of imagination, the ability to unify and grasp the experience-world in powerful images and as presented in stories that register the child’s intuitive understandings and feelings toward the ultimate conditions of existence.
The dangers in this stage arise from the possible “possession” of the child’s imagination by unrestrained images of terror and destructiveness, or from the witting or unwitting exploitation of her or his imagination in the reinforcement of taboos or moral or doctrinal expectations.
The main factor precipitating transition to the next stage is the emergence of concrete operational thinking. Affectively, the resolution of Oedipal issues or the submersion in latency are important accompanying factors. At the heart of the transition is the child’s growing concern to know how things are and to clarify for him or herself the bases of distinctions between what is real and what only seems to be.
Stage 2: Mythic—Literal
This stage is the stage in which the person begins to take on for him- or herself the stories, beliefs and observances that symbolize belonging to his or her community. Beliefs are appropriated with literal interpretations, as are moral rules and attitudes. Symbols are taken as one-dimensional and literal in meaning. In this stage the rise of concrete operations leads to the curbing and ordering of the previous stages imaginative composing of the world. The episodic quality of the Intuitive-Projective stage gives way to the more linear, narrative construction of coherence and meaning. Story becomes the major way of giving unity and value to experience. Marked by increased accuracy in taking the perspective of other persons, those in Stage 2 compose a world based on reciprocal fairness and immanent justice based on reciprocity. The actors in their cosmic stories are anthropomorphic. They can be affected deeply and powerfully by symbolic and dramatic materials. They do not, however, step back from the flow of stories to formulate reflective, conceptual meanings. For this stage the meaning is both carried and “trapped” in the narrative.
The new capacity or strength in this stage is the rise of narrative and the emergence of story, drama and myth as ways of finding and giving coherence to experience.
The limitations of literalness and an excessive reliance upon reciprocity as a principle for constructing an ultimate environment can result either in an over-controlling, stilted perfectionism or “works righteous” or in their opposite, an abasing sense of badness embraced because of mistreatment, neglect or the apparent disfavor of significant others.
A factor initiating transition to Stage 3 is the implicit clash or contradictions in stories that lead to reflections on meanings. Previous literalism breaks down; new cognitive conceit leads to disillusionment with previous teachers and teachings. Conflicts with authoritative stories must be faced. The emergence of mutual interpersonal perspective taking creates the need for a more personal relationship with the unifying power of the ultimate environment.
Stage 3: Synthetic—Conventional
At this stage a person’s experience of the world now extends beyond the family. A number of spheres demand attention: family, school or work, peers, street society and media, and perhaps religion. The challenge of this stage is to find a coherent orientation in the midst of that more complex and diverse range of involvements, to synthesize values and information and provide a basis for identity and outlook. It structures the ultimate environment in interpersonal terms. Its images of unifying value and power derive from the extension of qualities experienced in personal relationships. It is a “conformist” stage in the sense that it is acutely tuned to the expectations and judgments of significant others and as yet does not have a sure enough grasp of its own identity and autonomous judgment to construct and maintain an independent perspective. While beliefs and values are deeply felt, they typically are tacitly held—the person “dwells” in them and in the meaning world they mediate. But there has not been an occasion to step outside them to reflect on and examine them explicitly or systematically. At this stage a person has an “ideology,” a more or less consistent clustering of values and beliefs, but he or she has not objectified it for examination and in a sense in unaware of having it. Differences of outlook with others are experienced as differences in “kind” of person. Authority is located in the incumbents of traditional authority roles (if perceived as personally worthy) or in the consensus of a valued, face-to-face group.
The emergent capacity of this stage is the forming of a personal myth—the myth of one’s own becoming in identity, incorporating one’s past and anticipated future in an image of the ultimate environment unified by characteristics of personality.
The dangers in this stage are the expectations and evaluations of others can be so compellingly internalized (sacralized) that later autonomy of judgment and action can be jeopardized; or interpersonal betrayals can give rise either to nihilistic despair about a personal principle of ultimate being or to a compensatory intimacy with God unrelated to mundane relations.
Factors contributing to the breakdown of this stage and to readiness for transition may include: serious contradictions between valued authority sources; the encounter with experiences or perspectives that lead to critical reflection on how one’s beliefs and values have formed and changed, and how “relative” they are to one’s particular group or background.
Stage Four: Individuative—Reflective
The movement from Stage 3 to Stage 4 is particularly critical for it is in this transition that the late adolescent or adult must begin to take seriously the burden of responsibility for his or her own commitments, lifestyle, beliefs and attitudes. Where genuine movement toward stage 4 is underway the person must face certain unavoidable tensions: individuality versus being defined by a group or group membership; subjectivity and the power of one’s strongly felt but unexamined feelings versus objectivity and the requirement of critical reflection; self-fulfillment or self-actualization as a primary concern versus service to and being for others; the question of being committed to the relative versus the possibility of an absolute.
Stage 4 most appropriately takes form in young adulthood (but many adults never construct it and for others it emerges in the mid-thirties or forties). This stage is marked by a double development. The self, previously sustained in its identity by an interpersonal circle of significant others, now claims an identity no longer defined by the composite of one’s roles or meanings to others. To sustain that new identity it composes a meaning frame conscious of its own boundaries and inner connections and aware of itself as a “world view.” Self (identity) and outlook (world view) are differentiated from those of others and become acknowledged factors in the reactions, interpretations and judgments one makes on the actions of self and others. It expresses its intuitions of coherence in an ultimate environment in terms of an explicit system of meanings. This is a “demythologizing” stage. It is likely to attend minimally to unconscious factors influencing it judgments and behavior.
Stage 4’s ascendant strength has to do with its capacity for critical reflection on identity (self) and outlook (ideology). It dangers inhere in its strengths: an excessive confidence in the conscious mind and in critical thought and a kind of second narcissism in which the now clearly bounded, reflective self overassimilates “reality” and the perspectives of others into its own world view.
Restless with the self-images and outlook maintained by Stage 4, the person ready for transition finds him- or herself attending to what may feel like anarchic and disturbing inner voices. Elements from a childish past, images and energies from a deeper self, a gnawing sense of the sterility and flatness of the meanings one serves—any or all of these may signal readiness for something new. Stories, symbols, myths and paradoxes from ones’ own or other traditions may insist on breaking in upon the neatness of the previous beliefs. Disillusionment with one’s compromises and recognition that life is more complex than Stage 4’s logic of clear distinctions and abstract concepts can comprehend, press one toward a more dialectical and multileveled approach to life truth.
Stage 5 Conjunctive
The Conjunctive Stage involves the integration into self and outlook of much that was suppressed or unrecognized in the interest of Stage 4’s self-certainty and conscious cognitive and affective adaptation to reality. This stage develops a “second naivete” in which symbolic power is reunited with conceptual meanings. Here there must also be a new reclaiming and reworking of one’s past. There must be an opening to the voices of one’s “deeper self.” Importantly, this involves a critical recognition of one’s social unconscious—the myths, ideal images and prejudices built deeply into the self-system by virtue of one’s nurture within a particular social class, religious tradition, ethnic group or the like.
Unlike before mid-life, Stage 5 knows the sacrament of defeat and the reality of irrevocable commitments and acts. What the previous stage struggled to clarify, in terms of boundaries of self and outlook, this stage now makes porous and permeable. Alive to paradox and the truth in apparent contradictions, this stage strives to unify opposites in mind and experience. It generates and maintains vulnerability to the strange truths of those who are “other;” ready for closeness to that which is different and threatening to self and outlook (including new depths of experience in spirituality and religious revelation), this stage’s commitment to justice is freed from the confines of tribe, class, religious community or nation. And with the seriousness that can arise when life is more than halfway over, this stage is ready to spend and be spent for the cause of conserving and cultivating the possibility of others’ generating identity and meaning.
The new strength of this stage comes in the rise of the ironic imagination—a capacity to see and be in one’s or one’s group’s most powerful meanings, while simultaneously recognizing that they are relative, partial and inevitably distorting apprehensions of transcendent reality. Its dangers lie in the direction of a paralyzing passivity or inaction, giving rise to complacency or cynical withdrawal, due to its paradoxical understanding of truth.
Stage 5 can appreciate symbols, myths and ritual (its own and others’) because it has been grasped, in some measure, by the depth of reality to which they refer. It also sees the divisions of the human family vividly because it has been apprehended by the possibility (and imperative) of an inclusive community of being. But this stage remains divided. It lives and acts between an untransformed world and a transforming vision and loyalties. In some few cases this division yields to the call of the radical actualization that we call Stage 6.
(“Stage 5 can appreciate symbols, myths and ritual [its own and others’] because it has been grasped, in some measure, by the depth of reality to which they refer…Here there must also be a new reclaiming and reworking of one’s past. There must be an opening to the voices of one’s “deeper self.” This is a profound articulation of theological goals, but without clear objectives that spell out how the goal is to be achieved, this amounts to little more than…ya dada ya dada…then a miracle happens. Here’s the problem, in my mind: Christianity, like other theologies, has clear goals but muddled objectives; Buddhism has clear, effective objectives, but muddled goals–an implicit metaphysics they explicitly deny [I’ll get to that topic in a later post.])
Stage 6: Universalizing
In order to characterize Stage 6 we need to focus more sharply on the dialectical or paradoxical features of Stage 5. Stage 5 remains paradoxical or divided because the self is caught between those universalizing apprehensions and the need to preserve its own being and well-being. Or because it is deeply invested in maintaining the ambiguous order of a socioeconomic system, the alternatives to which seem more unjust or destructive than it is. In this situation of paradox Stage 5 must act and not be paralyzed. But Stage 5 acts out of conflicting loyalties. Its readiness to spend and be spent finds limits in its loyalty to the present order, to its institutions, groups and compromise procedures. Stage 5’s perception of justice outreach its readiness to sacrifice the self and to risk the partial justice of the present order for the sake of a more inclusive justice and the realization of love.
The transition to Stage 6 involves an overcoming of this paradox through a moral and ascetic actualization of the universalizing apprehensions. Heedless of the threats to self, to primary groups, and to the institutional arrangement of the present order that are involved, Stage 6 becomes disciplined, activist incarnation—a making real and tangible—of the imperatives of absolute love and justice of which Stage 5 has partial apprehensions. The self at Stage 6 engages in spending and being spent for the transformation of present reality in the direction of a transcendent actuality.
Persons best described by Stage 6 typically exhibit qualities that shake our usual criteria of normalcy. Their heedlessness to self-preservation and the vividness of their taste and feel for transcendent moral and religious actuality give their actions and words an extraordinary and often unpredictable quality. In their devotion to universalizing compassion they may offend our parochial perceptions of justice. In their penetration through the obsession with survival, security, and significance they threaten our measured standards of righteousness and goodness and prudence. Their enlarged visions of universal community disclose the partialness of our tribes and pseudo-species. And their leadership initiatives…constitute affronts to our usual notions of relevance.
Stage 6…(is) “contagious” in the sense that they create zones of liberation from the social, political, economic and ideological shackles we place and endure on human futurity. Living with felt participation in a power that unifies and transforms the world, Universalizers are often experienced as subversive of the structures (including religious structure) by which we sustain our individual and corporate survival, security and significance…The rare persons who may be described by this stage are more lucid, more simple, and yet somehow more fully human than the rest of us…Life is both loved and held loosely. Such persons are ready for fellowship with persons at any of the other stages and from any other faith tradition…Persons who come to embody the Universalizing Stage are drawn into those patterns of commitment and leadership by the exigencies of history…as if they are selected by the great Blacksmith of history, heated in the fires of turmoil and trouble and then hammered into usable shape on the hard anvil of conflict and struggle.
(My problem here is the same as I mentioned above. What’s really needed is an inner clarity that deconstructs the false self, allowing us to tap the negantropic energy of higher dimensions. A willingness to sacrifice oneself for the furtherance of social transformation is an exercise in futility for an untransformed self in an untransformed world. Without clear insight into the nature of the problem, without the realization that real ethics is a consequence of field consciousness, it will be the same old same old.)