Levels of consciousness and complexity, sometimes also known as Stages, or Waves, are the second basic element of the AQAL Model. They deal with stage developments of growth, complexity, capacity and depth.
People often have resistance to any suggestion of different depths between things, particularly between human beings, but this is easily calmed by considering who you would rather have running your country; someone who was worldcentric, i.e. who cares about you, or someone who was egocentric, who only cares about themselves.
Stage development is known as ‘Vertical’ growth, and in individual development is at the heart of what we think of as ‘Transformation’ or ‘Waking Up’ to the trans-personal, “ego-aware” stages of development.
Horizontal development, or ‘Translation’, is about translating or changing one thing into another. So Horizontal activity includes the healing of any shadow elements.
Here are some further things to know and understand about Levels, or Stages…
Levels of Depths Apply in All 4 Quadrants
It is not just in the Individual Interior that development occurs, but across all 4 quadrants.
To give an example, the nobel prize-winning economist, Amrit Sen, demonstrated that famines only occur in cultures where the collective moral centre of gravity is below “moral stage 5″, because at or above this level, communication and information flow always allow for resources to get to where they need to go.
In the right-hand quadrants, too, development continues in greater complexity in such things as economic systems, political systems and modes of production, and physical and biological evolution, from Atoms to Molecules to Cells to Organisms.
On the next page on Lines, you can see a diagram that shows how Developmental Lines are represented across all 4 quadrants, and to varying depths or Levels…
New Levels “Transcend and Include”
One factor that is worth noting about any new stage that is ever acquired is that they both “transcend and include” those levels which went before.
For example, if a person develops from being egocentric to being ethnocentric – and thus aslo caring for their family, tribe or nation, they don’t stop caring about themselves – that new depth transcends and includes the ability to care about themselves.
If that person then becomes worldcentric, and develops a care for all human beings, they still care about their tribe or nation, and themselves.
In the process from Atoms to Molecules to Cells to Organisms, too, Cells, whilst more complex than Atoms, also include them. In that sense, Atoms are actually more fundamental, because without them there are no greater complexities such as Molecules, Cells or Organisms.
“Growing into higher levels of consciousness and health involves transcending and including who you once were. The old you develops into a new you. The new you keeps some enduringcharacteristics from the old you, while shedding the transitionalaspects of the old you. From each higher, deeper vantage point, what was once invisible becomes visible.” – Integral Life Practice
Everyone Begins at “Square One”
Another important point to note is that nobody is born worldcentric – not Gandhi, not the Dalai Lama, no-one. Everyone starts at square one from birth, and moves up through these stages, to varying extents. In fact, as new-born infants, we can’t even tell the difference between ourselves and the bed we’re lying on, let alone take up the perspective of another person or ‘put ourselves in their shoes’.
Levels as Waves
Rather than being rigid steps that individuals develop through, these levels or stages are more like waves. There is fluctuation as the process of developmental growth continues – like waves…
“To say that someone is at, say, the worldcentric level in moral development means that most often they will take all people into account when confronting moral dilemmas – but sometimes they’ll be “ethnocentric”, and other times they’ll be “egocentric”. – Integral Life Practice
The Law of Stage Development: Subject and Object
As explained by such developmental researchers as Robert Kegan, the fundamental law of stage development is that “the subject of one stage becomes the object of the subject of the next stage”.
For example, if you take a trans-personal perspective of awareness, during meditation, say, you may be able to observe your personality (that you once thought of as your ultimate subjective self) as an object – the subject of that previous stage is now the object that you (yourself at this new depth of perspective) are aware of.
“A subject is defined as that which is aware of an object.” – Ken Wilber