Interior Depth

“Who would you rather have making decisions that affect you, someone who is egocentric or someone who is worldcentric?” – Ken Wilber

Interior Depth: A Key to Deep Personal Fulfillment, World Famine and More

The first four pages of A Wisdom Welcome focus largely on the individual and individual growth and quality of life. In the final two pages we now expand this to address the context of growth and wellbeing for both the individual and the collective.

Interior depth is a major key to personal development and global change.

By ‘interior depth’ we mean the depth of consciousness, awareness and development of the interior, which is the inner thoughts, cognitions and inner capacities of either an individual or a group of individuals. It is argued to be the most crucial leverage point in personal development and global change, and with good reason why, as we shall soon see…

Resistance to stages, spectrums of consciousness or hierarchies

A sticking point to appreciating interior depth has always been the notion that everything must be the same – that everything must be equal; that no one thing can be thought of as being better than another.

The only way that this can really work, however, is to view that this is only the case at what we call an ‘Absolute Truth’ level… We might say that ‘there is nothing that Spirit doesn’t touch!’ – that everything is ‘of Spirit’, or ‘of God’, or ‘of the Universe’ or ‘of the Kosmos’; however you wish to put it. And that is fine and true.

At what we call the ‘Relative Truth’ level, however, the Ken Wilber quote, above, is just one way to show how important it is to at least have an appreciation of interior depth. After all, who would you rather have making decisions that affect you; someone who is worldcentric, i.e. someone who cares about you, or someone who is egocentric, i.e. someone who cannot yet, at least, include a concern for you in their sphere of care?

Multiple ‘lines’

Vertical growth. Stages of development on the 'line of care'.

Vertical growth. Stages of development on the 'line of care'.

The example above explains a specific measure of interior depth, which is known as ‘the line of care’, which moves from egocentric (care for oneself), through to ethnocentric (care for one’s family, tribe or nation), on to worldcentric (care for all of humanity) levels, and even eventually to Kosmocentric (care for all sentient beings) orientations of care.

An 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’.

And in addition to the line of care, we also all have realities on other ‘lines’ of development, including such things as emotional development, moral stages, self-identity (as discussed on page 2 on Self Mastery), and so on.

And as with our examination of self-identity on page 2, moving through to identifying with the Witness, for example, sets us free; free from identification with finite things. This is just one example of how upwards or ‘vertical’ growth through various stages of development, and on various ‘lines’, brings its own profound benefits.

This freedom is just one of many relevances, however. Let’s look at one more very compelling real life reality of interior depth…

Poverty/famine: “The best thing that the world can do to end famine is to meditate”

Famine doesn't occur in cultures where the average centre of gravity is at 'moral stage 5' or above.

Famine doesn't occur in cultures where the average centre of gravity is at 'moral stage 5' or above.

In the same way that individuals can be egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric, etc., collectively and culturally we also have certain ‘average’ depths, for example, with regard to moral stages. These can also be known as collective or cultural ‘centres of gravity’.

The Nobel Prize winning economist, Amrit Sen, demonstrated that famines only occur in those cultures where the average centre of gravity is below what is known as moral stage 5. Why? Because at that level, or above, there is always sufficent information flow to allocate resources to where they need to be.

Once people begin to understand the very profound effects that these stages of interior depth have upon our lives – for the individual, for the collective, the first and most obvious thing anyone reasonably asks is; “So what gets people up through these stages?”.

Developmental psychologists who study such things, and who have done so for decades, report that the only thing that has been empirically demonstrated to move people upwards through these stages, is meditation. That’s not to say that other things can’t – merely that nothing else has, as yet, been shown to do so – and just about everything else has also been tested.

So putting both of these two conclusions of ‘moral stage 5′ and ‘vertical growth’ together, we can see that about the best thing that the world can do to end famine is to meditate. Ken Wilber explains;

“A democracy stems from at least stage-five moral development. Since seventy percent of the world’s population is not there, the single best thing you can do to end world famine is to meditate. Meditation has a profound impact on the average level of consciousness in the world. It’s very, very important…

“…meditation is a way to help you disidentify with finite objects and rest in that ground of being which is your very nature, your very SELF… meditation is extrememly important, and don’t ever let anybody tell you that it’s just not having any impact on the world. You’re changing the fundamental fabric of the kosmos when you meditate.”

The Pre/Post Fallacy, or Pre/Trans Fallacy

Having briefly identified a difference between Absolute Truth and Relative Truth, there is one further area of confusion we’ll do well to bring some light to; that of ‘The Pre/Post Fallacy’, which can also be called ‘The Pre/Trans Fallacy’.

If we take a very, very basic first glance at stages of human growth by dividing the entire spectrum into just three very broad rungs, we see that development broadly moves from pre-conventional to conventional and (sometimes) on to post-conventional levels. We can also say it as being from pre-rational to rational to trans-rational. Or pre-personal to personal to trans-personal, and so on. We can even bring back our notion of the Ego and observe human interior growth through pre-egoic, egoic, and then trans-egoic (or ‘ego-aware’) stages. If we define ’spiritual’ in terms of stages, this ego-aware stage is where those stages begin to take that decidedly spiritual or ‘trans-personal’ form.

The heart of The Pre/Trans Fallacy is that because pre-conventional and post-conventional stages are both non-conventional, they are incorrectly confused as being one and the same. Anything that is ‘non-egoic’ is simply lumped together as ‘pre-egoic’. Anything that is non-conventional is all filed in the file marked ‘pre-conventional’. The trans-personal is relegated all the way down to being identified as ‘pre-personal’, simply because it is non-personal. The third stage is confused for the first stage simply because it is not the second stage!

Additionally, vice-versa, first stage can also be mistaken for being third stage; pre-rational is mistaken for trans-rational.

So, as you may yourself have observed, this pre/trans or pre/post misunderstanding leads people to do either one of two things:

  1. Present or elevate magical, mythical, pre-rational or childish thought as authentically spiritual and enlightened (elevationism).
  2. Or the opposite; reduce and dismiss genuine, authentic spiritual depth, wisdom and insight as childish myth (reductionism).

When the relevance of depth becomes obvious, one can see that this Pre/Post Fallacy is both a highly limiting confusion that does stage-defined spirituality a dis-service either way, and is a crucial obstacle to overcome. Wilber sums this up as follows (p.132 of ‘The Integral Vision’);

“When night and day are confused, the trans-rational stages of Nondual Consciousness – which are, wherever they appear, said to disclose an ultimate Freedom and Fullness, a Great Liberation from alienation, fragmentation, and suffering – are thoroughly confused with the pre-rational stages of a mythic God – stages that have arguably caused more human-made suffering than any other factor in history. The means of our Liberation are confused with the cause of most of our misery. Then, in running from what appears to be the cause of suffering, we are running from our salvation.

“This is, um, very bad.”

Important Caveats

On the final page of A Wisdom Welcome, Creating Heaven on Earth, we shall identify some caveats to this area of interior depth which carry very important truths to be respected, most notably that people have the right to stop at whatever level of development they want to.

Click here for the final page of the welcome; Creating Heaven on Earth…

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