Sound and Silence

when necessary, use words


June 2010

An utterance

What I failed to do because of the bigness of my ideas
I can now achieve because of the smallness of my life.
[Roger Witter, 18 June 2010].


Rohr on 9 stages of consciousness

I have heard Father Richard Rohr presenting more than one framework for development (that includes the work of Fowler and Plotkin), but this is the one he presented on 12th June 2010 in Cape Town.

There is much to say in respect to this teaching, and I hope people will comment. For me this type of wisdom perspective is a way forward for those called in to a sense of emergence, who might be growing wary of the word’s overuse.

Here are a few points:

  • He is at pains to present this not as a “race to finish”. At each stage the call is complete it in its own time, with maximum honesty. This removes the inevitable moralising about who is where.
  • I could not get full clarity on stages 6 and 7, so I have grouped them together.
  • Father Richard gives us a mantra, and this was “transcend – include, transcend – include”. This means we fully live a stage, and transcend it when done, rather than rejecting it. The corollary is if you can not include you have not transcended. (As we can see it a feature of Stage 4 to break this very rule). This bears an interesting similarity to Brian McLaren’s metaphor of the tree in “A Generous Orthodoxy”, which builds on the previous seasons growth.
  • The context of these spiral dynamics of emergence is that most of the world (and that includes the church) is in a combination of stages 3 and 4, and is somewhat stuck there.

And now here are Richard Rohr’s stages of Consciousness:

1 – Infant consciousness
Undifferentiated from mother, this is our first experience of the world. It is complete oneness, and the bliss of ignorance. In personal terms includes ages up to 2 years old.

2 – Magical consciousness
Between 2 and 7, as the child realises that it is an individual, it experiences the world directly, unambiguously, and magically. This consciousness, (parts of which Rohr suggests can be seen in the likes of The Amish and everyone’s favourite saint Mother Theresa), is only sustainable by separating from reality (I may be misunderstanding these examples). Its mantra might be “The way I see it is the way it is.” Its negatives include narcissism, pietism, and sentimentality.

3  – Mythic / Tribal consciousness
Innately dualistic, this stage sees deep group conformity regardless of what might be true. Dualisms include us/them and win/lose, and karma – you get what you deserve – totally dominates grace. The bible becomes a totem and the only “wisdom” is the conventional.

4 – Rational consciousness
Here myth becomes the victim of their rational prowess. What they don’t understand, they call wrong. Intolerant of previous levels, this spiritual adolescence results in doctrines like biblical inerrancy and papal infallibility. Because of their inflexible emphasis on belief and not faith, Rohr calls those at rational consciousness “practical atheists”. Most conservatives find themselves at either stage 3 or 4.

5 – Vision Logic
After Ken Wilbur, this is a pluralistic age of “universal scepticism”; everything is true, everyone is right, and we refuse to place our bets. Most liberals are stuck here.

6/7 – Subtle/Psychic consciousness
The separate self starts to fall away; this may or will involve the dark night of the soul. It is about emptying, of which Meister Eckhart said “The spiritual journey is about subtraction, not addition”.

8 – Christ Consciousness
The non-dual mind of Christ. “I and the Father are one.”

9 – “I am”
The fully integrated, divinised self. The “pure contemplative”. Holiness is “doing your thisness”.

Karen Armstrong’s long and winding road.

God, rid me of God [Meister Eckhart]

Former nun, lapsed Catholic, unsuccessful academic, undiagnosed epileptic, fired schoolteacher, failed heterosexual, cultural ignoramus, unlucky in love, ex-Christian, post-atheist, faded TV personality, turned author, sage and freelance monotheist: these are some of the milestones on Karen Armstrong’s long, hard road.

Very rarely does an autobiography remain a gripping tale throughout, without succumbing to egoism. But Karen Armstrong manages this admirably in “The Spiral Staircase” (2005) in a litany of misadventures starting out at age 17 when she excitedly decided to enter a cloistered lifestyle in the hope of finding transcendence and happiness. Continue reading “Karen Armstrong’s long and winding road.”

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