In my previous article, we explored how the hero’s journey is an incomplete story for our time. The story of our time requires a more mature type of consciousness, a thrice born consciousness.
When we’ve had our worldview broken twice, the third time we rebuild we have the opportunity to notice a fundamental truth about reality: we are not our story, we are that which stories arise from; we are not our myth, we are that which myths arise from.
This insight is the birth of the capacity for mythic play.
Mythic play is the ability to freely play with different perspectives.
Most physicists have done this for almost a hundred years. When they look at phenomena larger than atoms, they use Newtonian and Einsteinian models to understand matter. When playing with phenomena smaller than atoms, they use Quantum Mechanics.
Depending on the type of experience, they can switch between either model.
This has been called Model Agnosticism.
As a metaphor for mythic play, Model Agnosticism is like the cocoon stage of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Agnosticism is defined as “a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.”
The freedom to choose any perspective is a radical transformation for anyone stuck in the first two worlds. The cost, however, is that agnosticism is not a map. It doesn’t tell you where to go or what to do. It simply says ‘This is not that.’
Not a very good map.
True mythic play would be better understood as Model Pragmatism. Pragmatism is defined as “an approach that assesses the truth or meaning of theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application.”
If Agnosticism is the absence of a map, Pragmatism is the act of creating a map by walking a path.
The difference between Agnosticism and Pragmatism is hierarchy.
Agnosticism says “I can’t know, so it could be anything.” Pragmatism says “I don’t know, but here is what I’ve tried, and here is what happened. This path is better than this path because I’ve tried both.”
Why are we talking about this?
- We live in a time without a functioning global mythology.
- It's killing us, and we can do something about it.
- To do so, we’ve got to acquire the ability to mythically play.
This article is about what to do once you have the ability for mythic play (hint: you gotta get over your fears and grievances with hierarchy, and begin creating your own).
This is nothing less than taking responsibility for creating your own mythology.
Mythic play coupled with mythic pragmatism allows for mythic collaboration.
Mythic collaboration is the prerequisite to humanity as a species navigating the 21st century.
And these articles are for people who want to contribute to that work.
Addressing (and Dressing) Our Collective Wound With Hierarchy
Hierarchy in its most fundamental form is that some qualia of experience is given more value or importance than another.
For most, examples that come to mind quickly would be gold, silver, and bronze medals, or the organizational structures of companies.
In the last few years, many people when hearing the word hierarchy think of racism, sexism, and all other expressions of inequality.
Some people’s first associated thought to hierarchy is patriarchy, and this word is a placeholder for the collective atrocities humans have committed against other humans spanning recorded history.
Millions of deaths and enough tragedy to break any spirit are placed in the hands of hierarchy.
But hierarchy is also encoded in our biology. There is a hierarchy of development that guides the creation of a human in utero. Hierarchy is built into our neurology and is the reason we are able to literally see. Hierarchy is built into our cognition, and to the degree we ever have a coherent thought, it is due to a vast unconscious hierarchy of filters and heuristics (this is not opinion, it is scientific fact, and if you’re interested in a 25+ hour deep dive on the science, watch the second half of John Vervake’s ‘Awakening to the Meaning Crisis’ series.)
The gist is this: in any given moment, there is a functionally infinite array of possible things you could notice, see, think, feel, and desire. Without a hierarchy of value you could not get out of bed, brush your teeth, or read this text.
We all are living inside of a hierarchy of value. Consciousness without a hierarchy of value is to be functionally paralyzed.
Order and hierarchy are synonymous.
While hierarchy enables cognition, vision, and action, it has a dark side. The darkside of hierarchy is racism, sexism, and all other expressions of inequality. It is in fact true that one could persuasively argue that all the atrocities in history are the result of the darkside of hierarchy.
However, the trap is to respond to the darkside of hierarchy with Model Agnosticism, Moral Relativism, or Postmodernism (which is one of the largest current waves in our zeitgeist).
The essence of these perspectives is confusion, an increased likelihood for depression or anxiety disorders, and a pervasive feeling of being adrift in meaninglessness.
The consciousness capable of contributing to the 3rd and 4th function of myth will need to accept the responsibility of Mythic Pragmatism; of contributing to a new hierarchy of values.
The tension is that we require hierarchies of values to function, and they can grow and twist themselves into murderous systems of tyranny.
A Map of Consciousness for the 21st Century Mythic Artist
If we go back to the first article in this series, Skyscrapers and Cathedrals, and we reconnect to the task of our times, it is to co-create a new cultural myth that is nourishing enough to create multigenerational works (symbolically, cathedrals).
In order to do that we need a myth that feeds the four mythological functions Joseph Campbell outlined.
The Thrice Born Journey is capable of fulfilling the first two mythic functions (personal and metaphysical).
But in order to fulfill the last two (cosmological and sociological), we’re going to have to work together and we’re going to have to embrace some kind of hierarchy of value.
Levels 1 and 2 can be done personally. Levels 3 and 4 become collective projects.
In this section I’m going to share one of the best maps I’ve found for beginning to construct a hierarchy of value on which we can begin to collaborate with one another as we strive to perform our little part in the construction of the future cathedral.
This map is not a hierarchy of value; rather it is a map of the development of our personal perspective, and that there is a type of perspective that must be reached in order to begin the task of creating a new myth that can fulfill the 3rd and 4th function.
The STAGES Matrix
There is an entire branch of psychology that tries to map the stages of development humans go through as they grow. This field, unsurprisingly, is called developmental psychology. It is defined as: the scientific study of how and why humans grow, change, and adapt across the course of their lives.
A great intro to this field is this interview with Dr. Robert Kegan, one of the living luminaries in the field.
It’s one of the most interesting and useful branches of psychology. Some names in the field you’d recognize like Darwin or Freud, but most of the leaders in this field throughout the last 100 years have not made their way into the public psyche.
Maybe you’ve heard of Piaget or Erikson, but you almost assuredly haven’t heard of Jane Loevinger, Susanne Cook-Greuter, or Terry O’Fallon.
I’m not going to take us through the history of developmental psychology here. What we’re going to talk about here is how Buddhism has been working on a developmental psychology map for 2,600 years and the STAGES Matrix is a scientifically-robust map that integrates Buddhism.
Buddhism has been mapping the development of consciousness for 2,600 years. In the last few decades, science has begun to test the techniques and practices of Buddhism, and to put it lightly, Buddhist practices (specifically mindfulness, insight, and metta/compassion meditation) improve dozens upon dozens of biological and cognitive markers.
The STAGES matrix has been a map honed through three generations of women (the only model I’m aware of in the entire history of developmental psychology): Loevinger to Cook-Greuter to O’Fallon. Through this matriarchal lineage, the STAGES matrix eventually grew to incorporate the essence of Buddhist teachings.
The result is that it is one of the most valid and reliable developmental tests we can give people when measuring what are called Constructive Developmental Theories.
A few quick citations for my inner skeptic…
Quotes from a scientific journal article:
“Studies of the WUSCT include at least 400 studies and half a dozen meta-analyses (Cohn & Westenberg, 2004; Gilmore & Durkin, 2001; Novy & Fancis, 1992; Westenberg et al., 2013) making it “arguably the most extensively validated projective technique” (Lilienfeld, 2000, p.56,).”
Murray & O'Fallon (2020, this issue) summarizes prior research on the SCT for inter-rater reliability, internal consistency, test-retest reliability, face validity, construct validity, incremental validity, clinical utility, and predictive validity, all supporting Westenberg's conclusion that "findings of over 350 empirical studies generally support critical assumptions underlying the ego development construct" (p. 485).
Clinical research with the WUSCT has indicated that certain diagnoses are more connected with pathology at certain developmental stages (Noam and Houlihan, 1990) and that there is a clear decrease in symptom severity in those with higher levels of identity development (Noam and Dill 1991).
You can read a journal publication on the validity and reliability of this model here.
Aka, it’s a good map.
The STAGES matrix maps the development of how our ego changes its point of view.
Jane Loevinger defined an ego level as:
an organizing synthetic function or filter that the individual uses to interpret life experiences and to generate meaning.
Below is an image of the development of personal perspectives the ego can take.
Below is a brief description in my own words of each perspective sourced from this paper:
(concrete-individual-receptive; also "Magical"; onset 2-4 years of age; <5% of adult population)
The hallmark of this stage of development is that our neurology acquires enough architecture and experience to birth what we’ll call the myth-maker. This is the aspect of the psyche that feels like an individual identity. Some would call this the ego, some would call this the ‘small self.’ What's important to know about this stage is:
1) This is the beginning of myth-making
This is the power to categorize phenomena with language. There is a parable that captures this.
A boy is out birdwatching with his dad. The first time the boy sees a bird he is wide-eyed, confused, and excited by the twists and spirals the animal gracefully moves through to land on a branch. He points and exclaims to his dad to look. His dad looks and tells the boy that this animal is called a falcon. When the child reaches this stage, he is able to categorize the animal in the linguistic box of bird. As the parable goes, this is the moment the child loses the ability to truly see the confusing splendor of the animal. It has become a ‘falcon.’
For humans to navigate reality, we have to learn to filter the infinite into the finite through categorization.
As we’ll see, many of the more mature development stages will require us to learn how to step out of this function.
2) Confuses causality
The other hallmark of this stage is that the myth-making self has not yet fully differentiated its myth-making from the external world. This is called ‘magical thinking,’ which is when a child believes its thoughts and feelings directly interact with the world.
An example of this may be as benign as believing its crying produces mom to appear to care for her. On the traumatic end, any painful experience that happens to the child due to bad luck or lack of care from a parent will often be internalized as caused by the child. This can be a root of psychosis that emerges later in life.
This stage is called ‘impulsive’ because the child is beginning to learn that it does have some casual effect of reality, but it doesn’t yet understand there are genuine ‘others’ who have their own desires, wills, and casual agency. Thus we get the label ‘terrible twos.’
The beautiful seed germinating in this stage is that, with more development, the child will begin to learn it can indeed act to change the world around it. This is the birth of what is called ‘self-efficacy’ and it is a fundamental skill in being a competent, healthy, able human being.
(concrete-individual-active; also "Self Protective"; onset age: older children; 5% adult population)
At this stage, the myth-maker is beginning to learn that there are social norms and rules. This is the beginning of the birth of the persona, the socially constructed ‘mask’ we learn to develop to navigate social relationships.
For children this often is the stage they begin to acquire the ability to lie. They have the impulse to take a cookie, don’t yet have the strategic capacity to understand the parents will notice, and when confronted after, they will say they didn’t take it while a smudge of chocolate hangs at the edge of their mouth.
This is normal. What is not normal is that 5% of adults get stuck here. An adult stuck at this stage will tend to be manipulative, exploitative, and if caught or confronted will only respond in anger. Behind the persona is deep fear and insecurity. Adults who get stuck here tend to have dramatically dysfunctional familial relationships. They can be helped to develop beyond this stage with compassionate and loving guidance.
The beautiful seed germinating in this stage is the capacity, through maturation, to develop what is called ‘Theory of Mind,’ which is the cognitive capacity that allows us to take other people’s perspectives. This is the birth of friendships, romantic relationships, and creating art.
2.0/2.5 - Rule Conformist & Diplomat
(concrete-collective-active and -passive; also "Mythic-Conformist"; onset age: older children, early adolescents, 10% adult population)
These two stages are combined for convenience because the early research done by Loevinger found they tend to happen together.
At this stage the myth-maker is able to internalize the ‘rules of society’ as they know it to a degree where they can begin to navigate their pure libidinal drives. This is the birth of two key skills:
1) Theory of Mind
For a child, this is the beginning of learning that mom is happier when the child cleans up after itself, or that dad gets mad when the child screams in the grocery store and so the child begins to conform its raw desires with the internally generated expectations of the parents.
With friends, this might manifest as choosing to share a toy with another child because it will bring the other child joy. Children who reach this stage of development have the opportunity to join a peer group.
2) Fitting into a Peer Group
It cannot be understated how important it is for our development to find a place in a peer group. A tremendous amount of learning happens in peer groups. In peer groups, the child must learn an entirely new game than the one it learned at home. Competition, cooperation, and complex play become available.
However the shadow of this stage is that the persona grows. To the degree the peer group provides meaning, security, and purpose to the child is the degree the child will be tempted to abandon their boundaries and genuine expression.
The research has found that about 10% of adults are at this level of development. That’s about 20 million people. Adults at this stage are still in their ‘First Myth.’ They tend to use words like ‘us’ when they talk about their peer group (an exaggerated example of this is the sports fan saying ‘we’ lost today, but they haven’t played the sport since they were 13).
The key confusion of this stage is for the individual to confuse themselves with the peer group they are in.
The beautiful seed germinating here is that, with maturation, the individual will begin to learn how to both navigate peer groups while also cultivating a unique, authentic expression; their true self that lives behind the persona.
(subtle-individual-receptive; also "Conventional-Interpersonal" or "self-aware"; onset age: older adolescents, young and older adults, 37% adult population)
The move from 2.5 (Diplomat) to 3.0 (Expert) is the first revolutionary transformation of the myth-maker. This stage is the birth of third person perspective.
Third person perspective is often the trigger for the ‘descent into the non-ordinary world’ as mapped out by the Hero’s Journey.
A third person perspective is the birth of introspection - the ability to navigate one’s subtle inner world, which begins the journey of discovering the first hints of their authentic self. They begin to recognize how they are different then their peer group (and this is often the cause for the descent). This knowledge can be anxiety producing if the individual fears they will be judged and potentially exiled for their difference. This knowledge can also produce feelings of loneliness if we feel unable or unwilling to integrate and own how we are different from the group. However, this often produces a feeling of uniqueness and can be the birth of a truly authentic, unique, artistic self.
Kagan, one of the godfathers of developmental psychology, describes how this stage used to be an adept level of development for pre-modern societies. This stage allows for true forethought, planning, accountability, and responsibility. However, as we saw in Thrice Born, this is not an adept level of development for the world we find ourselves in today.
The beautiful seed of this stage is that, with maturation, the individual can achieve what Kegan calls Self-Authoring.
(subtle-individual-active; also "Rational-Self Authoring" or "Conscientious"; onset age: older adolescents, young and older adults; 30% adult population)
Many developmental psychologists have remarked that is the level of development classic western culture aspires to bring its citizens to.
This is the level of development the self reaches after they have completed their first cycle of the Hero’s Journey.
The Achiever, what Kegan calls ‘Self-Authoring,’ has developed the ability to internally represent an ‘ideal version of themselves.’ They begin to be able to navigate ‘the future’ to guide their actions. They are able to navigate ‘the past’ in order to learn or heal certain blocks that keep them from becoming more of who they want to be. They develop the ability to genuinely move beyond their race and nationalism and see a connection with other groups of people. They want to help improve the world. They develop the ability to honor and move in accord with their inner compass.
This is the level most people are at who enjoy self-improvement books, podcasts, courses and experiences.
The shadow of this stage is guilt; because they now have a deep sense of who they could be and how they want to help the world, when they feel they are falling short of that ideal, it can cause shame or guilt.
Some core confusions of this stage:
- A belief in the perfectibility of the human condition
- Can become trapped in their ‘vision of the future’
- Doesn’t understand that ideas can be stolen, may plagiarize without realizing they are doing so
- Struggle to notice other people who are at 3.5 or higher (they might think they’re the only one at this level)
4.0/Pluralist (Birth of IFS Consciousness)
(subtle-collective-reciprocal; also “Relativistic-Sensitive"; 10% adult population)
This stage is the birth of the 4th person perspective and is the beginning of what is called systems thinking. With systems thinking, casualty moves from Newtonian physics to ecologies.
Instead of simply seeing A as influencing B,there is a shift to seeing A’s influence on B as influencingC which influences A to influence B. This kind of transformation of casualty allows engineers to create complex artificial intelligence, biologists to understand ecologies, and therapists like Richard Schwartz to create something like Internal Family Systems.
This stage of development begins to widen the individual’s compassion and allows them to not fall into the trap of the fundamental misattribution error.
Whereas stage 3.5 individuals tend to enjoy and consume self-improvement material that helps them create their ideal future, individuals at the 4.0 stage tend to enjoy and consume self-improvement material that helps people deepen into the present moment (the difference between Tony Robbins’ work and Eckhart Tolle’s). People at this stage tend to resonate with eastern traditions like Buddhism, and modern therapies that bring them into the present moment like Somatic Experiencing and Compassionate Inquiry.
The major confusions at this stage are:
1) Model Agnosticism instead of Model Pragmatism
This is an important confusion to take time highlighting. The birth of a 4.0 perspective is significantly liberating when glimpsed for the first time because it can free us from our first myth, our first peer group. However, the conclusion many people draw from this insight is that all perspectives are subjective, therefore all are equally true (or rather, equally arbitrary).
This conclusion, without the individual recognizing it, paralyzes them. They are not able to harness the 3.5 perspective anymore. They cannot justify to themselves that what they desire is valid, that their personal dreams and aspirations are not ‘just cultural constructs.’
Another shade of this confusion is that people at this stage can point out other people’s subjective bias (often the people they see as enemies), and can deceive themselves that they are not just as biased as those they critique.
This is best exemplified by anyone who identifies with a political position criticizing the echo-chamber effect of the other party. From the outside the hypocrisy is embarrassingly apparent, and yet, we are likely falling into this trap too.
This stage is the birth, but not the integration of Mythic Play.
The beautiful seed here is the potential of becoming a mythic artist.
(subtle-collective-interpenetrative; also "Integrated-Multiperspectival"; 5% adult population)
This stage of development Kegan called the ‘honors track’ of the current cultural curriculum. This stage has ‘included and transcended’ the dizzying pluralistic world back into its authentic self and thus recaptured their desire to individuate – not as an isolated individual, but as an integral part of the inter-penetrating interconnectedness of humanity as a whole.
People at this level have integrated their ‘inner family system.’ They know that they will still experience painful and triggering emotions and experiences, but they are capable of navigating them in healthy, prosocial ways.
They also feel a powerful desire to help others in a systematic way. They begin to feel called to become psychologists, coaches, and consultants, and they reach executive leadership positions in healthy organizations.
They’ve also realized that life is not a journey to a destination, but rather a kind of open-ended jazz collaboration with all people and contexts they find themselves in relationship with.
No stage is perfect and this stage has its own confusions.
The major one is that they can miss noticing that they project their subtle inner feelings onto others and onto the collective. They can demonize or idolize complex systems (nature is perfect if we’d just leave it alone or capitalism is fundamentally corrupt and is the reason for x, y and z).
They tend to not project their inner content onto individuals, rather they project it onto complex adaptive systems.
The beautiful seed beginning to sprout in this stage, if matured, is the ability to become aware of their awareness.
(Metaware, Individual, Passive, Receptive; 1% adult population)
This stage is the perspective Buddha’s 8-fold path attempts to bring people to. Dzogchen is considered the most refined version of the Buddha's teaching for bringing about this perspective.
Dr. John Churchill describes this state as:
As the self moves into the metaware tier the person develops the capacity to discern the nuances of awareness itself. At the initial recognition of the 5.0 the direction of the attention is external and the witnessing ego arises with more focus on the objects arising in awareness. These individuals have the capacity to take perspective on perspectives so much so that they begin to see what is tantamount to a hall of mirrors. They are able to take perspectives on perspectives at will. Some experience this as a capacity to envision multiple meaning loops; others become aware of their feelings looping (feeling a feeling about a feeling, or feeling a feeling). With a witnessing awareness activated the person becomes aware of projections arising in the moment. The subtle ego is recognized and conceptions that were once concrete are now recognized as constructs generated by the subtle mind and are experienced as empty and impermanent. This gives rise to the experience of groundlessness; that there is no concreteness in reality is a realization that can bring about an acute existential angst in some.
The cognitive capacity to be aware in the moment of multiple generations of stories and constructions arises, and with it the ability to experience the self, as a multi-generational impermanent process. Awareness of space increases to include the larger Cosmos. As the 5.0 individual matures his or her perspective shifts from external cognition to internal and the focus is more on awareness of awareness itself, which brings a lucid emptiness to every object that arises within it. In the awe of such a larger vision a concern about hubris and spiritual arrogance needs to be transformed by a genuine humility.
Behavioral cues of 5.0 include a difficulty in speaking coherently due to the constant witnessing of the observing awareness over the perceived limited communicative capacity of the self-system. Since there are not many individuals operating at this level of development they can feel isolated and question their own sanity.
As development proceeds at this stage, emptiness and silence of awareness moves towards undergirding the entirety of ordinary experience as individuals at this level of meta-cognitive development begin to settle into their new identity as awareness, the witnessing awareness of full and empty, concrete and subtle objects.
A 5.0 perspective is the first taste of Thrice Born consciousness. It is the myth-maker tasting for the first time that the truth of what they are is not any story, myth, or belief system.
They are that which all stories, myths, beliefs, emotions, and sensations arise.
We’ll talk more at the end about the difference between states and views, but this is a perspective many on the spiritual path may have glimpsed but almost no one currently lives their lives in this perspective.
The goal of something like Dzogchen is to constantly return to this perspective, over and over again, for years and decades, and by doing so, we can gradually extend how long we stay in this perspective, and decrease how long we go in between bouts of remembering.
A great read for Westerners on this perspective is Sam Harris’s Waking Up.
The core confusion of this stage is that people may believe they are losing their sanity. In the presence of a mature container, they can be guided through this experience. In immature containers, they may be hospitalized and medicated against their will.
The other key confusion is for people to confuse their authentic self-authoring self with awareness itself.
In IFS terms, this would be to confuse your ‘capital S Self’ with Awareness itself (Harris’s book does a great job repeatedly highlighting this confusion).
Important Note: The STAGES matrix’s validity studies confirmed the validity and reliability of the test up to perspective 4.5. Stage 5.0 to 6.5 are currently being studied, and there is a fourth tier that hasn’t been studied at all yet. Stages 5.0 to 8.5 do however map onto contemplative psychologies developed in Buddhism for the last 2,600 years.
Because of this, I’m only going to describe the next stage, 5.5. If you are interested in diving deeper, you can read Dr. Churchill’s paper here.
(Metaware, Individual, Active, Active; <0.5% adult population)
Dr. Churchill describes this stage as:
“...the capacity for witnessing awareness developed at 5.0 becomes familiar, constant, and ordinary, with awareness of awareness being brought into complex interactions and understandings of the world, the self-system discovers a greater sense of freedom. There is a continued development of one’s own awareness of awareness of objects but this capacity is still polarized with awareness of the objects themselves. So that the 5.5 system may switch into a mode of immanent integration of body and mind, heart and head, inner and outer, or conversely operate from a decentered transpersonal perspective of an observing ego. However, they are not yet able to carry out both operations simultaneously.
At 5.5 the self-system begins to recognize that certain conceptual constructs and narratives are more useful than others depending on the circumstances and the effect these operations have on others and the specific situations involved. In activity individuals at this level have the capacity and mental pliancy to synthesize multiple perspectives. These conceptions themselves might not be unique, but the complexity is multi-dimensional which often leaves 5.5 feeling unseen, misunderstood, and often lonely.
Often persons with a 5.5 self-system do not take feedback well if they sense that the other does not understand the complexity that they are basing their perceptions on. The 5.5 can be recognized by their fluent complex, vivid, and playful language style displaying a remarkable and yet ephemeral intelligence. They have a capacity to hold virtually anyone with a depth of compassion and concern, and an ability to speak often with a “stream of consciousness” quality. They can come across as arrogant in that they are sure of their choices, often willing to yield and yet surprisingly rigid in their personal perspective. At 5.5 the self-system is able to recognize the metaware capacities of others, but not yet cognizant that others might also be able to perceive their metacognitive capacities in return.”
O’Fallon, the creator of the STAGES Matrix describes the confusions of this stage as:
Core Confusion: confuses their individual constructions with reality.
Core Confusion: we begin to reify our constructions.
Core Confusion: can’t recognize other 5.5s - they think they are the only one.
5.5 Perspective is the maturation of mythic play from Model Agnosticism to Model Pragmatism.
“At 5.5 the self-system begins to recognize that certain conceptual constructs and narratives are more useful than others depending on the circumstances and the effect these operations have on others and the specific situations involved. In activity individuals at this level have the capacity and mental pliancy to synthesize multiple perspectives.”
This is the birth of the type of perspective of a Cathedral builder.
Consciousness at this stage has ‘included and transcended’ all previous stages. They have the drive of the Achiever, the compassion of the Pluralist, the effective altruism of the Strategist, the humility of the Constructive-Aware, and then Pragmatism of the Transpersonal.
These skills allow the individual to play the game of life in the way mythically captured by the Bodhisattva.
A 5.5 perspective is the point of view consciousness reaches when it completes its thrice born journey.
With this perspective we can begin to play the game of life as a ‘Dharma player.’
The next article will elaborate on what a Dharma Player is.
An Essential Distinction: States and Views
A state is a temporary experience of some perspective stage.
A view is when a state becomes stable. In developmental psychology this is referred to as a ‘state becoming a trait.’ In Buddhism, this is called a ‘state becoming a view.’
The classic example is a young adult ingesting a large dose of a psychedelic and experiencing a state of consciousness completely free of identity. In this map's terms, that’d be like a 2.5 perspective jumping up briefly to a 5.0 perspective.
Glimpsing a state does not mean it becomes a view.
Initiations can help states become views.
Catastrophic experiences can turn states into views.
Mentors and elders can help states become views.
Esoteric wisdom traditions attempt to make states views.
Contemplative practices, specifically Mahamudra and Dzogchen, have been honed for 2,600 years to make 5.0 and higher perspectives stable views.
A Parting Note: Yes It Can Happen To You
Keep in mind the eternal temptation of Mythic Play as articulated by O’Fallon, the creator of the STAGES matrix:
Core Confusion: confuses their individual constructions with reality.
Core Confusion: we begin to reify our constructions.
Core Confusion: can’t recognize other 5.5s - they think they are the only one.
To the degree our myths that we play with ‘work,’ meaning that when we play through them life reality seems to respond with grace and beauty and goodness, is the degree to which we will slip out of true mythic play (map myth is not reality), into the core confusion that kept us bound in our first and second myth (we begin to reify our maps).
No myth will ever be reality.
Myths are not true.
Myths are tools through which we play the game of life.
Everything here is a map. Useful lies.
It is up to you to go play, listen, and play again. Again and again, as long as you get to breathe and dance and sing this one precious life.
This is an incredible interview from one of the leading developmental psychologists alive that beautifully weaves through everything we talked about here.
PS. Another, bit easier to grasp, developmental model that fits nicely into the STAGES Matrix is what's called Spiral Dynamics. Amongst researchers, this pdf is regarded as one of the best introductory explanations. Enjoy.