• Stages International and the Seekers Dilemma

    Misleading the Integral Trajectory?

Motivations for writing

Stages International and the Seekers Dilemma – Misleading the Integral Trajectory?

Just recently German companies adopted the so called Nutri-Score. It is a scale that divides foods and drinks into 5 categories based on their nutritional value. For this, a scientific algorithm takes into account and compares „positive“ ingredients (proteins, fibre, vegetables etc.) and „negative“ ingredients (sugar, saturated fatty acids, sodium etc.).

Obviously to built a similar scale to judge integral programs would be much more complicated to develop. However, after years of thinking about how to at least establish some level of certainty about the legitimacy of so called integral authorities, I finally ended up writing this article. It works by comparison in the simplest way possible; it looks solely at the likely stage score of Kim Barta, an associate at Stages International. Then it appears as if he and Stages International are misleading the integral community since they have marketed him in a way that makes him appear to live from a later stage than given the later presented assessment would allow.

It is not an article that was written light-minded and inconsiderate but involved a lot of self-persuasion and removal of internal barriers to the process. One can easily see that I risk to be judged as acting out of  shadow projections and/or business interest. But I guess, as much as this is possible, I feel a clear conscience about these issues – if not I would not have taken this step.

I deeply hope that nothing within this article will hurt someone, though it is meant as part of discourse – and as Jacques Derrida (1978), who is quoted at the end of the article, says: Discourse is very similar to war, and its language inherently violent; it is a contest for individually or collectively dominating the distinctions of true and false or valuable and invaluable and even of the lifeworthiness or unworthiness of objects, concepts, ideas, and patterns to live forth within the being, essence, soul, and spirit of our shared bodies, lifes, minds, and spirits that sprung from the impenetrable mystery we participate in.

The article is made up of three main sections:

  1. An introduction that considers the enhancement of subjectivity through scientific solution in the context of the so called seeker dilemma – the inability of a spiritual aspirant to choose a teacher knowingly and not by mere chance and beliefe.
  2.  A main section that first carves out the most likely grammar of the 6.5 Illumined stage within the StAGES framework based on Terri O`Fallon`s writing contemplated through the lens of Homeostatic Hierarchical Integration and then compares Kim Barta`s writing to that underlying structure that seems characteristic for this stage.
  3. A conclusion summarizes the seemingly recognized intentional or unintentional deception transported through the advertisement of Stages International. Too, it is considerd how this might mislead the integral trajectory to a completely fictional but teachable version of the so called 6.5 Illumined stage – mistking concepts for real „transcendent“ being.

As with almost everything: I am still uncertain about many aspects of the Model of Homeostatic Hierarchical Integration and the measures I have figured out within almost ten years of research. It had taken me already about one and a half years to understand the idea of the thematic-rhematic field that guided my discernment of later stages within my felt sense of textuality. The risks I take are numerous and the burden I feel is enormous; therefore I hope that the ignorance of strategically considering practical nuances and tradeoffs, that happens for the sake of knowledge evolution and discoursive consciousness, is appreciated. Science for me is primarily transparency and communality regardless of possible financial loss or loosing my face – if the only way to understand a model that claims psychological and spiritual value is the investment of money and into authority, we are carefully expressed, neither dealing with a scientific nor with spiritual systems but one that is dominately dedicated to business or dogma, hence a corporation or religion and cult.

Main section of

Stages International and the Seekers Dilemma – Misleading the Integral Trajectory?

Theoretical Foundations: Spiritual Projections and the Science of Growing Up

“The spiritual seeker is not qualified to make choices that must be made”, is a key statement within Spiritual Choices, a book edited by Dick Anthony, Bruce Ecker and Ken Wilber (1987, p.6). Because “it is impossible for one who is lodged in mundane consciousness to evaluate definitively the competence of any guide to transformation and transcendence without having already attained to an equal degree transcendence” (ibid. S.6), the spiritual seeker is facing a dilemma – that of having to choose while the main criteria for an informed choice is inaccessible. Hardship, in the context of this dilemma, means that one must guess whether one faces a “false guide with mundane consciousness only, who poses as having transcendent consciousness or divine connection” (ibid. p.6) or whether one is really engaging with a “fully realized or fully enlightened guide who is consciously one with infinite being and with all beings and things, on all levels of consciousness” (ibid. p.6). Unless one is not willing to climb the mountain on one`s own, this choice, based on mere chance always includes to possibly jeopardize one`s spiritual and mental health as well as oftentimes one`s economic wellbeing.

While Anthony, Ecker and Wilber (1987, p.6) state that “the choice of a guide, path, or group will remain in some sense a subjective matter”, and therefore “the first job of the seeker would best be to refine that primary guide, one`s own subjectivity”, mystical traditions as depicted for example by Daniel P. Brown (2006) in Pointing out the Great Way or Evelin Underhill (1911) in Mysticism have through lengthy practice, observance, as well as individual and collective reflection generated so called second order observations – mechanisms to transcend and include subjectivity. The German sociologist Niklas Luhmann (1992, p.169) in The Science of Society points to this second order of observation when he says that “in order to examine if one`s [subjective] knowledge is true knowledge, one has to observe from a distance, namely through the guidance of the distinction of true/false”. But as traditions show, this distinction between true and false is nothing that can be achieved immediately and at ease but oftentimes only within decades of personal sacrifice and centuries of collective effort.

For that reason, second order observations stand out compared to subjective knowledge: While the first order subjective observer only knows in the moment of recognizing his fallacy, since “he interacts immediately with his ‘niche’ […] [and] practices his knowledge, by making distinctions within his object world” (ibid. p.170), the second order observer operates differently. “In the moment when one shifts on the level of a second order, one must attend to a moment of self-reference and include this reference in one`s own way of operating”, so Luhmann (1992 p.170) and thus reflexivity starts to crystallizes a coherent point of view, to integrate all of one`s subjectively experienced fallacies – then, throughout time and interplay with other observers, a distinction between “knowing and not-knowing gets established and eventually, through the differentiation of a scientific methodology, the possibility of true and false assertions is presented” (ibid. p.171). This poststructuralist and process oriented point of view that outlines the interplay of two perspective, namely that of first order and second order observations, can be loosely compared to Ken Wilber (20016, p.54f), when he introduces the difference between phenomenology and structuralism in Integral Spirituality, which is “that phenomenology looks at the contents of the mind [, as well as those of bodies, systems, and cultures,] that arise in immediate experience or awareness, whereas structuralism looks for the patterns that the phenomena or experiences follow”.

However, the classical spiritual traditions with their state-stages are only one side of the spiritual coin. Ken Wilber (2006) for example differentiates between at least two distinct modes of second order observations regarding spiritual choices and spiritual guidance. On the one hand Wilber acknowledges the path of possible true/false distinctions, that can be used as a judgment, when it comes to mystical states that Brown and Underhill describe. He does this when he writes that people “speak of spirituality in the sense of a religious or spiritual experience, meditative experience, or peak experience” (Wilber 2006, p.101). On the other hand, the true/false distinction we are concerned with throughout this article, rests upon the idea of human stage-like development as depicted by Ken Wilber himself as well as by Sri Aurobindo, Jean Piaget and Bärbel Inhelder, Jane Loevinger and Susanne Cook-Greuter, Clare Graves and Don Edward Beck, Lawrence Kohlberg, James Fowler, Robert Kegan, Jenny Wade, and others, and the seeming fact that many of these authors “do not usually think of the lower or middle levels […] as spiritual, but they do describe the higher and highest levels as spiritual” (ibid. p.101). This later stage-oriented spirituality and the earlier state-oriented spirituality are the two dimensions in the so-called Wilber-Combs-Lattice, with the earlier being the horizontal waking up and the later one being the vertical growing up direction of spirit. Given this important distinction the integral community and its discourse has supported and brought forth the development of a scientific system that is yearning to enable spiritual guides to judge both peoples state experiences and their stage development. Considering this these judgments give rise to what we think of as true and false spirituality – the integral “definitions of value that are internal to the system” (Luhmann 1992, p.198) of spirituality by guiding our observations through perceptual schemes that recognize states and stages and codify the semantics to communicate these dimensions of ourselves and others.

However, according to Luhmann (1992, p.319) we can only speak of participation in a scientific system, when we start to operate recursively: “The system of science operates on the level of second order observations, on the level of observing observations, and by this it distinguishes itself from systems that settle for communicating known knowledge in an authoritative manner”. Science is not about indoctrination, like a spiritual or religious system might be, but observation “is the mode of ongoing communications, and if acceptance is established, then on the basis of an observer’s recognition, to observe in his observations something identical to another observer” (ibid. p.319). Therefore, if we seclude others from our community of discourse our models are not scientific but something else e.g., dogmatic. In general, this means, even though humans might prefer fellowship and tend to establish mechanisms to keep detractors on the outside of this follower-system by either discrediting their trustworthiness or training people to stick to a certain behavioral role and concept of truth, to generate reliability of expectation, “the pointed emphasis of science includes that one does not choose the judges of one`s judgments of truth. The establishment of truth or else untruth must not be based on a selection of partners” (Luhmann 1992, p.351).

Consequently, one might think, Susanne Cook-Greuter, Ken Wilber, and Been Scharmer (2017, p.2) in Integral Theory Making and the Need for Empirical Rigor refuse to acknowledge the later stages within Terri O`Fallons StAGES Model as scientific, when they write that “it introduces and uses untested developmental stages”. By this they point on the one hand to the discrepancy within the depiction of the 5.5 Transpersonal, 6.0 Universal, and 6.5 Illumined stages regarding “the ‘must include and transcend’ nature of subsequent stages” (ibid. p.3) – they therefore don`t fit the shared assumptions of scientific community; on the other hand they criticize that there are no other structuralist “models [which] have enough examples to deduce stage-specific descriptors and measurement criteria [for these stages]; instead, all we have are those currently used by StAGES, which remain untested” (ibid. p.3). Differently said: The model does – from their point of view – neither stick to collective standards of truth nor is it recursively established.

Given the above argumentation, the Model of Homeostatic Hierarchical Integration, enables for the first time to constitute the scientific nature of these later stages through comparison, as stipulated by Cook-Greuter, Wilber, and Sharma (2013). Since it has through an archaeological method discerned four stages beyond the Construct-Aware altitude (Angerer 2020) they must correspond to any or all of those offered by O`Fallon (2010). At least if both models point towards a universal trajectory, and not only subjective believes about how development should look like from an ideological or dogmatic point of view, recursiveness and compatibility of these later stages becomes possible and a binary scheme of true/false judgments for spiritual maturity and spiritual guidance based on stages enables second order observations and promises liberation from the danger of pure subjectivity and the related fallacies. This article thus is part of the third step of any validity claim, as depicted by Wilber (1997, p.18) in The Eye of Spirit, the comparison of data that, after an experiment and the gathering of experimental data, leads to “consensual validation or rejection [of a hypothesis] by a community of the adequate”.

Unless we generate consensual validation of these later stages, people can easily use their only subjectively verified and established stage scores and by this mislead spiritual seekers on the path of growing up towards these later stages, those which are oftentimes considered as spiritual. Already Alfred Korzybski (2000, p.61) in Science and Sanity stressed that a match between the structure of a map and the territory approximated, is hugely important, for “if the structure is not similar, then the traveler or the speaker is led astray, which, in serious human life problems”, like most often part of a spiritual journey, “must always become eminently harmful” (ibid. p.61). Historically, Germany has delivered a shocking example of how science easily becomes “ideology [that] is irrational and interspersed with myths” – a process that depicted by Margit Szöllösi-Janze (2001, p.4) can lead to dehumanization and millions of deaths that are mistakenly justified by the masquerade habit of scientific truth.

However, more relevant four our perspective is John Heron (1998) in Sacred Science, when he intriguingly depicts the consequences of false projections on the spiritual path; projections that arise from intentional or unintentional misleading or mismatching map and territory within the reality construction of a spiritual authority. Specifically, Heron (1998, p.38) warns that if “authority that resides within [everyone] is projected on and invested in some external authority, it inevitably becomes misrepresented and distorted […] – to disown, deny and be unaware of the inner presence is to damage its formative power and this disfiguration is reflected in the teaching of the outer authority that replaces it” (ibid. p.38). At the same time, the falsely claimed authority, who provides the other side of the equation, needs “a perverse doctrine that invalidates and undermines their [students`] intrinsic inner spirit, and will thus lock in with their disfigured projection of it” (ibid. p.38). And the claims of scientific truth, so Luhmann (1992, p.198), work as “intrinsic persuaders”, that might severely disfigure certain stages and aspects of a person’s being, essence, soul, and spirit as it arises within their connection to the secret, that is the pure transcendental ground as nothingness within the human and not yet divine knowledge. Especially, those aspects of one`s potential stage spectrum and ego-identity might have to ride the lightning that don`t fit into the pseudo-objective subjectivity of a guide or model – which might lead to a severe loss of collective variety and potential.

Thus, this article is meant to “help people discriminate between different forms of subjectivist or mystical involvements and identities” like Anthony, Ecker, and Wilber (1987, p.24). It is sole purpose is to support people to take the bait of false guides and enhance the quality of their final free, personal, and subjective choice, hopefully towards a freedom in the sense of being “fully aware of spiritual projection so that it can be substantially withdrawn and undone”, as John Heron (1998, p.36) points out, so that “the spiritual path itself is based on internal authority through the continuous exercise of your own discriminating judgement and its spiritual ground; and this in association with others similarly engaged” (ibid. p.36). In this regard we look at an associate of Stages International, namely Kim Barta (2020a) and his yearlong meditation program Of the Map. By this we want to figure out whether his advert, that claims to guide people towards the experience of a controversial 6.5 Illumined stage, might be misleading, in the sense that it knowingly or unknowingly as well as intentionally or unintentionally deceives the integral audience, thus misleading the integral trajectory somewhere but not towards inhabiting “one of the latest stages yet known to us, the Illuminated Self” (Barta 2020).

To achieve this goal, we both compare Terri O`Fallon`s hierarchical complexity and integration through the measures of Homeostatic Hierarchical Integration through Communicative Action with that of Kim Barta`s most recent writing and look at him through the lens of the StAGES Model itself as well as Ego Development theory in general.

Practical Analysis: Comparing Deep Structures via Homeostatic Hierarchical Integration

Introduction into the Measures for Analysis

As outlined in our article on the Farther Reaches Terri O`Fallon`s 6.5 Illumined stage most likely corresponds to the second half of our 4.1 Consensus-Aware Stage. We concluded that from the seeming fact that her most likely development center of gravity was in the exiting of the 4.1 stage, when she first illustrated this stage in her 2010 thesis on the Evolution of the Human Soul. Again, as already done in the Farther Reaches, will look at the difference of Fourthness and Thirdness, between the layer of spirit and absolute truth and that of mind and meaningful ideas. However, this time we analyze the difference of O`Fallon`s textuality and that of Kim Barta by counting so called themes which are embedded in their writing and surface as the core structure of the same.

With theme we want to express the fact that a sentence thematizes aspects of the layers of body, life, mind, and spirit we already have lived through or currently live in: Stages of Firstness include one theme, they thematize Firstness as phenomenon as well as the body and its senses; stages of Secondness include two themes, they thematize Secondness and thus agency within life as well as Firstness as prior to or opposed to agency; Thirdness accordingly includes three themes, a thematization of Thirdness as mediation between the combined thematizations of Secondness and Firstness e.g. as interpretation that is between perception and action; finally, Fourthness includes itself as theme as much as it thematizes the unity in difference of the three earlier themes which equals a quadratic thematization of body, life, and mind through the means of spirit. Since each theme develops through four stages within each layer, each stage within a layer enhances the complexity of the respective layer and the available themes by a new piece of information, which we call a rheme. Thus, we have two aspects that built a thematic-rhematic field through which one can assess developmental stages:

  1. Themes: The aspects of each layer that combine along the growth through body, life, mind, and spirit into a quadruplicate form.
  2. Rhemes: The information each stage within a layer adds to the complexity and integration of the themes available at a certain layer.

In the following we will point to these two aspects of a sentence through the method of labeled bracketing. By this we visualize the syntactical structures of the thematic-rhematic field – the individual predicate-object modifications of a single subject or the multiple subjects of a sentence. This means, that we index the relevant information (T1, T2 T3, and T4 for themes and R1, R2, R3 and R4 for rhemes) and point towards the specific expression of a certain category within a sentence by summarizing it within a pair of squared brackets. Those brackets demarcate the beginning and ending of each theme and rheme. This then looks either somewhat like this

[R1 [T1… ….] [T2… …] [T3… …]]

if there are less rhemes than themes included in a sentence or somewhat like this

[T1… [R1… ….]] [T2… [R2… …] [R3… …]] [T3… [R4… …]]

when the sentence consists of more rhemes than themes.

The theme can be recognized by the number of modifications within a sentence – mostly predicate-object modifications unless we deal with an early stage – while the rhemes can in some cases be recognized by the increasing number of subjects. For example, a child at the 2.1 Impulse-Aware stage might say to his parent “an apple on the table”. This sentence includes one subject, the “who or what?” of the sentence, which in this case is “an apple”. Therefore, you have one rheme – the sentence gives you one information, that about “an apple” – while the sentence includes both a subject and its place. Henceforth, the subject plays the role of Secondness, as a concrete agency in the world, and the table as object plays the role of Firstness, the field of pointing or the senses. The dissection of the sentence then looks like this:

“[R1 Place of the Apple [T1 Subject an apple] [T2 Object on the table]]”.

Since all the stages except those of Fourthness can include more rhemes than themes and thus the number of subjects could outnumber the available number of layers lived through, which is the number of available placeholders for subjects, one faces a problem. This problem of rhemes outnumbering themes is for example solved using an ellipsis, the omission of a word or phrase necessary for a complete syntactical construction, so that a rheme appears as a degenerate form of its potential and therefore does not involve a new theme. Additionally, the genuineness that arises when the rhemes of a first, second, third, or fourth stage collapse with their due theme of either fourthness, thirdness, secondness, or firstness can be approximated through “quasi subjects”. There the object of the sentence is further qualified through another object to which the earlier is quasi related to like it was its subject. For example, a child at the early 2.4 Conformist Stage has to stowage four rhemes, one for each stage, into two themes, one given by Firstness and one by Secondness; therefore, in response to a task provided by Jean Piaget and Bärbel Inhelder (1957, p.191), when asked what to do for a wagon to stay in place on an inclined plane while it is suspended by a cable, with a counterweight on the other side:

“[T1 Secondness as Track [R1 Depends as Informal Idiom That depends on how] [R2 You as Subject with Predicate you place the track] [T2 Firstness as Wagon [R3 You as Subject with Predicate and whether you put more or less] [R4 Weight as Quasi Subject without predicate weight on the wagon]”.

Hereafter we will use this technique of thematic-rhematic analysis to first establish a target state of how the thematic-rhematic field of a 6.5 Illumined stage must look like to approximate Terri O`Fallon`s (2010) hierarchical complexity, when she introduced its conception for the first time. Then we compare Kim Barta`s (2020b) thematic-rhematic field with this most likely signifier for living from the stage he wants to elucidate through his spiritual guidance. Finally, we will additionally crosscheck this assessment through analyzing and comparing the conceptual complexity of his shadow work approach with the typical complexity of constructs at these later stages.

Illumination and Intuition as the Target State:

Terri O`Fallon`s (2010) Evolution of the Human Soul did first assert the 6.5 Illumined stage. It is the foundation to carve out the target state for comparison. Below you can see a passage from page thirteen that summarizes the philosophical and theoretical background of her thesis as evolution of both individuals and collectives. We bracket the sentences that seem most significant in terms of being expressive of our 4.1 Consensus-Aware and the 4.2 Autological Stages and their foundational thematic-rhematic field:

“People change over time, but our own assumptions about them can actually freeze them in the past. [R1 Subject as We [T1Thus, we may be a cause of them being] [T2 as we imagine them to be,] [T3 rather than being the people] [T4 they actually have the potential to be or actually are.] This judging supports them in robotically behaving in the mode into which we have frozen them.

This notion also seems to apply to our spiritual paths. We have beliefs about what is and what is not involved in a spiritual path. [R1 First Subject as We [T1 We freeze those assumptions and notions in our minds,] [T2 holding those paths to the conditions with which they began,]] [R2 Second Subject as Paths [T3 when the paths themselves perhaps need to, and perhaps even want to, evolve, and take on new views that transcend the old ones,] [T4 even as they include the ones that were previously there.]] [R1 Subject as Developmental Work [T1 The developmental work in this thesis exposes this automatic, autopoietic hypnosis] [T2 that is so difficult to see] [T3 by using a process of recognizing iterating patterns] [T4 that apply to individuals, to groups, and to spiritual paths themselves]]” (O`Fallon 2020, p.13).

The two paragraphs enable us to see three sentences each including four themes. They either play out one rheme and thus are expressions of the 4.1 Consensus-Aware Stage or subject or they show the interplay of two subjects each of which is dominating two themes and thus plays out the deep structure of the 4.2 Autological Stage: The apprehension of the 4.1 Consensus-Aware Stage as the Object – that is itself a subject – of a new subject.

Too, it seems to be promising to dissect the description of the Illumined stage itself as included from page sixty-six on in her thesis; because it is a common observation that persons tend to partly reactivate the thematic-rhematic field of a stage they write about as long as the have sufficient knowledge of and experience with it. Here she writes about people looking “forward and back throughout all of the history of development, across multiple fields in the wideness of all space and time” (O`Fallon 2010, p.66), a process through which patterns “come to the fore out of the ether” (Ibid. p.66).

“However, this patterning is different than the Catalyst patterning; [R1 Subject as Illumined Patterns [T1 Illuminative patterns tend to be simple on the surface,] [T2 yet seem to hold some form of the entire cosmos within them,] [T3 if or when one takes the time] [T4 to sink deeply into them;] they do not integrate maps that are already present, though what is already present is within them. […]

[R1 Subject as Experience [T1 These kinds of experiences can happen at other levels as well,] [T2 but at earlier levels the intuitive information people receive spontaneously tends to be of a more concrete nature rather than of a subtle nature,] [R2 Subject as Earlier Levels [T3 and the earlier levels seem to feel] [T4 that this intuition is a talent that they hold.] Illuminatives are likely to see themselves as a vessel that receives this information; it is not a talent that they can own. When they speak, a flow of information seems to come spontaneously out of their mouths, feeling to them almost as if they are not doing the speaking, but speech comes through them” (ibid. pp.66f).

Again, we can observe the interplay of four themes with one rheme or four themes with two rhemes. Earlier mono-rhematic version is used to describe the process within which patterns are arising, what one might compare to Sri Aurobindo`s (2005, p.980) description of the Illumined mind where “in the spiritual light there is a deeper perceptive response from the very substance of consciousness and a comprehending formulation in that substance, an exact figure or revelatory ideograph in the stuff of the being” – with this figure or revelatory ideograph as the perceived patterns. Whereas the di-rhematic utterance includes more of a form of reasoning, which Aurobindo (2005, p.984) in The Life Divine sees as characteristic for the Intuitive Mind that can “perform all the action of reason, – including the function of logical intelligence, which is to work out the right relation of things and the right relation of idea with idea – but by its own superior process and with steps that do not fail or falter”. That is what we call in the style of Niklas Luhmann (2018, p.1118) the 4.2 Autological ability of a second order observer to take another observer while he locates “himself on the inside or outside of a form he observers”, a process by which the autological mind – which means the self-delineating – “takes up also and transforms into its own substance not only the mind of thought, but the heart and life and the sense and physical consciousness”, in Aurobindo`s (2005, p.984) words. Given O`Fallons (2020, p.30) article on States and STAGES: Waking up Developmentally one might think of this as resolution of confusing “witnessing as a location with non-dual awakening”, since the second order observer becomes aware of how it creates the perspective of the absolute in a contingent manner and that there are multiple ways to set up nonduality, as much as one is commonly dogmatically preferred there.

Kim Barta as Compared to the Target State
Sentence Level Complexity and Integration

Now we can look at Kim Barta`s (2020b) textuality in Shadow Patterns and Other Conundrums of Consciousness, a piece from a larger article that includes seven perspectives on the StAGES Model. We chose this subsection of his writing because he seems to us utmost known as an expert for shadow work rather than for the content of the other articles – a field of expertise that we don`t examine or judge since we don´t have the necessary means to do so, except of in respect to its altitude. In no case do we want to judge Kim Barta`s abilities as a therapist or as knowledge broker, but we only look at whether his claim to guide people into an experience of the 6.5 Illumined stage can be considered realistic or rather as fictional.

The introductory chapter of the respective article on shadow work only contains one prominent and complex sentence. It includes a surface structure that reminds of Terri O`Fallon`s (2020, p.29) definition of either the 6.0 Universal stage which apprehends “the timeless/boundless integrated with meta-conscious relative reality” or the criteria of “timeless/boundless illumines […] the interpenetration of the concrete mind, subtle mind, MetAware mind, and Metaconscious mind along with the concrete senses, subtle senses, and meta-conscious of the evolutionary trajectory of matter, life, and mind” (ibid. p.29 & p.33) as signifier for the 6.5 Illumined stage. However, it does not include a deep structure that points to a stage beyond Thirdness, since it includes maximally three themes – if one is generous:

“[T1 I will discuss filling in holes] [T2 created both by shadow] [T3 and by the very nature of time constraint upon the evolving carnal time bound journey to the incarnate timeless boundless landscape]” (Barta 2020b, p.83).

When one compares the obvious surface-structure transported through the visible conjunction of the themes, to that of sentence completions classified by Susann Cook-Greuter`s model by Angela Miniard (2009 p.70), one can easily recognize the resemblance of the “both… and” nature of the Autonomous cognition; however, filled with the spiritually sounding wording presented by O`Fallon (2020).

A good boss… “[ T1 has a clear sense of self and a vision of a future state] [T2 both which are compatible with colleagues, co-workers and with the organization] [T1 and which are conveyed to others through example, not words].”

Notwithstanding the upper dissection of Barta`s sentence it would be more eligible to split it into two themes – because the utterance does not include a real third predicate-object structure that would have been created by a third theme, that was present in the mental state at the moment of producing this specific statement:

[T1 I will discuss filling in holes] [T2 created both by shadow and by the very nature of time constraint upon the evolving carnal time bound journey to the incarnate timeless boundless landscape].

The dithematic structure is characteristic of Secondness; for preoperational and concrete operation thinking as well as formal operations – without a content that possibly could have been generated by someone at such an early stage. This, judged by our experience, mostly points to a mode of recollective writing, the reproduction of a previously absorbed or generated and memorized lexical-conceptual expression. It henceforth would lack symbolic-syntactic authenticity. In consent with the ethical standards of the Model of Homeostatic Hierarchical Integration through Communicative Action, that are based on speech act theory`s validity claims, the sentence therefore would resist assessment within a real sentence completion task.

As dauntless this first part of our investigation seems we can gain more valuable insights into whether or the 6.5 Illumined stage is projected into textuality by Kim Barta (2020b) and therefore most likely part of his repertoire of accessible levels of human consciousness. To remember, we judge this based on comparing based on assuming the illumined to be a person within our Fourthness and equal to Terri O`Fallon`s (2010) own development, when she wrote about this stage. Furthermore, we now look at the last paragraphs of Kim Barta`s (2020b) article, to see whether the advertisement claims made by Stages International are misleading or accurate given the repeated criteria of truth/untruth. In this section of his article, one finds a summary of solutions to shadow conundrums. He authors:

“[T1 If we use the wrong technique with a shadow issue,] [T2 we can actually deepen the shadow issue] [T3 rather than resolve it.] We can solve shadow and other Conundrums of consciousness in 3 main ways:

    1. Depth
    2. Breadth
    3. Height

With depth we use the dissolution solution. As we progress to deeper states of consciousness the issue dissolves from its distortion into deep authentic truth. With breadth we use the dilution solution. [T1 As we expand out broader,] [T1 the issue becomes so diluted in the expansive awareness] [T3 that it has nothing left to cling to and falls away into a wholeness of awareness]. With height we use the evolution solution. We can also call it the illusion solution. [T1 With height we become aware of the illusions of our original issue] [T2 and discover a later stage awareness] [T3 that has greater passion for us than the original want]. Some conundrums of our consciousness can be solved by any one of these solutions. However, some issues can only be resolved by a specific use of only one of them.

[T1 When dealing with shadow issues and other conundrums of consciousness] [T1 these understandings can help us] [T3 to navigate the murky waters]. [T1 It can clear away the confusion of] [T2 why using one technique in one area] [T3 is unhelpful in another]. It helps to understand there are multiple solutions to resolving issues. Some issues can use multiple styles, and some require a specific style to resolve. [T1 By learning all the styles and] [T2 [by] not being attached to any specific one of them,] [T3 we can enter the natural flow of shadow resolutions and the natural clearing of conundrums of consciousness]. [T1 When we have and can utilize all these skills in a non-preferencing orientation,] [T1 the resolution of our issues becomes less of a chore] [T1 and more of a natural flowing unfolding]” (Barta 2020b, p.95).

As one can see there are no quatrothematic sentences included within approximately one page of writing. Of significance of the reader experienced with stage models: One can easily see the contextual logic e.g., when he hopes to “clear away the confusion of why using one technique in one area is unhelpful in another” (ibid. p.95). According to Terri O`Fallon (2010, p.54) the 4.5 Strategist, which is the Autonomous or the late 3.3 Integrative person, can “prioritize both exterior and interior contexts”, which means that they “can see the situational nature of contexts and their interdependent nature” (ibid. p.55). Too, one can see a typical construction for the late 3.3 Integrative Stage which is the “both… and” of “what is” and “what is not”, or what is “while” something contradicting exists at the same time:

“[T1 [By learning all the styles] [T2 and [by] not [or while not] being attached to any specific one of them,] [T3 we can enter the natural flow of shadow resolutions and the natural clearing of conundrums of consciousness]” (Barta 2020b, p.95).

“A good boss… [empowers his/her subordinates to stretch themselves] [to do their best work and to have input and some control in their work and organization,] [while not relinquishing his/her own leadership position]” (Miniard 2009, p.70).

When we look at a passage, which contains, from the viewpoint of the Model of Homeostatic Hierarchical Integration, one of the most hierarchically complex and integrated sentences within the article on Shadow Patterns however, we can figure out that the article contains some quatrorhematic expressions, too. The paragraph below explains risks that are opposed to a lack of presence:

„We can run the risk the other way as well. If we use a height solution without concurrent use of depth, then we run the risk of what is often called spiritual bypass. We rise to these transcendent places, but all of the issues are still there. When we come out of our transcendent height, we still get triggered by all these issues that populate our life. [T1 Thirdness as Issues [R1 Including Subject Indeed, these issues that populate our life] [R2 as Ellipsis of Subject will pull us out of our transcendence again and again] [T2 Secondness as Dive [R3 Subject as We until we dive into depth and breadth] [T3 Firstness as What Resides [R4 Subject as Vital Aspects where vital aspects of authentic and whole resolution reside]” (Barta 2020b, p.91).

When we consider this syntagmatic mirror of Barta`s most likely inner complexity we gain a stage assessment for the first quarter 3.4 Discoursive Stage, signified by the nominal structure of the sentence (for more information see Angerer 2020). This sentence is similar to the moral laws rooted in paradox, which we described in our article about the 3.4 Discoursive-Turquoise Stage, namely that one has to dive into breadth and depth, into something immanent, though you want to escape immanence and establish a transcendental presence. Additionally, the paragraph resonates with the surface structure of the Construct-Aware stage, as depicted by Susanne Cook-Greuter (2013, p.82), when she differently outlines the same mechanism by proclaiming “the more one is conscious and proud of one’s psychic powers and ego-transcending quest, the more clearly one’s ego is still enthroned” – translated into terms of pathologizing one`s being, essence, and soul: The introjections that mask oneself and filter one`s perceptions, the projections that are turned into real desires and resistances by oneself and within one`s lifeworld, as screams for attention and our agency, as well as different subpersonalities that are one`s own war, that of interpreting the interplay of introjected reality and the then opposing projections, diminish spirit, unless one diminishes spirit on one`s own, and thus manifests ever-present spirit into and as one`s self-conscious reality of itself. Beyond these musings, Terri O`Fallon (2010, p.90), too, mentions concerns “like spiritual materialism”, one aspect of which is spiritual bypass, as topics that generally come up when inquiring into the mind of a 5.0 Construct-Aware person.

Incidentally, we can conclude that Kim Barta`s (2020b) Shadow Patterns and Other Conundrums of Consciousness seemingly vacuous of any genuine aspect of Fourthness however, includes degenerate Fourthness within expressing signs of entering the 3.4 Discoursive Stage, which most likely should correlate with an assessment at the intersection of the Autonomous and Construct-Aware stages both within Susanne Cook-Greuter’s and Terri O`Fallon`s frameworks – as the accompanying thematic analysis revealed. Nevertheless, we still can look whether the text transport a conceptual complexity that is beyond or before this altitude.

Conceptual Complexity and Integration

To crosscheck our sentence-level assessment we now compare it with conceptual complexity. Conceptual complexity means that thinkers at each stage bring forth concepts that are expressive of the underlying parameters of this stage. Specifically, a person at the 3.4 Discoursive Stage lives within Thirdness, therefore his constructs should include three tiers, while it is the fourth stage and therefore normally brings forth a quadruplicate scheme of categories. Immanuel Kant`s (2013) famous Table of Categories is one example: Each of the four major categories – Quantity, Quality, Relation, and Modality – holds three expressions of itself, each of which is representative for the quantity, quality, relation, or modality of a layer. Throughout literature and multiple disciplines these patterns have been reported with Talcott Parsons (1969) AGIL (Adaptation, Goal-Orientation, Integration, and Latent Pattern Maintenance) scheme as an example from the social sciences and Carl Gustav Jung`s (1970, p.258) “quaternity” in his Research into the Phenomenology of the Self as an example from psychology. Stage adequate C. G. Jung (1970, p.258) poses that the “rightward movement of the process”, that of an unconscious gnosis towards a conscious one, is “the expression of conscious discrimination and hence an application of […] four functions that constitute the essence of a conscious process” (ibid. p.258) – the functions that, overly simplified said, show either up as genuine self-expression of their absolute nature within fourthness or as degenerate expression of themselves at each fourth stage vailed through the respective complexity of the current layer on lives from.

Kim Barta`s (2020b) conceptual complexity seems largely focused on the triplicity of Projection, Introjection, and Split Ego States, without a fourth function of shadow. A function that could show up at this stage as something like archetypal shadow or any other form that would express the underlying structure of fourthness, namely the interplay of the difference between universality and particularity. Otherwise, it could be expressed as the creative constructive force like Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (2000, p.11) represent it within their Anti Oedipus as the body without organs “the unproductive, the unconsumable, [which] serves as a surface for the recording of the entire process of production of desire, so that desiring-machines [, otherwise so called ego states] seem to emanate from it in the apparent objective movement”, the place from which new earlier forms of shadow are “regenerated, ‘miraculated’” (ibid. p.11), where all is life and lived experience within “the destinations of the subject developing along these particular vectors” (ibid. p.19). This might in respect to shadow work best be mirrored by the idea of a ground in Gestalt Therapy by Frederick Perls, Ralph Hefferline, and Paul, Goodman (1951, p.56) where “if both attention and excitement are present and working together, the object of attention becomes more and more unified, bright, sharp figure against a more and more empty, unnoticed, uninteresting ground” – the process wherein the three earlier, for example as introjections, projec­tions, and split ego states fuse into a “good gestalt” (ibid. p.56).

Though the archetypal aspect or any equivalent seemingly misses in Kim Barta`s (2020) work, he offers a series of four states as the evolution solution to shadow – we sequentially are in, of, from, and finally beyond the world, where “consciousness can choose to play the part of the old ego but has no attachment to do so nor any pushing away of it” (Barta 2020b, p.88). However, if we look at the thematic-rhematic field that expresses this idea, we can see that it is again rather an expression of the 3.3 Integrative Stage, which is the Autonomous one. He both writes in trirhematic fashion and presents a relativistic, contextual view as depicted above:

“At this point the role no longer has any attachment value. [T1 We can step into the role if it’s important for us to do so] [T2 but we do not feel compelled to take on the role] [T3 nor do we feel we need to push the role away.] The role is just a role and it can be used or not used without attachment or pushing away. […]

Each of these steps is very important. Each step marks a very important point in the transition. The first is a point of only awareness. [T1 The second is an either/or awareness,] [T2 the third is a both/and awareness,] [the fourth is empty awareness that allows the both/and to arise and fall without attachment].”

Despite enumerations not falling under the general law of thematic-rhematic restrictedness by stage, it seems again considerable that Barta chooses to put three of the four into one sentence as it is habit within Autonomous sentence completions like a good boss, who:

“[is someone who can remain open,] [develop good relationships based on trust + respect] [and who will bring out the best in her/his subordinates, peers and superiors]” (Miniard 2009, p.69) or “[knows what needs to be done,] [gets it done,] [and still is able to see where changes are needed] and makes improvements-all with everyone’s endorsement and contributions” (Ibid. p.70).

One can therefore cautiously reach the conclusion that he uses a quadruplicity to express the end of his movement through a stage – another typical point where people reflect within this scheme as representation of the four phases moved through.

Besides the quadruplicity of evolving shadow, the last chapter of the article shows four dimensions of shadow, which are listed in the table below. A scheme arises that might remind of that offered by Kant (2013) in his Critique of Pure Reason.

Classes of Shadow Processes to Do Styles of Resolution Solutions for Shadow
1.       Introjections

2.       Projections

3.       Split Ego States

1.       Wall them off

2.       Evolve them

3.       Resolve them

1.       Release

2.       Reowning

3.       Integration

1.       Depth

2.       Breadth

3.       Height

However, when we look closer at these categories, we can see that styles only can be applied to one class of shadow, while both processes and solutions work for each style. Henceforth, the scheme of categories does not show the same coherence as Kant`s does or as others like Parson`s do. Once more this incongruity points towards a center of gravity that marks the exiting phase of the 3.3 Integrative Stage and the entering period of the 3.4 Discoursive Stage. We will likely see an evolution of all these dimensions to include a fourth, maybe likewise to C. G. Jung (1970, p.253) who depicts a possible expansion for the category of shadow resolution, when he introduces the “space-time quaternion”; a quadruplicity which he considers to be “the archetypal sine qua non for any apprehension of the physical world – indeed, the very possibility of apprehending it” (ibid. p.253), while it simultaneously “corresponds to the psychological schema of the [four] functions” (ibid. p.253). Consequently, based on Jung, depth, breadth, and height would have to be complemented and completed by a fourth dimension – which might be time or space but could be anything else.

Conclusion: Misleading the Integral Trajectory or Not?

Given, that our inquiry and all our assumptions are reconstructed as true by other observers, Kim Barta can be considered as a false spiritual guide. When he asks what it was like “if we were guided through our stages of consciousness, starting with infancy and moving up through all the major fulcrums of our growth, and into the most advanced ego stages known to us”, he poses a question that he could not possibly answer given the outcome of our investigative journey. He claims to support people in experiencing a stage of vertical enlightenment that does not show up in his textuality if compared to his siblings writing in The Evolution of the Human Soul. To the best of our knowledge and belief he seems to have touched into the 3.4 Discoursive Stage, which is an expression of Construct-Aware, in his article on shadow work, but not yet fully realized a center of gravity at this stage. Rather he still dominantly expresses the thematic-rhematic field and hierarchical complexity and integration of the late 3.3 Integrative Stage, which equals the Autonomous person`s altitude.

Whether or not his claims are based on proper assessment of his person through a StAGES Inventory or whether only through his subjective justification, the advertisement of his program Off the Map, a year-long, developmentally informed meditation program, can be considered intentionally or unintentionally misleading. From our point of view, it deceives or is likely to deceive its audience and thus affect their spiritual and economic decision-making. However, as thoroughly this work has been done, and as much as it has been placed scientific reasoning, we can make no warranties regarding the accuracy or reliability of this information based on the perspective of the StAGES Assessment or Susanne Cook-Greuter’s MAP. Nonetheless, a discussion of shortcomings that could lead to inaccurate assessment through the StAGES methodology are elaborated in Angerer’s (2020) Luhmann`s Lifework and Tier Patterns and in the article The Farther Reaches of Human Development.

If Kim Barta in fact has been assessed at either of them the 5.5 Transpersonal, the 6.0 Universal, or the 6.5 Illumined stage it would be a strong argument for the StAGES assessment, as already depicted within the Farther Reaches, is skewed through mistaking objects and concepts for the hierarchical complexity and integration of certain stages. This, too, would implicate that, if it is no solely typological bias, one could be taught to score at each stage deliberately through mimicry of ideological preferences introduced by authority. Unintentionally or intentionally Stages International and the StAGES model per se could then be tools of misguidance as it is typical for what is referred to as unilevel groups in Anthony`s, Ecker`s, and Wilber`s (1987, p.70) book Spiritual Choices, communities where adepts and guides view a “formulation as being ultimate, and so in effect their commitment is to the formulation, the belief system, rather than to a genuinely transcendental truth”. We then would no longer deal with a science of growing up but with the rule of unilevel systems, which “make definitive assessments of people`s spiritual status or degree of attainment using conversion to the group`s belief system or ideology as the major criterion” (ibid. p.70). Possibly, in the uttmost extreme, we would then one day have to deal with an iteration of the severe aftermaths on the physical life generated by Nazi Germany`s confusion of mythology with science however, this time as a disruption of human souls and the elimination of their genuine capability for spiritual variety – a danger the Model of Homeostatic Hierarchical Integration through Communicative Action has to be aware of likewise; therefore this critique is not unidirectional but hopefully feeds back into our own thoroughness that can only be achieved through collective thoroughness: The tird that is, according to Luhmann (1992, p.322) beyond our individual second order observations and „integrates the recursivity of the scientific system while it applies through the terminology of ‚truth‘ the symbol which functions as the operator for compatibility within recursively observing obeservations“.

“War dies out only at the end of discourse”, states Jacques Derrida (1978, p.148) in Writing and Difference and “our language can only indefinitely tend toward justice by acknowledging and practicing the violence within it” (ibid. p.148). Our supreme delight would reside therein, when the violence in this article is reaching up to the standard we had in mind, when we set out to write it: To ensure the greatest amount of liberty that resides within the unity encompassing body, life, mind, and spirit, as the expression of the great mystery that permeates anyone of us.


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