Blowing the Lid off Insight (1)

Blowing the lid off insight
Your potential for insight is the most valuable gift you possess – the most valuable, bar none.
— Leigh Longhurst

Your potential for insight is the most valuable gift you possess – the most valuable, bar none. Only insights can pull you out of living an unconscious life and wake you up to what’s important in life and what will make you happy. Did you realize this? Given the useless crap society teaches us, probably not. What would happen if the sheep were to gain insights capable of shattering their limited view of themselves and the world? God forbid they get exposed to anything that might help them grow up, wake up and evolve to higher states of BEing. What would change if we learned that insight doesn’t just occur between the ears but from much deeper, hidden knowledge within us? Everything would change, that’s what. You would access subtle realms within and around you, states of consciousness that would disabuse you of your tiny mad ideas. Your life would become richer, deeper, more connected and more alive. This occurs quite naturally when you pierce the veil of truth with your own insights. INsight means you have this power within you, in dimensions of your being far beyond your thinking mind. When self-knowledge is revealed in insights from the heart and soul, it is recognized, re-cognized as a deep knowing that has the feel of coming from a transcendent energy, a remembering of the awareness that we were before we were separated from it, before we dis-membered ourselves. This is the knowing that is not confined within us but stretches out into and connects with a common field. Aha moments of insight open the gate to this field of intelligence.

If you are serious about personal development, you’ll start tuning in to your own innate wisdom. Only when you commit to an inward gaze can insights reveal their secrets and in so doing expand your consciousness. The alternative is to mindlessly accept what is presented to you as true, to be a victim of a culture that bombards you with half-truths and lies. You either find out truths for yourself or you become complicit as a sheep. The problem with sheep is that they believe what they’re told. Like anything else worth knowing, insight is either sidelined in our society or corrupted by minds that don’t understand it. The only way you can know it is to know it up close and personal. You must be a light unto yourself.

Shedding your sheep’s clothing means becoming your own authority. It means trusting your own ability to test things out for yourself. All you need do is open your mind, examine your beliefs objectively, think and feel for yourself. You will begin to realize how indispensable Aha moments are to your authentic personal development. And by this, I mean knowing yourself, forgiving yourself, loving yourself, living and expressing your highest values and deepest passions in the world. For many, that’s plenty, but there may be some among you who want to take personal development all the way. You might agree with me that opening up to and experiencing the Truth of who we are is the pinnacle of insight, the apex of consciousness, the greatest human achievement possible. My research found that awakening to who we are entails allowing the unfolding of the whole spectrum of potentials within us. These potentials are there, they’ve just been covered up by the ego mind, the false self that we take ourselves to be. The biggest Aha moment of all is experienced when we discover, in the still and silent core of our being, a place of deep and abiding happiness and peace.

There are 3 major considerations when blowing the lid off insight:

1. The ‘Experts’ Know Zilch about Insight

Academic research into insight shows that academics are hopelessly limited in their understanding of the whole subject. They generally don’t even know the difference between insight and intuition, using the terms interchangeably. In a very real sense it doesn’t matter because when you’ve had your own Aha moments, you have no further need of theories. As Krishnamurti says: “Learning implies authority…with insight there is no authority”. Only YOU can know your Aha moment because it happens IN you. It’s IN-sight, not OUT-sight. It doesn’t come to you from an outside source through osmosis. There is no book you can read or expert you can consult to absorb the true meaning of insight. It is a visceral experience that happens in you, through you and for you. That’s why no conceptual ‘understanding’ of insight will ever substitute for the real thing.

 2. Deep Insights are Not a Brain Thing

Like everything else, insight is thought about in our culture within a scientific world-view. This is a materialist perspective where ‘things’ are primary, and all the laws of the universe can be figured out by observing and measuring these things. So, in this very limited paradigm, the brain is primary, and consciousness is just a production of the brain. The intellectual capacities of the brain are taken to be the crown jewels of consciousness, haha! I laugh because consciousness understood at its deepest level is limitless and eternal. Science doesn’t think like this, and nor is it set up to. Within its own scope of measuring stuff, science is fine. The problem arises when science sticks its nose into experiences, phenomena over which it has no dominion, no useful tools with which to explore. What we know depends on how we know. In other words, the ways in which we ‘know’ things depends on how we look at them and with what. The understanding of anything under the sun, whether objective or subjective, depends on the lens through which we view it. In the case of insight, science is self-designed to fail. It is not designed to understand what is interior, i.e. insight, consciousness, personal resonance, but only what is exterior, i.e. objects in the world. Science might be able to measure electrical and chemical activity in the brain but that says nothing about the phenomenal experience of insight or how it can transform your life. Insight can only be known through the mind in the sense of the whole psyche, the heart, the gut, the soul and all the other subtle realms of our being which science is not equipped to analyze (and scientists wouldn’t want to since they don’t believe in anything beyond the physical world. You’d think they’d never heard of quantum mechanics!).

You can become your own scientist by inviting your own insights*. With insight comes true knowing, knowing that can be owned because it has been experienced intimately, offering us surety in a world of opinions and theories. If you keep turning your attention towards your inner wisdom, you discover ever-greater depths within you that span a whole spectrum of consciousness from body to mind to soul to spirit. All of these dimensions of your being are capable of offering up their gifts of insight. And the further along the spectrum you experience your Aha moment, the deeper the insight. So, insights at the soul, or intuitive level of consciousness resonate throughout your whole body and mind, they pulsate with an uplifting energy. This clears up the academics’ confusion over insight and intuition. Insights are the fruits of Aha moments, the information received. The intuitive dimension is a soul level of consciousness from which spring insights that produce deep and life-changing self-knowledge.

3. Insights Reveal the Paradoxical Nature of Reality

Nearly everything in life that’s worth knowing is paradoxical. We might kid ourselves that things are clear-cut, that the setting of clear rules and boundaries and distinctions will ward off evil, make us feel safe in an unpredictable world. But when we examine our belief systems we gain insights into the childish nature of this kind of thinking. We realize that ‘our’ beliefs are infantilizing us, that they are mere second-hand theories, stories developed through tradition and habit. We adopt these stories to build defenses against a scary world. Aha moments help us to grow up and take responsibility for our lives by facing up to and relaxing these defenses. Growing up is about going beyond the fears of our ego mind and accessing our inner wisdom, our intuitive guide. Waking up is about integrating all the paradoxes we observe and experience in this world, instead of trying to make life black and white. We open to a way of thinking that makes room for apparent opposites. We start to think in terms of both/and instead of either/or. Life can be both wonderful and painful, I can be in a state of not knowing and be relaxed about it, I can let go of control and trust the outcome. Learning to feel comfortable with nursing ambiguity and uncertainty is a sign that we’re evolving. Indeed, there is a great relief in conceding the fact that we know nothing. Letting go of any concepts or beliefs opens the space for special insights. When we give up the need to know, when we admit our ignorance without feeling anxious about it, when we surrender to a higher Mind, then we can substitute stories in our heads with a growing trust in our inner knowing. We accept uncertainty, doubt, paradox and change as part of life.

Insights can never be guaranteed but they can be invited, they can be welcomed in. They tend to sprout in minds and bodies that have provided fertile soil in which they can take seed and blossom. So, give up your certainty, sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment! In this state, you will receive life-changing insights.

Drawing out Potential

Part 1 of the “Aha!” Blowing the Lid on British Education Series

In a 2012 speech to Tory party conference David Cameron announced that he wanted the school system to support and draw out the potential in every student. That’s a laugh! The system hasn’t a clue what potential means and it does not offer education. Education is from the Latin educare, meaning not only to bring ‘up’ but also to bring ‘out’ (i.e. draw out the potential of the individual). The system is too busy stuffing in largely useless information to draw anything out. It might be forgivable if we didn’t know any better, but we do. Many studies show how effective and enjoyable it is to educate the whole person. The whole person inherently possesses multiple lines of intelligence including cognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence, social intelligence and so on. There are reckoned to be around 12 lines of intelligence and yet the educational system persists in addressing only the cognitive line and can’t even get that right.

Cameron wishes that every child in the land could attend the kind of school he did. Oh really? The products of a privileged education may well end up in powerful positions in society and they be cognitively brilliant but they often remain stunted in so many other ways – psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. All of our psyches feature 'shadow' aspects; emotions that we hide away or project onto others instead of owning them as part of ourselves. We either pull in the shadow by repressing it in ourselves or push it out on to the other person or situation. Public school often means boarding school. It’s very hard for a child to be sent away from home at a young age and not be affected by feelings of abandonment that affect their self-worth. Public school breeds shadows of guilt, shyness and self-loathing that disconnect these people emotionally from themselves and others. The result can be a total lack understanding of or empathy for themselves and those around them. The inability to feel Lack of empathy happens to be one of the markers of psychopathy. Are these the qualities we want in those who ostensibly run the show - the politicians, academics, bankers, the military? 

State-educated children fare no better. They leave school with no awareness of having any potential, far less the means to tap into it and manifest it. That’s because the school system is institutionally and catastrophically broken and is letting down every single one of our children, whether privately or state-educated. I’m being polite in not using another six-lettered word for ‘broken’. Because it is not fit for purpose, the system is failing to produce the global citizens our fractured 21st century world so desperately needs.

The educational system is either unaware of or ignores the whole ontology (nature of being) of the human being — body, mind and spirit. The brightest stars who ever graced our planet did not illumine the world through only the output of their cranium. They didn’t abandon rational knowledge, they included and then transcended it to reach higher levels of consciousness. Einstein for example was a cognitive genius and a mystic. To get to grips with education we must have an appreciation of the whole human being, wherein lie all the potentials for multiple intelligences and multiple levels of consciousness. Only an Integral view can achieve this because only Integral leaves nothing out of the equation of the human story with its unfolding and evolving potentials. None of the potentials of human consciousness is excluded. In my own fields of psychology and human consciousness, all current understanding from both the western world and the world of eastern mysticism is brought together. 

Integral embraces all ways of being and living, individually, socially and spiritually in a universe that is seen as evolving, and consciousness with it.  It is embraced in an “AQAL” framework that accounts for all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states and all types of conscious intelligence. Any educational system that does not address all of these is by definition partial and reductionist, failing to address all of the potentials and capabilities of its’ students. Reductionism impedes the transformation of consciousness to higher, more aware, more intelligent, more empathic levels. This is both a scandal for education and a disaster for the wider world. Higher levels of consciousness bring about the evolution of the wisdom and compassion that is vital for the continuance of our complex, interconnected, warring, globalizing planet. 

The integral approach to intelligence

Many teachers are ignorant not only of their students’ intelligence but their own. That’s partly because nobody taught them about multiple lines of intelligence. The western world reveres but one kind of intelligence and that is the cognitive line examined in IQ tests. And yet all of the dozen or so lines of intelligence available to us can not only develop but are intrinsically disposed to evolve to higher levels of consciousness. Emotional intelligence, personal intelligence, social intelligence, musical intelligence, kinesthetic intelligence (bodily awareness as in sport and dance), moral intelligence are just some of the capacities we possess, to some degree of development, all the way up to the most important line of all — spiritual intelligence. That’ll have David Cameron choking on his cornflakes, but it’s true. 

As individuals, we are not and cannot be equally developed in all lines. This is why it is perfectly possible to be brilliant as a thinker in the cognitive line, and hopelessly underdeveloped in social intelligence, incapable of communicating with others effectively; think the ‘Nutty Professor’ or, indeed, any of my old mathematics teachers. Or you could have someone with highly developed social skills, but the morals of an alley cat; think Tony Blair, for example. 

We have known about multiple lines of intelligence since the 1980’s, so why have they never been applied in the education system? The system addresses only one or two of these lines and the rest are left to rot. No wonder so many children are totally disengaged in the classroom. A child with great sporting skills who struggles with mathematics or English will be sent out into the world by an institution which has not only failed to recognize his potential but has made him feel like a failure in life. The system feeds you into its sausage machine and you come out the other end a chipolata, a mere chip off the old block of your unlimited potential. Everyone interested in true education needs to wake up. It’s been out there for years that development means recognizing all of our native potentials in order to evolve into our fullest expression of being. Are we still living in a day and age where schooling is simply about churning out the kind of workers the state needs at a given time? I hate to use the ‘c’ word but the clear empirical proof for multiple lines of intelligence exists. So why are these intelligences not being addressed in the educational system? Can it possibly be ignorance and not conspiracy?

All States

As well as different lines of intelligence, studies evidence different states of consciousness.

There are five, yes five, empirically verified states of consciousness:

  1. The gross, waking state.

  2. The dream, or hypnotic state.

  3. The subtle state of deep, dreamless sleep.

  4. The ever-present witness, or mirror-mind.

  5. The causal state of ever-present unity consciousness, or non-duality.

Our culture denies subtle and causal states by reducing all states of consciousness to the gross, waking state. From birth we are indoctrinated to identify only with the gross, or material body. The gross waking state is, of course, important and teachers would do well to note whether pupils are well nourished or well slept. And as adults we are aware of affective (or emotional) states, and altered states induced naturally through dreams or artificially through alcohol or drugs. But what of all the other states available to us? 

With pitifully few exceptions, the other four states of consciousness and the means of accessing them are utterly ignored by the educational establishment. Not for them the adoption of imagination, fantasy, meditation, movement, metaphor, drama, humour and all the other ways in which we may engage our right brain hemisphere and thereby access more subtle levels of big-picture, intuitive consciousness. The failing educational system restricts learning to a rational, logical, left-brain “what you see is what you get” agenda. Nothing new or creative is encouraged, just the same old regurgitation of the same old facts that do nothing to expand the student’s consciousness. Everything is designed to close consciousness down and with it our hopes of evolved world leaders. Einstein entered many states of consciousness brought about by fantasy, dream analysis and meditative practices to achieve levels of creativity and brilliance that far transcend rational thinking.  Can this neglect of different states of consciousness possibly be the result of ignorance or is it connivance? 

There is so much evidence now for the benefits of meditative states of consciousness: increased creativity; more focus and attention; enhanced problem-solving skills; decreased stress; the development of thinking in multiple perspectives (rather than the black and white, right or wrong, dualistic rational state to which the establishment is in such thrall); not to mention the self-awareness, emotional stability and insight into one’s own, idiosyncratic life purpose that comes with silent, reflective and fantastical practices. Every single human being is of intrinsic value to him or herself and potentially to all others in the universe.  Education could help draw out the individual’s unique life purpose and with it an ascent to a higher consciousness that would benefit the whole planet. Knowledge of life purpose is a knowing that transcends cognitive understanding. This inner knowing is beyond words and concepts to describe it because it comes from the soul level of the individual. In this realm of consciousness lies the pure self, the Self that is primary and prior to social conditioning. Connecting at the level of soul means being able to tune into inner energies or intuitions that have been there all along but have become lost along the way. It’s a re-collection, a re-cognition, a re-connection to your source. From this place you re-call who you truly are, you call it back and with it comes the confidence and motivation to overcome the conditioning that enslaves you to society and its rules and values. The need for such development of potentials applies equally to teachers as pupils. How developed are teachers, in the personal, or ego line of development? Are they sufficiently self-aware to know where they are in relation to their students? Are they able to adopt multiple perspectives in any situation? Do they know the limits of the so-called knowledge they impart? Are they able to change state when the energy in the classroom calls for it? Do they understand that children learn in different ways depending on their visual, auditory and kinesthetic preferences? These skills and more are vital if children are to be in a state that is even receptive to learning. 

Applying the integral approach

It would be so easy to operationalize age-related state changes in the classroom. Just because I’m calling some states of consciousness ‘meditative’ these should not be seen in a dogmatically religious way. We could just as well talk about silent mind, or centering practice or some such term. The important thing is for teachers to introduce the means of shifting consciousness. Such practices might include 5 minutes of centering practice (or creative fantasy for the little ones) at the start of the lesson. Children could have a few minutes (again, length of time contingent upon age) of pranayama or transformational breathing and meditation. A little yoga or qi gong could get their energies flowing. Research by Integral author Willow Dea in the U.S. shows that even teenagers like these practices. Teenagers report that they enjoy feeling relaxed or ‘chilled’ and get more involved in the lessons. They also learn at a faster rate, get ill less often and are generally happier, more focused and more motivated than pupils who have experienced no such meditative training. So it makes sense to teach the teacher about states of consciousness. When the learner’s state is more open and receptive to learning, the teacher’s job is easier and more fulfilling. As well as being aware of lines of intelligence and states of consciousness, teachers should be aware of different types of individual. 

All Types

We are not all motivated or excited by the same things, nor do we see the world in the same ways. Repeated research over decades has provided assessment instruments like Myers-Briggs that evidence this. If you are an introvert, you will trust what goes on inside your own head, and the way you, personally, make sense of the world. Your idea of ‘chilling’ will be to spend some down time alone, doing your own thing. If you're an extravert, you will not trust your own inner maps of reality but will look to the wider society for comparison and confirmation. Your idea of relaxation is to socialize with others, finding out what they have to say about things. The Enneagram is a brilliant tool for understanding ourselves and others as one of 9 primary types. Teachers would understand what sparks passion, anger, fear or disengagement in different individuals if they were aware of types. 

Research shows that we do not all learn in the same way. We have an intrinsic preference for visual, auditory or kinesthetic cues. Do not expect a kinesthetic child to sit on his backside for hours on end admiring your charts (visual) or attending to your lecture (auditory). He will switch off unless you, as a teacher, are astute enough to know this and change his energy state. Knowing personality types means not only knowing which intelligences children will learn through but even more importantly, where their values lie. When children are treated as the individuals that they are, when their own lines of intelligence, talents and values are acknowledged, and their own ways of learning are catered to, they feel included and connected in the inter-subjective space of the classroom.
By focusing on only the IQ of cognitive intelligence, by allowing teachers to languish in ignorance of other intelligences and the effects of states of consciousness on learning and by treating all pupils the same, teaching has become a doctrine and has lost its spirit. How can education (drawing out potential) succeed when the establishment addresses one or two lines of intelligence out of twelve, addresses one state of consciousness out of five, and lumps us all into the same category?

An integral education makes sense of these complexities and more. The next excerpt will address quadrants and stages of consciousness. An understanding of Integral’s AQAL model would not be complete without them. The integral paradigm is being adopted in fields internationally so we now have integral politics, integral medicine, integral economics and integral sustainability and many more besides. The founder of the integral paradigm, the inimitable Ken Wilber (, argues that nowhere is the integral paradigm more needed than in the education of our children, addressing all of their capacities and potentials as whole human beings. Instead of this we have an education system that focuses on a miserly few of these potentials to give a fragmented perspective on what education truly means. If you want global citizens who have had all dimensions of their being addressed in the service of greater understanding and increased global consciousness, you will need to get integral in your teaching.

David Cameron said he wants the school system to support and draw out the potential in every student. As admirable as that may be, let us think about how we can effect not just a change in our education system but a transformation to a higher level of awareness which is marked by the wisdom and compassion of love. Only an integral approach and not political spin will achieve this.  

Educating the Whole Person

Aha! Blowing the Lid off British Education Part 2

We human beings are multi-dimensional creatures, ever-changing prisms of emotions and thoughts and desires. And like snowflakes, no two of us are precisely the same. As Aha! Blowing the Lid off British Education (1) argued, the education system fails to address this uniqueness. It also ignores most of who- we- are. Layers of mind, body and soul are sacrificed at the altar of a strictly cognitive knowhow. All of our interior levels and depths are utterly ignored and so are left untapped. In this way we never get to know who we really are or what we are capable of. This state of affairs can radically transform if enough of us challenge the system. All that is needed is insight into the different ways of being and ways of learning that can tap into all of our human dimensions, all of our potentials of consciousness. An Integral model of education does this by facilitating the waking up and growing up that can  reveal all human potentials. 

Integral uses AQAL. Part 1 of this education series touched on three elements of the five that together comprise the AQAL model. These were all lines (of intelligence), all states (of consciousness) and all types (of individual). Here the other two elements of AQAL are introduced: all quadrants (or ways of looking at the world) and all levels (of consciousness). Accounting for all five dimensions, quadrants, levels, lines, states and types would mean teaching the whole individual, the whole human psyche and spirit. Psychology combines the two concepts of psyche (mind) and logo (spirit). But spirit has become lost. For centuries (ever since Descartes declared that “Cogito ergo sum” – I think therefore I am), the educational establishment has seen fit to educate us solely from the neck up, addressing how and what we think. Thinking, in Western society, represents the pinnacle of all human wisdom. We are just disembodied, empty heads, tabula rasas waiting to be imprinted with scholarly ‘knowledge’ from our teachers. What tosh!

For knowledge, add something every day. For wisdom…subtract

A mounting body of research evidences the key role of ways of knowing (or epistemologies if you want the fancy word) that lie beyond the brain. These include embodied, intuitive and spiritual ways of apprehending the world; ways that open the gates to states of creativity, peace, happiness, bliss. The failure to address all ways of knowing ensures that teaching can never transform students. It keeps them stuck at conformity thinking and no expansion of their knowledge base is capable of propelling them to the higher, more aware levels of consciousness that alone can solve the problems of this threatened planet. As Einstein explained, you cannot solve problems using the same level of mind that created those problems in the first place. You must transcend the thinking mind. Were the student, whether adult or child, to be addressed Integrally, the whole fabric of traditional education would unravel. But then who would teach them Integrally, i.e. at the level of body, mind, soul and spirit, catering for all types of individuals with multiple intelligences and multiple states of consciousness? Current teachers? I don’t think so. They’re just as brainwashed as the rest of society. 

It’s time for teachers, parents and students to wake up to the veritable con that is the educational establishment. Current teaching defiles and degrades the multi-faceted richness of who and what we are. It is a choice whether to collude in the system or to work to transform it. Transformation at all levels of the system is the aim of the Integral approach. Teachers would become familiar with all quadrants and all levels of consciousness and understand how this knowledge can be used in the classroom in service of the potential of each unique student. 

All Quadrants

Take any event: any person, any institution, any doctrine, any situation, any system, any experience, any anything and look at it in four ways. Examine it through four different windows using the tools that are appropriate for that window. If you don’t look through all four windows, or quadrants, you will not get the full picture of anything.

In education, how we know what we think we know depends on which of the four windows we are looking through. Each is distinct, meaning that no one window can be collapsed into another, and each reveals a different facet of education. 

4 Quadrant Diagram 


The two windows on the left of the 4 Quadrant diagram address ‘interior’ facets of reality and the two on the right address exterior, or objectively verifiable ways of knowing. The four windows comprise:

  1. The interior of the individual - the upper left (UL) way of knowing.

  2. The interior of the collective - the lower left (LL) way of knowing.

  3. The exterior of the individual - the upper right (UR) way of knowing.

  4. The exterior of the collective - the lower right (LR) way of knowing.

These four dimensions are represented by four basic pronouns: “I”, “we”, “it”, and “its.” Each pronoun represents one of the domains in the quadrant model: “I” corresponds to the Upper Left (UL), “We” to the Lower Left (LL), “It” to the Upper Right (UR), and “Its” to the Lower Right (LR). 

(Please stay with me here. I know it sounds complicated but as you become more familiar with AQAL it will transform your thinking about yourself and the world and not just the world of education. What seemed before like a disparate mountain of unrelated knowledge will begin to slot into a structure that shows how all the pieces of the human puzzle fit together). 

Each one of us looks at the world from two ‘orienting’ quadrants (one primary and one secondary.) These native perspectives influence how we make sense of the world, how we perceive and interpret our relationship with nature, with one another, and with ourselves. These worldviews stem from those quadrants from which we primarily orient: personal (UL), cultural (LL), behavioral (UR), or systemic (LR).

Teachers would do well to become familiar with their own orienting quadrants, otherwise they will unwittingly impose these worldviews on students, many of whom will see things completely differently. As you read through the following descriptions of the four quadrants, you might like to reflect on your own biases. All you need is to be kind, non-judgmental and objective about yourself – yes, that’s all!

1. The UL: Interior of the Individual. The “I” Quadrant

Some researchers are interested in the ‘I’ space of the interior, lived experience of the individual. My own phenomenological study called for participants to describe their “Aha” moments of insight from this personal experiential perspective. 

We now appreciate that some people have a worldview that is heavily dependent on the UL perspective. They look out onto the world with a view to making personal meaning of it. Meaning is central to their whole existence. (This is the case with all of us to some degree but with ULs it is more pronounced). They tend to trust their own way of making sense of the world, based on their own experiences, so they rely on their own subjective truth. Desires, motivations and actions follow from what holds meaning and value for them. This means that before engaging with a group or learning anything new, or getting into any kind of action, UL people will ask themselves “Is this meaningful to me?” They see everything from a place of my views, feelings and thoughts, my personal meanings and internal experiences, what deeply matters to me. When they look at the LL (cultural or inter-subjective quadrant) they engage only when they have answered the question: What would be the meaning of getting involved with these people? When they look at the UR of action, they ask “Would taking this action chime with my values?”

As a primarily UL myself, perhaps this is why I never cared about the value of ‘x’ in algebra, or the hypotenuse in geometry because, out of any meaningful context, these things made no sense to me, held no significance whatsoever. 

Teachers can cater for UL students by allowing time for personal, reflective practices and by providing meaning and context in the pursuit of learning.

2. The LL: Interior of the Collective. The “We” Quadrant

The “we” quadrant reveals the inter-subjective nature of worldviews and the shared values of any group or culture. Those who make sense of the world primarily from the LL perspective cleave to the consensus of the group in the interests of social cohesion. They accommodate those ideas and beliefs that they feel they should hold to be in harmony with the group. Belonging to the group means taking a moral stance for mutual understanding and a sense of shared group values. These values centre around community and belonging, rituals, traditions, spoken or implicit ‘rules’, and sensitivity to the group’s needs. So they would ask themselves “What are my own values, goals and priorities based on those of my group” and “How can I best contribute to the group/culture/collective?”

There would not be much point in a teacher giving LLs personal reflective practices for example – they will want to discuss such actions with peers first and decide from there.

3. The UR: Exterior of the Individual: The “It” Quadrant

Now the “I” which was subject in the UL becomes an object in the UR. This is the “it” quadrant of traditional science.  The UR window yields scientific, objective data about the individual. 

People whose orientation to life is mainly linked to the UR have an empirical, experimental approach to life, a ‘suck it and see’ attitude. They like to indulge in observable actions. They would interpret the UL as ‘what do I need to do to deepen my awareness? They see and relate to everything from a place of words, deeds, actions and results. Their philosophy is “What do I need to do to improve my awareness/knowledge because once I try it, I’ll know if it works”. The taking of action allows them to derive meaning in their lives. 

So reflective practices in the absence of action and tangible results would frustrate URs.

4. The LR: Exterior of the Collective: The “Its” Quadrant

The “Its” quadrant is again objectively measurable but this time through the lens of the inter-objectivity of the system, or the infrastructure from a 3rd person perspective. This would include the study of both man-made structures like educational structures as well as natural environments. This scientific approach concerns itself with systems and processes, investigating how things work and why they work. 

Those who approach life from an “its” quadrant are concerned with how they fit into the structure of their team, organization, institution or whatever. They want to know how everything works in terms of rules, procedures and systems. They want to know how the group can be facilitated to produce effective collective results. They ask themselves what role they can play to best serve the system. It is through figuring out their role in the system that they will get to know what is important to them. When they find the right functional fit for themselves, they can relax and play their roles. They ask “How do my words and deeds affect the bigger system? My own vision will become clear once I see how it all hangs together”.

These people like books, diagrams and schematics of any kind to understand the big picture.

Understanding and applying this “All Quadrant” part of the AQAL map would produce great empathy. Having identified their own orienting quadrants, teachers could then seek to interpret the world through the eyes of those students who come from radically different orientating quadrants. Teachers would then not be just tangibly looking AT the student’s capabilities but looking AS the student; seeing the world of education through the student’s eyes, the outcome of which can be deep empathy and understanding.      

All Levels

Article 1 in this series on education addressed other aspects of the AQAL framework, including all lines of intelligence. There are considered to be at least 12 major lines of intelligence including cognitive intelligence, self-identity (or ego) development, emotional savvy and the most important of all – spiritual intelligence. It is now beyond doubt that these multiple intelligences undergo stages or levels of development as we evolve throughout the lifespan. 

This knowledge seems to have escaped the notice of the educational system. Accepted academic wisdom would have us believe that we have pretty much completed our developmental potentials by the time we’re around 21 years of age. Teachers since the 1970’s have been indoctrinated by the theories of Piaget (subsequent theories have also been influential but his are still seminal). Piaget devised a model of child development that portrayed a developmental climax at the ‘formal operational’ stage of thinking (such touchy feely language, eh? - completely meaningless to a UL like me). While younger children (7-11 years) tend to think very concretely and specifically (the ‘concrete operational’ stage), the ability to think about abstract concepts emerges during this formal operational stage. Instead of relying solely on previous experiences, children begin to consider possible consequences of actions. This is the kind of thinking that contributes to long-term planning. And that’s usually where it ends as far as the educational establishment is concerned. We are deemed to be fully developed humans when we can think, be logical and plan ahead. And so, of course, stay in our heads, usually worrying about the next exams to pass or the job to find to pay off the student loan for the lousy education. 

If experiencing “Aha” moments is how we wake up, transcending and including each level on the ladder of consciousness is how we grow up. Only the briefest overview of levels of consciousness is given here since further articles will explore this element of the AQAL paradigm in much greater detail. 

Potentials of Consciousness

It is so helpful to understand that individuals are at different stages or levels of consciousness. Stages are fluid and have the capacity to unfold across a spectrum of consciousness ranging in hierarchical order from matter to body to mind to soul to spirit. Each stage of development becomes a whole new way of looking at the world but it also includes those stages that went before it. Note that the spectrum of potentials of consciousness does not stop at mind!

Development also proceeds (unevenly) in each of our multiple lines of intelligence. Let’s take two examples: the cognitive line and the ego line (of personal self-identity). The cognitive line is necessary but not sufficient for all of the potentials of consciousness to be realized. It is necessary quite simply because we have to be able to think of something before we can comprehend it or take action based on it. It has to first be in our awareness. But cognitive development is not sufficient for the unfolding of all inherent potentials of consciousness. Lack of self-awareness in the ego line causes a contraction of self-identity, causing the person to be run by the shadow in habitual and unconscious pattern of reactions.

As mentioned earlier, cognitive development goes from concrete operational thinking (where children can only grasp what is materially in their environment) to formal operational thinking (where they can conceptualize ideas/ events/ phenomena not in their midst). In Integral terms, these are all 1st tier levels of cognitive consciousness. That’s where the story ends for most individuals in the Western world – stuck at the level of formal operational thinking, with its emphasis on rationality. So we move from being pre-rational from birth to around age 7, and then we ascend to the throne of rationality, forever to reign over us. And there the story ends. But a false cap has been placed on consciousness which in fact possesses an inherent impulse to evolve. Education should not only develop cognitive capacities but transform them to 2nd tier levels. 

Meta-awareness is the context in which the mind transcends to 2nd tier levels. Learning to take a meta-view of any situation objectifies it and allows us to manipulate it. This is because when we stand back from the situation and see it from a third-person perspective we are no longer identified with it. It is now seen as an “it” that is not part of ‘me’. We live in such a cognitive culture that we mistake what we think for who we are. We identify so closely with the thoughts in our heads that we believe we are those thoughts. Nothing could be further from the truth but we can only see this mistaken identity when we achieve post-rational, or 2nd tier cognitive capacities. 2nd tier thinking represents a transformational watershed beyond Piaget’s formal operational thinking.

2nd tier thinking transcends rationality. It is marked by the mind that can reconcile either/or opposites to arrive at a unified thinking. It stops thinking in either/ or terms to embrace notions of both/ and in any situation. The 2nd tier thinker has developed a whole new toolkit: the capacity to tolerate paradox and uncertainty without feeling insecure; the ability to withhold premature conclusions; the capacity for meta-thinking, i.e. thinking about thinking; and the ability to take multiple perspectives on any person/ event/ idea/ phenomenon. The outcome is an evolution to post-rational modes of thinking where we actually think for ourselves instead of slavishly following convention. 

In the ego, or self-identity line of development we develop from pre-egoic (where we have no real sense of ourselves as powerful individuals) to egoic where we have a story about who we are. People’s stories are mainly critical and self-sabotaging. But when a strong sense of self and life purpose develops, all this changes. The ego transcends to 2nd tier, post-egoic levels. These are described as trans-personal as we realize that our identity is not confined to our stories about who we are as separate human beings. A self-sense begins to expand beyond the personal, the “skin encapsulated ego", to encompass aspects, or even the whole, of humankind, life, the internal and external universe, and consciousness itself. In Integral terms, more and more of the self can be understood from a meta-perspective and in this way can be accepted and included in the whole spiral of ascending consciousness. 

Why 2nd Tier Levels of Consciousness are so Important

Our world stands at a dangerous crossroads that only a shift in consciousness can avert. Ascending the spectrum of consciousness to post-rational, post-conventional and post-egoic levels has been shown to correlate with a world-centric level of consciousness. As the spiral is ascended, worldviews become more accommodating and less reactive, with enhanced compassion and tolerance for self, the wider community and the whole world, culminating in care and compassion for the whole of creation. This is why encouraging not just the development but the transformation of students’ consciousness is so crucial. But it won’t happen when teachers themselves are ignorant of all the ways of knowing that are available to us and all the levels of consciousness that we may transcend and include. They’re too busy filling up our rational left-brain hemisphere and ignoring every other potential of consciousness.