Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Sermon [Stages of Moral Development]

¡Hola! Everybody... I had a great day yesterday again with close friends. We ate brunch and then walked around Lower Manhattan, hitting a few cafes. I laughed so much, my face hurts today... LOL I is good and a blessing to be with people you love and love you unconditionally and trust implicitly.

Hope everybody has had a great weekend!

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-=[ Stages of Development ]=-

“One can have a great degree of realization, very authentic, very deep, but not actually be or express that realization in one’s humanness. You can have great realization but a rotten embodiment.”

-- Adyashanti

Going to watch the excellent biopic, Milk, and listening to people who otherwise consider themselves compassionate religious individuals, made me think about the development of moral reasoning and how that development (or lack thereof) affects how we worship, how we love, and how we come to view and create our world. I follow a spiritual path that is not exclusive of psychological development. In fact, I don’t see a separation between psychological and spiritual development.

My perspective is that psychology and spirituality address a continuum of human development. One can have spiritual development at the expense of psychological growth and vice-versa. I see the development of human potential as a psycho-spiritual endeavor. That’s why I enjoy A Course in Miracles so much because I feel that that’s what Christianity would look like without the entrenched dogma.

I’ve been listening to quite a few Christians who use their dogma to adopt bigoted and intolerant attitudes against our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. The question begging to be asked is how could people who claim to embrace a religion based on compassion and tolerance be so intolerant to a group of human beings, in the process actively working to deny that group the human dignity of the same freedoms they enjoy.

I have asked that question many times and I think I know the answer. The answer lies in that many so-called religious people are stuck on a level of moral reasoning that’s not very evolved. They may know scripture and I don’t doubt their commitment to their religious beliefs, or that that they are good people, but I believe their psychological development has been arrested somewhere along the way.

We stand at the cusp of a major human evolutionary period. I think we will make leaps into the vast human potential or kill ourselves. There’s no turning back.

Abraham Maslow was one the first to investigate these higher stages of human potential. He found that in addition to the basic human needs -- physiological needs, safety needs, belonging needs, and self-esteem needs -- there are higher stages of self-actualization and self-transcendence needs. He called these latter stages, being needs, in contrast to deficiency needs. These higher stages represent an inherent potential all human beings possess, although not everyone lives up to them.

Before Maslow, Lawrence Kolhberg came up with stages of moral reasoning, which Carol Gilligan would later expand upon. (And this is the core of my position today, so pay close attention. LOL!) In her book, In a Different Voice, Gilligan outlined four major stages of female moral development, which she called selfish, care, universal care, and integrated. Another way of articulating these stages might be egocentric -- I care only for myself; ethnocentric -- I care only for my tribe, my country, my nation; worldcentric -- I care for all human beings, regardless of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, or creed; and finally what can be called kosmocentric -- where I integrate the masculine and feminine in myself, and, I would add, extend care to all sentient beings without exception.

Like all development, the evolution from egocentric to ethnocentric top worldcentric to kosmocentric is a movement of increasing consciousness, adopting and building on the previous stages. What the human potential movement has discovered is that this embrace goes all the way to infinity. The farther reaches of human nature people find themselves being one with a Ground of Being, one with Sprit, one with infinity, a radiant riot of the all-encompassing -- whatever you want to call it.

My point is that your can have powerful states of consciousness -- a powerful feeling of unity with Jesus Christ, for example. However, this is the thing states are temporary while stages of development are permanent. So you can have powerful altered states of consciousness or peak experiences and still not manage to grow or change. I think we’ve all experienced peak experiences of some type. I described several in my recent posts on recovery.

I learned personally that states alone don’t work. If you’re at an ethnocentric developmental stage, then having a peak experience will only make you more ethnocentric. Not a good thing.

The common example is that if you’re at an ethnocentric stage of development and you have peak experiences of being one with everything, you might interpret that as an experience of oneness with Jesus and therefore conclude that nobody can be saved unless they accept Jesus as their personal savior. In other words, a peak spiritual experience for an ethnocentric Christian will be interpreted as having to belong to this group in order to be saved. To further elaborate, if you’re at an egocentric stage of development and have the same experience, you might interpret that as a belief that you are Jesus Christ. Using the same reasoning, if you are at a kosmocentric or integral stage and have that same spiritual peak experience, you will likely conclude that you and all sentient beings without exception are one with Spirit in the eternal here and now.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

If you’re truly committed to the core tenets of your spiritual path, then you’re evolving and expanding to include all beings within your heart of hearts. In this world, dogma falls to the wayside and Love -- big “L” love -- takes precedence over your need to belong to an exclusive club.

How does love manifest itself in the life of someone at an egocentric stage of development versus someone who’s at the worldcentric level? How do different levels or stages of moral reasoning affect relationships?

What I see are too many Christians and people in general stuck in their ethnocentric cocoons. I refuse to believe that such a highly realized being as Jesus would have been as intolerant and unyielding... The greatest danger we face today is not from terrorists, it is from the fundamentalist mindset that sits rigid and immobile at the center of a reality whose nature is essentially always changing. Wake up people!



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