Warning: The following narrative is psychoactive. It has been designed to disclose what is already here. If it discloses more than that, the reader is encouraged to ignore the excess. The author takes full responsibility for the consequences of this narrative. Nonetheless the reader will find things different after this reading and who is really responsible won’t be of interest then.
Old Man On The Mountain, what am I to do about this ILR piece? “Write it.” What am I saying? “That it is required of the times that we learn to live in our already here 2nd Tier Being.”
There is a level of human development that our shared literature calls 2nd Tier. Humanity has created problems with lst Tier thinking that requires 2nd Tier thinking to resolve. The world needs the leadership from 2nd Tier thinkers or the problems will end humanity. There is some number of people, and I believe that number is surprisingly large, who have 2nd Tier capacity and do not know it. This is a dangerous loss of contribution to human welfare. This problem can be solved. The following is one perspective that can reveal their nature to unacknowledged 2nd Tier thinkers and thereby liberate their capacity to resolve the threats of our times.
Enlightenment Is Us
Many of us have been inspired by the notion of, and presumed embodiment of, Enlightenment. I was led by the promise of this all-resolving possibility for decades. One day I began to look around. My Guru was reported to have been unethical. Other similar leaders spent money lavishly for their own pleasure. I noted that monasteries, nunneries, and isolated caves have been populated for centuries by serious seekers of Enlightenment and there was no steady stream of leaders emerging from these practices and offering solutions to the suffering that continued to emerge. I have practiced my yamas and nyamas, done my postures, did the Gayatri Mantra 175,000 times, gave a shot at speaking to God on Bear Butte, and sat in meditation for decades. I’ve never had any unusual experience and certainly don’t look, act, or feel like the Buddha. Had I been misled? Was there really no final answer, no final view from the Mountain Top that made sense of all and revealed the balm for suffering here on our big rock? Is Enlightenment simply a mirage?
Well, in the true integral spirit, the answer with me at this point is, “Yes and no.” Yes, I was at least wrong in my understanding of what Enlightenment is, and probably so were many who were pointing down the path to where I should find it. What I thought Enlightenment would be was an error. And, no, Enlightenment, understood in the proper way, is not a mirage. It is what is present for many of us much of the time, and it does provide the next plateau from which we can resolve the problems we created on the way to this plateau.
The classic practices for bringing consciousness to a breakthrough into Enlightenment are extremely rigorous, demanding, and very much outside of normal every day behavior. These practices entail a huge amount of intellectual learning, e.g., philosophy, history, memorizing, designing. They require impeccability applied to life practices, e.g. yamas, nyamas, pujas, asanas, forms, whirling, diet ,breathing, non-attachment. They require complex visualization, quieting of the “monkey mind”, and steady, prolonged concentration. At the time these practices were developed and codified the life conditions were harsh, with food and shelter concerns demanding most of one’s attention, modest medical services available, charity required to support the practitioner, and few similar people around to share in one’s efforts towards Moksha. Life conditions today are quite different.
Professor Merlin Donald, the progenitor of Cognitive Archeology, posits that humans have evolved into a 4th level of “cognitive representation”. His thoughts are further confirmed by the work of Professor Michael Tomasello as he reports on the development of communication. Donald writes in academic circles and probably would not get the serious appreciation there that he has if he called these “4 levels of Being”. But that is in fact what they are, 4 holonic levels of knowing-being-acting, summed up in one existential notion, Being.
Donald’s first level is Immersion. This is preverbal, pregestural, what we usually attribute to other animals. It is a knowing that emerges from context. For humans it is retained as the knowing that permits us to ride a bicycle, or to chew, or to catch our balance…all things we know when we need to know them. Think how a dog knows how to catch the Frisbee, but only when the Frisbee is in the air, and not when the cat scurries by.
The second level is Mimetic, or miming. Gestures and simple noises emerge here along with the minimal distance between self and other. This capacity emerges in many non-human animals, as mating displays, screeches, facial expressions. Humans retain this in their facial expressions, body language, short expressive sounds, e.g., ugh, huh, ouch, etc., and, as I think about it, mating displays. The patterns of communication that developed as gestures, ramified and organized, laid the groundwork that would evolve as grammar and syntax in verbal communication.
The third level is Narrative. With the eruption of language in humans a huge new range of Being emerged. Now one’s Being was enchanted by and seduced into story. This is where most humans exist at this time, immersed in story, e.g. “I am x years old.” “You live in y city.” “The world is a scary place.”etc.
Relatively recently the forth level of Being has emerged, Objectivity. Objectivity is the capacity to think and feel about one’s thoughts and feelings, e.g. “I don’t think that feeling served me very well.” “I feel really bad about what I said to him.”
In the Enlightenment practices I mentioned above, several ends can be seen to be accomplished. The extensive intellectual learning grows neurons and develops complexity. The practices distinguish behaviors and thereby develop Objectivity, and add to cognitive complexity. Meditation frees one from Narrative and stabilizes Objectivity. Nonattachment further contributes to Objectivity. This was the path to grow ones brain when these practices were originated.
Life conditions today are significantly different. Post Guttenberg, the growth of knowledge repositories outside the human brain have proliferated and become commonplace for almost all humans. Where once knowledge was stored inside, in the heart-brain complex, within oneself, now knowledge was off loaded to a medium outside the heart-brain and self. This distancing of knowledge from the knower created a context inside of which one is born, i.e., there is a naturally formed distinction between the knower and what is known. Objectivity is now engendered by life conditions not only by serious, specially designed, practices.
Today’s life conditions include the pervasiveness of media. In times past a person would grow up in one village, in one family, in one climate, in one time in history, and hear only limited information from beyond their natural boundaries. Today children’s heart-brains are visited with images, sounds, and verbiage from different cultures as soon as they can sit in front of a media screen. Many of us have experience in serial families. Many of our friends, and our friends’ friends, are from different cultures. As we grow we are impacted with information about cities, villages, families, cultures, earlier and future times, personalities, histories, materials, events, and on, and on. Our minds are filled at one moment with images of the luxury of the rich and famous, and the next moment with images of bodies charred in battle an hour ago. Our media and life conditions today grow much more complex heart-brains, much earlier, than was possible when enlightenment practices were codified.
And let me take one long step into possibility. Imagine this discipline: One sits in front of a media screen for 3-5 hours every day, moving very little, having all visual, aural, and cognitive capacities focused on one little sound source, and a riggedly boundaried visual source. If you asked someone to do that on purpose, you would have every right to expect at least a latent capacity to focus and concentrate would be established. The capacity to focus and concentrate that took decades to develop in past ages, now is engineered, at least as a capacity, into almost all people in developed countries. Geesh…look, you’ve read this far and will likely keep focused here to the end. You and I can take that previously undistinguished power of concentration and with a little practice have the skill that following Patanjali in earlier times would have taken decades to develop.
In sum, today’s life conditions do for a huge number of us what rigorous discipline was necessary for in earlier times, and it happens so naturally, we don’t even notice it. Couple this with an erroneous notion of what enlightenment is and we see that there actually could be many enlightened beings among us undistinguished by us or these beings. If this is so, we have a huge resource of leadership right in our midst and all that is necessary to “claim it” is to “name it”. But if this is so we must correct our definition of enlightenment, and reveal the Beings who do have the capacities to lead us to the resolution of the problems of our times.
I propose that 2nd Tier Being is Enlightenment. I further propose that many of us enact 2nd Tier Being and do not know it. First let me address the state-level problem. Enlightenment has always been presented to me as a huge significant event, after which you are Enlightened, your personal work is done, and what is left is to help others over the wall. Maybe it works that way somewhere, and maybe I just learned it wrong. In any case, Enlightenment as I have come to know it is not a secure Level. It is not that once we get there we are always there. Also it is not an ephemeral state, here now, and now gone. Once this level of Being has been enacted, mind has the sanskara for Enlightenment, it has the impression and next time it emerges easier. So it has some qualities of a Level, i.e., it is developmental, it is emergent, it changes one forever. And it has some qualities of a State, i.e. it comes, and it goes. Dare we call it a Stevel? Or a Late? Let’s let history determine that. For now, Enlightenment is a way of Being that is a huge change from before, and sometimes it is present and sometimes it is not.
Clare Graves discovered that Objectivity does not exist for humans until the emergence of the Orange vMeme. Escape from The Truth discovered in the Blue vMeme co-emerges with the capacity to think about what one thinks is True. There is very little Objectivity at this level, only sufficient to break away from the shackles of The Truth. With the emergence of the Green vMeme Objectivity has expanded to recognize that others have thinking capacity “just like I do.” Others, too, can have original thoughts and feelings. This trajectory, if not the exact levels, can be found in many other developmental models.
As the human develops, cognitive complexity also increases. But it does not increase linearly. Each new level of complexity is a bigger-bigger than the previous one. Consider what this means. If we stay with the Spiral Dynamics integral model, Beige is pretty simple cognition. Purple is more complex than Beige. Red more so than Purple. Red to Blue increase even more. Blue to Orange an even bigger-bigger. Orange to Green…wow, a huge increase in complexity. And Green to 2nd Tier… The point is, for Being to emerge in 2nd Tier cognitive complexity is at a level that has no comparison in earlier levels. This is truly a HUGE change in capacity for humans. So we should expect that something is quite different when 2nd Tier Being is enacted. What would that be?
In a class I taught at UW-Madison in 2010, “Multi-Perspectival Thinking: Operating with All Windows Open” 10 adult learners, 7 with extensive background in Integral Studies, set out to guide ourselves into 2nd Tier Being. By the 8th of 10 weekly classes we had enacted what we determined was 2nd Tier Being. The following two sessions we continued to emerge this 2nd Tier experience and did our best to articulate what were the signature measures of this way of Being. Following is my characterization of what we concluded.
We found two distinguishable Lates or Stevels of 2nd Tier Being. We were working off of the Spiral Dynamics integral vMeme model, and named the first of these, Yellow, the second, Turquoise. With Yellow we distinguished 6 measures. If any of these were absent Yellow Being was not present, and with the return of the absent measure, Yellow returned.
One – Fearlessness
There can be no fear present. Fear activates the amygdala leading to constriction of the heart-brain functions. Fear is a welcome response to prevent one from being eaten by the lion. But it also reduces the heart-brain capacity, all of which is necessary to emerge the very complex cognition necessary to emerge 2nd Tier. The presence of fear also requires something to be fearful about. This something fearful must be a threat to someone. As you will see later we found that no one was home at Yellow, so no one was present to be threatened. Logically, as well as phenomenologically, fear must be absent.
Two – Radical Objectivity
This is the capacity to give up, or take on, absolutely any perspective. What is a perspective? Life is an unbroken, unitary, flow of change. Cognitions are abstractions created by bracketing this flow. Any review of the “what is” or any subset of the “what is” is a bracketed cognition. The technical term for a bracketed cognition is a “chunk” or “event space”. The choice of term is based on whether the writer is speaking from a perspective entailing Descarte’s isolated self (chunk), or Heidegger’s self-in-relationship (event space), and more on that later. We chunk reality in order to study, analyze, or simply distinguish it. Any chunk has two kinds of information entailed in it, i.e. Structural Information and Process Information.
The Structural Information Set (SI Set) is all that is implicit, assumed, common ground. In a business the SI set could include the mission, history, business plan, cultural values, ethical standards, etc. In a dyad the SI Set could include the intent to ask, inform, share, or express (Tomasello); shared goals, shared attention, biases, assumptions beliefs, metaphors, etc. It is the SI Set in any chunk or event space that gives meaning to explicit information.
The Process Information Set (PI Set) is all that is explicit, communicated about. In a business the PI Set would be the widgets, desks, buildings, vendors, etc. In a dyad the PI Set will include details regarding whatever the shared matter of interest is.
Perspectives are chunks (pertaining to individuals) and event spaces (pertaining to 2 or more people in conversations). So any perspective has both an SI Set and a PI set. The contents of the SI Set determine the boundaries or brackets of the perspective. Some bracketing is determined by genetics, e.g. face recognition. Other bracketing is created, either by social transmission, inspiration, or an independent creative act.
An intentionally created perspective entails assembling a selected SI Set, and then indwelling of that SI Set, in order to expose the SI Set-specific meaning in the matter of interest. All the submissions to ILR are perspectives, i.e. assemblies of SI Sets and the explication of what meaning that exposes re the focal topic, the PI set. “Indwelling” can be accomplished by suspending disbelief regarding the SI Set and thus “pretending” or holding the perspective “as if” it were real. It is my intent with this paper to create an SI Set with these measures of 2nd Tier Being, that when indwelled by those with sufficient capacity, the meaning of their capacity is revealed as 2nd Tier Being.
Second Tier Being has the capacity to assemble any SI set, or accept any SI Set, and indwell this SI Set, and also to give up any perspective that emerges in one’s Being. (Think, the Bodhisattva who comes off the wall and back into the world.) This is unhindered Multi-Perspectival Thinking (MPT). MPT is the taking on of differing SI Sets, and is probably available to all humans. However, MPT is not recognized by the person until Objectivity emerges. Thus, a Blue thinker will presume that all thinkers are Blue, Red that all are Red, etc. Orange thinking entails the first emergence of Objectivity and thus early and limited intentional MPT. Green entails a wider range of intentional MPT. MPT is fully emergent, and a core skill and capacity in 2nd Tier Being.
As an aside: It is the problems of rampant MPT in our current times that drew forth Wilber’s AQAL, Grave’s and other developmental models, and other matrices for ordering the multiple perspectives 2nd Tier Being makes available.
Three – Transegoic
Ego, the objectifiable self, is seen as one of all perspectives one can enact. Ego is a heart-brain function, not the identity of the one who notices ego. Yoga Psychology calls this function of mind Ahamkara, “I marking”, indicating that it is a mind form having self-identity attached to it. The one who notices is the perennial undefinable. Some call it witness, Atman, Ground of Being, etc. It is that non-objectifiable viewpoint we cannot turn around and see. As such this witness is non-local.
Some schools of thought consider this witness capacity to be eternal, even God individualized. From another perspective this capacity could emerge from the prefrontal lobe executive function taken to its most mature expression. This executive function matures at Orange sufficient to emerge Objectivity. It is the function that matures further and emerges intentional MPT. As with all sanskaras, or impressions on mind, the more often MPT is intentionally enacted the stronger and more stable becomes the witness.
Four – Unitary Epistomology
There is a term in English science fiction writing, “Grok”. Groking is the experience of “getting it all at once. Some call this Volumetric Knowing: emphasizing the spacial dimension, this knowing seems to emerge in. Wilber’s Centauric Knowing seems to apply here. If you have studied something for some time and then all at once you get it, that experience of it all showing up at once, is “groking”. More is known in this kind of cognition than can be linearly spoken. So one sits inside one’s knowing and reports as best as verbiage allows. The common and useful idiom among “Integrals” for describing what is learned in this cognitive space is Systems Theory. Systems Theory thinking is not in itself 2nd Tier thinking. Systems Theory thinking must serve to translate 2nd Tier cognition in order to be 2nd Tier thinking.
Five – Attunment
When in 2nd Tier Being one can “feel” the nature of what is being attended to. Alice Treadway, an old woman living on the shores of Lake Superior and lacking any knowledge of the integral idiom, brought this capacity out in me as “learning to read the valences” of what is focused on. Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras instruct in developing this capacity. It appears that just what information is revealed through attunement depends on the peculiar nature of each person. When Attunement is enacted, knowledge seems to have two kinds of translations: Some report what they sense in a usual narrative word selection; others report energies they feel, more qualitative reports.
Six – Highly Cemplex Cognition
This is a general category that includes much of the other five, but has been included here to emphasize the expanse of time and space that 2nd Tier Beings are both damned and blessed with. Second Tier Being can see at least the whole planet, feels the suffering and the vibrancy across large expanses, sees/feels the huge expanse of time past and future as it pertains to life’s unfolding, and sees a countless array of connections throughout it all.
Descarte and Heidegger
Pertaining to vMemes, and applicable to other Level Models, in many contexts I and others have found it difficult to distinguish confidently what Level a person is Being at. This is a problem anchored in human nature. Individual differences, when looking at a person as a solo, isolated individual are infinite. The limits on levels, lines, capacities, vMemes and other measures are minimal when a person is operating outside of constraining contexts. The notion of an isolated individual is consistent with an SI Set that includes the thinking of Aristotle and Descartes, which is the natural affliction for Western cultures at least. Aristotle made a name for himself distinguishing and categorizing identifiables. Descartes, with his “I think, therefore I am.” isolated the self in the mind.
So we naturally look for individual identity and, when applied to people, we expect to find that factor x that IS who the person is. A great deal of knowledge and possibility is opened in this perspective. And it studies its subject within a context that has too few constraints to require the individual to be always stable at hardly any mode of measurement. Thus, yes, it will be hard to determine what Level a person is at. They might be at one level this moment and another level the next, and they might be so fluid and unstablized that the level of interest simply is not present at the time of inquiry. So lst Tier Being, or 2nd Tier Being, as an intrinsic element will always be difficult to distinguish.
If one removes the Cartesian assumption from their SI Set, and replaces it with Heidegger’s assumption, we have quite a different outcome. Heidegger would not accept a philosophy that anchored human nature inside some isolated being. The angst, loneliness, and unreachable essence this offered left him unsatisfied. The antidote to this dilemma was to assert that self only shows up in relationship. Humans are whom their relationship has the capacity to reveal them as. From the works of Tomasello, the mirror neuron literature, and Advaita philosophy at least, we learn that we are non-separate. There are ways in which we are created, defined, and understood, by who we are in relationship with.
In human communication this domain of relatedness is distinguished as an Intersubjective Event Space (IES). In order for shared meaning to occur in an IES, there must be salient SI elements shared by each party. There must be, as a short list, shared intention, attention, metaphors, language structure, history, biases, assumptions, and levels of Being. These constraints will be different for differing IES’s, and each IES we can call a “conversation”. With the restraints required to assure successful conversations we have the limitations that can produce enduring, and repeatable, levels of Being. The infinity of individual differences is greatly reduced into these elements necessary to ensure communication. Further, we understand that an individual can show up as, say, Red, Blue, etc., depending on what the conversation of interest requires in order to have congruent vMemes. One might be in a Blue conversation with their CPA, an Orange conversation with their Marketing Manager, a Green conversation with their NGO partners, and a 2nd Tier conversation with their friends designing a global currency.
What we found in the UW-Madison class was that we became aware of unintentional 2nd Tier conversations at times in our families of origin, and small groups of close friends. We also found that intentionally enacting Yellow together was much easier to maintain and emerge than when we were by ourselves. We discovered the value of Sangha. If I were to enact Yellow and learn how to be in this new space, I needed to have others around me who could do the same. And in this space, because humans are communicators and will naturally find common ground, we were able to maintain Yellow for as long as we wished, and learn over time what was different about this new level of Being.
As a footnote, there were several rare instances where something new emerged. We suddenly noticed that our speaking had begun to move more fluidly around the room with all parties clearly speaking to the topic of concern and new learning emerging, all as if from one mind with multiple mouths. We distinguished this emergent phenomenon as Turquoise. We did not emerge this often and could not do it intentionally. The elements of Yellow remained, and something new that seemed like one mind came into Being. More investigation is needed here, and the path has been laid out to do so, i.e. collect in a band of 2nd Tier Beings.
Freedom and Responsibility
When all six conditions are present, Second Tier Being is present. When looking at the SDi growth trajectory, as well as that of many other developmental models, development in First Tier Being seems to be well established across times and cultures. The First Tier Being trajectory may be genetically set and at least it is transmitted socially in an invariable pattern. There is no reason I can find that growth beyond First Tier has been so pre-determined. Many mystic schools have mapped out territory that seems to be post First Tier. We could all enter these disciplines and learn what they have found and created. But for most reading this I suspect those paths have not earned our complete devotion. We are, for whatever our personal reasons, forging something new that shares in some allegiance to the notion “Integral”.
As we proceed we do appear to be discovering what it is like in 2nd Tier. Maybe things are emerging from the fields established by earlier travelers. Certainly some measures from the mystic literatures can be accepted or reshaped to elucidate our 2nd Tier experience. But just as true is that we are in virgin territory. Besides discovering who we are; we are creating who we are. We are the “discoverators” of 2nd Tier Being for our time. There has never been access to Sangha as easily and in as large numbers as our times permit. The essentials for capacity building are wide spread. Context is begging for what is next. These are extremely powerful times. 2nd Tier is here.
We used to criticize others and one day someone gave us the distinction, “projection”, and suddenly we had a new freedom to, or not to, create impact with your speaking. Before we knew “ego” we had no freedom to step aside of ego. After we learned what a line, level, quadrant, etc. were we had new freedoms to understand and act. Indian Philosophy puts Buddhi, the power to distinguish, high on the list of human capacities. If we can name something, we have objectified it, and now we can make use of it, rather than it using us. In simple terms we know this wisdom as “Name it. Claim it.” My efforts here have been to refine the distinction 2nd Tier, to give us an operational definition that can be used to guide us into recognizing, naming, our 2nd Tier Being. Now that 2nd Tier has been named. Claim it. This is Enlightenment. And as it always has been, it hasn’t fixed anything. We have work to do.
Old Man On The Mountain, did I miss anything? “Gratitude.” Thank you.
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About the Author
Tom Christensen is a 65 year old, rock climbing, piano playing, gardening, Realtor, father of 4 and happily partnered curiosity addict. His search for an answer to “What is really going on here?”, has left a trail including a Philosophy B.A., South Asian Studies M.A., and additional graduate studies in Counseling Psychology. At one time the whole island of Alameda CA was his Fuller Brush territory; another he was CEO of a 3D imaging company with international patents; 29 years and counting he has operated his own real estate brokerage and management company. Since 1975 he has been writing and speaking about answers to his quest, including being a guest speaker and instructor at University of Wisconsin,Madison. He advises those with ADD heart-brains to line up a finite, yet varied, line of projects…in a circle. Then as one hops from one to the other, each gets repeat attention often, and eventually most, maybe all, reach fulfillment. He has been running in circles long enough now that his thoughts are finally coming together. He is available to offer these thoughts in keynotes, break outs and seminars, usually as unscripted dialogues, under the title “Conversations with Tom C.”