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Kegan's Theory of the Evolution of Consciousness (stanford.edu)
159 points by cryptozeus 54 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 37 comments

I was talking with the guy who ultimately edited this book, and his son had just watched Star Wars, his 4-year-old-son, and was very affected by it. And I kind of had this theory that when you're a very young person, the character in Star Wars you care about the most or like the most is Luke Skywalker, who's this, you know, wholly good, heroic, almost naively pure kind of character.

And then you become, you know, 12 years old, a teenager, and you gravitate toward Han Solo, who seems like a bad person, but ultimately he is good. And when you're kind of going through adolescence, you sort of like the idea of being perceived as a dangerous individual, even though you still sort of identify as being good.

"But when you really become adult, you're no longer looking at characters — fictional or unfictional — as aspirational. You kind of are the person you are. And now when you look at characters, you kind of want to see things in them that help you understand yourself. So I feel, as an adult, the character you care about the most is Darth Vader. The maturation process seems to move a person toward relating to and understanding villainous personalities.

-Chuck Klosterman


As I think about this more, when I first watched the office series I related more with Jim however as I got older and kept watching it again and again I started relating more with dwight.

Chuck is such a genius. I really wish he would write more.

I was 7 years old when Star Wars was released, and everyone, including my 5-year-old brother, knew that Han Solo was the real hero.

Wow if you put it that way !!

> While most students approach learning from an order 3 perspective, teaching is generally approached through the lens of order 4, creating a developmental mismatch. For instance, instructors expect students to be self-reflective, engaged, independent, self-directed, critical thinkers-skills that become evident only in order 4.

Can confirm, based on my undergrad experience. Virtually none of the students (myself included) were yet at the level of maturity expected of them.

Absolutely. My wife went back to school to finish her undergrad in her 40s. It was amazing to observe the immaturity of the people around her. She ended up graduating top of class in everything and getting multiple awards for best social science, anthropology, best student in arts department, best part time student, etc. for the year.

Yes, she's a smart cookie -- but more than that, the other smart people around her? They just weren't mature and serious enough to excel.

> ce, instructors expect students to be se

Can confirm, I was a shit student until around 25 or 26 years old.

Kegan's work has been quite influential for me, both in helping me understand myself and others.

His later work, collaborating with Lisa Lehey is more actionable, in a work context, but builds on the foundations outlines here.

Nice, I am just beginning to explore his work. Any recommendations on the books or articles would be great.

David Chapman quotes Kegan a lot in his "Meaningness" blog. I included one link, but you should find more of his writing linked from there. Check out the rest of the site as well.


ETA: From the (Stanford) article this thread is attached to...

> Kegan (Robert) introduced his theory of self-evolution in 1982 in his book, The Evolving Self. In his later book, In over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life (1994), he presented a revised version of his theory and further discussion of the implications of his work for society.

Of those two books, The Evolving Self is the easier read. I would start with that one.

Ha that is where I found kegan. Meaningness blog is a reip down the rabbit hole.

FWIW, I discovered Kegan via this article: https://medium.com/@NataliMorad/how-to-be-an-adult-kegans-th...

Also, Zachary Stein's Lectica project has a video showing Kegan among other adult developmental psychologists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0PDUK3tcN0

One more vote for this podcast. They produce extremely high-quality interviews.

Order 6: Illusory Mind. In this order, consciousness reaches a level of self reflection that leads to the realization that self-hood is an object in subjective experience and merely an observer of thoughts, not an author. Free will slowly begins to erode and the mind is finally set free.

> Order 5: Self-Transforming Mind. In this order of consciousness, which is infrequently reached and never reached before the age of forty (Kegan, 1994), individuals see beyond themselves, others, and systems of which they are a part to form an understanding of how all people and systems interconnect (Kegan, 2000). They recognize their "commonalities and interdependence with others" (Kegan, 1982, p. 239).

This idea is awesome, and is common sense in eastern philosophy. First generation Americans, or anyone who finds themselves the venn between multiple diagrams of culture, can also arrive to this pretty quick. Everyone's ideas are limited to the experiences that produced them, but it's embarrassing for western science on the whole for it to shirk the east when it comes to the realm of inner experience.

At stage 0 it is immediately taken for granted that there is a sense of self, an identity. This is a very bold leap and his entiry theory builds on this.

What Kegan is describing in order 0 is a state where the infant does not have a bound identification, i.e. does not have an identification: she perceives, but doesn't categorise into me/not-me. That's not a sense of self, but just a sense. The "everything sensed is taken to be an extension of an infant" part is a descriptions of how we perceive the infant in that state, not a description of the infant's own reflection.

Also, why do you say that the theory builds upon this? I didn't find it to be an important part of the theory.


The person you're quoting didn't say the theory was correct or even that he believes the theory. His response was only his interpretation of the theory. If you feel the theory is incorrect, then perhaps take it up with Robert Kegan.

I didn’t get that from him. In state 0 the baby has sense but not about the self. Imo self is something taught by the society and nurturing so baby would not have that concept.

Parts of the world belonging to a system and other world parts are so different in a system's ability to control them, that I suspect that any system capable of planning, learning and building world-models will naturally divide the world into self and not-self.

In state 0 such discovery just hasn't happened yet.

Not by physics? Things your body can or cannot do, and what things happen to it and are sensed?

The distinction made by the stupidest causal temporal relationships from senses with some built-in importance in them.

I see nothing wrong with it. Theory was not built on the idea of sense of self of a newborn. It was built on senses of self of people of older ages. Then the succession of selves was extrapolated to a newborn. Kegan got a degenerate trivial case, nothing wrong here.

Are you saying that there might one day be evidence for the nonexistence of a sense of self in an infant? I can't even find that kind of evidence for a rock--seems to me that Kegan is safe here.

Came here to say the same thing. In Westworld the sense of self is the very last thing to develop in Arnold’s Pyramid/Maze theory.

Westworld is also a fiction that can construct any model it wants regardless of how people actually behave, so I wouldn’t use it as a counter to actual researched theories

I've found Kegan's work to be an extremely useful lens on the world, and I've found his research with Lisa Lahey to be extremely useful both for my personal development and for my company. We currently have a pilot program implementing insights from their books An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization (one of the best books I've read in years, and I read a lot) and Immunity to Change, and I think it's made a significant difference for those who are taking part in the pilot and for the company in general.

I recently found out that my schizophrenic mom committed suicide. This was the end of a childhood that was filled with abandonment, neglect, and abuse.

I recently started meditating and read "The Power of Now". I think without those two things I would be completely lost. It's still hard but I can feel myself getting stronger in the face of all this.

Before you waste your time, this regards the personal development of consciousness over one's lifetime, not the biological evolution of sapience.

Came for the homo sapiens evolution discussion, but individual psychology is not below me, as presumed in your comment.

Its about the evolution of consciousness not about biology. Its in the title.

To those interested, the Urantia book describes our individualized purpose as to becoming increasingly conscious by evolving and becoming progressively more spiritual until we can understand God the Father. It describes evolution not just as a species, but within each of us; and that actually God created us purposely to evolve and become like Him, for reasons still unclear to them.

Kegan's theories and philosophies seem similar, but the Human soul would not just be limited to 5 potential stages, as Kegan described. Probably, Kegan himself has been limited to acquiring just a 5th stage, but these stages are possibly unlimited.

According to the Urantia book, by eventually becoming so spiritual, the body can no longer contain the Spirit, so it will automatically proceed to a next stage bypassing death, like what happened to Jesus Christ, Elijah the Prophet, and Enoch in the Holy Bible.

The point of life is to increase our level of consciousness to the point that we become infinitely, universally loving and utterly, absolutely selfless. This state of consciousness is God.


What did I say that was self-righteous? Why do you think that I think that I am more special than you?

I simply gave my perception of the narrative of this book and contrasted it with Kegan's theory, after seeing similarity. What is there possibly to be angry at me for?

In order to maintain a duality, you have to invent something to be mad about and an other to blame it on. Truth is that you're all of it, but the devil is the self-bias and the illusion of a separate self to defend. (this self includes your beliefs) Anyone who's interested in the deeper nuances of self-bias: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMqNRUILvHc

As a spiritual person, certainly you've realized that you _are_ him, and everything else as The One. Yeah?

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