A Gauge to Determine Your Level of Conscious Development

by Joshua Tilghman on December 27, 2014

Levels of ConsciousnessHave you ever wondered what your current level of conscious development is? What if you had some information to help you gauge it?

The book, The Science of Spirituality (Lee Bladon), has such a section. Much of Bladon’s information is based on the study of religious texts and its esoteric interpretation, as well as the integration of science, philosophy, and psychology. His chapter on the levels of consciousness made perfect since when it comes to explaining human behavior, as well as my own!

If you believe in reincarnation, Bladon’s explanation will be especially valid to you. Each life provides opportunities to advance individual consciousness through all the stages of development we will mention below, but even if you don’t believe in reincarnation, his chapter still provides great insight into a classification of human behavior.

As we discuss his framework of conscious development, please be aware that there’s no judgment here. Everyone develops at their own pace according to their experiences. Each individual life provides its own unique opportunities. According to Bladon, and indeed many ancient spiritual traditions, the soul is a sojourner in the physical world and is constantly evolving through the conscious experience.

Though I believe it’s useful to understand how consciousness is evolving, we should never use that knowledge to judge another. Why? Because even the most enlightened person was once at the most basic conscious level and we are all heading towards the same goals.

With that being said, Bladon breaks down humanity’s conscious development into five levels:

  1. The Primitive Stage
  2. The Civilized Stage
  3. The Developed Stage
  4. The Humanistic Stage
  5. The Enlightened Stage

Let’s explore each one:

The Primitive Stage

The primitive stage is characterized by physical needs and negative emotions. In this stage, anger, fear, and greed are motivational factors, which means this level of development is mostly about “me” and “I.” Behavior in this stage can be highly erratic and uncivilized when someone doesn’t get their way. People on this level are almost incapable of exhibiting compassion and empathy. Their actions always benefit themselves first and foremost. For example, they may buy someone a gift, but only with the expectation of benefiting in some way, like getting something in return.

Bladon believes education and religion help people to develop beyond the Primitive stage. Education develops the intellect and religion can help by curbing negative inclinations and impressing moral values.

According to Bladon, this is where the majority (up to 60%) of humanity resides.

The Civilized Stage

Bladon believes that about 25% of humanity resides at the civilized stage. He states people at the civilized stage exhibit a healthy mixture of both positive and negative emotions, but their individuality is identified by their emotions in general. People at this stage can use reason when making choices, but their reasoning is almost always clouded by their emotions. They demonstrate more restraint when not getting their way, but behavior can still be temperamental.

Someone at this stage might have strong religious preferences, but only because it’s based on tradition and the emotional ties that come with it. They are often more religious rather than spiritual. They might go to church and participate in acts of kindness, but are generally still judgmental and only try to “act accordingly” for an eternal reward.

People’s contentment level at this stage is also conditional to external factors. For example, much of their happiness and fulfillment comes from sex, alcohol, gossip, material possessions, etc.

I tend to think more of humanity resides at this stage instead of the primitive stage, but I think it’s safe to say that the majority of humanity does fall into one of the two. This is not hard to see when we look around. All the discord in our world is evidence of it. Again, no judgment here, just noting the obvious.

The Developed Stage

People at this level of conscious development utilize more of the intellect and higher emotions. They can use reason to make decisions without getting carried away with anger, frustration, and fear. They tend to be more objective rather than subjective. They exhibit more love and less selfishness. According to Bladon, these people are generally caring, thoughtful, and intelligent, and they enjoy art, culture, literature, philosophy, or science. They see the benefit that different cultures bring to humanity and the importance of learning from others. Usually developing a healthy world-view, they might engage in humanitarian projects or are apt to devote some time to volunteer work.

Even though this seems like a huge advance, Bladon also believes that people in this stage are prone to imbalances like high levels of stress, anxiety, or depression, especially in modern countries. This is because their nervous systems are still getting accustomed to the higher energies that their intellect and emotional make-up are expressing in the midst of a fast-paced, modern existence. Bladon states that these people still have to learn balance and control in order to proceed to the next stage of development. Mr. Bladon believes that approximately 14% of humans fit this level of conscious development.

The Humanistic Stage

This stage is identified with people who demonstrate high intellect and compassion vs. emotionality. People at this level of consciousness have a strong mind that is able to completely rule the emotional nature. Being mostly objective, they also think for themselves and rarely let other’s beliefs and opinions influence their decisions. They can see through the guises of religion and even the limitations of science. This is because these individuals are also developing their intuitive side, which taps into a greater consciousness and awareness of the larger universe and its reason for existence.

Humanistic stage people are sometimes advanced meditators and understand the benefit in such practices. They are not prone to addictions and bad habits and choose to live consciously toward all living beings. They eventually advance beyond the pursuits of mental knowledge and yearn to focus on higher states of being through love, joy, and contentment. Bladon believes only one in 1,000 people currently reside at this stage.

The Enlightened Stage

In Bladon’s own words, people at this state are “characterized by an overwhelming sense of peace, joy, wisdom, and unity that cannot be understood without being experienced.” Perhaps this level of conscious development was exhibited by the likes of Jesus and Buddha. Bladon believes that only one in 1,000,000 people reside here. At this stage, the personal and lower ego has been eradicated and unity of the self has been achieved.

How Bladon’s Framework Relates to the Bible

In a nutshell, Bladon’s framework for consciousness is the story of the Christian Bible from beginning to end. From Adam’s fall from Paradise, representative of man’s incarnation and development of the ego, to Cain, the first murderer, who by human nature represents taking from another what we don’t have, to Christ, the perfected Adam, who achieves enlightenment. All the characters in between from Abraham to the Apostles are symbolic of these different stages. Moses’ Law gave us the Moral law to develop to curbs man’s appetite for desire, and the New Covenant shows the way to a higher consciousness through Christ.

Blessings!

C. Raymond Rau December 27, 2014 at 6:00 pm

I have not read this book so I don’t feel free to critique it, but I wonder how much credit he gives to Kolberg or Fowler for the frameword he gives to his structure. Certainly a short resume of this kind can not do justice to his work, but I would recomend that those who are interested in a developmental view of religious and moral stages would do well to also read the works of Kolberg and Fowler. Both of them stress the importance of dialogue in becoming aware and working to the next stage. I used this in the classroom and found it very helpful. I love your site and appreciate your updates.
Ray

Joshua Tilghman December 28, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Raymond,

Bladon does not address Fowler or Kolberg. Thanks for giving this info out to those who are further interested in pursuing more about the religious and moral stages. I had not considered the importance of dialogue. Now I’m intrigued. Do you teach college courses?

Robert December 28, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Ray,

Thanks, I would be very interested in looking up Kolberg and Fowler about using dialogue and their take on religious and moral stages of development.

Robert

Robert December 28, 2014 at 4:15 pm

I thought other SOS readers would be interested in Fowlers Stages of Faith Development. I extracted this from Wikipedia. This is from an academic area of psychology examining development of faith in much the same way Paiget examined stages of cognitive development. I would say that SOS is about development of stages 5 and 6. According to this, fundamentalist Christianity is fixated at stages 2 and 3. Fowler’s critics suggest that his stages are biased because he was a liberal protestant, and that some of the methods he used to validate his conclusions were not rigorous. Still, there is something to this.

Stage 0 – “Primal or Undifferentiated” faith (birth to 2 years), is characterized by an early learning of the safety of their environment (i.e. warm, safe and secure vs. hurt, neglect and abuse). If consistent nurture is experienced, one will develop a sense of trust and safety about the universe and the divine. Conversely, negative experiences will cause one to develop distrust with the universe and the divine. Transition to the next stage begins with integration of thought and languages which facilitates the use of symbols in speech and play.

Stage 1 – “Intuitive-Projective” faith (ages of three to seven), is characterized by the psyche’s unprotected exposure to the Unconscious, and marked by a relative fluidity of thought patterns. [1] Religion is learned mainly through experiences, stories, images, and the people that one comes in contact with.

Stage 2 – “Mythic-Literal” faith (mostly in school children), stage two persons have a strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe, and their deities are almost always anthropomorphic. During this time metaphors and symbolic language are often misunderstood and are taken literally.

Stage 3 – “Synthetic-Conventional” faith (arising in adolescence; aged 12 to adulthood) characterized by conformity to religious authority and the development of a personal identity. Any conflicts with one’s beliefs are ignored at this stage due to the fear of threat from inconsistencies.

Stage 4 – “Individuative-Reflective” faith (usually mid-twenties to late thirties) a stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility for his or her beliefs and feelings. As one is able to reflect on one’s own beliefs, there is an openness to a new complexity of faith, but this also increases the awareness of conflicts in one’s belief.

Stage 5 – “Conjunctive” faith (mid-life crisis) acknowledges paradox and transcendence relating reality behind the symbols of inherited systems. The individual resolves conflicts from previous stages by a complex understanding of a multidimensional, interdependent “truth” that cannot be explained by any particular statement.

Stage 6 – “Universalizing” faith, or what some might call “enlightenment.” The individual would treat any person with compassion as he or she views people as from a universal community, and should be treated with universal principles of love and justice.

Joshua Tilghman January 5, 2015 at 8:20 pm

Robert,

Thanks for going the extra mile and providing this for us! This framework also makes a lot of sense.

Robert December 27, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Josh,

This is tremendously helpful in gauging myself and finding a more reliable gauge for evaluating others. I find myself bouncing around a lot between levels. This is certainly a gauge to share with others who are open to it. Hmm, according to the 1 in a million enlightened ones, there are 7000 of these on our planet right now. That’s a lot of Buddha and Christ types. Where are they?

Joshua Tilghman December 28, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Robert, thank you for commenting on how valuable this was to you. I totally agree, especially about those who are willing to consider it. As to your question, out of 7 billion people on the planet, chances are you will never meet one of these 7,000, if there are indeed even that many. But I’m willing to bet they’re around. Unlike the Gospel stories, I don’t think they would be very well-known, even amongst the locals. If I had to guess, the greatest concentration would be found in very remote places in the Himalayas. If you are truly interested, you might want to check out a free book online entitled, “Beyond the Himalayas,” by M. MacDonald-Bayne. I have provided a link for download: http://www.soilandhealth.org/03sov/0304spiritpsych/030418.beyond.himalayas.pdf

If you can swallow the fantastical journey this man makes, and the miracles he encounters by certain Holy Men, then you might have your answer. The reading is very entertaining and it shows these holy men not as saviors that are untouchable, but rather that they are in many ways very much like you and I, although some of them are able to defy the laws of physics. I highly recommend it. If you enjoy it, he also wrote “The Yoga of the Christ” which I recommend next.

Mike Pinkston December 28, 2014 at 9:00 am

I agree with Robert, I bounce between several also, and haven’t found 1 of the 7000.

Joshua Tilghman December 28, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Mike, I also bounce, but the most important part of the info for me was the measureable growth I could see from years ago. That helps as it lets me know that growth is indeed more than just possible.

Tracy January 4, 2015 at 5:45 am

hmm – theres no need to grow into anything right? You – we are already perfect – its just a matter of remembering that – a matter of unlearning – from my humble perspective anyway.

Joshua Tilghman January 5, 2015 at 8:24 pm

Tracy,

Very true, but I mean from the perspective of the ego. The only way to experience that perfect contentment is to work towards it. Sometimes it happens to people spontaneously, but we cannot know what they experienced and prepared for in a former life to undergo such a transformation in this life.

Roselle December 28, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Hi Josh (and everyone)

Another good post – thank you. I appreciate the work you put into all this.

I wanted to mention the work of Ken Wilber, and his development stages from the thinking of Transpersonal Psychology. A lot of his books are worth reading, but I think the one that goes most deeply into stages of consciousness is called ‘Up From Eden’.

For the record, my own suspicion is that the more enlightened someone is, the more likely one is, these days, to find them not hiding out in remote areas but going about the work of service among other people, quietly, undramatically, and largely unheralded. Being a hermit in the Himalayas might these days be a luxurious opting-out – they’re needed even more than ever, those who are committed to higher service, don’t you think?

As always, thanks, and keep them coming.

All best to you

Joshua Tilghman December 28, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Roselle,

Well put. I am sure there are these types as well. And thanks for giving us yet another resource.

Robert December 28, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Well, I just arrived at an interesting thought, maybe a little perplexing. What stage of spiritual development was Paul of Tarsus, or any of the authors of the NT for that matter (besides Jesus)? Were they the 1 in a million Jesus/Buddha type? I’m guessing they were less developed. I could be wrong. Whatever they were, we see a portrayal of Jesus in the NT and projected throughout the traditional church that is mostly filtered through their perspectives and recollections, maybe even fabrications. How much Christianity is based on Paul, in honor of Jesus, but still Paul all the way?

Joshua Tilghman January 5, 2015 at 8:27 pm

Robert,

As you already know, many believe Paul wasn’t a real person either. But assuming that he was, I would say he was at the Humanistic stage. How about you?

anonymus January 2, 2015 at 6:11 am

Gauging what ?
This kind of stuff leads to separation.

Joshua Tilghman January 2, 2015 at 11:51 am

It all depends on the individual. But mostly I think people will use this as a tool to see how they might be progressing.

anonymus January 2, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Sure Josh,

but progressing unto what ?

Who is setting the goals ?

I would say the InnerSoul, not any book can compete with that,
although it is very tempting,
and aren’t we all tempted ?

– are we there yet ???

NO, Life is forever, it goes on and on and on

Joshua Tilghman January 3, 2015 at 10:17 am

Bladon’s literature can help one see the ego for what it is, no matter what state one is in. What we are progressing towards is that realization, and of seeing the true self. We cannot discover the truth in a book, because the truth is within us. However, parting of discovering what is within us is to eliminate falsehood. Literature has the ability to do that, as long as it points towards us toward the inner soul.

anonymus January 2, 2015 at 10:09 pm

Robert, it is not one to a million it is more likely one to a thousand

it of course depends how one measures (who is metering, anyway ? )

and . . . . you can only see what you already KNOW
and KNOWING is very different from thinking and/or feeling

Personally I find the contributions quite a lot theory and not so much practice,
so that results in not such much knowing . . . .

Sorry if that hurts . . .

and . . . . all beings learn
and change all the time

but one that is not in the Now cannot perceive this.

Tracy January 4, 2015 at 5:56 am

I wonder why we are called human beings instead of human knowings…knowing, knowledge, mind – meh I would rather be than know. Took me a long time to remember what Jesus embodied – that of myself I am nothing – its the father in me that does the work – in fact I have to remember every morning…

Tracy January 3, 2015 at 3:43 pm

I appreciate what is written here though I tend to measure spiritual development differently – I believe ( at this point 😉 the closer one is to living in the moment the closer one is to enlightenment. Just my 2c worth…

Blessings

Joshua Tilghman January 3, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Tracy,

I certainly can’t argue with that :).

Tracy January 4, 2015 at 2:47 am

I should have put more simplistically rather than differently but anyway – isn’t just like us (humans) to want to measure everything hehe. BTW I love reading you – you are so very insightful in regards to the bible. You remind me of my gurus Joel Goldsmith & Dr Murdo Macdonald-bayne.

Tracy January 4, 2015 at 3:12 am

PS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTVaVw32TE8 (Joel Goldsmith – Spiritual Discernment of the Bible)

Joshua Tilghman January 5, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Tracy,

I understand what you mean. There are different perspectives on Enlightenment. And thank you for that nice comment about Biblical interpretation, but most of it I have learned from great thinkers before my time. Without their help, I would still be wondering the Biblical dessert. I do feel I have learned a lot because I have had the time to put into the study, but I know I still lack much. The many Rabbi’s who have dedicated their lives to Torah, Oral Torah, and Kabbalah, etc., could teach me more than I could learn in many years, and even though I disagree with much Rabbinical thought, I appreciate the holistic approaches they bring to scripture.

Tracy January 8, 2015 at 3:32 am

Youre right there is however enlightment does away with all perspectives relatively speaking doesnt it…bringing us all to one mind in regards to this topic eventually. W/e anyway – as I said, I’m grateful for the insights you provide in sharing your learnt & intuitve knowledge of the bible – for the most part it was lost on me until I read you. I found enlightenment through other metapysical/intuitive avenues (to varying degrees lol – I have a long way to go, in remembering) not being brought up religiously…though the bible fascinated me as I grew older – so kia ora -ty 🙂 I do so hope it reaches the Christians looking outwards instead of inwards…

Tracy January 8, 2015 at 3:42 am

ps – [metaphysical*] – sorry for all the mistakes/typos – I’m typing this on a smart tv and its an arduous process – keeps me from rambling though lol 😉

C. Raymond Rau January 17, 2015 at 9:22 am

Joshua,
Wow, this blog really brought out the depth of your readership. Goldsmith, Wilber, Paul, Buddha, Kabbalah, MacDonald-Bayne, and Jesus are Great Reads! This is important stuff. I would emphasize again, storu, story, story, dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. I taught this in High School and it works. Present a moral problem in a story and watch the discussion. Very interesting. I would add Stanley Hauerwas to the list, ethics as story. Also, read the 8 Beatitudes as stages of moral development. They go from Spiritual poverty to Prophet.
Raymond

Bruce Fowler December 20, 2015 at 6:39 pm

Hi Tracy,

In case you see this I wonder if you have also heard Herb Fitch – tremendous Bible scholarship and a student of Joel’s. 🙂

Kia Ora,

Bruce

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