Monday, March 14, 2016

The Modes of Development (2)

We have identified the three main modes of development as cognitive, affective and volitional respectively.

Once again the cognitive mode is directly identified with (rational) thinking in the desire for ultimate knowledge regarding reality.

The affective  mode is then directly identified with (emotional) feeling in the desire for the ultimate recognition of beauty with respect to this reality.

Finally the volitional mode is directly identified with (spiritual) longing in the innate desire to literally become one with this reality (through love). 

Successful development - especially - at "higher" levels of the spectrum, requires that an appropriate balance be maintained as between the three modes.

However having said this, development however generally does not proceed in a balanced manner.

So typically one mode - which is initially dominant in personality - leads the way with respect to "higher" development. Then the imbalances caused by this accelerated development, gradually require the strengthening of the other two modes (initially is a somewhat separate manner) before eventually overall integration can be obtained.

I have always been especially interested in the dynamics of the mystical personality type (where the volitional mode - in the desire for spiritual union - is especially strong).

When this is the case, one is likely to undergo a radical conversion - or indeed a series of conversions - where this innate spiritual impulse acts to dramatically change the course of one's development.

In my own case this then became initially consolidated through the cognitive function, as I attempted to develop a holistic intellectual map that would help me chart my way through this new developmental landscape.

However gradually the continual use of "higher" intuitively inspired reason led to imbalances with respect to the "lower" primitive self.

So the next major stage then led to the attempt to address this imbalance in the continual exposure to "primitive" instinctive desire (in what related directly to the affective mode).

Then the third stage was concerned with the attempt to achieve balance as between both the "higher" cognitive and "lower" affective self.

However, so far this development constituted mainly the "ascent", whereby the linear levels of dualistic type understanding became substantially by-passed.  So this led to increasing difficulties in dealing with everyday activities on their own terms.

So the next major phase of development was then devoted to the descent whereby cognitive, affective and - most of all - volitional modes could be gradually enabled to relate both dual and nondual reality in a more balanced manner.


So even though volitional, cognitive and affective modes can indeed - and typically do - develop initially in a somewhat separate manner, they can only do so in a necessarily unbalanced fashion.

Put another way, the mature development of each mode - with respect to both its differentiated and integral aspects - requires that all modes be properly balanced with each other.

So the ultimate purpose of both the cognitive and affective modes through (rational) knowledge and (emotional) feeling respectively is to enable the volitional mode, through the pure light of spirit, express itself fully without hindrance i.e. without undue attachment to the phenomenal symbols through which it is mediated.

What I found greatly missing from conventional accounts of the "higher" stages of development was proper emphasis on - what I refer to as - mirror structures.

For example, following spiritual illumination, it would be typical for many male mystics to undergo substantial development with respect to a more refined form of cognitive understanding (where intellectual structures become directly expressive of an enhanced spiritual intuition).

However this inevitably breeds a new form of passive cognitive attachment (where they can over identify with the "higher" self).

Addressing this problem requires from my experience - two distinct transitions.

Firstly, there must be a lengthy period of withdrawal from identification with cognitive type activity (which inevitably entails a spiritual "purgation" or "dark night" immersing one in the depths of the unconscious).

Secondly, with the cognitive aspect now somewhat subdued, only then can one become sufficiently free to properly address the "lower" self on its own terms i.e. in an affective manner.


So this initial withdrawal, which is always very difficult, relates to mirror structure development.

Whereas the initial positive development of structures (during periods of illumination) constitutes the differentiated aspect of new stage development, the secondary negative development (i.e. mirror structures during periods of purgation) directly represent the corresponding integral aspect.

And the three modes, cognitive, affective and volitional, ultimately require both appropriate "positive" and "negative" development.  


I have stated before on many occasions that my own development has been very much influenced by the writings of St. John of the Cross.

Interestingly, St. John places far more emphasis on the importance of the "via negativa" (which in my terms represents mirror structure development) in his spiritual account.

In other words, he is directly concerned with the overall task of how spiritual integration of the psyche is obtained.


Expressed in yet another way, balanced development at each level requires that equal emphasis be given to both the (spiritual) state appropriate to that stage and the corresponding structures (cognitive affective and volitional) that express the phenomena of form, rightly associated with the stage.

If there is too much emphasis on mere states, an undue degree of instability is likely to arise, without one being able to properly consolidate the understanding of any given stage.

On the other hand if there is too much emphasis on structures, understanding is likely to become too rigidly identified with just one stage considerably blocking access to all other stages.

In this regard we can perhaps appreciate the great limitations of the present mathematical and scientific approach.

This approach is rigidly identified with the mere (cognitive) structures of the middle level of the spectrum. It is so successful then in blocking out access to the other levels on the spectrum that their very existence - for mathematical and scientific purposes - is not even recognised.

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