I acknowledge the fact that it may sound little too complex to many people and we discuss this model in our Master practitioner program. I find this concept very interesting and it has its application in almost all domains right from education to therapy. The model is proposed by Ken Wilber, an authority on transpersonal psychology. You may find more information on Ken on www.kenwilber.com .
Ken has very interestingly extrapolated the level of consciousness theory and expanded on eastern philosophy of five levels of consciousness, namely Matter, Body, Mind, Soul and Spirit (some texts do speak of seven levels that include ego and intellect). He points out that nine levels as described by him correspond to human growth; and as self develops, it may go well with development or some problems might appear manifesting in personality issues that are addressed through various interventions. It is quite similar to a student graduating through various classes at school, the student should first identify himself with the class he is studying and then should clear the assessment to graduate to next level. Only difference here is that in case of self development, self is in any case moved to next age level with poor development. I have not discussed the corresponding pathologies caused due to poor self development as they are out of context for this discussion and would make the article too long. Interested readers may like to read Integral psychology by Ken Wilber..
The first level self development is called sensoriphysical structure; it is the structure that deals with the material component, sensation and perception. Infant is primarily at this level with the start of understanding and development of senses and perceptions.
The Second level of self development is called Phantasmic-emotional level. This level emerges seven month onwards. This level corresponds to body and is signified by understanding of images. The child at this level is able to recognize specific images like that of his mother, father, other family members, yet they remain specific and are not group representative.
Level Three is called rep-mind and it has two separate levels. Level one is of symbols that emerge between the age of two to four and level two is of concepts, between age of four to Seven. These are the times when child learns to understand how various systems symbolize the general collection of sets and concept of language. For example he would know that house symbolizes a dwelling, yet it is not the same dwelling for different houses. The understanding of symbols subsequently develops into concepts. Here is a clear evolution from images to symbol to concepts is noticeable.
Level Four is called rule/ role mind and it develops between the age of seven to eleven. This is the time when self learns to understand the rule functions, for example mathematical rules, Grammar etc. It also learns about different roles for example you may find kids of this age playing teacher or doctor etc. This essentially shows that they understand the roles other then self and are able to do perceptual thinking. One may also notice that fact that mind at this level is primarily rule/ role dependent “My daddy strongest…” like concepts are quite rule dependent.
Level Five is called formal-reflexive and this is the stage when self not only learns to think, but also learns to think about thinking. This level appears around adolescence and is highly introspective, is capable of reasoning and testing preposition. Mind at this level is success driven and materialistic. This is called the reasoning mind by Aurobindo.
Level Six is existential or also called vision-logic, it appears in young adults and is represented by sensitive self and some of the traits will include sharing, caring, fairness driven and egalitarian, high empathy towards other beings and environment. This level is able to integrate the mind body functions. This level is also referred as higher mind.
Level Seven is called psychic by Ken, not because it has anything to do with psychic abilities (yet they may begin to appear, if development follows the process) but, because it is the beginning of transpersonal, spiritual and contemplative development. Aurobindo called this the illumined mind. The other interesting aspect is that this level may not appear at all in many people as they refuse to graduate from earlier levels or are unaware of these levels, yet, it is highly unlikely that someone will reach this level by jumping earlier levels. Some scholars do confuse this level with level three and four where the knowledge of mind itself is nonexistent.
Level Eight is called subtle or intermediate stage for spiritual development. Represented by holistic self and meditative mind, it is the home of various deities and devine forms.
Level Nine is called the causal Mind, It is equivalent to the spirit or the pure un-manifested source of all the other and lower levels. It is the home, not of a personal God, but of a formless Godhead.
Now, it is interesting that higher levels are not signified by any age levels, I would again compare it with the academic structure, as students either fail in lower grades or make a choice not to seek admissions in higher grades. It is also interesting that we will find various psychological problems manifested in individuals due poor handling of lower levels and are often corrected by psychotherapeutic interventions. NLP over the period has emerged as an effective methodology to treat such disorders. We also discuss a much related topic Spiral Dynamics that further clarifies the developments levels and creates clear understanding of such interventions.