Integral Lines of Development

Lines of Development

The notion of stages of development is very broad brush. It’s the 30,000 foot view, and it doesn’t differentiate people at the same level of development. Wilber added a second concept called “Lines of Development”which can describe a person’s development in more detail. Are you better at some things than others? Are you more developed in some areas of your life and less developed in other areas? Each area of development can be considered a distinct “Line of Development” which may have its’ own stages of development. For example, are you a complete novice with computers or a seasoned expert who can build your own computer and program in many languages? Within this question there are a range of skills that can be acquired such as:
  • Basic Computer Applications (e.g. Excel, Word, PowerPoint)
  • Advanced Computer Applications (e.g. use of Word styles or Excel Visual Basic)
  • Simple web development (HTML and CSS)
  • Advanced web development (PHP, C#, JAVA, JavaScript)
  • Database Queries (SQL)
Another line of development may reflect your skills in your garden. Can you grow beautiful plants and trees or do you have a black thumb. Do you know what trees you should plant near your house and which types you should give lots of room? Although I am quite competent at all of the computer skills listed above, I have a black thumb when it comes to gardening. There are many lines of development that focus on specific skills, but there is a core set of lines that apply to everyone and answer these important questions:
  • What am I aware of? (cognition) – how well developed is your brain?
  • How do I feel about this? (emotional intelligence) – how adept are you at owning and processing your feelings?
  • How should we interact? (interpersonal) – how skilled are you at dealing with other people?
  • What is the right thing to do? (morals) – how strong is your moral compass?
  • What do I need? (needs) – where do you sit on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs?
  • Who am I? (self-identity) – how do you perceive yourself?
  • What is of ultimate concern to me? (spirituality)  – how do you relate to the Great Mystery?
Each of these lines of development can be assessed using distinct scales. For example, a three level system as described in a paper by Michael Dewan-Herrick would include these levels:
  • Beginning
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced
If we apply this scale to each of the core lines of development, we can derive very fitting terms that describe a person’s level of development in that line, as shown below.


The cognitive line has to do with our ability to know things through conceptual thought, although it includes our earlier stage of sensori-motor development.   Basically this has to do with how “smart” we are, in the most usual sense of the word.  In our culture and educational system we tend to value the cognitive line above the others.  It is important and has been said to be “necessary but not sufficient” for development in the other lines.  By itself, however, it hardly enables us to be fully human.  As Garrison Keillor has said:  “Sometimes intelligence is like four wheel drive; it just allows you to get stuck in more remote places.” Advanced——————-Trans-rational Intermediate—————Rational Beginning——————Pre-rational

Affective (Emotional)

This line is about our “emotional intelligence”, our ability to know through feeling.  Are we able to experience a range and intensity of different emotions?  Are we aware of our emotions when they arise?  To what degree do we ignore and suppress our emotions; or do we simply act them out impulsively?  How sensitive and perceptive are we about the emotional experience of others?  Are we able to empathize and use our emotional resonance with others to guide our responses?  The affective line encompasses the entire realm of our capacity to feel and how we are able to make use of our feelings in conducting our lives. Developing this line is a primary focus of the ConneXions Workshop. Advanced——————Universal Compassion Intermediate————–Relational/Caring Beginning—————–Selfish


This line is about who we think we are and experience ourselves to be.  It is how we might complete the following sentence:  I am _______________.  It is whatever we identify with; for instance, our body, mind, spirit, social role, age, gender, race, class, religion, etc.  Our felt sense of being a single, separate, continuous something (however we happen to put this together) is at the heart of the self line.  What are we willing and able to include as part of our identity?  What do we exclude?  Is our sense of self constricted or expansive?  Do we feel fragmented and confused about who we are, or do we feel integrated and whole? Advanced—————–Trans-personal Intermediate————-Personal Beginning—————-Pre-personal


This line is about our ability to engage with other people.  Being able to read social cues, enter into conversations, arrive at mutual understanding, resolve conflicts, advocate for our needs, collaborate in joint ventures- these are just part of what is involved in the interpersonal line.  It includes our ability to receive, interpret, and respond to the verbal and non-verbal messages of others, as well as our ability to express ourselves so that we are understood.  How we initiate, maintain, and end relationships are also aspects of the interpersonal line. Advanced—————-Worldcentric Intermediate————-Ethnocentric Beginning—————-Egocentric


The moral line has to do with how we think about what is “right” and “wrong”, as well as how we choose to act when confronted with moral or ethical dilemmas.  Are we exclusively concerned with our own wants and needs, or do we also consider others?  Do we obediently follow the rules or commandments of our own group, or do we independently think through the implications of our choices?  Are we interested only in the well being of our own family, community, or nation; or do we care about the happiness of all sentient beings everywhere?  What gets included in our embrace of care is a measure of our development in the moral line. Advanced—————-Post-Conventional Intermediate————Conventional Beginning—————Pre-Conventional


Abraham Maslow pointed out that as we grow and mature we experience different kinds of needs.   We begin with physical needs and then develop through emotional and psychological needs.  If we are able to meet all of these needs then we experience the need for self-acutualization and ultimately for self-transcendence.  A primary task of providing care is to help others meet their needs, so it is very important that we have some discernment of where a person is at in this line. Advanced—————-Self-transcendence (spiritual) Intermediate————Emotional/psychological Beginning—————Physical Before we move on, I want to make a brief exploration of the spiritual line of development. The word “spiritual” has so many connotations that it can be confusing or almost meaningless to talk about if not precisely defined.  Some would say that there is a spiritual line of development that starts at infancy and continues through life, while others would say that spiritual development is a higher stage that only comes later in life.   Rather than argue for one perspective or the other (they all contain some truth), I simply want to point out that our understanding of “God”, or “higher purpose”, or “the Great Mystery”, or “enlightenment”, or any self-transcending principle, can represent a major aspect or “line” of our development.

What Is Spiritual Awakening?

Spiritual Awakening is more than opening your eyes and getting out of bed. Real awakening is a profound shift in the way you see the world and yourself. According to Kristen Butler in her article, you may have already experienced a spiritual awakening without even knowing it if you are seeing any of these changes in your life:
  • Are you creating new belief system? Do you hold the same beliefs now that you held 5, 10 or 20 years ago? A spiritual awakening will result in seeing the world in a very different way.
  • Do you want more freedom and less “stuff”?
  • Do you have a strong desire to change your job or career into something more meaningful?
  • Do you find yourself drawn to personal development?
  • Are you having difficulty sleeping?
  • Are you experiencing lots of synchronicity?
  • Do you have an increasing desire to eat more healthily and take better care of your body?
  • Do you have feelings of deep emotion?
  • So why wake up?

Is Spiritual Awakening Enlightenment?

The simple answer is, NO, a spiritual awakening is not the same as enlightenment. A spiritual awakening is something that changes you in a profound way. Enlightenment, on the other hand, is a transitory experience that fades with time. Jack Kornfield wrote a book who’s title sums this up succinctly: “After Enlightenment, Laundry.” So just what is a Spiritual Awakening? Because you are still reading this page, you may already be undergoing an awakening process. If you want to check that out, take this simple assessment.

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