Growth and Revelation – Part I
A while back I read an intriguing article entitled Slavery and the Eight Veils by Don Harkin. Recently I came upon another article, this time by A. True Ott, PhD, a personal acquaintance of the previous author, who amended the number of veils to nine. This essay is built on my impressions of these articles, in comparison with the four stages of spiritual growth by M. Scott Peck, M.D. I was undeniably intrigued by these writings and their implications. For some reason, in comparing them, my mind jumped to the traditions of Indian Tantra; namely to the way humanity is defined in terms of three categories or types: the herd human, the heroic human and the enlightened or divine human.
I had read about the four stages before, and also about the eight veils, but connecting them never occurred to me. When I read Dr. Ott’s article, however, the wheels started turning, even though I still had no idea how four stages fit into nine veils. If anything, they might have been a better fit when the veils were only eight. Let me backtrack a bit. The premise of the first pair of articles is that there are nine consecutive veils- originally conceived as eight- separating us from highest awareness. Each of these is penetrated only by ten percent of the population group that managed to penetrate the previous veil.
In the context of navigating the hierarchy of consecutive veils, one can surmise that only a handful of people ever reach the final destination. Granted these quantities seem arbitrary, and the pattern of veil distribution may be too neat for comfort. This would be a shallow commentary, however, if the points of observation rested on petty critique. The percentages are secondary, in my opinion. They are useful in representing a general idea of exponentially increasing challenges we can face as we penetrate each barrier to expanded awareness.
To me the following observations matter more than analyzing how many penetrate a given veil. First, I believe that to describe the veils accurately one must have experienced them first hand. Second, it makes sense to me that one can credibly discuss the nature of perception beyond any given veil, even if not pierced in practice by them. The condition to insure at least some credibility in the discussion is that one at least have experience in dealing with what lurks beyond familiar awareness frames in general. It means that when we face our fears of the unknown, we have a greater chance of predicting what lies over the horizon, for it is natural intuition and not fear that assesses the situation. That being said, let us examine the four stages of spiritual awakening and compare them to the theme of the nine veils.
Both themes are presented from an open-minded Christian perspective. Both refer to fear as a dominant theme in how people relate to the veils and stages to which they refer. Both express a hierarchy of evolving stages. The difference is that the four stages refer to spiritual growth, whereas the nine veils refer to one’s awareness of reality. Initially it is historic and social reality, but as more veils drop for fewer and fewer seekers of truth, the involves greater horizons of experience. As such, the latter paradigm still has a spiritual basis as exemplified by the description of what lies beyond the seventh veil.
Regarding the four stages of spiritual growth, I cannot take the stance that the first stage eventually evolves to the second. In the first stage the individual is without integrity. They may be intelligent and adapted well to society or antisocial and violent, but they do not form real social bonds. Everything is pretense for such an individual. Thus they are commonly known as a psychopath. Anyone with experience dealing with psychopaths would doubt that such a state has anything to do with spiritual growth at all, primitive or not. Instead it makes more sense that the so-called first stage is either pathology or a mutation of the natural primitive human profile, which I would call the tribal stage.
The latter is described as being the second spiritual stage, where one adheres to religion- and any ideological status quo- as an institution, condemning any and all who do not abide by the letter of its law, while very likely breaking the very same rules when they think nobody is looking. The second stage is functional, albeit primitive and immature, whereas the first in comparison exhibits the nature of pathology; dysfunctional and harmful to the species. The second stage is the one more akin to the pashu or herd stage described in tantric spirituality.
The third stage is that of the individualized human being. Tribalism is questioned and eventually transcended. This is not an easy stage. In fact it can be saturated with a fair amount of cognitive and emotional dissonance if not outright trauma. All one’s motives of security at the expense of truth and integrity are confronted. It is, therefore, a stage with many challenges, demanding sacrifices at many a turn of its winding path. This is the awareness frame of the skeptic, but also of the seeker of truth and meaning. Stage three can be philosophical, but the subject is still bound to concepts of mind and intellect they consider normal. It is a stage of liberation using the means of the mind/psyche at hand without any demand or desire to transcend those means. That, by the way, is its limitation.
Stage four is said to be that of the mystic. Mystical attainment, however, is more than simply applying the spirit of religious belief. We can, therefore, view stage four as a threshold to possibilities of spiritual transcendence. Even though stage four is open-ended, we do not need to add more stages or categories since a) we grow increasingly beyond the compulsion to label everything as we progress through stage four and b) we cannot relate to transcendent possibility from the lower stages, so for the most part the issue is moot. By the time an individual opens to the fourth state, in other words, they probably won’t be as motivated to analyze things in a hierarchical manner. This model of inner growth is not a simple one, which is why I recommend reading Dr Peck’s analysis first hand.
In the context of this work, we can compare the four stages with the nine veils and what they conceal. Veils often have to do with confronting the fear of more expanded frames of awareness, perception and experience. It appears to me that as the veils are penetrated, one’s spiritual growth is also stimulated. And as one’s growth is stimulated, veils are penetrated. Thus we have a congruence between stages of growth, categories of actualization, and the degree of the proverbial unknown unveiled to us.
This makes perfect sense if we consider that navigation and receptivity are functions of wisdom and maturity. After all, how much we can “see” is related to our ability to respond to it- hence our response ability- which is associated with our maturity as self-aware beings. I find it noteworthy that the essay on the nine veils, and the decade older one on the eight veils, were written from the perspective of being in a world ruled by a “power elite”, the recognition of which involves the penetration of the third veil. Beyond the third veil, however, things get hazy in terms of the difficulty to distinguish between an exotic yet credible reality frame and a fabricated one. We’ll continue with this line of thought in the next installment of Growth and Revelation.