Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Maretha Prinsloo - Consciousness Models in Action: Comparisons

The June issue of the Integral Leadership Review has an interesting article by Maretha Prinsloo on some selected theories of consciousness - most of which are AQAL approved. For example, the usual Wilber suspects are included: Graves, Loevinger, Kegan, Gebser, Piaget, and Kohlberg. However, she also includes Karl Pribram, a brilliant mind in consciousness research who has long been an outsider in (and outspoken critic of) the academic community; and David Hawkins, a very fringe author popular with alternative medicine practitioners.

Here is her author bio:
[Prinsloo] worked in the fields of clinical and counseling psychotherapy from 1984 -1988 after which she turned her attention to research on personality and cognitive assessment. Completing her doctorate in Cognitive Psychology in 1992 (titled: “A theoretical model and empirical technique for the study of problem solving processes”) she went on to found the company Magellan Consulting (pty) Ltd. which she has led since 1994. The business is currently serving approximately 1000 corporate clients and supports many independent consulting groups in the fields of people assessment and development. Magellan has expanded to the UK where it is registered as Cognadev UK Ltd and where it operates in association with a number of consulting groups that provide training, support as well as assessment and development products to clients globally.

From my perspective - and I read a LOT of material on consciousness, much of it outside of the AQAL approved canon - there is a definite bias toward more "New Age" models in this paper (Caroline Myss, Ekhart Tolle, Sri Atmananda, J.J. Hurtak), which are presented alongside the standard developmental models in AQAL theory from Gebser, Graves, Loevinger, Kegan, and Wilber.

But where are the scientific theorists who dismantle the whole notion of a self - Thomas Metzinger, Julian Baggini, Bruce Hood - or the more renegade developmentalists - Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Merlin Donald - or the social constructionists - Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner, Kenneth Gergen - and so many others, including William Irwin Thompson, an integral theorist who rejects Wilber?

Or what about consciousness models based in psychology, such as intersubjectivity theory (Robert Stolorow, Donna Orange, George Atwood, and others), or the developmental theorists such as Allan Schore or Daniel Stern? Where do the attachment models fit into these perspectives, as we know now that those early relational experiences shape our whole lives (failing intervention).

It's always problematic when we favor those models that support our pet theories and fail to address those that offer alternate views or refute our own theories directly. I have a sense that this has long been an issue in the integral community, and this paper reflects some of that problem.

Despite all these criticisms, which are less about the paper itself than the AQAL agenda in general, this is an interesting paper from a good writer.

Consciousness Models in Action: Comparisons

 Maretha Prinsloo

Maretha Prinsloo


This paper discusses various theoretical models of the evolution of consciousness as well as critically evaluates and integrates the models into a single organising framework, which is then applied to leadership theory.

The construct of consciousness as described by the Spiral Dynamics (SD) model of Clare Graves is linked to the work of other developmental and consciousness theorists, namely Wilber, Gebser, Piaget, May, Kohlberg, Perry, Loevinger, Maslow and Kegan. The spiritual perspectives of Wilber, Myss, Tolle, Atmananda and Hurtak as well as the work of McTaggart, Pribram and Hawkins representing a physics perspective of consciousness development, are discussed. The spiritual and scientific perspectives are addressed to contextualise the consciousness models. In addition, current leadership theory which primarily seems to focus on individual, group and organisational behaviour, is reviewed from an integral perspective to emphasise the relevance of consciousness theory within the leadership domain.


In this paper, the construct of ”levels of consciousness” as used in psychology and consciousness theory, is closely linked to those of worldviews, perceptual frameworks, organising systems, value orientations, “intelligences” or “memes”, in terms of which people understand and respond to their worlds. It reflects levels of awareness, or the inclusiveness, extensiveness, the depth and breadth by which incoming information is interpreted. These levels of consciousness largely determine intellectual, emotional and behavioural aspects of human functioning.

The various theoretical models on the evolution of consciousness reflect common themes, principles and structures. These models have emerged from different study fields including philosophy, physics, sociology, psychology, economics and theology, and address consciousness, cognitive, moral, educational, physiological and spiritual development.

All the models that are mentioned in this paper are not discussed in detail, and the focus is primarily on the contributions of Graves, Wilber, May and Myss. Gebser’s and Piaget’s work is merely addressed in support of Wilber’s AQAL model. The views of educationalists Perry and Kohlberg are briefly discussed under the heading of intellectual, moral and ethical development (section 2.4). Psychological perspectives such as Loevinger’s model of ego-states; Maslow’s need hierarchy; and Kegan’s equilibrium stages are mentioned but not discussed in any detail. These models are, however, included in the final integrated framework as proposed in this paper (section 3). Additional views from the spiritual and physical domains are referred to in support of the general themes that characterise speculations on consciousness. The role of consciousness theory in complementing current leadership models and practices is explored in terms of an integral perspective of leadership.

Go read the whole paper.

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