Kegan and Me On the 5th Order of Consciousness


It was proposed by Robert Kegan that the human development process has five levels or orders. Moving from one to the next is achieved through transformation.

Kegan also pointed out that majority of adults are at just at the third order. The person, therefore, who achieves the top or the fifth level is one who sees beyond himself, who lives with ideals, recognizes and takes on multiple roles, and recognizes systematical thinking.

We were asked the following questions –

What are your own considerations, challenges, and concerns with respect to Kegan’s Orders of Consciousness?

How do you support your own transitions between these “orders”?

To answer the first question, I  agree with Kegan with regard to the levels of consciousness that he proposed.

First, it is true that wisdom only comes at a certain age and in his theory, no one is considered wise till he/she reaches the age of 40 onward. Even then, not all adults mature in the manner that Kegan considers ideal.

There is also his claim that “psychological autonomy may not be the fullest picture of maturity”. I also happen to agree with this as only through social relationships, even intimacy with others, can we see beyond ourselves and become mature enough to realize who we are.

To most, this is a lifelong process of development, some do not even realize or achieve it till they die.

Kegan largely based his work on Piaget, Kohlberg, Maslow, Loevinger and Erikson’s frameworks but took a step further by developing the evolution of meaning.

Now how do I support my own transition to the fifth level of consciousness?

To begin with, I have long practiced self critiquing. I may still have a few impulses and emotions that need to be controlled but I believe I am in the process of self-formation. I contradict when necessary, I can deal with oxymoron, I can also live with opposition.

I am also at a stage when I want others to enjoy the same blessings that I enjoy. Being a practicing LDS (yes, we are also Christians), we are taught to love others as we love ourselves. A step up and Christianity also asks for us to love our enemies – I have done and am still doing both.

To cap my realization, I also happen to agree with Kegan that mere knowledge does not comprise decision making. In fact, knowledge is not totally necessary for wisdom. What matters is having a well-rounded personality that functions within one’s culture. Whether you achieve  the fifth level through experiences or through human and cultural associations, what matters is that our world today requires wisdom and we should step up to have it realized.


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