Arrested Mental and Spiritual Development

  Most persons worldwide lack the ability to gain effectual understanding through reading, seeing, or hearing instructional material. They would be situated, in Bloom's taxonomy of understanding, at grade F (failing) level, since they're actually incapable of memorizing facts, let alone comprehending, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, or evaluating facts.

   Note that the lowest level of understanding in Bloom's taxonomy constitutes memorization. Our present "culture of infantilism" defines intelligence--what it calls the intelligence quotient (IQ)--in terms of how much a person merely memorizes, not what he understands. This has created the "quiz-Kid" mental pattern: persons who are "smart" but not intelligent. The mental state of a growing number of people worldwide can best be characterized as "arrested development." 1

The Rejuveniles: Infantilism Is On the Rise

"From childless fans of kiddie music to the grown-up readers of 'Harry Potter,' inner children are having fun all over. Whether they are buying cars marketed to consumers half their age, dressing in baby-doll fashions or bonding over games like Twister and kickball, a new breed of quasi adult is co-opting the culture of children as never before. Most have busy lives with adult responsibilities, respectable jobs and children of their own. They are not stunted adolescents. 2 They are something else: grown-ups who cultivate juvenile tastes in products and entertainment. Call them rejuveniles.

"Celebrated by market researchers and fretted over by social scientists, rejuveniles come in all ages but are mostly a product of the urban upper classes (free time and disposable income being essential in their lifestyle). Evidence of their presence is widespread. According to Nielsen Media research, more adults 18 to 49 watch the Cartoon Network than watch CNN. More than 35 million people have caught up with long-lost school pals on the Web site ('There's something about signing on to that makes you feel 16 again,' the '60 Minutes II' correspondent Vicki Mabrey reported.) Fuzzy pajamas with attached feet come in adult sizes at Target, along with Scoobie Doo underpants. The average age of video game players is now 29, up from 18 in 1990, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Hello Kitty's cartoon face graces toasters. Sea Monkeys come in an executive set.

"Researchers at the MacArthur Foundation are studying 'adultolescents,' those 20- and 30-somethings who live at home and still depend on their parents for emotional and financial support.

"Some social scientists, however, see signs of a deeply troubling trend. That so many adults expend so much time and energy pursuing the thrills of youth just proves how significantly 'adulthood has lost its appeal,' said Frank Furendi, a professor of sociology at the University of Kent at Canterbury in England. 'Adulthood has got nothing attractive about it anymore. That's actually quite sad.'

"Mr. Furendi began researching what he calls 'the self-conscious cultivation of immaturity' after spotting college students watching 'Teletubbies' in a university bar. The scene stuck in his mind, and he came to think of it as representative of a wave of infantilism sweeping Britain and beyond. What is happening, Mr. Furendi maintained, is a natural if extreme response to a media culture that equates being old with being square and being young with being relevant. 'Today, the way you demonstrate your worth is the extent to which you still go to rock concerts, you're still groovy, you're still a player,' he said."

Christopher Noxon, "I Don't Want to Grow Up!" NYTimes, August 31, 2003

      This widespread disability in understanding--most accurately characterized as
    arrested development--derives from:

    1. Egomania

       A. Excessive love or admiration of oneself

       B. A psychological disorder characterized by self-obsession, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem

    2. Illiteracy:

    A. The condition of being unable to read and write

    B. The condition or quality of being ignorant or unknowledgeable in a particular subject or field: cultural illiteracy; scientific illiteracy

    C. The inability to understand, even if capable of deciphering communications

    D. The inability to draw out the larger, more comprehensive meanings in events and communications

        At present, only twenty-nine percent of Americans have basic reading and computing skills. One out of every three Americans lacks the ability to understand what is going on in the world or to develop an informed opinion for voting.

        Throughout history most people have been illiterate. In feudal society, for example, only the clergy and aristocracy could read and write. The first known reference to "literate laymen" appeared only at the end of the 14th century. Illiteracy was not seen as a problem until after the invention of printing in the 15th century.

          The first significant decline in illiteracy came with the Reformation, when translation of the Bible into the vernacular became widespread and Protestant converts were taught to read it. Revolutionary political movements from the 18th to the 20th centuries generally included an attack on illiteracy as one of their goals, with the former Soviet Union, China, and Cuba being among the most successful in the 20th century.

"Cultural backwardness is rife in America, but nowhere so pervasively as in small cities and towns. Left to rot by corporations that have closed down plants and mines and moved on to more profitable pastures; ravaged by budget cuts in social programs and education--which have all but eliminated music and art from public schools--that ensure a stunted intellectual level; neglected and ignored by politicians and abandoned by the unions; as morally and spiritually isolated as some remote village in China; indeed, linked to the outside world principally through the stupidities of television ('reality shows,' cop shows, daytime talk shows, etc.) and the filth of right-wing talk radio--these towns offer very little. For many, especially the young people, life is bleak and without a future."

  Arrested development in mental and social awareness among Americans is rife and has been historically: their reasoning only goes so far. During the 1776 American revolution, Americans were intelligent enough to get rid of their British overlords. But they weren't savvy enough to throw off the tyranny of American plutocrats who perpetrated a coup d'etat in the Constitutional Convention and produced a document which favored the wealthy over the poor. Contemporary Americans are not discerning enough to see that both the Democratic and Republican parties are tools of the capitalist cabal--that whoever is put into the presidency is a cabal puppet.

Completed Research Study

  An earlier three-year research project found that most people worldwide are illiterate in all the connotations of illiteracy delineated above and therefore are incapable of gaining effectual understanding 3 of higher knowledge through ordinary, primarily self-directed reading and study of specially prepared material. 4

Persons worldwide were offered advanced and introductory programs of instruction in the Perennial Tradition to determine if applicants possessed the ability to read and study effectively enough to assimilate instructional material, exercises, and dialectical interchange to advance to the point where they could gain prerequisite under-standing and skills. The research project discovered that most persons of all types, including those with undergraduate and graduate degrees were incapable of participating functionally in an advanced or introductory program of study.

      The result has been that the several levels of study in the Perennial Tradition are now being clarified for serious students.

  One of the features of the preparatory phase of study is to determine whether or not prospective students are genuinely interested in or capable of serious study--and encouraging unsuitable applicants to move to other material immediately.

Levels of Study in the Perennial Tradition

  • Advanced Study Program

  • Introductory Study Program

  • Preparatory Study Program

  • Progressive Awareness Study Program

  • Contact with Perennialist material

Humans As Machines

"Men are machines and nothing but mechanical actions can be expected of machines . . .

"Psychology refers to people, to men, to human beings. What psychology ... can there be in relation to machines? Mechanics, not psychology, is necessary for the study of machines. That is why we begin with mechanics. It is a very long way yet to psychology."

P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

"It is possible to stop being a machine, but for that it is necessary first of all to know the machine. A machine, a real machine, does not know itself and cannot know itself. When a machine knows itself it is then no longer a machine, at least, not such a machine as it was before. It already begins to be responsible for its actions."
P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous


Level of Self-Consciousness:

  • Level 3: Awareness: complete humanness

  • Level 2: Beginning awareness of being a machine

  • Level 1: Ignorance of being a machine


      In reference to the robot image to the left, determine what level of self-consciousness each interpretation of the robot's statements would involve:

  • The words coming from the robot are from a programmed tape

  • The robot delusively believes that it chooses not to believe it is a robot--when, as a robot, it has no choice at all

  • The robot recognizes that it is programmed to believe everything it believes--and therefore does not choose to believe it is a robot, but is programmed to believe it

  • The robot has studied its "robotness" sufficiently to understand how its mechanisms have controlled it. But now, with its new self-knowledge, it is beginning to see itself as something other than a mere robot: a robot which could become a human being.

At which level of consciousness do you believe you are?

    Level 3      Level 2      Level 1

"You might already know a great deal if you knew how to read . . .

"You do not understand either what you read or what you write. You do not even understand what the word 'understand" means. Yet understanding is essential, and reading can be useful only if you understand what you read."

P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

Which of these images represents what you think the author is trying to do to you in this essay?

He's  deliberately
trying to put you into a trance.


He's presenting confusing material to befuddle you.


He's attempting
to help you recognize your robotness so you can begin to learn to become a human.

"Man's chief delusion is his conviction that he can do. All people think that they can do, all people want to do, and the first question all people ask is what they are to do. But actually nobody does anything and nobody can do anything. That is the first thing that must be understood. Everything happens. All that befalls a man, all that is done by him, all that comes from him--all this happens."

P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

"I asked G, what a man had to do to assimilate this teaching.

"'What to do?' asked G. as though surprised. 'It is impossible to do anything. A man must first of all understand certain things. He has thousands of false ideas and false conceptions, chiefly about himself, and he must get rid of some of them before beginning to acquire anything new. Otherwise the new will be built on a wrong foundation and the result will be worse than before.'"

P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

       Which of these statements below expresses the same point of view as the quotation above?

    "But by far the worst feature of this 'double ignorance' is that, on the one hand, it stands in the way of its own cure, and on the other, if unchecked, it is constantly aggravating itself. For if we look at things with a distorted view, these things will present themselves to us in a distorted manner too; and thus, instead of reaping from our experiences new impressions which might help us in restoring a healthy spirit within ourselves, we shall only add nourishment to the ulcer within our mind. And on the other side, if we should try to cure our ignorance, we see that for so doing it is required that we look away from ourselves and from our habitual ways of thinking, which seems to us tantamount to a flat repudiation of our very selves and consequently impossible."

    Hermann Gauss, Plato's Conception of Philosophy

    "Someone pretending to help me become aware of what they assume is my ignorance doesn't help at all, it's mere ridicule. Such pretended assistance in 'helping me' recognize my incorrect appraisal of myself and the world is actually a repudiation of my very being and consequently terribly unjustified."

    Diputs Peerc, Defending My Personal Space

    "But no one will ever believe you if you tell him he can do nothing. This is the most offensive and the most unpleasant thing you can tell people. IT is particularly unpleasant and offensive because it is the truth, and nobody wants to know the truth."

    Georg Gurdjieff

      One of the many realities you're unaware of is that homo sapiens animals--from sub-human to full-human--fit into different mental and spiritual levels. You look at what you call "human beings" and assume that they're all of the same status.

  Considering human life in general, we recognize that understanding passes through many levels. If we consider a reality such as love, we're aware that a 9 year old is on a lower level of understanding of love than a 60 year old emotionally and intellectually mature woman. The older woman knows what romantic love means and may understand what spiritual love entails, whereas the 9 year old understands neither of these things.

"People of Western culture put great value on the level of a man's knowledge but they do not value the level of a man's being and are not ashamed of the low level of their own being. They do not even understand what it means. And they do not understand that a man's knowledge depends on the level of his being."

Georg Gurdjieff

"Knowledge by itself does not give understanding. Nor is understanding increased by an increase of knowledge alone. Understanding depends upon the relation of knowledge to being. Understanding is the resultant of knowledge and being. And knowledge and being must not diverge too far, otherwise understanding will prove to be far removed from either. At the same time the relation of knowledge to being does not change with a mere growth of knowledge. It changes only when being grows simultaneously with knowledge. In other words, understanding grows only with the growth of being."

Georg Gurdjieff

   "I am so much the center of the universe that EVERYTHING must PROVE itself to me. I must ask: "Do I want to believe this or not? Is this good enough for me--to believe, or buy, or commit to?

   "Nothing is any good unless it's selling itself--presenting itself as outstanding, the best. It must try to get you to buy or believe or attend to it. Yet anything that's selling itself is to be met with suspicion or skepticism or wariness. It makes you ask: "Why is it trying so hard to sell itself to me?"

   "Everyone's out to fool and best everyone else. You can't expect honesty--that would be counterproductive in selling yourself or a product or service.

   "There's no need to get serious about the destruction of Constitutional liberties or trying to do anything about it. There's nothing anyone can do about present conditions, anyway.

Diputs Peerc, Defending My Personal Space

    Now this is the statement of someone who is more sensible than most of the nonsense that this piece has been spouting so far.

    I feel more at home with this person's thinking.

    This is the ravings of a suicidal head-in-the-sand non-thinker.

   The research project mentioned earlier found that a significant number of people responded to advanced and introductory Perennialist material with curiosity, a sense of intellectual agreement, and emotional affect--leading them to apply for advanced or introductory study. However, they did not possess sufficient discernment, self-discipline, or commitment to be able to move forward to undergo prerequisite personal transformation.

    Some of these people were able to experience the movement from one state of consciousness to another, for example from the ordinary mind-state to a condition of exhilaration or serenity. But much like a photographic image that does not "fix," these persons were unable to stabilize these more exalted states of consciousness to bring about essential personality change.

      The special instructional material impelled them to perceive the truths presented and allowed them to gain some sense of what commitment they should make, given the peril of the world situation. But most did not, in their present condition, have sufficient character, resolution, or courage to act in a manner acceptable to the Work.

   The research project determined that few of the dozens of applicants and provisional neophytes possessed the intellectual or spiritual capability of effectively utilizing advanced or introductory material in a transformative manner. It was necessary to forego further exposure of unsuitable persons to advanced knowledge and exercises to avoid possible danger to them.

   The first phase of the preparatory program of study mentioned earlier is in essence remedial, since it has been discovered that applicants lack the ability to understand the simplest aspects of the instructional material. Remediation, therefore, is necessary with neophytes because they must be taught the rudiments of learning how to learn.

"Fables can enable people to absorb ideas which the ordinary patterns of their thinking would prevent them from digesting. Fables have been used . . . to present a picture of life more in harmony with their feelings than is possible by means of intellectual exercises."

Idries Shah, The Sufis

Willy De Witt

   In some Perennialist material the figure of Nasrudin is employed as an instructional foil. In this essay we use a fictional, humorous character named Willy De Witt as our guide to wisdom. Willy is a "fool," jester, or "idiot" in the Shakespearean and Wisdom Literature sense. Willy helps us keep our equilibrium as we examine transformative elements.

   The extra-dimensionality that Willy DeWitt introduces into our discussion is not a miasma of jumbled thought and idle conjecture but a carefully constructed framework which encourages us to reflect on multiple interpretations of our experiences and learn to move beyond the intellectualist fixations in which our minds habitually revolve.

   One of the uses of the Willy DeWitt episodes is to allow us to respond to material which has many possible interpretations or which appears to be somehow off-kilter. We are then encouraged to reflect on our reactions and try to understand what this tells us about our "selves."

   Willy Dewitt threw a party celebrating his becoming a Driver. He had studied all the manuals on driving and had passed the written test at the department of motor vehicles but hadn't taken the driving test. Someone pointed out that even though Willy had a new car, with his picture on it, he never drove the car. Willy replied, "I define being a driver as someone who has a mastery of all the academic concepts concerning driving, not someone who actually drives."

   Most people approach personal transformation as Willy approached driving--assuming that they already know how to bring about significant change in themselves--even if they don't actually DO it. They're completely unaware of the prerequisites for learning how to attain higher understanding. They presume that they already possess the attitudes and mental and psychic capabilities required. To them, learning constitutes buying a book of transformational material and putting their name in it.

   Perennialist instruction involves students participating vicariously or actively in transformative exercises prescribed by a teacher. Relative to our allegory, these experiences are somewhat akin to learning to "drive" through the use of a simulator (as in flight training). The neophyte goes through simulated experiences to gain understanding and ability.

   At a more advanced level, the neophyte participates in dialectical interchange with the teacher. This corresponds to taking a person on a training drive in a vehicle with dual controls. Both the teacher and the student participate in the numerous procedures involved in the processes of "travel."

   Willy decided he'd enroll in a driving school. He walked into the school and said to the teacher, "I want to take your course on driving, but I must be honest with you, I already know how to drive."

   "Okay," said the teacher, "let's go for a test drive."

   They got into Willy's car, with Willy behind the wheel. As they were going the first half block, Willy turned to the teacher and said, "See, I can drive."

   Because his eyes were off the road, Willy plowed the car into a large tree and the car turned upside down.

   Willy said proudly, "I told you I could drive!"

   "Oh," said the teacher, "you want to learn that kind of driving. That's an entirely different kind of school."

                       If you're looking for a study program where an instructor will tell you you're wonderful, no matter what you do and no matter what kind of nonsense you believe, then the various levels of study in the Perennial Tradition aren't for you. You'll have to go to a different "driving" school for that.

   Having progressed to the end of this essay through the various decision-points, you may be interested in beginning the preparatory level of study in the Perennial Tradition.

  Toward that end, you might want to begin with this essay.



1 Arrested development:
  • A state of infantilism in an adult, characterized by retention of infantile mentality, accompanied by stunted growth and sexual immaturity, and sometimes by dwarfism

  • Marked immaturity, as in behavior or character: “infantilism, which is the subtext of so much American cinema and culture” (John Simon)

  • Persons who are adults in terms of age, but who retain infantile mental and behavioral characteristics
2 These "rejuveniles" are "stunted adolescents," whether Mr. Noxon wants to recognize or admit it or not.

3 Effectual understanding of higher knowledge defined as fulfilling one or all of these criteria:
4 Specially designed material within the Perennial Tradition containing higher knowledge

5 In the Perennial Tradition, the terrestrial and spiritual Enterprise of providing specialized training in the transformation of the human essence into Higher Consciousness is designated by several different terms. In alchemical writings, it is referred to as the "Great Work," and in other occult systems it is termed theurgy, which means "The Science or Art of Divine Works," the Telestic Work, or the Perfecting Work. In the Sufi embodiment of the Perennial Tradition, the Arabic word amal (work, action, operation) is used to refer to the transformative effort. The entire Enterprise is termed "the Work," while the responsibilities of individual initiates (beginning students) is called their "work."

Updates and References: