What Is Complex Consciousness?

A friend asked me about the Integral idea that with development to higher stages of consciousness comes increasing complexity. What exactly does that mean, he asked. Here is what I wrote. I wonder if I got any of this wrong or left out something important.

Complexity in the evolution of consciousness is a function of the ability to take multiple perspectives in the cognitive line (and perhaps in others). We are all born at Stage 0, the Archaic where we have only one perspective: “I’m hungry!” After a few years we move up to the Amber level where we can take the role of another person, creating a “we-space.” Two perspectives, I and you, first-person and second-person. At Orange we can look at anything as an object, a 3rd person objective perspective, giving us an I, a you/we, and an it/its. Now it gets interesting. Wilber says later on (at Green?) we can take a 4th person perspective, which apparently means an ability to recognize and embrace all previous perspectives. At Teal and Integral we achieve a 5th and perhaps a 6th person perspective where we see all the earlier perspectives and, unlike the 4th person perspective, are able to integrate them all in a higher synthesis (the AQAL model). If you want more complexity, check out the discussion in Integral Spirituality of the 8 perspectives in the 4 Quadrants.

In less esoteric terms, complex thinking is an ability to carry out formal operations (Piaget), to see nuance in complex situations, to entertain scenarios and thought experiments, and to think about thinking.


I think the definition of piaget is somthing different from the preceding paragraph. It seems more of an intellectual thing and acting upon information while what your paragraph of what wilbur decribes sooms more like observational.

For example, i can understand my own problem or the problem of my group or things like feelings emotions cause effect and so on. To take that information and try to “solve it” or judge and debate right and wrong about it is another and i tbink where we go astray away from consciousness to thinking.

I would also describe the child thinking “im hungry” as 1. There is a zero before this, which is pure awareness. To fulfill the numerical analogy, it is a base 10 numerical system so after 9 the hugher level is again 0, but with awareness of the 10 pre ious stages.

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Yes. My definition of complexity in the UL quadrant is based on the cognitive line of development. Perhaps one could discuss complexity in other developmental lines as well, e.g. the moral line, the emotional line, the interpersonal line, etc.

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Complex consciousness is a state of awareness characterised by a person’s capacity to understand, integrate, and navigate multiple layers of reality, perspectives, and experiences simultaneously. It also involves a meta-awareness of one’s own thought processes, emotions, and biases.


Your description is a model of conciseness. Good work.

My recommendation is to Seek The Path Of Polarization of Service to Other

Then Seek Complex Causal Awareness