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From the Program Manual of the Integral Spiritual Experience 2:

In our discussion of the evolution of love, we’ll work with a model of development that we are calling the Three Stations of Love. We have evolved this model from several of the great traditions. Parallels are found in the work of Robert Kegan, Jane Loevinger, and other constructive developmental theorists. These stations are among the Integral windows into human development, augmenting the classic Integral models of state-stages and structure-stages.

States, Structures, and Stations

Click here to go to the Integral Theory PortalIntegral Theory BannerIn Integral theory, states refer to experiences of awareness, including waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and meditative experiences that may be powerful and transformative, but are not permanent or stable. If these states are intentionally cultivated through contemplative practice, they may become state-stages, yielding stable access to the phenomena disclosed in states beyond the waking realm. By structure-stages of consciousness, we refer to stable levels of development or deep patterns of consciousness that appear within an individual, and which mark the achievement of a new level of stable consciousness.

An example of development through structure-stages is the evolution from egocentric consciousness (concerned with the good of one’s self alone), to ethnocentric consciousness (concerned with the good of one’s family, tribe, or nation) to worldcentric consciousness, (concerned with the good of all). In this example, at every ascending level of consciousness there is an expanded sense of both awareness and identity. Another example of development through structure-stages can be found in developmental lines such as the values line, described best by Spiral Dynamics, which is based on the research and teaching of developmental theorist Clare Graves.

The Three Stations that we will be working with in this year’s ISE express how consciousness evolves through the transitions that distinguish every structure- and state-stage. This evolution is recognized in the traditions, specifically in Sufism and Kabbalah, and is a key dimension of developmental theory. These Three Stations also describe the way that both love and consciousness evolve for every growing individual through the significant situations and relationships of their lives.

The Three Stations of Love unfold within every structure-stage, and are the very mechanism by which individuals move from lower to higher structure-stages of consciousness.(1)

Vehicles for Evolving Consciousness

Before we go further in our explanation of the Three Stations, we need to note that evolution to higher structure-stages, state-stages, and stations of consciousness usually take place in two major ways.

One vehicle for the evolution of consciousness within the individual is formal spiritual or personal growth practice, which includes the intention to wake up and grow up, and methods for moving into expanded awareness and identification such as meditation, chant, self-inquiry, relationships with spiritual teachers, ritual, study of texts, shadow work, perspective-taking, and embodiment practices.

The second—and for many people, the most significant —vehicle for evolving consciousness is life as practice. Life itself—with its agony and ecstasy, its periods of stasis, boredom, and confusion, and its rich textures of love, joy, loss, and pain, offers a profound process of deepening within the individual that evolves both states and structures of consciousness. For example, an experience of either powerful love or powerful loss might affect a significant evolution in your structurestage by influencing your movement through stations of consciousness. Deep work in some creative endeavor, facing and completing a difficult obligation, a significant success or failure, contact with a different culture—these are all ways in which life experience can shift your station, thereby helping to effectuate a shift in your state- or structurestage.

Life, in short, is one of our most powerful teachers. The evolution through the stations of love usually takes place within the context of life as practice.

The Three Stations: Submission, Separation, and Sweetness

Stars-And-Nebula-Gas-by-Victor-HabbickTo unpack the notion of stations of consciousness as they relate to the evolution of love, we’ll use a formulation taken from the tradition of Kabbalah.

The Baal Shem Tov—the great Hebrew mystic who founded the Hasidic movement—in a number of elliptical passages discusses three distinct points that occur in a person’s movement through the different dimensions of life. He refers to them as hachna’ah or submission, havdalah or separation, and hamtaka or sweetness. Each of these three stations refers to a distinct developmental experience, which we move through in the course of life as practice.

The stations, which the Baal Shem calls submission, separation, and sweetness roughly correspond to a movement that developmentalists might refer to as identification (which, at ethnocentric waves of development, might be with a family, partner, or group), to dis-identification (defining the self as separate and distinct from your family, partner, or group) to integration (re-entering the family, partnership, or group at a new level of awareness).

It is also similar, but not to be confused with, the process of moving from the pre-personal levels (structure-stages) of life, where we experience ourselves for a time as merged in a family or couple or group, and in which we act instinctually and unconsciously, to the personal levels, where we make choices based on distinct personal ethical and aesthetic values, and finally to the transpersonal levels, where we may again feel merged in a whole, but from a perspective of fully integrated individuation. (2)

These three stations are repeated time and again within every structureand state-stage of consciousness. They are also virtually always the mechanism for evolving from one structure-stage of consciousness to another.

The application of these distinct stations is relevant in virtually every sphere of human life. Under the right conditions, the human being is always able to evolve to higher and higher levels of freedom and fullness. This development takes place through ascending to higher and higher levels or structure-stages of consciousness, as well as through the microevolution of consciousness that takes place within each structure-stage.

This evolution—both within and to new levels of consciousness—always takes place through the pattern of these three stations—they are literally the phases of every developmental transition. Each station transcends and includes the previous station. Station one and station three can appear—to the untrained eye of the outside observer—to be fairly similar in form and structure. However, when experienced from within, it becomes apparent that stations one and three are entirely different in feeling-tone and inner consciousness, with only apparent external similarity. Station three includes both the identification of station one and the dis-identification of station two so that consciousness is, through integration, more flexible and free in its identifications.

When we apply this core model from the great traditions to love, what emerges is what we have termed the Three Stations of Love.

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