How these three kinds of interpretations of personal experience can help to explain differences among people and how taking these differences into account can improve understanding and communication among people...
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I think we can agree that from the time we are born our personal experience is constantly interpreted to us by our surroundings - family, groups, culture - and we later tend to rely on these interpretations heavily.
It might seem that people don't even have any actual authentic personal experience... just its interpretation mediated by authorities...who have complete power over us when we are most susceptible to outer influences: in childhood. We are shown and told what is important and what isn't, what is good and what is bad, we are taught a hierarchy of values and sets of norms... we are taught how to experience the world around us and ourselves and our behavior.
Even as adults we perceive the world, think about it, feel it, behave in it...based to a large extent on these original interpretations ("imprinting" perhaps)... and later changes and corrections of them may be much smaller than we believe, as we seem to draw from these original interpretations rather unconsciously.
I suggest dividing the ways of interpretation of personal experience into the three categories mentioned in the title. This classification gives us - I would say - a useful tool for descriptions of individuals, groups, institutions, cultures etc., and also of their development and growth, and how they relate to each other.
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THREE WAYS WE ARE TOUGHT TO INTERPRET HUMAN EXPERIENCE
Let's say human experience can be interpreted in one or more of the following ways:
I understand this as memory of the last 200 to 300 years - of family, class, profession, ethnicity, local culture... accessible through the dominant hierarchy of values, through norms, beliefs, habits, survival strategies etc., of a nation or of smaller units. I would also include in TRADITION: marketing, mass media, indoctrination by politicians and the particular teachings of history.
Maybe TRADITION can be well described as interpretation of personal experience based on/formed by interests of a relatively small group of people - in contrast to what follows...
ARCHIVES OF HUMANKIND:
I imagine these as old as humankind itself - encompassing tens of thousands of years of human experience... they are encoded in archetypes that people of various cultures seem to share and/or in the various factors that unite all humans and are shared by all people, all cultures around the globe. ARCHIVES OF HUMANKIND are expressed in humankind's striving and attempting to grasp and trying to respond to the big and important questions of human existence: meaning, survival globally with all cultures of the world, contributing to and influencing and also naturally understanding each other.
Concepts of good and evil, love, respect, compassion, altruism, equality, helping each other in life threatening situations, sharing resources, protecting children and subsequent generations, acknowledgment of basic human needs from food and shelter to self-expression and personal growth and development...
These and many other concepts are pretty much shared by all people... even though TRADITIONS of ways they manifest and are expressed may vary from culture to culture to a level of direct contradiction.
I would say that ARCHIVES OF HUMANKIND can be well described as interpretation of human experience based on the long term interests (whatever they actually are) of all humankind. They seem to be so difficult to fathom and express that they fail to be described rationally (as TRADITION-based interpretations perhaps can be). Instead, they are understood intuitively and felt emotionally.
This is perhaps the reason why good art represents concepts from the ARCHIVES OF HUMANKIND so well... that actually the quality of art itself can be measured exactly by the degree to which it captures the concepts from the ARCHIVES OF HUMANKIND.
COSMIC ORDER is another angle of interpretation of our personal experience... and of relating our lives' meaning to and finding criteria for our behavior. This dimension is as eternal as cosmos itself and is absolutely general, all pervading and transcendent. It is a kind of genetic pattern of everything.
I would say if COSMIC ORDER is not respected in the long term, people can harm themselves... and I think ecology gives various and more and more warning examples of this. Humankind is developing greater power to destroy its living conditions to a level that could prove fatal in some decades, while TRADITION surprisingly stays oblivious to or dismissive of the many warning signals.
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These three kinds of interpretation of our experience may sometimes overlap and sometimes be in contradiction.
As mentioned, some ecological considerations and perspectives can be seen as unacceptable by TRADITION while from a COSMIC ORDER perspective they seem obvious and logically right.
Sometimes COSMIC ORDER may seem too cold and "cruel" to be enlisted into ARCHIVES OF HUMANKIND. For example "survival of the fittest" belongs rather to COSMIC ORDER and more reluctantly to the ARCHIVES OF HUMANKIND. But TRADITION may easily accept it: In a subculture where only the street-smart survive in situations of high criminality and scarcity of resources, a certain level of criminal behavior becomes a generally accepted norm and value and even a virtue.
I guess there is some interplay of influence among these three types of interpretation of personal experience, and, above all, ignoring any of them too much and too long will lead to troubles...
And I would definitely feel better and safer if "the rich and influential" of this world would not rely only on one of these perspectives of interpretation, but would be quite firmly and consciously oriented at least in two of them. I strongly believe relying only on one of them can be dangerously narrow-minded, disorienting and actually have led to some horrendous tragedies in human history.
I am afraid that only about 1% of those "rich and influential" and only about 15% of people in general draw from more than one sources of interpretation of their personal experience... which feels a bit rare to me.
I think there are some standard ways of widening one's scope of interpretation of one's experience, such as good psychotherapy and coaching, self-realization, investing in self-development or generally continuous education programs... and I hope they are all becoming more and more trendy and cool every day!!!
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WHAT'S THE PRACTICAL USE OF ALL THIS?
Among people, the closer the similarity in the "way of interpretation" of personal experience the higher probability of mutual understanding, successful communication, and cooperation.
If we want to choose people who are supposed to negotiate a difficult deal, choosing by similarity in the "way of interpretation" will benefit the process tremendously. Difference will tend to alienate people form each other... specifically if they don't understand their different orientations well enough. Success in a professional career will be dependent to a big deal on the similarity of the "way of interpretation" between a candidate/novice and a professional culture.
The level and comfort of coping of an ex-patriot in a foreign culture will depend on the similarity of the "way of interpretation" between he/him and the culture he/she is moving to.
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HOW DO I IDENTIFY INDIVIDUALS' SCORES FOR TRADITION (T), ARCHIVES OF HUMANKIND (AH) AND COSMIC ORDER (CO) INTERPRETATIONS OF PERSONAL EXPERIENCE?
A a psychic, intuitively, of course (and I don't think a psychic with long enough psychological practice and expertise brings less correct outcomes than a standardized psychological diagnostic tool that could be developed for this purpose).
I would like to encourage whoever wants to play with these concepts to contribute their own data, own evaluations, corrections, objections; surely the intuition of more people makes intuitive outcomes more objective, right?
So, here we go:
Strictly for inspiration and raising your curiosity and sense of play, here are some examples of well-known individuals (sorry for any misspellings). and my assessments their prevalent ways of interpretation of personal experience from TRADITION (T), ARCHIVES OF HUMANKIND (AH) and COSMIC ORDER (CO). I believe that groups, institutions, cultures etc. can be evaluated in the same way if desired.
The numbers express my intuitive take on percents of using/relying on each of the three "ways of interpretation":
GROUP/INDIVIDUAL T AH CO (in %)
Berlusconi Silvio 100 0 0
Chirac Jacques 100 1 0
Churchill Winston 0 100 30
Gorbachev Mikhail 0 10 10
Putin Vladimir 10 0 0
Bata Tomas 10 0 0
Branson Richard 100 0 0
Gates Bill 100 0 0
Greenspan Alan 100 0 0
Khodorkovski Mikhail 0 0 0
Buonarotti Michelangelo 1 100 100
Dali Salvador 0 40 50
Fellini Federico 10 80 30
Picasso Pablo 0 70 0
Vonnegut Kurt 0 30 100
THINKERS AND SCIENTISTS
Dalai Lama 100 40 0
Einstein Albert 0 30 100
Hawking Stephen 0 100 100
Pope John Paul II. 100 1 0
Schweitzer Albert 1 100 10
Soros George (also financier) 0 100 100
Prague, Czech Republic, June 2004
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OPINION: David Elliott, Ph.D.
I like the concepts of Tradition-Archives of Humankind-Cosmic Order , and your section about the practical application of the concept is excellent. But it raised a few ideas in me that you might want to consider. I'll try to explain.
1.) You frame the construct as different ways of interpreting experience. After the first few paragraphs, I found myself thinking that the three categories have as much to do, if not more, with what motivates behavior, and not just how experience is interpreted. Your descriptions fit very well with the motivational aspect of these categories, so the focus on the narrower concept of the interpretation of experience falls flat (for me) after the introductory and Tradition sections. You do allude to the behavioral aspect in the CO section, but I suggest making it more explicit earlier in the essay.
2.) Your point in the first paragraphs about being handed interpretations from many sources from childhood is a good and important one But this point seems most relevant to the Tradition category. As you described the other two categories, I found myself thinking that AH and CO are more likely to develop over maturation and widening of perspective, than to be given only from other sources during childhood.
(Warning: The next few paragraphs just spilled out as I was writing on point #2, and may not be useful or even relevant here. Your ideas overlap to some degree with some reading and thinking that I've been doing lately...).
There's some good research that backs up the developmental sequence of such world-views, or "interpretations." Culturally, it wasn't until the Enlightenment period of the 18th century that there emerged on a relatively large scale the perspectives that are consistent with your Archives of Humankind -- justice, fairness, universal rights, etc (at least as ideas). Prior to that, the culture was driven primarily by tradition and conformity.
Of course, I agree completely with your basic point, that now and throughout history all three (and probably more) sources/perspectives have been and are active and present. From my view, most people are still primarily locked in the Tradition mode of perspective/interpretation. If this is true, the idea that these modes at least partly develop in individuals and cultures might be one explanation.
The developmental model for world-views that I like (see Ken Wilber's recent books) includes, in sequence:
Egocentric -- I am right and the entire world must mirror that.
Traditional/Conformist -- my group's beliefs are the only right beliefs.
Rational/Scientific -- includes universal principles that apply to everyone, but there are rigid dividing hierarchies
Pluralistic -- all views are equally valid and need to be included and given merit (leads to endless "processing")
Integral -- everyone is right, but some people are more right than others; able to hold all perspectives, including hierarchies and the partial validity of all views.
If the developmental idea is valid, that would explain the "loneliness of the visionary"; by one estimate, Western culture has 70% of people at Rational/Scientific and earlier, 20 to 25% at Pluralistic, and only 2% at Integral and above.
3.) Your examples at the end include Mikhail Khodorkovski's T-AH-CO reading of 0 0 0. The "0" in all three categories suggests that there are more than the three that you mention in the essay, as this man, I would assume, must interpret/be motivated from some source...What other sources (pathologically egocentric, maybe?).
These minor comments aside, your contributions to the worthy endeavor of understanding who we are and what it's all about are tremendously valuable -- I look forward to more of your wise and intuitive perspectives!
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RESPONSE: Jan Jilek
Your comments hit the mark excellently, I think:
1.) I agree completely that the "interpretation" categories also function as motivators and as criteria for choice -- I thought "interpretation" covered it all... but I think I was wrong, and you definitely have a point there and I take if fully.
2.) This one makes a lot of sense rationally (actually traditionally rationally)... but intuitively, at least to me, things look different... My dowsing was that T-AH-CO scores in nearly all of us are 99% formed by the end of the fifth year of age... if I remember correctly it this is similar to Sigmud Freud's take on how long the forming of a personality takes.
This is certainly a rather grim finding for us who count on basically unlimited chances of for personal growth... is this what I get after all my dearly paid psychological trainings and seminars.?.. well, some of my more skeptical colleagues told me so...
Anyway I guess (and hope) that the optimists might be right still... as I also dowsed there seems to be about 2% of people who make some kind of developmental breakthrough, a kind of miraculous personal change or growth or series of leaps in their lives... which some of us psychologists and psychics hope for in our work... 2% is a surprisingly slim chance though, I would say... and against my rational expectations.
3.) The "0 0 0" pattern didn't let me sleep since I wrote that text... until this morning (when I coincidentally/synchronistically got a letter from you) when I knew I had to deal with it somehow. I must say I never found any new category/world view... and my dowsing rod/intuition agreed with only one general concept: There is simply nothing connecting these low scoring guys, besides the low score itself: These guys are LOOSE CANNONS - that's what unites them!!!! A text that details my views on 'LOOSE CANNON-ness' will appear in my Work Notes during the next week or so...
Thank you, David, for taking the time to write, for bringing all these new ideas and suggestions and just for supporting me by commenting on my text.