Timothy Leary is remembered by many as a drug-crazed hippie freak, but he was a serious psychologist and passionate seeker of freedom for the exploration of the human mind. Exo-Psychology is an important book he wrote which posited 8 levels of human development. When I read it, it was the first time I had seen Western ideas about higher functioning, and ones that did not necessarily include hours of meditation a day. The East had long talked about higher levels of functioning but not the West. We were stuck with adjusting to the mainstream as the goal, which for many people, it is not.
The first four levels in Exo-Psychology, Levels I-IV, are about mastering the ability to function in the world, a topic well covered by mainstream psychology. The levels are about mastering survival, basic emotional functioning and social skills enough to be successful in the work world. These levels are essential to master before one can move on to the last four levels which are where it gets really interesting:
Level V: The stage of identifying as a body-mind, becoming a master of the body. Bodily disciplines such as nutrition and exercise; increasing flexibility, subtle energies, awareness of breath. Disciplined hedonism, the sexual arts, tantric fusion with one’s partner. Learning the value of relaxing and enjoying, being high and “floating.”
Level VI: The ability to achieve brain mastery, the fact that you don’t have to believe what you think. Your brain can be dialed, tuned, and focused to create new realities. You learn to control your brain, rather than your thoughts being controlled by the mass culture or the non-helpful programming of your parents.
Level VII: The stage of evolutionary consciousness, or the understanding that you have a role as an evolutionary agent. That your work on yourself serves all beings. Awareness of Jung’s “collective unconscious.”
Level VIII: The stage of spirituality, awakening of kundalini, illumination, out-of-body experiences, mysticism. This, says Leary, is the highest state of development available to all, not just mystics in caves in India.
Of course, Leary was an advocate of using drugs to experience and evolve into these Levels. Since he published the book in the late 70s, people have been actively developing drug-less methods. It’s wonderful to have these guidelines for how we might remain useful to society while we are developing ourselves to the farthest reaches possible.
© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth