A note on how Ego-Maturity measurement works


In reply to criticisms of Susanne Cook-Greuter’s Ego-Maturity (EM) research appearing in social media, I write:

First, I could be wrong about some of this (I have studied STAGES In-Depth which is more than most people can say, but I’m not an expert in Terri’s or Susanne’s methods from “the inside”).

That said, I think you are mistaken to think that Cook-Greuter’s method is a description of a person’s philosophical method or perspective. It isn’t. There are no questions about one’s philosophy or one’s view of “objects”. It is a structural analysis of the features of our language use in ordinary contexts. Her descriptions of each structure are not descriptions of a person’s philosophy or worldview at all, but of the implicit nature of *ego-maturity* as she sees it. It’s quite informative and useful so far as she takes it, so far as I can tell, but it’s not a statement about worldviews themselves.

Which is to say, unless you’ve examined the structural features of language that she has — with considerable depth and rigor — then you aren’t in a good position to critique. I think it’s a case where there’s an analyst who follows certain injunctions that unless performed and repeated it is difficult to know what to think of their conclusions. Fortunately it is possible for the highly motivated to study with her or those like O’Fallon who have continued this line of research, so one can definitely form critical opinions of it, if one is well-versed in its nuances.

When Susanne says that at Construct-Aware, “people come to realize that all objects are human made constructs, including such abstract constructs as the ego, three-dimensional space and time.”, this is a feature of their implicit ego-maturity structure, not necessarily their explicit worldview or philosophy. There’s a big difference. People can test at this level and have no formal philosophical training whatsoever or any opinion on postmodernism or semiotics or anything else. It’s just who they are (as Susanne’s model sees it) and it comes out through the language they use to talk about their mothers or how they feel when they do something wrong. See the difference?

Thus, no, it is not the explicit philosophical worldview of either Wilber or Bhaskar, but it is (arguably) the implicit structure of the ego-maturity evidenced by their books. Well, Bhaskar’s anyway, so far as I know (not claiming expertise in this topic). Wilber’s is likely significantly higher, but I think he targets Turquoise in order to communicate broadly.

I wonder if it’s upsetting to you somehow to think that ego, space, time, etc., are human-made constructs. You don’t say that it is, and you also say you see this as partially true but not “basically arbitrary”, and that’s fine (perhaps Susanne chose the wrong phrase there, English isn’t her first language), but you also seem to think that this notion is “green at best”. Well, if it’s green, then it’s also incorporated into every level subsequent to green. Therefore, if you think this notion is “postmodern” and that’s your foe, then I would just say that some postmodernism is Green and some is Turquoise and some is even higher than Turquoise. I’ve seen really ugly postmodern philosophy in a friend who has tested at 6th-person-perspective (Unitive in Susanne’s model). One can have a partly true, partly false philosophy or ideology at a wide range of levels.

Just like with Integral philosophy. It’s taken up by a lot of people at orange and green who consider themselves “Wilber fans” or “Wilber critics” and “integralists” even though when they claim to actually have a Teal / Yellow level of consciousness, sigh, the structure of their language tells a very different story… but we’re all for including developmental diversity, right?

Amber is an inherently authoritarian structure. But when someone is at Amber and you ask them about their father, they don’t say, “He’s an authority figure and since I believe in authority, I respect and obey him.” Instead, they may say, “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” Their Amber structure is not in the content of what they say as much as the patterns of it, evidenced in an analysis of thousands of samples.

It’s a serious body of research deserving careful study. Of course we have to be careful about leaning on it too heavily when it’s still such a young area, but since it’s one of the only games in town, it’s worth rooting for its success and further development.

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