Notes from the Field: Update and Future Regarding Terri O’Fallon’s Research: Her Talk at Seattle, WA, USA, June 14, 2011

Rev. Alia Zara Aurami-Sou, Ph.D

Update and Future Regarding Terri O’Fallon’s Research: Her Talk at Seattle, WA, USA, June 14, 2011

Rev. Alia Zara  Aurami-Sou (Nickname “OM”)

Dr. Terri O’Fallon, Ph.D., (founder, researcher, faculty, and coach at Pacific Integral) gave an update (compared to her last presentation at Integral Theory Conference 2010) on her research, and some glimpses of where she plans to take her research. About 50 people attended, and there was a Question and Answer period. Many of those who attended seem to have left delighted, intrigued, thought-provoked, and amazed/awed. I was certainly one of those! Terri’s presentation style is so casual yet passionate, folksy yet mindblowing, clear yet complex. You start out thinking you’re going to understand all this because she is making it seem so simple and ordinary, and pretty soon you watch Pluto whiz by, you’re zoomed out somewhere you’ve never been before, and your brain is exploding in the vastness of it all !! Always an awesome experience!

Her talk was quite comprehensive and there were a great many complex lists and charts. I sent a draft of this Notes article to Terri, Venita Ramirez, and Geoff Fitch and asked them to make sure nothing I said was inaccurate, which they have kindly done. Nevertheless, I am fully responsible for this piece, which is my descriptions of my understandings!!! If anyone wants to know what Terri actually said or meant, they are welcome to contact her at Pacific Integral.

First, Venita Ramirez, faculty member and coach at Pacific Integral, welcomed us. She said:

“Pacific Integral desires to link pockets of conscious communities in the Seattle area. We want to join with you to create a stronger and more prominent presence of people who imagine a more conscious humanity in the Seattle-metro area and beyond. Every 3 months we’ll put on an event like this to help foster that.

“The next Pacific Integral programs of Generating Transformative Change begin September 1, in Australia/New Zealand and October 12 in the Seattle area. Also, we will be facilitators at Next Step Integral’s Community Seminar August 9-14, held on Whidbey Island, WA, USA. Those who take that seminar will receive a $500 tuition discount on our GTC program in Seattle.” [Terry will also be presenting, “Growing Up is Waking Up” at the Integral Leadership Collaborative Conference on August 16 at 6 PM PDT——Ed.]

GTC graduate Terrence Wethem  also spoke briefly to offer us the opportunity for volunteer involvement in three community service activities of differing scopes.

Then Geoff Fitch (founder, CEO, faculty, and coach at Pacific Integral) introduced Terri, saying PI has been an ongoing experiment and inquiry into the question of how we transform consciousness and action individually and collectively. Terri is mapping the development of consciousness, the span of human development. He described Terri’s background, available in her PI bio.

Terri kindly shared the outline of her talk with me for this article.

i A developmental creation story
ii. A brief history of states and stages
iii. Patterns of development that iterate
1. Time and Space
2. Person perspectives
3. The polar opposites pattern
4. Qualities
5. Differentiation/integration pattern
6 Gross, subtle and causal pattern.
iv. Iterating quadrants which was presented in a story book fashion
v. State Stage patterns
1. Gradations of Awareness
2. Objects of Awareness
a. This included progression of Dark nights.
vi. Bringing it all together: interpenetration of states and stages
1. Kingdom of mind
2. States becoming ordinary with development: Growing up is Waking up
vii Iterating eight perspectives within the quadrants.
viii. A description of the Grounded Theory process.
viii The conclusions of the Grounded theory process: A summary of the Grounded theory tenets.

Here’s my understanding of the update on Terri’s research:

Terri’s research into stages and states draws primarily on Ken Wilber’s, Suzanne Cook-Greuter’s, and Loevinger’s scales and she has developed and continues to develop further research tools. She also talked about her extensive and deliberate effort to go beyond scoring analysis and get an “embodied feeling” of each stage, partly by her ongoing deep engagement with people who are expressing their stages in myriad ways. I believe she has accomplished a remarkable, possibly unique, “inside” “grokking” of the various stages.

At ITC2010, (I attended that talk) and again this evening, Terri presented a model showing that at each stage, a person has access to all the states, which are of course experienced differently by the different people at different stages. One of the most significant corollaries to this is that two people, even at different stages or in different states, share the commonality of their previous stages and the states that they have experienced within those. That gives them some shared basis for “lower left” (culture) interactions.

Unlike some others who have put written material into valuable, extraordinary models, Terri’s approach is grounded by her embodied understanding, her extensive study of scoring of research protocols, and by her greater statistical rigor. She’s always looking for “patterns” and categories in all that information and how these patterns manifest themselves in data and real life. She has found and described to us an astonishing, intriguing, and useful variety of patterns which relate to each other in various ways. She refines her understanding partly through systematic combing of data—4000 test responses combed three times.

She is seeking to merge the existing models of the development of awareness and to bring patterns and categories together into a theory with statistics under it. She is writing the General Theory part and there is a statistician helping with the statistics part.

She has created a model of layers of quadrants of the “states,” which developmentally transcend and include one another. This model was presented during this evening as well as at ITC2010. The model seems to me to be monumentally heuristic for a variety of purposes. As I understand it, in the most recent phase of Terri’s work she is—with some catalyzing questions from Ken Wilber—taking her layers of quadrants and adding in a description of the interior and exterior viewpoint (Ken Wilber’s “zones”) of each quadrant of each layer. She also adds to this new mapping, some of Suzanne Cook-Greuter’s stage-names, including Early or Late version of each.

Also, I was delighted to learn that she is developing extensive educational “games” to assist people’s deeper experiences of each level.

I walked out with some very exciting thoughts/interpretations, which were either new to me or got greater depth than before. A few of these follow in my words, sparked by how I experienced this evening. I have rearranged notes from different parts of the talk.

Researchers sometimes can’t find patterns because they are leaving pieces out, for example, early and late versions of a level.

All the quadrants (at each stage) are defined in terms of Awareness Patterns. Awareness is the DNA of structure-stages and state-stages that interpenetrate in some remarkable ways.

When we’re first in a stage, we are swimming in that new stuff, figuring out how it works. Later, we form categories of the stuff, and can use them. “Dark nights” come at junctions of floors or levels. Then, different “practices” are needed.

States seem important to us, both natural states and induced states. There are many ways we have to get into states. Examples: children spin; cats love catnip!

First-recognition is a “state,” then it goes from being new and unusual to the person to being ordinary experience, and the person looks for a new “state.”

States are different on the different levels/action-logics. For example, there is no such thing as THE fundamental experience of THE Causal (or any other state). There are a bunch of “Causals.”

Terri talked about a number of the patterns she has identified in development. These seem to be map-able onto structure-stages and/or state-stages, but, from what she was saying, not in any simple or quantified way.

I’d like to report a bit more at length about the pattern of “person-perspectives.” This is my simplified summary of what was for me one of the most impactful and valuable parts of Terri’s talk. She demonstrated the meaning of these perspectives with audience members, which helped a lot.

It is important to learn how to know or notice what person-perspective we and others are taking, and how we are using our person-perspectives in life. Person-perspective patterns range from 1st person perspective to 6th  person perspective.

[First she called one person up front; that person stood alone.] First person-perspective is manifested when children are parallel-playing. Everyone else is an object in the respect that they can see only through their own eyes, not the eyes of others; thus, for example, they take the perspective that everyone else is seeing every concrete object exactly as they are, even if the other is standing in a different position than they are. They cannot yet stand in another person’s shoes and see concretely from their position.

[Then a second person stood facing the first person.] Second-person perspective starts when someone can recognize that everyone is a human being with their own different perspective. “My friend is a person with their own views.” Thus to communicate, (to see what others are seeing) they must talk with vs. talk at. Pretend and make rules together. Get mad if the other person doesn’t keep agreements. This perspective can come at an early age.

[Then a third person stood looking at the other two.] Third person perspective can see the two without being involved. Can imagine, comment on, analyze, speculate about what the two are doing, talking about, thinking. They can have what we call an “objective” viewpoint in that they can stand in someone else’s shoes and then look at yet another person (a third person.)

[Then a fourth person stood in a line being able to see the other three.] Fourth person perspective can see all the previous 3 people. That person is able to say “No, that third person can’t be objective. She is operating in a context. She’ll see based on her (external) context and (internal) beliefs.”

The fifth person perspective [someone standing in the line next to the fourth person] looks a long way down the line, notices all the previous ones. “I think I see a pattern here: I think one can back off forever. The perspective taking of perspective taking I see can continue forever (to the nth perspective)!”

The fifth person perspective realizes that an n-th person perspective is possible and brings perspectives on perspectives. They can change definitions, bend subtle boundaries, see how things are constructed through the reification of words.  Those taking previous person-perspectives assume they see “the way it is,” whether that “is” is fourth person perspective (4pp) involving context-awareness, 3pp being objective, 2pp being predictable/you and me, 1pp involving “me.” Fifth pp can move boundaries and definitions for all of it.

[A sixth person added in the line next to the fifth person] 6th  person-perspective can see that 5th  thinks everything is just made up. Sixth actually lets go of ALL perspectives, opens up and something unusual starts happening. “Knowing” comes with no basis in experience.

Another of the patterns I especially enjoyed learning about was the pattern in the evolution of awareness about polarities. First the ability to be aware of only one side, then awareness of the existence of the other side but in either-or fashion. Then awareness includes both-and thinking. Then, in awareness, alternatives/opposites interpenetrate and integrate to a One. And then the pattern starts over!

After Terri’s talk, I understood a bit more about a couple of particular phases of development:

At the later part of the Construct-Aware stage there can be existential angst, feeling groundless and meaningless, no definitions of words, disoriented. That can bring on an experience of “Dark-night.” They are trying to categorize constructs.

In this stage, they might be able to say: What happens when I make things up? I can move lines, make new boundaries, and know I am doing it, know that I am constructing, and perhaps I can use this consciously to do something to cause something “better” in the world.

In the next stage they may make creative maps; they can become enchanted with their creative maps. Through that map-making they can sometimes invent new approaches, new models in particular areas like business, health, psychotherapy, sustainability.

At some point there might be an “OMG! THIS is a construct, too!!” moment, and see emptiness of even this, their own work in the world, even if it was for the betterment of the world. This realization, however, is often liberating rather than one of existential pain.

At this point there can be a deep letting go: Swimming in the flow of things, the universe, existence. One is open, and little pieces of Knowing come in more often. Pay attention, lying [floating] in a big space, info comes without “belonging” to them.

Then, later, they are able to connect pieces and make categories of the information that comes and some are able to make all-encompassing maps.

There is some evidence of levels even beyond that.

The following thoughts I got mostly from the Question and Answer period:

Compassion can be extended looking upward in levels as well as looking downward to lower levels. Everyone suffers. And transitions usually involve suffering, which can include changes in location, job, and relationship (as cause or as effect, is unclear). Knowing about such changes, one can relax and grin, wait to act or decide, during a transition!

Q: Is there ‘better’ implied about levels? Can a person ‘do good’ only at upper levels?
A: Upper levels see wider and deeper. The developmental levels of living and past spiritual teachers have been assessed —generally there are about the same percentages at each level as in the general population.

Upper levels might be in a position to support earlier levels, for example because they have been through some of the developmental surprises. People taking perspectives at later levels (after the late fourth person perspective) generally don’t engage in “culture wars”. They can see things less simplistically; they can see systems.

Another example of counseling to support earlier levels: Expert level, with an early 3rd person perspective, might see perhaps 18 months out in the time-horizon of their lives. Thus, they might not fully understand the notion of a mortgage balloon payment due in 5 years. Later levels see further into the future and could protect people with safeguards. This is partly because there is a developmental time pattern: As we go up through maturational levels, time gets “wider,” each sees the flow of time “larger,” including decades, then generational, then historic, then eternity.

Levels offer different ways of looking at problems of our country and the world. We are seeing effects of the various levels operating in the world. However, things are not simple. Developmental levels are only one thing operating. Levels and states are only some of the aspects of being human that can be helpful in our understanding of ourselves and our world.

Q: Is the center of gravity of humans evolving?
A: Yes. Over millennia. And it’s accelerating. For example, the number of young people under 30 she finds at construct-aware stage is knocking her socks off. People are developing faster.

Q: Why is it accelerating?
A: It seems that technology is part of it. People in all parts of the world learn through the Internet vs. in villages, so they are exposed to many different ideas no matter where they live. We can have partnerships and connections with others who might have been a challenge to us in earlier times.

Every “stage” is different in each generation; stages evolve with world changes. Thus, there is no set-for-all-time description of a given “stage.” A “Diplomat” 150 years ago is different from the Diplomat today. The banks of the river get rearranged with each generation. Plus, there will always be more levels of development possible for humans. This is wonderful and fortunate!

About the Author

Rev. Alia Zara Aurami-Sou (Nickname "OM")

Rev. Alia Zara Aurami-Sou, Ph.D. (nickname “OM”) is Head Minister of “Amplifying Divine Light in All” Church, an independent micro-church ( devoted to manifesting the highest vision of this planet through co-creating the specifics of a more conscious world. Her ministry also includes helping co-lead the ANewGaia online social networking community for conscious world-changers ( One of her current ministerial projects is co-creating a worldwide non-profit organization to assist a variety of grassroots organizations in synergizing for greater effectiveness ( This uses her past training in Organizational Development and her current interest in leading-edge Integral approaches to organizational structure, decision-making, and leadership. Her background includes Ph.D. and M.S. in Early Childhood Education, teaching at preschool and college levels. Before that, B.A. and M.A. in Clinical Psychology.  Rev. Alia likes to characterize herself as a General Resource, Improver of Anything, and Vision-creator. She may be reached at (Seattle, Washington, USA)