There seem to be various kinds of empathy, at least according to the established empirical human psychological-transpersonal identity development model known as the Wilber map. OMG, what a mouthful LOL
In this text I will elaborate on the subject of empathy from the vantage point of various stages of human consciousness including Mental ego, Authentic Self, Subtle Self, Causal Self and the Nondual level.
I will try to convey my experiences in as practical terms as possible.
I would like to invite you to maybe refresh your memory on the subject of identity development as per established Wilber map, with this blog here >> (new web page openes)
Mental ego (Instrumental Self) empathy
Based on the lack of deeper insight into her/his own nature, a person at this level of identity development seems to consider others mostly according to visual clues. “What you see is what you get” might be a good description of a process a person on Mental level operates on. She/he sees, or better yet, she/he ‘thinks’ others mostly through her/his mental capacities, nothing more. No deeper connection with feelings, no openness to inner abundance yet, mostly mental focus. Wild, wild is the wind at this level.
This is the most basic form of empathy, in my experience, which is more of a descriptive kind than anything else.
You cant really hope for receiving really deep and juicy empathy from Mental level, for one can really offer others what s/he her/himself possesses, it would seem.
In practical terms, if you are in a need of a deep and authentic empathy, maybe it would be wise to find authentic person. A person on Mental level doesn’t seem to have what it takes. It would probably take a Mental level oriented person long years if not a decade of dedicated inner work to move on to more soft and empathic Authentic level.
At this level, all seems to be just a role playing, wearing masks, no spontaneous and authentic feelings and deeds.
This level is also called Instrumental Self level, for person at this level uses his/her feelings, talents, body even as a tool to achieve goals in life. And at this level, goals seem to be set by someone else.
“But it is important to remember than even here, empathy is a quality rather than a skill. In other words, empathy cannot really be taught: it is more a question of recognizing it and allowing it to develop.”
– Dr John Rowan
Centuar level or the Authentic empathy
The second level of empathy is, in my experience, much deeper and is sometimes called Imagining the Real, or sensing and feeling with others, and it comes from the Centaur level, the responsible and existential level.
Deep, deep is the water at this level, for a person at the Centuar level can be very opened and in touch with his/her feelings and inner potentials (sometimes called “needs”, a misnomer for the most part, in my opinion). S/he has conquered inner oppression (a shadow as per Jung) and is more or less free in her personal life.
In practical terms that means that a person at this level can easily open up and sense with others, step into their shoes, so to speak. At Centuar level, it is easy to sense/feel even the most deep feelings, no problem. In fact, the lack of feeling deeper inner reality is what might distinguish a Mental level person from an Authentic one, in my opinion.
And since the Authentic level is still (only) a personal level (nothing really spiritual or transpersonal here yet, in my opinion), a person might still operate on the idea of “I am me and you are you” and “I have my own needs and you have yours”. That’s why empathy at this level seems to be only as deep as a person is willing to let go of her/his own identifications, in my experience.
That is also the only reason, as far as I can see, why at this level a person is only trying to feel with others and is only trying to guess the real feelings and needs of others. Hence the “Imagining the Real” is a rather accurate description of an empathy process at this level.
Many (me included, of course) who are into NVC (nonviolent communication system as per Marshall Rosenberg, PhD) or similar humanistic modalities, are perhaps practicing this level of empathy. And it still takes an effort; it is my observation that one really has to have enough self-empathy to be able to offer empathy to others.
Authentic level strikes me as a personal or material level where effort and action and responsibility reside. Maybe that’s why so many people get burned out at this level at least at some point in the process of identity development. Authentic person might still feel s/he has to change things, either on the inner realm or on the outer reality.
I am me and you are you and all I can do is to try to guess what you are feeling and needing, without any labeling or diagnosing, evaluating or validating etc.
Empathy at this level can be really sweet and seems to be many many light years ahead of the empathy a Mental level person is capable to muster up.
I love this kind of empathy.
The Subtle level empathy
The third kind of empathy seems to come from the Subtle transpersonal level, the Soul, and it is sometimes called deep or transcendental empathy and it is a whole new bowl of wax, so to speak. More on the Subtle level as per Wilber map, here >> (new web page openes)
Here a person has gone beyond personal stuff (having cleared up the most of his/her Shadow) and is readily embarking upon the transpersonal path. Transpersonal in this context translates to the levels of awareness that are well beyond personal separate feelings and needs.
Personal stuff seems to be limited by the “I and mine” notion – by the so called false ego (ahamkara in Sanskrit) which seem to impregnate a person with the sense of separateness and yearning for change and action which is so common at the Authentic level, according to my observations.
Here at this level of empathy the boundary between me and you may sometimes disappear altogether, and a single transpersonal consciousness emerges. And it is very very liberating, it is Pure Love, two Hearts beating as One.
This is called Linking, the “process” where two transpersonal realized individuals connect deeply with one another at the Soul level and not at the personality level. When this Link surfaces, the “I and mine” and “I am me and you are you” notion fades away completely and there is no need left for guessing the feelings and needs of others, for Unity has presented Itself, powerfully and transparently.
It is this Linking, this state of awareness that is the most juicy and deeply felt empathy I have ever experienced. The heavy burden of the “I am me and you are you” and the effort to connect to others through guessing and trying to “feel with” and “Imagining the Real” is simply gone.
No effort is needed at this level, no need to “Imagine the Real”, for the Real is already fully present and powerfully experienced in real time by both. Qualities that shine forth at this level are surrender and heartfelt openness to what already exists, eternally.
At this level the empathy shines forth as something already fully and eternally present, in my experience. There is no need for creating something anew, no need for establishing some abstract dimension from scratch.
This might be the most glaring difference between the Authentic level and Subtle level in general and the Authentic empathy and Subtle empathy in particular:
there is no need to change anything at the Subtle level, there is no need whatsoever to make an effort to create something or to connect to others, for the One Love is already fully and forever present in our hearts. All it takes is noting the obvious, that’s all.
At this level, to me, the Authentic empathy shames away as a morning twilight before sunrise. The sun of the transpersonal Subtle Self, the immortal and born-less Soul seems to be so, so much more powerful than the Authentic self (to me).
Once experienced, the transcendental or transpersonal empathy leaves deep deep impression upon the psychological makeup of a person and after it nothing is ever the same, in my experience. The Presence and the Love is so strong and so liberating that one wants to experience It again, and again and yet again.
Well, that’s my observation, anyway.
And, as you might have guessed, there is more to experience.
The Causal level empathy
Not much can be said about this level of empathy, for words simply do not apply anymore, in my opinion. Let me try to put it this way:
There is one single, Pristine and Eternal consciousness that is the Source and Manifestation at the same time. It is a level of awareness that is totally and completely transpersonal, even impersonal. And yet, the impersonal in this context to me translates to utter and extreme intimacy.
At this level, there is no juicy empathy as felt at the Subtle level, no sweet and warm empathy as felt at the Authentic level, only the Eternally present Being that is the only One in Existence.
Empathy at this level, to an onlooker, might appear as cold, harsh even. But in reality such state of awareness is far from being cold or lacking anything really. It is just that people in general seem to not be used to such state of awareness and are still needing reassurance, soft touch of the Authentic empathy and Loving Embrace of the Subtle empathy.
At this level, however, it seems to me there is no such thing as soft touch or comfort and no you and me. How can I express anything really to you, when I am deeply aware that separateness is pure illusion.
Empathy at this level, the so called Causal empathy, is strong, completely open and accepting Presence which denies nothing. It is the base of human consciousness, solid as a rock.
Being at the Causal level, to me, implicates a lot and amongst other things it also means being totally Alone.
Sri Rasmana Maharshi is reported to have said (I am paraphrasing here):
don’t build hospitals, schools, don’t feed the hungry. Realize the Self and that way you will help others more than you can possible imagine.
Seems to me that He is speaking about the Causal level empathy here.
Q & A on the Causal level, here >> (new web page openes)
Blogs on the Causal level, here >> (new web page openes)
The Nondual level empathy
Let me first state that I am referring here to the Buddhist Nondual state of consciousness, not the Vedanta one.
I am speaking here about the annata (non-self) and sunyata (emptiness), which are way beyond the Vedanta (advaita) non-dual which is the Causal level.
Well, not much can be shared about this level of empathy, since to a realized Buddhist non-dualist there is no me, no you, no God up in heaven, no agency and no center whatsoever.
Phenomena is instigated by no one, no one and nothing is in control. And yet, the compassion at this level is so so much real that no amount of words can convey the sheer importance of it.
It is like the whole universe is moving when something is being done. It is total and complete freedom and yet this exact freedom is valuable only as much as others (from a conventional standpoint, of course) are free.
“…Therefore the best king would be Pure Chance.
It is Pure Chance that rules the Universe;
and only therefore, life is good.”
– Aliester Crowley, The Book of Lies, (53) 22
Blogs on the Nondual level, here >> (new web page openes)
Thank you for reading.
– Edmond C.