Levels of Empathy

According to the established empirical human psychological-transpersonal identity development model, the Wilber map, there are various kinds of empathy.

In this short article, I will elaborate on 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 make sure to convey my thoughts in as practical terms as possible.


Mental ego (Instrumental Self) empathy

Based on the lack of more profound insight into their nature, a person at this level of identity development seems to consider others primarily according to visual clues. “What you see is what you get” might be a good description of how a person on a mental level operates. They see, or better yet, they ‘think’ others primarily through their cognitive capacities, nothing more. No deeper connection with feelings, no openness to inner abundance yet, mental principal 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 can’t hope to receive deep and juicy empathy from a mental level, for one can offer others what she/he/himself possesses, it would seem.

In practical terms, it may be wise to find a genuine person if you need deep and authentic empathy. A person on a 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 a more soft and empathic Authentic level.

At this level, everything seems to be just role-playing, wearing masks, with no spontaneous and authentic feelings and deeds.

This level is also called the Instrumental Self-level, for a person at this level uses their feelings, talents, and even body 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 that even here, empathy is a quality rather than a skill. In other words, empathy cannot be taught: it is more a question of recognizing it and allowing it to develop.”
– Dr John Rowan

Centuar level or Authentic empathy

The second level of empathy is much more profound and is sometimes called Imagining the Real or sensing and feeling with others. It comes from the Centaur level, the responsible and existential level.

Deep, deep is the water at this level. A person at the Centuar level can be very open and in touch with their feelings and inner potentials (sometimes called “needs,” a misnomer mostly, in my opinion). She 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 and step into their shoes. At the authentic level, it is easy to sense/feel even the most profound feelings with no problem. The lack of feeling a more profound inner reality distinguishes a Mental level person from an Authentic one.

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, “Imagining the Real” is a relatively accurate description of an empathy process at this level.

Many (me included) who are into NVC (nonviolent communication system as per Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D.) or similar humanistic modalities may practice this level of empathy. And it still takes an effort; I observe that one has to have enough self-empathy to offer empathy to others.

The authentic level strikes me as personal or material, where effort, action, and responsibility reside. Maybe that’s why so many people get burned out at this level, at least at some point in identity development. Authentic people might still feel they must change things in the inner realm or the outer reality.

I am me, and you are you. I can guess what you feel and need without labeling, diagnosing, evaluating, validating, etc.

Empathy at this level can be sweet and many, many light years ahead of the empathy a Mental level person can muster up.

I love this kind of empathy.

The Subtle level of empathy

The third kind of empathy comes from the Subtle transpersonal level, the Soul, and it is sometimes called deep or transcendental empathy and is a whole new bowl of wax. 

Here, a person has gone beyond personal stuff (having cleared up most of their Shadow) and is readily embarking upon the transpersonal path. Transpersonal, in this context, translates to levels of awareness that are well beyond personal separate feelings and needs.

According to my observations, personal stuff seems to be limited by the “I and mine” notion—by the so-called false ego (ahamkara in Sanskrit), which seems to impregnate a person with the sense of separateness and yearning for change and action that is so common at the Authentic level.

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 transpersonally realized individuals connect deeply 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 entirely, and there is no need left for guessing the feelings and needs of others, for Unity has presented Itself powerfully and transparently.

This Linking, this state of awareness, is the most juicy and deeply felt empathy I have ever experienced. The heavy burden of “I am me, and you are you” and the effort to connect to others through guessing and trying to “feel with” and “Imagine the Real” via ego (or authentic self) is gone.

No effort is needed at this level, and there is 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, empathy shines forth as something already fully and eternally present in my experience. There is no need to create something new, and there is no need to establish some abstract dimension from scratch.

This might be the most glaring difference between the Authentic level and Subtle Transpersonal level in general and Authentic empathy and Subtle empathy in particular:

There is no need to change anything at the Subtle level, make an effort to create something or connect to others, for the One Love is already fully and forever present in our hearts. All it takes is noting the obvious.

Authentic empathy shames away at this level like morning dawn before sunrise. The sun of the transpersonal Subtle Self, the immortal and born-less Soul, seems to be much more potent than the Authentic Self or ego.

Once experienced, transcendental or transpersonal empathy leaves a deep impression on a person’s psychological makeup; after that, nothing is ever the same in my experience. The Presence and the Love are so strong and liberating that one wants to experience them 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 of empathy

Nothing can be said about this level of empathy, for words do not apply anymore. Let me try to put it this way:

There is one single, Pristine, and Eternal consciousness, the Source and Manifestation simultaneously. It is a level of awareness that is totally and completely transpersonal, even impersonal. Yet, the impersonal in this context 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 thought at the authentic level – only the eternally present being that is the only one in existence.

Empathy at this level might appear cold, harsh even, to an onlooker. But in reality, such a state of awareness is far from cold or lacking. It is just that people, in general, seem not to be used to such a state of awareness and still need reassurance, the soft touch of Authentic empathy, and the Loving Embrace of Subtle empathy.

However, there is no soft touch or comfort at this level, and neither are you nor 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 a strong, completely open, and accepting Presence that denies nothing. It is the base of human consciousness, solid as a rock.

Being at the Causal level is very important; amongst other things, it also means being alone.

Sri Ramana Maharshi is reported to have said (I am paraphrasing here):
Don’t build hospitals or schools, and don’t feed the hungry. Realize the Self; that way, you will help others more than you can imagine.

He is speaking about the Causal level of empathy here.


The Nondual level of empathy

I am referring 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.

No one instigates phenomena, and no one and nothing is in control. Yet compassion at this level is so natural that no amount of words can convey its sheer importance.

It is like the whole universe is moving when something is being done. It is total and complete freedom, 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.”
– Aleister Crowley, The Book of Lies, (53) 22

– Edmond C.

Dodaj odgovor