Layers of the Noosphere
Dear reader, if I were to show you a geographic map featuring hills and valleys, you would be correct in expecting water to flow from the highlands, to the lowlands. It is intuitive that water does not flow up. Rather, Water finds its own level in the lowest isolated volume. This relationship constitutes the Earth’s hydrosphere. We can also take the average distance between the highest mountain and the lowest valley and say this volumetric sphere - with positive and negative deformities - determines the resultant sea and land. In fact, if we know the total volume, we can even reasonably determine the likely locations the water will fill, and assume most of the valleys beyond that volume will be empty - after all, there would be no water to fill it. As such, we can say the relationship between the water and the land is such: Topography predetermines where the water will go. Outside special exceptions and human interventions, the outcome is, overall, predictable.
Dear Reader, have you considered the Hydrosphere is not the only context where we can predict these results?
You could say the earth has many of these spheres. All of them, in total, make up the spherical entity we call the Earth. However, careful evaluation reveals that there is a hierarchy of complexity between these spheres as well. For instance, the simplest sphere, Earth’s gravitational sphere of influence, is a very simple sphere. There is a center point and gravity is, for the most part, consistent. There are some small differences depending on the local density of the Earth, but not noticeable to human senses. For the most part, it is a perfectly consistent ideal sphere. Its interactions with minerals densities form the next sphere, the Geosphere. This begins to have large and broad discrepancies we call mountains and valleys. However, these discrepancies are hard to notice unless you are physically on the Earth to see them. The Hydrosphere’s discrepancies are more abrupt - you can clearly see the difference between land and sea from space. Therefore, we can make another observation: with each progressively more complex sphere, the discrepancies it produces become more exaggerated.
All these spheres, along with the Earth’s Atmosphere, overlap to produce a sphere with great complexity, and therefore great discrepancy: The Biosphere. You can clearly see from space, and on Earth, the differences between sea water and fresh water, or forest and field, or vegetation and desert. The deformities are measured in complexity of life, rather than complexity of height or density with the lower spheres. However, we have to remember: each less complex sphere seems to predetermines the more complex one - that is to say, the voids and fills of one sphere determines the location of complexity for the next. That is to further say, life fills the niches the biosphere provides, the same way water finds valleys to fill.
Remember, here, the curiosity to note in the relationship between spheres: The niche of a lower sphere will exist, regardless if the higher sphere fills it. A valley will always have a potential to fill with water, regardless if any water exists to fill it. Therefore, the niche of predator and prey exist, regardless if a species exists to fill it, or if it is currently empty from a species going extinct. To those ends, we may even speculate that there are niches that have not yet been filled, which could contain the potential for unforeseen life -that’s actually quite scary if you think about it for too long.
Lovecraftian levels of terrifying.
Most people do not consider other spheres beyond these common ones we learn in school. However, there exists a sphere noted by philosophers and theologians: The Noosphere. This constitutes the niches that different complexities of consciousness can fill. For instance, an environment may be such that it generally locks out any niches for higher consciousness. Whereas another habitat may contains the niche potential of great scholars of the age, even if no one exists to fill it. Sometimes the potential is for a Napoleonic figure, or a Genghis Khan figure. Other times for an Einstein or a Newton These niches rarely remain empty for long, however. Once a discrepancy in the Noosphere opens up a niche to fill, someone will eventually find it, and fill it.
However, it is also worth noting that not all species fill a biological niche the same way. While a lion and a house cat may fill similar niches in their respective environment, the lion has clearly developed greater complexity - it is an apex predator. Likewise, not every consciousness fills their niche in the Noosphere the same way. Some may fill it decently, but there will also be the occasional apex consciousness for a niche.
Now, the question to ask is this: Is the concept of an apex occupant predetermined by the niche? Does it exist in theory, even if none exist to fill it in reality?
In Biological evolution, multiple species over time come and go from a niche, and yet the niche remains for the interregnum of each species that has ruled it. As a species develops adaptations to become more efficient in that niche, one may note a certain repetition of traits. Biologists call this convergent evolution. For instance, both dolphin and ichthyosaurus occupied the same niche, and developed very similar traits to become more efficient in that niche. Thus, we may take the average of both, and other species that have occupied this niche, and work out some hypothetical ideal form for that niche. In essence, the niche predetermined these forms, and by trial and error the species in question conformed to this niche with those similar forms. Thus that form exists, even if no species has yet to developed the traits yet. That form is a kind of Platonic ideal geometry for that niche, and exists in the abstract with or without physical incarnation.
In the same way, within the Noosphere, an ideal consciousness may be said to exist for a niche, even if no consciousness yet exists that embodies that abstract ideal. The concept of a Great Man exists, even if no great men exist to fill it. The topography of the Noosphere contains the information of it, even if the whole of humanity was wiped out.
In ancient times, some believed that the ideal consciousness that these niches encode for are themselves a kind of spirit - that this abstract ideal constitutes a god. Regardless if a man fills it, there is a kind of spirit of the niche which a man can strive to become the incarnation of. A patron god, so to speak. Ares filled the niche for warrior, Aphrodite for love, Zeus for king, and the men who conform to these niches possess the spirit of the god. Some ancient pagans even took this a step further, detaching the individual god from the spirit of their role - that is to say, the niches exist even if no god exists to fill them. For instance, when Zeus’s Olympians overthrew Chronos’ Titans, he didn’t merely replace the old gods, he filled the niches of the Noosphere they previously filled - and some speculated, one day the Olympians would be removed for another generation of gods to fill them again.
This, again, offers Lovecraftian levels of terror, if you dwell on it - for there may be divine niches not yet discovered, and who could foretell the deity that could be awoken in filling them? There may be niches of the Noosphere that not even the gods knew of... Niches of unparalleled power and authority to rule creation through.
To this extent, we Christians think Jesus Christ filled this almighty niche - a niche God the Father made for himself in creation, and hid from others until the arrival of his Son, and currently held by the Holy Spirit until He returns.
Among the pagans, attempts to map the Noosphere range from the order of the Olympian gods, as previously stated, to things like the Chakras in Eastern Mysticism. The “Full Armor of God” in Christian Scripture may be thought of something like a Noosphere map as well. In more modern times, social engineers have attempted to map the Noosphere from a more secular perspective as well.
You may be tempted, then, to conclude that Great Men are, for the most part, predetermined by environmental factors. That they do not build themselves, necessarily, but rather conform to abstract ideals that existed already. However, the relationship between these spheres is not one-way. The Hydrosphere carves the Geosphere, and there remains the ability of great minds to carve their own niche into the Noosphere. We must remember the Noosphere is also unique: The Mind is aware of itself. Whereas in the games of natural forces and evolution, conformity comes from trial and error across generations being selected for a best fit to the niche, men can conduct trial and error within their own lifetime. They can shape themselves to these ideals, even if at first the role does not come naturally. They can bring forth the kind of hero they want - or in some instances, close it off such a hero their enemies need. We call this “Social Engineering”. Just as a landscape engineer may shape the Geosphere to control rivers, a social engineer can shape the Noosphere to move minds.
There have been, in the past Century, attempts to scientifically map the Noosphere the same way a Cartographer might map the Geosphere, or a Botanist might map the Biosphere. One of the most used today is the model proposed by Jane Loevinger - wife of Samuel Weissman from the Manhattan Project. You’re probably aware of the rather odd religiosity and Eastern Mysticism of the Atomic scientists, and in the case of Loevinger, this seems to have rubbed off onto a spouse. She mapped out a 10-niche system in which a person develops from initial biological impulses into deeper thinking. In brief, the structure goes:
1 Pre-Social Infancy - basic impulses of the fetal mind
2 Impulsive - the black-and-white childhood response to love
3 Self-Protective - punishment & reward, as well as the drive not to get caught
4 Conformist - in-group preference develops
5 Self-Aware - the ability to discern the “real” self and the “desired” sellf
(Loevinger believed this is the rest state of an average human adult)
6 Conscientious - the development of rules, and exceptions. A product of higher IQ. We might call this the midwit.
7 Individualistic - a tolerance for those that don’t share your values (Recognizing the “other”)
8 Autonomous - a poly-ethic worldview where you go beyond tolerating other views, and fully embracing them as valid approaches.
9 Integrated - the development of empathy for all views.
It won’t be hard for the 21st century reader to see the biases of this list. It projects the liberal world view as the end-goal - liberal used here, not as the by-word of the 20th century angry conservative, but the description of the political framework both the Left and Right operate under today.
We might turn the tables here and view this as a scale of how much one is indoctrinated into the “Boomer Truth Regime”. There are many truth regimes in our world, but the past few decades have shown an impulse to fortify this particular one - no matter how much it fails to compete with others. Ironically, Loevinger doesn’t seem to have understood that there were multiple Truth Regimes. She projects her scale here as the objective development cycle of the human mind. Ironically, we could say that in recent times, society at large as degenerated into something around 3 to 4, and might very well continue degenerating with the decline and fall of Boomer Truth.
Loevinger primarily developed these ideas out of the works of Erick Erikson and Stack Sullivan. While relying on Sullivan may explain the liberalism bias, drawing from Erick Erikson is curious - he’s a bit of unique mind.
Erick Erikson was a blond and blue-eyed Jewish Dane who suffered bullying not only from the German Fascists for his Jewish background, but also from his Rabbinical teachers due to his Mischling appearance. Erikson’s mother had married multiple times and had several affairs, and had regularly lied to him who his real father was. It was only later in life she told him his Biological father was a Nordic man (Which, to be frank, he ought to have figured out). This lie had a profound impact on Erikson. Previously he felt entrapped by the Jewish faith out of loyalty to his parents. Once he felt he had a choice, he rather quickly jumped ship to Christ. Unsurprisingly, he joined a form of Congregational Christianity - the preference for a non-hierarchical church ought be obvious.
It would be easy to dismiss anything Erikson wrote on consciousness as simply a coping mechanism of having suffered from his mother’s lie - taking the damaged trust with his mother and projecting it onto his childhood faith. However, he had been writing and thinking about questions around identity and consciousness since before his mother told him the truth. A more accurate assessment would be that he found the behavior of both his Fascist and Rabbinical teachers troubling, and sought to explore the minds each worldview produced. His problems with his mother appear to be later additions that contributed to his change of religion later on, and fed into deeper self-reflections throughout his life.
Of course, it’s clear his experience with his mother, his change from obedience to his parents to questioning their values, and his personal shift of faith all contribute to the topics he wrote on. He took a special interest in Luther’s change of course from lawyer to priest, and in his 1958 book Young Man Luther, Erikson attempts to plot out Martin Luther’s development into a figure of reformation as a result of his relationship with his father and the church - going from obedient underling, to boastful reformer, to proud rebel - clearly very personal themes for him.
Erikson studied a number of historic figures after Luther, and interpreted their development as case studies for ideal development. This technique can be criticized for assuming popularity equates to psychological maturity, but it has been something of a foundation stone for modern psychological evaluations. Erikson’s model of consciousness, which would later inspire Loevinger, can be plotted out as follows:
1 Hope, Basic trust vs. basic mistrust
2 Will, Autonomy vs. shame
3 Purpose, Initiative vs. guilt
4 Competence, Industry vs. inferiority
5 Fidelity, Identity vs. role confusion
6 Love, Intimacy vs. isolation
7 Care, Generativity vs. stagnation
8 Wisdom, Ego integrity vs. despair
His wife, Joan suggested a 9th stage of development, where the elderly must relearn these matters as they increasingly grow dependent, as opposed to independent.
Personally, I find Erikson’s model compelling as it doesn’t necessitate a linear progress, but rather lays out several nodes that a person bounces between as they mature. You, the reader, may also notice the more Medieval Christian approach, where effectively he made the holy virtues the highest form of maturity, and the deadly sins the lowest form.
In recent scholarship, there have been attempts to remake this model with less Boomer Truth ideology and a more neutral - read, less liberalist - structure. One of the more compelling perspectives is to restructure the development of consciousness in terms of “eyes”. That is to say, the more perspective you acquire, the greater your consciousness has to draw from. This, in theory, necessitates a higher maturity of consciousness - usually. This is further divided two “arcs” or stories your mind operates on. One constitutes Knowledge, the other constitutes Wisdom. You can think of Knowledge, the first arc of consciousness, as collecting inputs. The second arc, Wisdom, is networking those inputs. You don’t just know different perspectives, you can inhabit them.
I haven’t seen many formal papers on this, but I would say it operates something like follows:
First Eyes: “Seeing Things”, or pure survival instinct.
Second Eyes: “Seeing People”, or the realization other people exist. This is where ritualistic behavior and primitive religious practices develop. Several people in possession of Second Eyes form a tribal group.
Third Eyes: “Seeing people See people”. The realization other people think about you as much as you think about them. You can think of this as being aware of personal boundaries. Mafias and primitive governments forms here, as their formation requires understanding family groups exist apart from yourself, and they have needs and wants that you can contribute to, or control.
Fourth Eyes: “Second Person Perspective”. More than just being aware other people see you and you can govern them, you can visualize the perspective of anyone in a complex social web, effectively meaning you don’t just seek to manipulate the web, but rather you can embody it and protect and value it. Complex systems like Feudalism form when multiple communities sustain this level of consciousness, because leaders are not purely extractive for their own needs, they understand the needs of other classes and castes and the value of “sharing” the benefits of that society. You move from a player in a system, to an agent of it. This level can create healthy societies for these reasons. You could argue the modern world has lost this set of eyes, causing decline.
Fifth Eyes: “Third Person Perspective”. This allows objectivity and reasoning. You can now imagine yourself outside your social web in your mind and consider other social webs that might have alternative solutions to problems. You can often see how this might conflict with a society stuck at the Third Eyes level, as such simpler minds cannot comprehend someone considering an alternative system without also being a part of it - hence the common “You’re a nazi!” or “You’re a commie!” insult in the declining American political discourse. Ironically, Science can only operate here, and the loss of this perspective is a major cause of the loss of scientific advancement today. This is also called a Global Perspective, as the ability to observe other cultures apart from your own is required to acquire what the universal nature of mankind is. However, it is also easy to fake this from the Third Eye level, as many simply end up hating their own culture at the Third Eye level.
Sixth Eyes: “Fourth Person Perspective”. This is becoming self-aware when you inhabit the role of a third person perspective while considering matters, which opens up the ability to consider yourself as an observer, and where your own observer bias is leaking in. It has sometimes been said people here lose faith in the possibility of being objective, but in my opinion that is simply a result of understanding the perspective exists, but not having the ability to hold onto that perspective. It’s thought this perspective is extremely rare. Some think of Nietzsche as an example to acquire a Sixth Eye perspectives. The problem is this Level of consciousness has many many pitfalls into madness, and falling back into lower perspectives. Many who have reached for this set of eyes failed to grasped it and decided all perspectives are valid, so let everyone do what they want, punish nobody, and to hell with objective good. Or, that no perspective is valid and truth doesn’t exist, as was the fate of Nietzsche.
Seventh Eyes: “Fourth Person Perspective through time”. Once you become aware of the pitfalls into delusions in the Sixth Eye level, you can avoid them. Those that make it to this maturity of consciousness re-acquire their faith in Objective Truth and have a far greater ability to grasp it than the Sixth Level. For this reason, it’s often called the 2nd tier of Consciousness, because it inherently allows for a stable world view, and avoiding the mental illnesses of the sixth level. This perspective is thought to be very new in our age, with very few people managing to get through the pitfalls of the sixth level in all of history. It can also produce some very violent characters, as instead of falling into the mental illness that everyone’s views are valid, you actively intervene to prevent people falling into pitfalls - that sometimes means you do deportations and migrations in order to separate problem cultures and perspectives. Today, nobody in politics has a solid grasp of this set of eyes. But there may be those among the young who, having suffered under the Sixth level’s egotism, will grasp the Seventh and act. Their challenge is to avoid the authoritarianism that is prone in trying to control what you can see.
Eighth Eyes: “Construct-Aware”. This level is simply being able to see how you act in the seventh level from a further out perspective, and act less on impulsive restructuring, but rather more on trying to refine your technique of restructuring to be at your best. You are construct-aware - aware that you are directly manipulating sets of social webs to create a good tapestry.
Ninth Eyes: “Feeling Responsible for knowing how to notice things. This level is hard to explain. But in simple terms, you can embody yourself being aware of a construct, and nudging yourself to better notice the construct. You’re not merely aware of the construct, you are aware that the construct is aware of you, and you ought to adjust yourself accordingly. People in this level are rarer than rare. One can view this as awareness that you are looking from God’s eyes, and ought not fall into the trap of thinking yourself god. The willpower to operate both sanely and saintly at this level is, well, quite saintly.
Overall, you can think of each set of eyes as looking down at a simpler way of thinking, and each level of consciousness as growing in self-awareness. However, one is rarely aware of the level they are on, only the levels they can see. Thinking about yourself in this tapestry of perspectives can help center yourself into a master of your own mind and body.
A Youtuber that goes by the name “Hoe_Math” has a rather good video on this:
The Noosphere is not a sphere of existence people think about that much, sadly. Few consider where they are on it, if they are climbing or falling, and if they’re sculpting it, or being sculpted by it. Maintaining your level of perspective once you acquire it is also a challenge, as we tend to drop back down into purely survival instincts when we get too lazy or too stressed. However, I hope this helps you consider what niche you are in, what niche you want to be in, and how to travel that road.