After reading this article, use the links to the left to read more detailed information on each level of cause and effect.

How higher levels of cause and effect change
the outcome of an action
Start taking greater control over your life right
here, right now
"Family resemblance" between causes and
How to use the spiritual law of cause and
Feedback and feedforward

When you're trying to change your life, or create specific results, you need to know WHAT causes WHAT. Understanding and mastering the spiritual law of cause and effect is not about voodoo -- it's about getting a grip on your life, and gaining positive control over the impact you have on the people around you.
As long as you DON'T have command over cause and effect, your life feels out of control and the world seems unpredictable, even chaotic, in the way it works (or doesn't seem to work). Sometimes, the same cause appears to produce varying results, or hard work appears useless. In moments like those, it seems like the law of cause and effect has been suspended! It HASN'T!
Example: A divorced woman in her 40's desperately wants to make a relationship work and get married again. She tries her very best to find a mate, only to discover that the men she attracts to herself are scared to death of intimacy -- just like she is!
Shaking her fists at God and the universe, she becomes increasingly resentful that nothing is working out. She can't understand why her sincere efforts are not creating the desired result of a happy marriage. The problem is, she is in denial of her fearful, self-protective tendencies in intimacy, which work powerfully against her stated intention of creating a close and lasting intimacy.
Actually, there IS a dependable cause-and-effect relationship. The reason we doubt that is, there are many levels of causes -- and generally, we are aware only of the grosser, less potent ones, while the higher, MORE potent levels of cause go unrecognized and therefore uncontrolled. Gaining control over the higher levels gives us much better control in life, and even in love.
The levels of cause and effect

The results of what you are doing

What you are doing

What your purpose or motivation is

Where you are coming from (your mood or attitude)

What you believe about yourself, others, and the universe

What you think things mean

Who you think you are -- ego or Spirit

How higher levels of cause and effect change the outcome of an action
Action is the grossest level of cause. Intention, orientation, belief, interpretation, and identification are progressively more SUBTLE, and at the same time, increasingly POWERFUL.
Let's take a look at those increasingly subtle levels of causation to see how they operate. We'll start by considering how the various levels of cause subtly-but-powerfully change how an action feels. Imagine someone gives you a gift. Now, let's replay that same action with different intentions, orientations, and beliefs, and see what might happen in each case:
Intention (the giver's motivation for giving the gift). If the gift is given with the intention to make you feel loved, you will feel that, and the gift will most likely make you happy. However, if the same gift is given with a different intention -- for example, to create a sense of obligation or indebtedness -- you will feel THAT as well. As a result, the gift will probably make you uncomfortable, perhaps even guilty. We can conclude this:
Same giving ACTION + different INTENTION = different effects.
Orientation (the giver's attitude or mood when giving the gift). Say the gift is given with the intention to make you feel loved. But where is that intention coming from? If it arises from an orientation of truly caring about you, you will undoubtedly feel happy to receive the gift. But look here: if that same intention -- to make you feel loved -- arises from a different orientation -- a mood of insecurity about the stability of the relationship -- the gift will feel entirely different. The insecure giver is hoping for reassurance, and can't help but be concerned about what you think of the gift. That concern creates performance anxiety in the giver, which makes the presentation feel awkward and uncomfortable. The desire for reassurance also exerts a subtle pressure on you, the gift recipient. In that case:
Same loving INTENTION + different ORIENTATION = different effects
Belief (the giver's deeply held, often unspoken presumptions and conclusions). Assume now that the giver's intention to make you feel loved by the gift was, in fact, inspired by his or her own personal sense of insecurity. What negative beliefs may have CAUSED that insecurity? Here are two possibilities:
1. the self-oriented belief that "I am not lovable;" or

the other-oriented belief that "Relationships never last, because PEOPLE (people such as yourself, the receiver of the gift) are unreliable."

In the first instance, the giver's negative self-concepts will add a touch of awkwardness or tentativeness to how the gift FEELS. In the second case, a negative presumption about you and your unreliability will make the gift feel somehow, subtly, INSINCERE. That could make receiving the gift feel terrible. In both cases, the giver's beliefs clearly change the effect of receiving the gift. So:
Same insecure ORIENTATION + different BELIEF = different effects
TOP Start taking greater control over your life right here, right now
When YOU give a gift, obviously, you want it to make the recipient happy -- not uncomfortable, guilty, pressured, or terrible! Right here is where you can begin to gain the kind of control over your life you want. Start by answering this question: How many of these levels of causation -- action, intention, orientation, belief, interpretation, and identification -- do you consciously adjust when trying to create a specific result? How many are you even aware of?
Actions. Everyone knows that it takes work (action) to get results. It is said, "Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration." And, "You can't succeed if you don't try." Action is where the rubber meets the road -- action is traction. Still, most people are not in complete control of their actions. Compulsive behaviors, created by strong attractions and aversions, and unconscious or undisciplined habits, may make it difficult or impossible to get our desired results.
Intentions. Do you know that intentions count? If you've ever said, "It's the thought that counts," or, "He meant well" -- you were acknowledging the how much intention matters. Do you control your intentions when you are doing the things you do?
Remember, controlling your intentions means, understanding your real motivations -- not just your stated intentions -- and maintaining a positive motivation as long as necessary to achieve your purposes. To truly control your intentions, you must be aware of the presence of counter intentions, and control them too!
Example: A man may want a relationship (stated intention) and at the same time want to protect himself from rejection (counter intention). His success at creating a relationship depends on which intention is stronger. The positive intention creates constructive social outreach. The counter intention creates withholding, pulled punches, self-protection, and the impulse to retreat at the first sign of trouble -- all of which undermine his efforts to create a relationship.
Orientation. Do you know how much your orientation matters? Obviously, attitude and orientation make a major contribution to the impact of an action -- by largely determining the TONE of it. With respect to the impact of attitude and orientation, everyone knows, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it." And, "It's not what you do, it's how you do it." Your orientation is a huge part of that all-important "how" you say or do it.
Example: The orientation of personal greed in a business relationship feels quite different, and creates a different outcome, than the orientation of desire for mutual benefit.
Not surprisingly, people succeed and recede, are hired and fired, loved and left, kissed or dismissed -- all on the strength (or weakness) of their attitude. Do you control your orientation when you are doing the things you do?
Beliefs. Do you realize the big difference your beliefs make? You probably do. For example, everyone is familiar with the "law of self-fulfilling prophecy." That law says that what you BELIEVE will happen affects the outcome of what happens.
Example: How good do you think your chances are if you audition for a part in a play, but you BELIEVE you will not get the part? If your prediction is, "Not good," perhaps you are intuitively aware that beliefs affect outcomes.
Affirmations and other superficial methods of learning new beliefs have become popular lately. However, your deeply held convictions of long standing are more influential than any compensatory new beliefs you may have embraced while still -- consciously or subconsciously -- subscribing to the older beliefs. Are you in control of your deeply held beliefs when you are doing the things you do?
Interpretations. Do you understand the powerful effect your interpretations have? We all live "under the influence" of our interpretations of life. Thus:
What's important is not what happened in life, but what you THINK happened.
TO ME, what you did is not as important as what I THINK it meant.
It's not what I went through in life that counts, it's what I got out of it.
This, then, is the power of interpretation: to give to ourselves, to the world, and to the events of life the meaning we think everything has.
Examples: If a coworker criticizes a job you did, does that MEAN he doesn't like you? If your parents gave special help to one of your brothers or sisters in a time of need, does that MEAN that child is their favorite?
Obviously, how we respond to people and events is entirely dependent on how we interpret them. Do you control the way you interpret things?
Identification. Do realize the importance of identification? Identification is a determination about the essential NATURE of a person or thing: "What is this?" "Who am I?" "Who are you?" People acknowledge the power of identification when they say things like, "You're only as capable as you think you are." Or, "If you think I'm a bad person, then I don't see why you want me around." Or "Who do you think I am?" and "What kind of person do you take me for?" And everyone pays homage to the importance of identification when they admit how much self image and self esteem impact practically everything we say and do.
Example: "I have low self esteem, therefore I am afraid I am unworthy of love."
Do you control the way you identify yourself and others?
Most of us focus almost exclusively on the level of action, and rarely look beyond that level. Even when we consider the higher levels, we may not be able to see with much clarity -- or honestly admit -- what's going on there. And yet, we cannot effectively control our creative powers until and unless we achieve control over all the levels that matter. So you can see why people easily lose their grip on life, becoming ineffective in action and hopeless about success: it's because they are NOT controlling the very factors that MATTER.
One of the most important fruits of spiritual evolution is the ability to perceive and eventually control increasingly higher and higher levels of cause and effect. Just as new perspectives come into view as we walk forward, our awareness of cause and effect expands as we master each successive level of responsibility. So it's no problem that all the levels are not accessible to us YET. Our work to become responsible on lower, more obvious levels of causation will prepare us to discern the higher levels that had previously been hidden from our sight.
Even before we master the higher levels, just KNOWING about them, and LEARNING how they work, restores a sense of the harmony and reliability of Universe order and Divine law.
TOP "Family resemblance" between causes and effects
The chain of cause and effect is a little like a family tree: each cause produces effects -- like offspring -- on the level beneath it. As shown above in the diagram of cause and effect levels the line of descent starts with identification, the great-great grandparent. Identification gives rise to interpretations, which over time solidify into beliefs, conclusions, and assumptions. These then give rise to orientations and attitudes. Orientations and attitudes give birth to intentions, which next create actions, which finally produce effects. And, just like in human families, each successive level of cause inherits the characteristics of the one(s) above it.
The inheritance of family traits is a very useful metaphor in controlling causation. You can take this principle of inheritance into account by looking your problems as members of a family clan. Eradicating one problem on a lower level may be a short-lived victory, because it is survived by many "brother" and "sister" problems, just waiting to take its place. And those same parents may still be making more babies. But when you evict the parents and replace them with other parents, the house is suddenly filled with an entirely new family of kids!
For example, look how one change in belief can dramatically upgrade the neighborhood: The belief "No one loves me," gives rise to a "family" of orientations, intentions, and actions which ultimately result in self-protective, desperate, or manipulative behavior. However, the belief, "I am lovable," generates an entirely different "household" that includes self-confident, helpful, and creative activities.
Problems are innumerable and more are born everyday. The parents of problems are almost innumerable. The grandparents are relatively few. The great grandparents are very few. And the great great grandfather is one. If you can change the great great grandfather (identification), the effects of that change affect the entire family.
TOP How to use the spiritual law of cause and effect
Therefore, for maximum efficiency when you want to effect a change in your life, move up the chain of cause and effect as far as possible. You may not be able to work effectively at the highest levels of cause, but always invest at least part of your effort on the highest level you can discern and authentically manipulate.
Meanwhile, don't let the unruly children destroy your peace while you're working on locating and changing their great great grandfather. In other words, don't let your behavior be out of control while you're trying to find out what is wrong at some higher level. So, get your behavior in check. And as soon as you can, get a handle on your intentions, get a handle on your attitudes, and get a handle on your conclusions and beliefs.
The rule of thumb is: it makes sense to work at the highest level where you can get a grip, while continuing to maintain vigilance at all the lower levels, simultaneously and in a balanced manner.
And don't forget: If you find the higher levels too slippery to hold onto for now, don't worry: It takes time and practice to master each level, but whoever reads this article has a good head start!
TOP Feedback and feedforward
In contrast with the idea that problems are passed down from generation to generation, it is also said, "Insanity is hereditary, you get it from your kids." That humorous but truthful saying implies that the effect affects the cause -- and indeed it can!
Therefore, you can productively focus both on the effects in your life and on their ultimate causes. Think of this as using "feedback" or "feedforward."
Feedback. "FeedBACK" starts from the youngest generation up: You can adjust your actions to create FEEDBACK that proves to you that you are a good person -- and thereby adjusts your belief. For example, by helping a friend in need, you will come to think of yourself as a helpful person.
Feedforward. "FeedFORWARD" starts from the grandparent and works down: You can start with the belief that you are a good person and use it to create good actions and good effects. For example, by thinking of yourself as a helpful person, you will be disposed to help a friend in need.
You can run it either way -- whichever way works for you. And both ways can work well.
In addition, working at the lower levels of cause can be an excellent way to directly make changes at higher levels even before those levels are amenable to your conscious direction. This "bottoms-up" method works, without any special effort on our part, when we have a strong desire to accomplish a special purpose. For example, a strong desire to create a happy incident at a family gathering will automatically create the adjustments of intention, mood, belief, and interpretation necessary to create success.
A famous actor uses the bottoms-up method to "get into character." He says he starts by imitating his character's posture and way of walking and moving. Doing that helps him literally FEEL and THINK like the character would. In essence, he creates the character on the level of action and then adds the intentions, orientations, beliefs, etc. that fit.
Our advice: Do it all. Operate on all levels. Go up stream as far as you can and sweat the details at the lowest end, too. The operation of the spiritual law of cause and effect is wonderful, isn't it? It is really the handle that allows us to understand ourselves and others, and to create beauty. Use it!
Stages of Growth | Levels of Practice
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