PAST [Has life really been getting better?]

In looking at the current complexity of problems, we sometimes wonder if all this accelerating technological development and globalization is actually reducing our suffering and increasing our life satisfaction — or is it simply disrupting our lives and destroying the ecology of the planet. We often yearn for a long ago “simpler time”.

But we certainly do not want to go back 3 billion years to when the early denizens of planet earth were microscopic pre-bacteria awash in thousand foot tides and sizzling volcanoes. Nor back 300 million years to when we were instinct driven lizards snapping up millipedes. Nor back 30 million years to when our predecessors were early monkeys competing for fruit and sex and status. Nor back 3 million years when our chimp-brained ancestors ventured onto the Serengeti plains competing for roots and sex and status (with our face firmly up against timeless present). Nor even 300 thousand years ago when our brains had grown human sized and we used our budding language skills to compete with each other and Neanderthals for meat and sex and status.

But how about after we had finally evolved into modern humans with complex language skills and a sense of time and self. Was life better then?

Thirty thousand years ago, during the AE stage called Magic or tribal, life may have been simpler, but not easier. Life expectancy was in the teens and most of us did not survive childhood. Social ranking and rivalry within the tribe was complex and challenging — and tribes competed fiercely among themselves for territory and resources. Our shamans did indeed revere nature, but often led us in rites of human sacrifice or cannibalism when we made a successful raid on a neighboring tribe.

Three thousand years ago, during the stage called Mythic or ethnic-state, the new technology of plow agriculture allowed a man to produce a surplus of food that helped spawn a ruling class of priests and warriors, record keeping and writing, patriarchy, city-states, and god-kings. Most of us were slaves or serfs, but even ruling class life was highly constrained by preordained rules and roles — and restricted food variety and a lack of modern medicine kept life expectancy in the low twenties. Our priests were our connection to heavenly salvation and condemned cannibalism, but they also blessed the institutions of slavery, racism, religious war, and patriarchy.

Three hundred years ago, during the early Rational stage, industrialization was increasing productivity enough (in some areas of the world), to start generating a middle class and the ideas of democracy and eliminating slavery.  But the oppression of poor, women, and non-ruling ethnic groups was still rampant. Childhood was still chancy, and childbirth or minor infections killed off adults, keeping life expectancy to the twenties or thirties. Both the priests of the old religions and the new “priests” of science and economics condemned slavery (bad economics), but still condoned patriarchy and racism.

Thirty years ago, during the middle Rational stage, improved technology and economic/political systems had increased productivity and communication to where hundreds of millions of people had a comfortable middle class lifestyle. And in the developing countries, the technology created “green revolution” and better medicine had started to reduced famines and extended the gift of life to billions. But prejudice still had free reign and the cold war threat of nuclear winter hung like the Sword of Damocles over all of the human race.

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Please check out my presentation to the 2008 Integral Theory Conference:

   "Is our accelerating technology driving us to a higher morality?"



for more details.














[Approximate start time - - years ago (ya).

bya=billion years ago. m=million. k=thousand


Each stage develops ten times as fast as its predecessor stage.

Each stage builds on its predecessor stage. Atoms form cells; cells form animals; etc. 

Each stage has interior and exterior manifestations. 




























[indefinite past]  Our universe of matter /energy starts with the big bang 14 bya, but current cosmological theory says the seeds were there earlier.  [Using the term  "consciousness" here is a stretch, but atoms do distinguish between self and other.]


[5 billion years ago The earth cools and 4 bya microscopic life/cells begin. About 2 bya nucleated cells and sex began - - larger, but still microscopic. [Cellular "consciousness" is pretty microscopic.]


[500 million years ago "Cambrian explosion" -- complex life (legs, eyes, spines, brains) forms from the cellular ooze. 350mya  animals crawled onto land. 200mya dinosaurs reigned.  [Reptilian brain, primarily instinct driven.]


































[50 million years ago]   Meteor kills off dinosaurs 65mya and gives mammals/ sex/ "love" a chance to flower. [Triune brain, emotional/ social drives.]


[5 million years ago Climate change impels apes to walk upright on the African plains.  [Bigger brains with globe spanning Homo erectus 1.8mya, signs/symbols but pre-conceptual. Early self consciousness.]

 [The fascinating new field of evolutionary psychology is examining how the last 5-10 million years affects our current genetic capacities for aggression, compassion, sex, etc. For instance, it is genetically advantageous for a man to be a supportive "dad" but an occasional opportunistic "cad". ]


[500 thousand years ago]   Evolutionary pressure produced big brained hunters that spread over the earth. Neanderthals, 350kya, had modern sized brains but changed little over time. The more verbally equipped anatomically modern humans appeared in Africa over 150kya, but did not flourish until the "Upper Paleolithic Revolution" 50kya.  

.[While the driving force for our evolving and expanding consciousness for the last 50,000 years seems primarily cultural, some scientists point out that the current rate of genetic evolution is 100 times faster than the 5 million years average -- and that there is substantial evidence that there have been critical genetic changes related to our cultural evolution from independent forager-hunters to regimented peasants to industrial workers and entrepreneurs.]


















[50 thousand years ago]
The "modern" human explosion of language, art, and invention. But infanticide, cannibalism, human sacrifice were common. Matured to "big chief" cultures. [Current magical tribal or child-like thinking. Pre-conventional. "I give you this joint of my finger Great Spirit" said the Crow Indian, "give me something good in exchange." ]

[5  thousand years ago]

Agriculture writing-empires civilization starts. With plow agriculture one man can produce food for several. Slavery or serfdom is the rule with bureaucratic priests controlling for autocratic patriarchy and God-Kings. Cherishes rules and roles. Current Islam and other fundamentalists world wide.  [Piaget's concrete-operational thinking. "Conventional" or "Traditional".]

[500 years ago
, but perhaps as late as 1650 ]

Printing-science-"age of reason"-democracy-market economy. Predominant first world thinking today -- developing from:

Individualistic (Modern) to
Pluralistic (Postmodern) to
Integral (Mature Rational).

 [Piaget's formal-operational thought.  "Post-conventional".]  (See Table 2 below for details)








but may start by 2100].   While a few individuals have achieved spiritual stages of development , just how this trans-rational highly moral culture will display itself is as unforeseeable as globe circling jets and the internet would have been to Plato.










Joey is a squirming bundle of energy who, like other children of five, views the world thru a magic-stage self-centered consciousness. For Joey, his bite can make a tomato morph into a frog, and Kermit the frog is as real as his sister, and his good behavior caused Santa to bring him a bike, and his bad behavior (he unfortunately believes) caused Daddy to leave him and Mommy.

    In a year or so he will develop to the mythic-stage where he can consider other people’s viewpoints, and where Santa no longer is magic, and rules and roles and mythical Gods reign supreme.

    By adolescence, his cognitive development will hopefully triumph over raging hormones and make it to the rational-stage. Later, frogs will lead Joey to a PhD in zoology, and a taste for magic will lead him to Zen meditation and the trans-rational spiritual stages of consciousness.

    Joey’s 50 year individual development from zygote to zoologist to Zen master echoes our five billion year collective development from amoebas to apes to astronauts.


















































































































[Distribution of adult population and power in 2000.]

[Percentages based on Spiral Dynamics and Wilber's "Integral Psychology" (2000). Note that Wilber breaks the AE Rational stage into three separate stages.]

All children start in the pre-mental stages and mature up their current culture stage (more or less).

While world power has moved to the Rational Stage, many country cultures are still at pre-rational (tribal, authoritarian, etc.) And some segments of even advanced cultures are also at pre-rational (gangs, fundamental religions, etc.)

PRE-RATIONAL (Magic and Mythic) STAGES.

[59% of population / 29% of power.]

Most of these people are in the later Mythic (conformist-rule-role or "Traditional")  ego developmental stage. However some of these folks in tribal areas or inner city gangs are at the Magic Stage [15% of population / 2% of power.].

INDIVIDUALISTIC RATIONAL (early rational or "modern" ) STAGE.

[30% of population / 50% of power]

Provided the initial break from the mythic church-state with science, democracy and the market economy. Still the dominant view. Strong in business and governments.

PLURALISTIC RATIONAL (middle rational or "post-modern" ) STAGE.

[10% of population / 15% of power. Small minority 50 years ago.].

Softens the Individualistic- Rational stage with multi-perspective human bonding, anti-hierarchy, diversity, and eco-psychology. Controls universities. Strong in Europe.

INTEGRAL RATIONAL (mature rational) STAGE.

[ 1% of population / 6% of power. Very few 50 years ago – but could double every dozen years and be dominant within 50 years.]

Expands and matures the Pluralistic view to integrate and value other stages instead of denigrating them. A holistic prelude to Spiritual.


[Very few today. But could easily be measurable in 50 years as people develop beyond the Integral-Rational.] Deepens the Integral view to an actual experience or trans-rational direct knowing of an impermanent non-separate self -– that we are all one -- and evolving.

















"Mystics need to become more scientific. Scientists need to become more mystical." 
 Andrew Harvey




























The idea of linear time is a relatively recent idea -- born of god-king proclamations and rational science investigations.   

For the mystics:

"Time is a trick, a sleight of hand, a vast illusion in which figures come and go as if by magic."

A Course in Miracles.






























Omega Point. Those of you who are mathematically inclined may have noticed that the acceleration of stages is not just exponential but asymptotic - - with an implied transition singularity or “omega point" at about 2150. I see this as more like the “Omega Point" of Teilhard de Chardin – a pull of an evolutionary God force toward the highest level of “complexity-consciousness” that the universe can achieve -- and not the technological artificial intelligence singularity that Ray Kurzwiel envisions by 2050.
     Note that a transition time 2150  implies that all the previous stages should be shifted by 150 years. But beware of too much literalness about the inception of the spiritual stages or a final "transition point".  

     The very concept of time itself has shifted radically over the stages.  For the tribal shaman time was circular. For the mythic priest and even early modern scientist the world was only a few thousand years old.  Only in the last century did we start measuring the age of the universe in billions of years.  A future person with spiritual stage consciousness may find our current concept of linear time to be quaintly limited.



































































Osel Tendzin



























What we can do to reach the Integral and Spiritual Stages.


Rather than rejecting the spiritual as an irrational belief perpetrated by archaic religions, we can be open to a direct experience of the divine through meditation or contemplation.


Rather than fighting globalization with blood and terror, we can use globalization to help all the world's people find a better life.


Rather than defending outmoded American jobs, we can help other countries workers and our own consumers by retraining our workers.


Rather than clutching the scriptures as the only sacred view, we can be open to a direct experience of the divine through meditation or contemplation.


Rather than defending entrenched interests, we can help economic growth and our general welfare by maintaining fair laws and markets.


Rather than blindly protecting the environment, we can balance the needs of the people with the needs for the environment.


Rather than resisting the birth of a new era, we can midwife it with all our considerable compassion and skill.