CHALLENGES [Can the forces of push/pull help us let go of our resistance to developing to Integral and Spiritual consciousness?]

It sounds so easy; we just ride the stage escalator to Integral and Spiritual – to peace and happiness. Actually, like the birth of a child, the birth of a new stage requires blood, sweat and tears.
    Today we have terrorism, famine, AIDS, genocide, war, racists, judgmental fundamentalists, greedy executives, avaricious corporations, environmental rape, global warming, huge wealth inequalities, angry gangs and poverty even in rich countries — as well as angry tree huggers, social activists, and anti-globalists.
    Globalization itself, which I suggest will increase global wealth and help reduce these problems, causes enormous disruptions and changes: lost jobs in America; the inner turmoil in values when a Chinese peasant moves to a city; the sense of betrayal and frustration of the Islamic middle east; or the use of modern technology to murder tribal rivals or even blackmail the world.

The Pull and Push Forces that can help the transition.

Change always incurs pain and stress. People do not let go of their established ideas or positions easily. It took centuries of blood for democracy to replace autocracy in Europe. But there are some forces that can help with the transition.
    The mystics say mankind connects heaven and earth. To open to a new stage we can benefit from both these forces:

1) Push from below. Growth in consciousness is supported by the ratchet effect of external manifestations like technology and economics that stabilize a culture and resists us falling back into earlier ways of thinking.

2) Pull from above. The attractive pull of our Source (God if you will) for opening to greater creativity and compassion (the evolutionary force).

Let us look at three major challenges and how these forces are helping us meet them:

Inequality. On a purely economic “push from below” basis, inequality is recognized as underutilizing the creativity of a country’s people and dragging down its productivity and growth. The pull of spirit can be seen in a general rise in compassion for the world’s disadvantaged.

Environment. For the first time in history, we are working at the world level to help the environment. Besides the push of economics and survival concerns, many people are starting to care, not just about all the world’s people, but about all the world’s creatures and about the planet as a whole ecosystem — about Gaia. This is a huge shift from prior times. (Hopefully we will take action before the water level rises above our heads!)

Conflict. It is difficult to go to war with someone you trade or work with.  No countries that have McDonald’s franchises have ever gone to war (almost).  A few years ago, the possible loss of outsourcing funds silenced an atomic shoving match between India and Pakistan.
    In places like India or Malaysia or South Korea or Latin America many of these problems have been alleviated in the last half-century. So it is certainly possible they can be resolved elsewhere in the next half-century.
    Increased communications and trade has pushed us to expand our concept of “who is human” and allowed us to open more to our natural compassion for other people.

Biggest Challenge.   Our biggest challenge in giving birth to the Integral and Spiritual stages will be in relaxing and opening our own consciousness — stretching of our tightly protected world views and habitual egoic patterns.

Any change causes pain, but resistance to change exacerbates it enormously. For example, on a daily basis I try to help recovering alcoholics and others (and myself) who are suffering (and causing others to suffer) because of their resistance to what has already happened in their world — to what “is”. They complain “My parents did not raise me right” or “Nasty people have done bad things that threaten my safety and happiness” or “My boss is mean” or “People don’t recycle” or “Life (or spouse or government or globalization) is unfair.”
    We clutch our self righteous judgments painfully to our heart — defending them with all the fury of our fearful ego and habitual childhood patterns of behavior.
    My goal is to help these folks (and myself) release their clutched fist and soften and expand their rigid egoic box — to let some space in for their center core of peace and power (some call it God). Then they can act with power and compassion instead of with fear and anger.

What is true on a personal level is also true on a global level. There is a tremendous opportunity for each of us to expand our view.

  • If we are an ecologist, humanist, moralist, or spiritual seeker, we can open more to the push from below. We can recognize that we will never have peace if Mexicans are so poor they risk their lives to get a green card; that an Indian engineer or a Chinese laborer or a Indonesian textile worker has as much of a right for a job as an Irish engineer or a Detroit laborer or an African-American textile worker; that the technology led green revolution has given billions of us the gift of life; and that globalization has given Indians, Chinese, and other people in the developing world the right to escape extreme poverty and pursue happiness.  [A few environmentalists have already heard this call — to become pro-technology, pro-growth, pro-human.]

  • If we are a globalist, technologist, scientist, or executive we can open more to the pull from above. We can realize that treating workers better and being more open and transparent can pay off in profits and improved corporate health; that we can all cooperate in saving the planet; and that each of us has heard the call of spirit — in a sunset or a redwood cathedral or a child’s smile. [Transparent companies and mindful neuroscientists are a wonderful start.]

  • If we are a fundamentalist of any faith, we will have the toughest job and the greatest opportunity: opening both to below, to the benefits of science, technology, and globalization and to above, to a direct experience of compassionate spirit.

It is my fervent hope that we can make this revolutionary transition without the bloodshed of earlier ones; that we will indeed open our minds to a new world view; that:

  • The responsible people in rich countries will respond to the opening of labor markets in China and India by re-training their own workers, not clinging to low skill jobs better done by (temporarily) lower cost Asians.

  • Our governments, pushed by citizens and NGO’s, will keep the playing fields fair and level and protect our environment from global meltdown.

  • The powerful, as they develop to Integral-Rational, will keep the peace and nourish global prosperity, while respecting people and cultures at all earlier stages.

  • And we will all open our consciousness to a new more compassionate way of experiencing life and each other.


Comments are closed.

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.