1. ACCELERATING STAGES OF EVOLUTION.The evolution of stages of consciousness is accelerating geometrically.  

    Cells evolved for billions of years and animals for millions, human tribal cultures evolved for tens of thousands, agricultural states for thousands, industrial states for a couple of centuries — and the current trend of globalization has been developing for only a few decades. Current evolutionary change is thousands of times faster than at earlier periods. 

    Integral and developmental theorists such as Gebser (culture), Piaget (cognition), Kohlberg (morals), Maslow (needs), Beck (ethics) and Wilber (integral) have shown how each stage evolves into the next. The AE model (see sidebar) reworks the Wilber stages slightly to create an simple geometric model that provides insight into the accelerating pace of evolution.

Our mutual effort for a better life creates higher technology, higher economics and (surprisingly) higher morality and spirituality.

    Cultural evolution is driven more by creative effort and communication than by the random genetic mutation and sexual selection that drove the earlier biological evolution stages. It starts with a creative urge for better lives with better technology — arrows, wheels, plows, engines, computers, etc. — and this higher tech leads us in an integral fashion to a higher levels of economics, and then (surprisingly) to higher moral and spiritual levels — to new levels or stages of consciousness. 

    Over the last 50,000 years, starting with a few million humans communicating with words and drums, our accelerating creative technology has driven (or allowed) us to move to higher and higher economic, moral and spiritual levels. Our view of “who is human” has expanded from tribe to ethnic group to state to world.

    For countless millennia, tribal shamans sanctified cannibalism (it did give a conquering tribe a nutritional evolutionary edge). But when plow-agriculture allowed one man to produce food for many, enslaving the conquered became much more advantageous than eating them, and so Egypt’s Osiris forbade cannibalism as the vilest evil. At the next evolutionary turn, in the modern rational/ industrial era, the productivity of free labor far exceeded that of slave labor, and priests and politicians denounced and outlawed slavery throughout the world.

AE Cultural Stages

approx.start time

(ya = years ago)


(See Tables 1&2  at right for details)

Magic  50,000ya Tribal — Hunter


Mythic  5000ya Agriculture State



Rational 500ya




►Industrial State



►Integrates and

  values all stages

Spiritual Stages   future 2100? Trans-rational

  /Spiritual Insight

    Today, our accelerating evolution is driven by the combined power of over 6 billion creative minds communicating at internet speeds. Experts say our rate of technological discovery is doubling every decade, average world income will quintuple by 2050, and that the predominant stage or level of consciousness is rapidly maturing from early rational or modern to post-modern. The AE model predicts that by the last half of this century these powerful creative forces will open us to the mature rational or integral stage and even spiritual levels of consciousness — and soon racism, sexism and even violence will become as morally repugnant as the infanticide, cannibalism and slavery of our earlier stages.

3. EVOLUTIONARY CHANGE WITH GRACE. The accelerating changes in this century do not have to be unnecessarily painful — they can be graceful and even exhilarating. 

    While recent evolution has brought improvements, a high rate of change often means high turbulence. Over the last 50 to 100 years, global life spans have doubled, average global per-capita incomes have increased tenfold, and democracy has flourished. But there has been much temporary pain as cars replace horses, manufacturing moves south and then overseas, peasants move to city slums, dictatorships are overthrown and political and financial systems are stabilized.

    Possibly even more suffering arises temporarily as our fundamental values and view of the world shift like a kaleidoscope to accommodate computers, cell phones, crumbling World Trade Towers, Chinese Olympics, tech support from Bangalore, or a pimply  kid urging us to vote for a black guy named Obama. Our world view and core values are evolving to new levels in decades instead of centuries or millennia.

    Some of us want to shout; “STOP!  Let’s take a breather. Go back to simpler times. Times when fundamental values were stable.   We fantasize about simple medieval times of an orderly church-state and plow agriculture — or even magical times of the tribal hunter-gatherer.

    But the creative power of six billion text messaging inventive minds simply cannot be stopped. We can’t push the technological baby back into the womb, but each of us can open our own minds and hearts and skillfully help midwife a new integral and spiritual era of collective and individual peace by the end of this century.

    The transition is happening — the question is whether we will meet the change with ignorance, resistance and suffering — or with wisdom, grace and joy.

4. EVOLUTION BEYOND THE  RATIONAL STAGE —  FUTURE SPIRITUALITY.  A delightful mystery that will build on and extend our current rational stage.  

    Western enlightenment freed itself from the Mythic Church and heralded scientific rationality, industrialization, and equality for slaves, minorities and women. But it ceded spirituality to the Church — leaving the Rational stage with a spiritual void that is only now beginning to heal with new direct spiritual experiences such as meditation.  As our accelerating technology provides unprecedented abundance, it seems likely that more and more people will explore this direct spirituality as a way of enriching their lives — a spirituality that integrates western science with eastern methodologies.  [Science is already starting down this path with studies of mindful-awareness meditation, neurology and  positive psychology. ]   

   The AE model indicates that mathematically (based on historical trends) we may evolve to a trans-rational or Spiritual Era by the end of this century and reach a transition or “Omega Point” by the middle of the next century — far sooner than the philosopher-priest-paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin expected.

   Bear in mind, however, that the AE model is a Rational Stage conception — and what happens when a substantial percentage of the world’s citizens achieve some sort of spiritual insight or enlightenment is basically a delightful mystery — as unknowable as our global culture of cell phones, jets, space stations and the internet would have been to Plato.

    So the primary focus of this paper will be on experiencing the coming decades of rapid change as we evolve to the  mature Rational or Integral stage  with as much wisdom and grace and joy as possible.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Recognition and support for the basic AE ideas summarized above have been expressed by such widely diverse sources as EnlightenNext magazine, MIT’s  Technology Review and the Integral Theory Conference.

The remainder of this paper briefly defines “Integral”  (in the box below) and then examines:

  • Our past and present performance on earth. (Is life really getting better?)

  • Our possible future evolution.

  • Our personal and community challenges in riding and guiding the future changes with wisdom and grace.

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.