This is the first in a series of articles I will be posting about the Stages of Consciousness - a fascinating way of looking at the emergence of human culture and consciousness over the last 100,000 years and a means of contemplating present challenges and possible futures of our species.
The stages of consciousness is a perspective based around the understanding that human culture and human consciousness has emerged, and is still emerging in a distinct series of waves or levels of development that can be observed in entire epochs of human history. It is also a way of looking at the development of consciousness in individuals, including yourself! Once understood, it is a powerful perspective that helps interpret and understand cultures and events in human history as well as many issues in current global affairs.
It is a perspective that has been developed through several different academic approaches and subsequently synthesised into extraordinarily useful systems of thought like Spiral Dynamics and Ken Wilber's integral philosophy. The best known system describing these stages of development is Spiral Dynamics
Spiral Dynamics (SD), described as "the theory that explains everything", is a truly extraordinary perspective that has the potential to radically augment one's entire outlook on human life, culture and consciousness.
Initially developed by Clare Graves ( a contemporary and friend of Abraham Maslow), the heart of the theory was published in The Futurist, April 1974, in an article titled: "Human Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap." Two of his students, Don E. Beck and Chris C. Cowan, subsequently published the essence of his research along with their own contributions to the theory in the book, "Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change" (Blackwell, 1996).
"The psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiraling process marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man's existential problems change".
The stages of development as described in Spiral Dynamics are adaptive intelligences or value systems that allow individuals to pragmatically navigate their present life conditions. In the same way that natural selection is an adaptive process through genetic evolution to life conditions, the stages of consciousness identified in Spiral Dynamics are looked at as adaptions in human systems of values, morality, cognitive capacities and subsequent culture to the life conditions in culture and the environment.
SD uses the concept of the Meme, developed by Sir Richard Dawkins. A Meme is like a Gene, but in the form of information only. So for example if tell you a joke, and you then tell it to somebody else, this joke could be viewed as surviving as a distinct entity, a Meme, using us as hosts. As the joke travels across cultures it may be translated into different languages and have some lines changed to suit the culture, so over time it mutates, etc. Spiral Dynamics developed the concept of a vMeme or "Value Meme". A vMeme is Meme - a standing system of information and concepts - but existing at a distinctly less transient and much more fundamental level of perception. vMemes are conceptual frameworks, paradigms, worldviews, core intelligences, deep-level decision systems or mindsets from which emerge the surface memes or little memes as defined above.