Saturday, January 1, 2000

Ken Wilber - The Integral Vision at the Millennium

The Integral Vision at the Millennium
Ken Wilber

excerpts from Introduction to Volume Seven of the Collected Works
This excerpted version simply excludes a few sections (specifically, those dealing with critical theory, Boomeritis, and Wilber's Quadrants, Levels & Lines) in order to provide a more approachable introduction to Wilber's explanation of Spiral Dynamics, an important aspect of the integral vision of consciousness. The original text and all footnotes can be found HERE.

We live in an extraordinary time: all of the world's cultures, past and present, are to some degree available to us, either in historical records or as living entities. In the history of the planet earth, this has never happened before.

It seems hard to imagine, but for humanity's entire stay on this planet—for some million years up to the present—a person was born into a culture that knew virtually nothing about any other. You were, for example, born a Chinese, raised a Chinese, married a Chinese, and followed a Chinese religion—often living in the same hut for your entire life, on a spot of land that your ancestors settled for centuries. From isolated tribes and bands, to small farming villages, to ancient nations, to conquering feudal empires, to international corporate states, to global village: the extraordinary growth toward an integral village that seems humanity's destiny.

So it is that the leading edge of consciousness evolution stands today on the brink of an integral millennium—or at least the possibility of an integral millennium, where the sum total of extant human knowledge, wisdom, and technology is available to all. But there are several obstacles to that integral embrace, even in the most developed populations. Moreover, there is the more typical or average mode of consciousness, which is far from integral anything, and is in desperate need of its own tending. Both of those pressing issues (the integral vision as it relates to the most developed and the least developed populations) are related directly to the contents of this volume of the Collected Works.


One of the striking things about the present state of developmental studies is how similar, in broad outline, most of its models are. Indeed, in Integral Psychology I assembled the conclusions of over one hundred different researchers, and, as one of them summarized the situation, "The stage sequences [of all of these theorists] can be aligned across a common developmental space. The harmony of alignment shown suggests a possible reconciliation of [these] theories..." [2]

From Clare Graves to Abraham Maslow; from Deirdre Kramer to Jan Sinnott; from Jurgen Habermas to Cheryl Armon; from Kurt Fischer to Jenny Wade; from Robert Kegan to Susanne Cook-Greuter, there emerges a remarkably consistent story of the evolution of consciousness. Of course there are dozens of disagreements and hundreds of conflicting details. But they all tell a generally similar tale of the growth and development of consciousness from—to use Jean Gebser's particular version—archaic to magic to mythic to rational to integral. Most of the more sophisticated of these cartographies give around six to ten waves of development from birth to what I call the centaur level. (Beyond the centaur, into the more transpersonal waves of consciousness unfolding, agreement tapers off. I will return to this point later.)

Few of these developmental schemes are the rigid, linear, clunk-and-grind models portrayed by their critics. Development is a not a linear ladder but a fluid and flowing affair, with spirals, swirls, streams, and waves—and what appear to be an almost infinite number of multiple modalities (there appear to be as many different dimensions or modalities of consciousness as there are different situations in life—i.e., endless). Most of today's sophisticated developmental theories take all of that into account, and—more important—back it with substantial research (as we will see).

I have, in numerous previous publications (especially Integral Psychology) given the details of many of those researchers. Here I will simply use one of them as an example. The model is called Spiral Dynamics, based on the pioneering work of Clare Graves. Graves proposed a profound and elegant system of human development, which subsequent research has refined and validated, not refuted. "Briefly, what I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating spiralling process marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as an individual's existential problems change. Each successive stage, wave, or level of existence is a state through which people pass on their way to other states of being. When the human is centralized in one state of existence" —as I would put it, when the self's center of gravity hovers around a particular wave of consciousness— "he or she has a psychology which is particular to that state. His or her feelings, motivations, ethics and values, biochemistry, degree of neurological activation, learning system, belief systems, conception of mental health, ideas as to what mental illness is and how it should be treated, conceptions of and preferences for management, education, economics, and political theory and practice are all appropriate to that state." [3]

Graves outlined around eight major "levels or waves of human existence," ranging from autistic, magical, and animistic, through sociocentric and conventional, to individualistic and integrated. As is usually the case with Western researchers, he recognized no higher (transpersonal) levels, but the contributions he made to the prepersonal and personal realms were profound.

It should be remembered that virtually all of these stage conceptions—from Abraham Maslow to Jane Loevinger to Robert Kegan to Clare Graves—are based on extensive amounts of research and data. These are not simply conceptual ideas and pet theories, but are grounded at every point in a considerable amount of carefully checked evidence. Many of the stage theorists have had their models checked in first-, second-, and third world countries. The same is true with Graves's model; to date, it has been tested in over fifty thousand people from around the world, and there have been no major exceptions found to his general scheme. [4]

Of course, this does not mean that any of these schemes give the whole story, or even most of it . They are all simply partial snapshots of the great River of Life, and they are all useful when looking at the River from that particular angle. This does not prevent other pictures from being equally useful, nor does it mean that these pictures cannot be refined with further study. What it does mean is that any psychological model that does not include these pictures is not a very integral model.

Graves's work has been carried forward and refined by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan, in an approach they call Spiral Dynamics. Far from being mere armchair analysts, Beck and Cowan were participants in the discussions that lead to the end of apartheid in South Africa. The principles of Spiral Dynamics have been fruitfully used to reorganize businesses, revitalize townships, overhaul education systems, and defuse inner-city tensions.

The situation in South Africa is a good example of why the idea of developmental stages (each with its own worldview, values, and needs) can actually reduce and even alleviate social tensions, not exacerbate them (as critics often charge). Spiral Dynamics (following Graves) sees human development as proceeding through eight general "value memes" or deep structures: instinctive (archaic-uroboric), magical/animistic (typhonic-magic), power gods (magic-mythic), absolutist-religious (mythic), individualistic-achiever (rational-egoic), relativistic (early vision-logic), systematic-integrative (middle vision-logic), and global-holistic (late vision-logic), each of which will be outlined in a moment. These are not rigid levels, but fluid and flowing waves, with much overlap and interweaving, resulting in a meshwork or dynamic spiral of consciousness unfolding.

The typical, well-meaning liberal approach to solving social tensions is to treat every value as equal, and then try to force a levelling or redistribution of resources (money, rights, goods, land) while leaving the values untouched. The typical conservative approach is take it's particular values and try to foist them on everybody else. The developmental approach is to realize that there are many different values and worldviews; that some are more complex than others; that many of the problems at one stage of development can only be defused by evolving to a higher level; and that only by recognizing and facilitating this evolution can social justice be finally served. Moreover, by seeing that each and every individual has all of these memes potentially available to them , the lines of social tension are redrawn: not based on skin color, economic class, or political clout, but on the type of worldview from which a person, group of persons, clan, tribe, business, government, educational system, or nation is operating. As Beck puts it, "The focus is not on types of people, but types in people." This removes skin color from the game and focuses on some of the truly underlying factors (developmental values and worldviews) that generate social tensions.

We return now to Spiral Dynamics for a brief overview of one version of the many waves of consciousness unfolding. Remember that this is simply one series of photos of the great River of Life. In my own system, there are actually numerous different modules or streams proceeding relatively independently through the basic levels or waves; individuals can be at a relatively high level of development in some modules; medium in others; and low in still others--there is nothing linear about overall development! Moreover, an individual can have an altered state or a peak experience at virtually any stage of development, so the notion that spiritual experiences are available only at the higher stages is incorrect (see Integral Psychology for a full discussion of these topics). Spiral Dynamics does not include states of consciousness, nor does it cover the higher, transpersonal waves of consciousness. [5] But for the ground it covers, it gives one very useful and elegant model of the self and its journey through what Clare Graves called the "waves of existence."

Beck and Cowan (who have remained quite faithful to Graves's system) use various names and colors to refer to these different memes or levels of existence. The use of colors (e.g., purple for magic, blue for mythic, green for ecological sensitivity, etc.) almost always puts people off, at first. [6] But Beck and Cowan often work in racially charged areas, and they have found that it helps to take peoples' minds off of skin color and focus on the "color of the meme" instead of the "color of the skin." Likewise in other situations: a green environmentalist might switch from "all big businesses are bad" to "Orange can be uncaring." Moreover, as much research has continued to confirm, since these are levels or memes that everybody has potentially available to them, the lines of tension are completely redrawn. In a particular situation it is no longer "black versus white," but perhaps blue versus purple, or orange versus green, and so on; and while skin color cannot be changed, consciousness can.

The important point is that these various waves of existence (or stages of development) are not just passing phases in the self's unfolding; they are permanently available capacities and coping strategies that can, once they have emerged, be activated under the appropriate life conditions (e.g., survival instincts can be activated in emergency situations; bonding capacities are activated in close human relationships, and so on). We can be red in one context, green in another, turquoise in yet another. Moreover, as Beck puts it, "The Spiral is messy, not symmetrical, with multiple admixtures rather than pure types. These are mosaics, meshes, and blends." [7]

The first six levels are "subsistence levels" marked by "first-tier thinking." Then there occurs a revolutionary shift in consciousness: the emergence of "being levels" and "second-tier thinking," of which there are two major waves. Here is a brief description of all eight waves, the percentage of the world population at each wave, and the percentage of social power held by each. [8] Remember, these are all variations on archaic to magic to mythic to rational to integral, which is the common "developmental space" revealed by most research.

1. Beige: Archaic-Instinctual. The level of basic survival; food, water, warmth, sex, and safety have priority. Uses habits and instincts just to survive. Distinct self is barely awakened or sustained. Forms into survival bands to perpetuate life.

Where seen: First human societies, newborn infants, senile elderly, late-stage Alzheimer's victims, mentally ill street people, starving masses, shell shock. 0.1% of the adult population, 0% power.

2. Purple: Magical-Animistic. Thinking is animistic; magical spirits, good and bad, swarm the earth leaving blessings, curses, and spells that determine events. Forms into ethnic tribes. The spirits exist in ancestors and bond the tribe. Kinship and lineage establish political links. Sounds "holistic" but is actually atomistic: "there is a name for each bend in the river but no name for the river."

Where seen: Belief in voodoo-like curses, blood oaths, ancient grudges, good luck charms, family rituals, magical ethnic beliefs and superstitions; strong in Third-World settings, gangs, athletic teams, and corporate "tribes." 10% of the population, 1% of the power.

3. Red: Power Gods. First emergence of a self distinct from the tribe; powerful, impulsive, egocentric, heroic. Mythic spirits, dragons, beasts, and powerful people. Feudal lords protect underlings in exchange for obedience and labor. The basis of feudal empires—power and glory. The world is a jungle full of threats and predators. Conquers, out-foxes, and dominates; enjoys self to the fullest without regret or remorse.

Where seen: The "terrible twos," rebellious youth, frontier mentalities, feudal kingdoms, epic heroes, James Bond villains, soldiers of fortune, wild rock stars, Atilla the Hun, Lord of the Flies. 20% of the population, 5% of the power.

4. Blue: Conformist Rule. Life has meaning, direction, and purpose, with outcomes determined by an all-powerful Other or Order. This righteous Order enforces a code of conduct based on absolutist and unvarying principles of "right" and "wrong." Violating the code or rules has severe, perhaps everlasting repercussions. Following the code yields rewards for the faithful. Basis of ancient nations . Rigid social hierarchies; paternalistic; one right way and only one right way to think about everything. Law and order; impulsivity controlled through guilt; concrete-literal and fundamentalist belief; obedience to the rule of Order. Often "religious" [in the mythic-membership sense; Graves and Beck refer to it as the "saintly/absolutistic" level], but can be secular or atheistic Order or Mission.

Where seen: Puritan America, Confucian China, Dickensian England, Singapore discipline, codes of chivalry and honor, charitable good deeds, religious fundamentalism (e.g., Christian and Islamic), Boy and Girl Scouts, "moral majority," patriotism. 40% of the population, 30% of the power.

5. Orange: Scientific Achievement. At this wave, the self "escapes" from the "herd mentality" of blue, and seeks truth and meaning in individualistic terms—hypothetico-deductive, experimental, objective, mechanistic, operational— "scientific" in the typical sense. The world is a rational and well-oiled machine with natural laws that can be learned, mastered, and manipulated for one's own purposes. Highly achievement oriented, especially (in America) toward materialistic gains. The laws of science rule politics, the economy, and human events. The world is a chess-board on which games are played as winners gain pre-eminence and perks over losers. Marketplace alliances; manipulate earth's resources for one's strategic gains. Basis of corporate states .

Where seen: The Enlightenment, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, Wall Street, emerging middle classes around the world, cosmetics industry, trophy hunting, colonialism, the Cold War, fashion industry, materialism, liberal self-interest. 30% of the population, 50% of the power.

6. Green: The Sensitive Self. Communitarian, human bonding, ecological sensitivity, networking. The human spirit must be freed from greed, dogma, and divisiveness; feelings and caring supersede cold rationality; cherishing of the earth, Gaia, life. Against hierarchy; establishes lateral bonding and linking. Permeable self, relational self, group intermeshing. Emphasis on dialogue, relationships. Basis of values communes (i.e., freely chosen affiliations based on shared sentiments). Reaches decisions through reconciliation and consensus (downside: interminable "processing" and incapacity to reach decisions). Refresh spirituality, bring harmony, enrich human potential. Strongly egalitarian, anti-hierarchy, pluralistic values, social construction of reality, diversity, multiculturalism, relativistic value systems; this worldview is often called pluralistic relativism . Subjective, non-linear thinking; shows a greater degree of affective warmth, sensitivity, and caring, for earth and all its inhabitants.

Where seen: Deep ecology, postmodernism, Netherlands idealism, Rogerian counseling, Canadian health care, humanistic psychology, liberation theology, cooperative inquiry, World Council of Churches, Greenpeace, animal rights, ecofeminism, post-colonialism, Foucault/Derrida, politically correct, diversity movements, human rights issues, ecopsychology. 10% of the population, 15% of the power.

With the completion of the green meme, human consciousness is poised for a quantum jump into "second-tier thinking." Clare Graves referred to this as a "momentous leap," where "a chasm of unbelievable depth of meaning is crossed." In essence, with second-tier consciousness, one can think both vertically and horizontally, using both hierarchies and heterarchies. One can, for the first time, vividly grasp the entire spectrum of interior development, and thus see that each level, each meme, each wave is crucially important for the health of the overall spiral.

As I would word it, since each wave is "transcend and include," each wave is a fundamental ingredient of all subsequent waves, and thus each is to be cherished and embraced. Moreover, each wave can itself be activated or reactivated as life circumstances warrant. [9] In emergency situations, we can activate red power drives; in response to chaos, we might need to activate blue order; in looking for a new job, we might need orange achievement drives; in marriage and with friends, close green bonding.

But what none of those memes can do, on their own, is fully appreciate the existence of the other memes. Each of those first-tier memes thinks that its worldview is the correct or best perspective. It reacts negatively if challenged; it lashes out, using its own tools, whenever it is threatened. Blue order is very uncomfortable with both red impulsiveness and orange individualism. Orange individualism thinks blue order is for suckers and green egalitarianism is weak and woo-woo. Green egalitarianism cannot easily abide excellence and value rankings, big pictures, hierarchies, or anything that appears authoritarian, and thus green reacts strongly to blue, orange, and anything post-green.

All of that begins to change with second-tier thinking. Because second-tier consciousness is fully aware of the interior stages of development—even if it cannot articulate them in a technical fashion—it steps back and grasps the big picture, and thus second-tier thinking appreciates the necessary role that all of the various memes play. Using what we would recognize as mature vision-logic, second-tier awareness thinks in terms of the overall spiral of existence, and not merely in the terms of any one level.

Where the green meme uses early or beginning vision-logic in order to grasp the numerous different systems and pluralistic contexts that exist in different cultures (which is why it is indeed the sensitive self, i.e., sensitive to the marginalization of others), second-tier thinking goes one step further. It looks for the rich contexts that link and join these pluralistic systems, and thus it takes these separate systems and begins to embrace, include, and integrate them into holistic spirals and holarchies (Beck and Cowan themselves refer to second-tier thinking as operating with "holons"). These holarchies include both interior (consciousness) and exterior (material) waves of development, in both vertical and horizontal dimensions (i.e., hierarchical and heterarchical), resulting in a multi-leveled, multi-dimensional, multi-modal, richly holarchical view. Second-tier thinking, in other words, is instrumental in moving from pluralistic relativism to universal integralism.

The extensive research of Graves, Beck, and Cowan indicates that there are two major waves to this second-tier consciousness (corresponding to what we would recognize as middle and late vision-logic):

7. Yellow: Integrative. Life is a kaleidoscope of natural hierarchies [holarchies], systems, and forms. Flexibility, spontaneity, and functionality have the highest priority. Differences and pluralities can be integrated into interdependent, natural flows. Egalitarianism is complemented with natural degrees of excellence where appropriate. Knowledge and competency should supersede rank, power, status, or group. The prevailing world order is the result of the existence of different levels of reality (memes) and the inevitable patterns of movement up and down the dynamic spiral. Good governance facilitates the emergence of entities through the levels of increasing complexity (nested hierarchy).

8. Turquoise: Holistic. Universal holistic system, holons/waves of integrative energies; unites feeling with knowledge [centaur]; multiple levels interwoven into one conscious system. Universal order, but in a living, conscious fashion, not based on external rules (blue) or group bonds (green). A "grand unification" is possible, in theory and in actuality. Sometimes involves the emergence of a new spirituality as a meshwork of all existence. Turquoise thinking uses the entire spiral; sees multiple levels of interaction; detects harmonics, the mystical forces, and the pervasive flow-states that permeate any organization.

Second-tier thinking: 1% of the population, 5% of the power.

With only 1 percent of the population at second-tier thinking (and only 0.1 percent at turquoise), second-tier consciousness is relatively rare because it is now the "leading-edge" of collective human evolution.


As Beck and Cowan have pointed out, second-tier thinking has to emerge in the face of much resistance from first-tier thinking. In fact, a version of the postmodern green meme, with its pluralism and relativism, has actively fought the emergence of more integrative and holarchical thinking. (It has also made developmental studies, which depend on second-tier thinking, virtually anathema at both conventional and alternative universities.) And yet without second-tier thinking, as Graves, Beck, and Cowan point out, humanity is destined to remain victims of a global "auto-immune disease," where various memes turn on each other in an attempt to establish supremacy.

This is why developmental studies in general indicate that many philosophical debates are not really a matter of the better objective argument, but of the subjective level of those debating. No amount of orange scientific evidence will convince blue mythic believers; no amount of green bonding will impress orange aggressiveness; no amount of turquoise holarchy will dislodge green hostility—unless the individual is ready to develop forward through the dynamic spiral of consciousness unfolding. This is why "cross-level" debates are rarely resolved, and all parties usually feel unheard and unappreciated.

As we were saying, first-tier memes generally resist the emergence of second-tier memes. Scientific materialism (orange) is aggressively reductionistic toward second-tier constructs, attempting to reduce all interior stages to objectivistic neuronal fireworks. Mythic fundamentalism (blue) is often outraged at what it sees as attempts to unseat its given Order. Egocentrism (red) ignores second-tier altogether. Magic (purple) puts a hex on it. Green accuses second-tier consciousness of being authoritarian, rigidly hierarchical, patriarchal, marginalizing, oppressive, racist, and sexist.

Green has been in charge of cultural studies for the past three decades. On the one hand, the pluralistic relativism of green has nobly enlarged the canon of cultural studies to include many previously marginalized peoples, ideas, and narratives. It has acted with sensitivity and care in attempting to redress social imbalances and avoid exclusionary practices. It has been responsible for basic initiatives in civil rights and environmental protection. It has developed strong and often convincing critiques of the philosophies, metaphysics, and social practices of the conventional religious (blue) and scientific (orange) memes, with their often exclusionary, patriarchal, sexist, and colonialistic agendas.

On the other hand, as effective as these critiques of pre-green stages have been, green has attempted to turn its guns on all post-green stages as well, with the most unfortunate results. In honorably fighting many rigid social hierarchies, green has condemned all second-tier holarchies—which has made it very difficult, and often impossible, for green to move forward into more holistic, integral-aperspectival constructions.

Most sophisticated developmental studies describe a movement from mythic absolutism (blue) and rational formalism (orange), through stages of pluralism and relativism (green), to stages of integralism and holism (yellow and turquoise). The green meme, effectively challenging the absolutisms of blue and orange, then mistook all universals and all holarchies as being of the same order, and this often locked it into first-tier thinking.

Nonetheless—and this is especially significant—it from the healthy green ranks that second-tier emerges, as Spiral Dynamics points out, so most of my comments in those three books (SES, BH, ES) were directed specifically toward green, as were the polemical nudges, in an attempt to get green to look at its own premises more expansively. These jabs have not, in general, endeared me to greens, but it has jolted the conversation in ways that politeness consistently failed to do.


It appears, then, that approximately 1-2 percent of the population is at an integral, second-tier stance, but that around 20 percent are at green, poised for that possible transformation.

In order for green go one step further and make the jump into integral-aperspectival consciousness, the following factors might be considered:

(1) All systems are context-bound, according to green pluralism, so let us fully carry forward that agenda: all relativities and all pluralities are therefore also context-bound: they themselves have wider and deeper contexts that bind them together into even larger systems.

(2) Therefore, let us acknowledge these even larger contexts, and then begin to outline the universal-integral networks binding them all together. Let us begin to move from pluralistic relativism to universal integralism.

(3) The only way to arrive at such an integral stance is to include both hierarchies and heterarchies (and thus arrive at holarchies). Let us, then, relax our morbid fear of all hierarchies, stages of development, levels of reality, critical judgments, qualitative distinctions, degrees, excellence, grades, and rankings. Not all of them are bad, and we use them anyway, never so much as when we deny them, so let us use them in a healthy, conscious, fair, and judicious fashion.

(4) Once we include both hierarchies and heterarchies—both ranking and linking—we can develop a more integral vision that is "all-level, all-quadrant" (see below), a vision that includes the I and the We and the It domains—or self, culture, and nature—as they all unfold in matter, body, mind, soul, and spirit, spanning the entire spectrum of consciousness in all its radiant dimensions. This includes multiple modalities, waves, streams, states, and realms, all woven together into a global holism or universal integralism.

(5) Many of the waves and streams of the spectrum of consciousness are indeed local, culturally specific, and not universal. But research has consistently confirmed that many of these patterns of richly interwoven textures are common to humanity as a whole; others are common to large areas of humanity or to various epochs; and some are merely local and idiosyncratic, varying from culture to culture and individual to individual. [18] Acknowledging and honoring the common and crosscultural patterns in consciousness is not necessarily a marginalizing, oppressive endeavor; in its non-marginalizing form, it is in fact the basis of universal integralism. Let us therefore attempt to include both the universally common patterns of consciousness as well as the local, specific, and pluralistic features, and thus continue to move from pluralistic relativism to universal holism.

(6) This multidimensional Kosmos is therefore not just a final state, but a flow state. Not just holographic, but holodynamic. Not just given, but ceaselessly unfolding, in multiple waves and streams of existence, flowing and evolving in endless displays of Spirit's own self-blossoming. Therefore, let us honor and include these unfolding, developing, evolving currents as the Kosmos flowers in all its domains.

(7) Once that happens, the important contributions of green can be taken up, embraced and included, in the ongoing unfolding of consciousness. Green is not lost or denied, but included and enriched, as a more genuinely integral vision emerges.


The holonic model that I suggesting is an attempt to opt for the latter option. The applications of this model—in education, spiritual practice, politics, business, health care, and so on—will be explored in the Introduction to volume 8 of the Collected Works . In the meantime, let us return to our major points—the impact of an integral vision on both the leading edge and the average mode--and note the following:

One of the main conclusions of an all-level, all-quadrant approach is that each meme—each level of consciousness and wave of existence—is, in its healthy form, an absolutely necessary and desirable element of the overall spiral, of the overall spectrum of consciousness. Even if every society on earth were established fully at the turquoise meme, nonetheless every infant born in that society still has to start at level 1, at beige, at sensorimotor instincts and perceptions, and then must grow and evolve through purple magic, red and blue myth, orange rationalism, green sensitivity, and into yellow and turquoise vision-logic (on the way to the transpersonal). All of those waves have important tasks and functions; all of them are taken up and included in subsequent waves; none of them can be bypassed; and none of them can be demeaned without grave consequences to self and society. The health of the entire spiral is the prime directive, not preferential treatment for any one level.


Because the health of the entire spectrum of consciousness is paramount, and not any particular level, this means that a genuinely universal integralism would measure more carefully its actual impact. I have long maintained that the real revolutions facing today's world involve, not a glorious collective move into transpersonal domains, but the simple, fundamental changes that can be brought to the magic, mythic, and rational waves of existence.

Human beings are born and begin their evolution through the great spiral of consciousness, moving from archaic to magic to mythic to rational to... perhaps integral, and perhaps from there into genuinely transpersonal domains. But for every person that moves into integral or higher, dozens are born into the archaic. The spiral of existence is a great unending flow, stretching from body to mind to soul to spirit, with millions upon millions constantly flowing through that great river from source to ocean. No society will ever simply be at an integral level, because the flow is unceasing (although the center of gravity of a culture can indeed drift upward, as it has over history—see Up from Eden) . But the major problem remains: not, how can we get everybody to the integral wave or higher, but how can we arrange the health of the overall spiral, as billions of humans continue to pass through it, from one end to the other, year in and year out?

In other words, most of the work that needs to done is work to make the lower (and foundational) waves more healthy in their own terms. The major reforms do not involve how to get a handful of boomers into second-tier, but how to feed the starving millions at the most basic waves; how to house the homeless millions at the simplest of levels; how to bring healthcare to the millions who do not possess it. An integral vision is one of the least pressing issues on the face of the planet.


Let me drive this point home using calculations done by Dr. Phillip Harter of Stanford University School of Medicine. If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of only 100 people, it would look something like this:

There would be—
57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 North and South Americans
8 Africans
30 white
70 nonwhite
6 people would possess 59% of the world's wealth
and all 6 would be from the United States
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer malnutrition
1 would have a college education
1 would own a computer

Thus, as I suggested, an integral vision is one of the least pressing issues on the face of the planet. The health of the entire spiral, and particularly its earlier waves, screams out to us as the major ethical demand.

Nonetheless, the advantage of second-tier vision-logic awareness is that it more creatively helps with the solutions to those pressing problems. In grasping big pictures, it can help suggest more cogent solutions. It is our governing bodies, then, that stand in dire need of a more integral approach. It is our educational institutions, overcome with deconstructive postmodernism, that are desperate for a more integral vision. It is our healthcare facilities that could greatly benefit from the tender mercies of an integral touch. It is the leadership of the developing nations that might appreciate a more comprehensive vision of their own possibilities. In all these ways and more, we could indeed use "an integral vision for a world gone slightly mad" —and that is the central topic of the books in this present volume.

Click here to read more about Ken Wilber and Integral Theory.