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Einstein notoriously said that we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. The kind of world I would like to live in demands significant changes. Those anges will not happen until a majority of the people working towards them are coming out of a higher level of consciousness to the one that has led to the state we are in now. Laloux (2014: 5) considers that a precondition for our survival: “the very survival of many species, ecosystems, and perhaps the human race itself hinges on our ability to move to higher forms of consciousness and from there collaborate in new ways to heal our relationship with the world and the damage we’ve caused.”
Systematic cross-cultural analysis reveals that transformation follows an invariant and predictable developmental pattern. It follows a sequence where each higher developmental stage transcends and includes (or unfolds and enfolds) the stage that preceded it (just as organisms transcend and include cells, which transcend and include molecules, which transcend and include atoms). This process of unfoldment and enfoldment reveals a natural, nested hierarchy of developmental progression.
The first researcher to notice that was Jean Piaget (1896-1980), who showed in a series of experiments that as children grow, the way they think advances through predictable stages. At each higher stage, children could think in more complex and sophisticated ways, and they were able to deal with increasingly difficult problems.
For a long time, it was assumed that once you reach adulthood, these stages of development would stop. Today it is generally accepted that developmental stages continue into adulthood. Thus, adulthood is not a destination you reach at some point and then you are done, as it used to be believed. It is a never-ending transitioning process to higher stages of development. Whereas children move smoothly and rapidly through the stages, an adult’s pace of development is not as predictable and it can slow down dramatically, to the point of plateauing. In addition, while
a child’s development appears to happen automatically, so you are in your terrible twos or in your sweet sixteen, adults cannot simply sit back and wait until they turn thirty to reach a new level of development; they need to work to keep growing. Graves (2005: 29) puts it this way:
“The psychology of the adult human being is an unfolding, ever-emergent process marked by subordination of older behaviour systems to newer, higher-order systems. The mature person tends to change his psychology continuously as the conditions of his existence change. Each successive stage or level of existence is a state through which people may pass on the way to other states of equilibrium. When a person is centralized in one of the states of equilibrium, he has a psychology which is particular to that state. His emotions, ethics and values, biochemistry, state of neurological activation, learning systems, preference for education, management and psychotherapy are all appropriate to that state” .
Following Piaget’s pioneering work, the stages of development have been studied by developmental psychologists like Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, Carol Gilligan, Abraham Maslow, Jean Gebser and Clare Graves and sophisticated models of development have been created to describe them (including Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, Graves’ emergent cyclic levels of existence, Beck and Cowan’s spiral dynamics, Loevinger’s stages of ego development, Cook-Greuter’s EDT and Leadership Maturity Framework or Barret’s Seven Levels of Consciousness, just to name a few). Virtually all of them present variations on the same basic 6-to-8 major structures of increasing complexity (and care).
A simplified version of those major levels (involving just 4 basic stages) has been generically summarized by Wilber as moving from “egocentric” stages (self-focused), to “ethnocentric” stages (group focused), to “worldcentric” stages (encompassing all of us, regardless of race, colour, sex or creed), to “integral”
(synthesizing all previous stages). These stages are experienced
in succession-that is, you have to move through “stage 3” of
psychological development before you can reach “stage 4”.
Each of these structures of consciousness generate a
different cognitive style, morality, self-identity and motivations
for the individual and institutions, rules and laws, productive
forces, religions, economic systems and technology for society.
I use the structure of the hero’s journey, a narrative pattern
identified by Joseph Campbell (1949), as an apt metaphor to
describe the transformational experience that everyone goes
through towards becoming all we can become. The hero’s
journey is the adventure of living and we are the hero destined to
take journeys, defeat dragons and find the treasure of our True
Self thorough a continuous developmental process (Robledo and
But how can we influence the process of vertical development
in our troubled world, so we can evolve to a more enlightened and
conscious society? Based on Kegan’s Deliberately Developmental
Organizations (2016) , Wilber & DiPerna (2016)  examined
the notion of a Deliberately Developmental Civilization. Wilber
himself (2012), introduced the metaphor of the conveyor belt.
He says that the influence of certain institutions and leaders can
act as “conveyor belts” for people vertical development, helping
them move up the ladder of their personal transformation so
they can achieve their own significance. In his book, Integral
Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern
and Postmodern World (2006), he argues that religion can serve
as the great conveyor belt for humanity. But, in my opinion, the
list of influencers can be expanded to include other institutions,
and leaders. Political, educational and business leaders and
institutions can play a crucial role of levers that can change
society, intentionally supporting human transformation through
all domains of growth and development [2-7].