The Pursuit of Maturity

Reflecting on our human history, the quality of life has been improving ever since. In the prehistoric era, as hunter-gatherers, humans suffered from constant starvation, illness, and warfare. Because of that, human populations remained small; we were just one of the many wild animal species.

Due to the invention of agricultural technology, human life drastically changed, giving rise to the birth of civilization. The human population suddenly spiked with the emergence of large-scale institutionalized systems that required specialized occupations to maintain them, such as administrators, religious leaders, and even charismatic leaders – the birth of knowledge workers.

Life longevity has also dramatically extended. Many people can now enjoy their retirement even if they are no longer active contributors to their group as hunter-gatherers. So-called “old” persons are no longer a rare group of wisdom bearers, but rather a significant demographic portion. Seniors do not have to leave tribes like other animals do. The societal system can afford to support them, even if they are not directly active contributors to survival.

Despite tremendous improvements, however, humans have not been able to eliminate all fundamental sufferings such as starvation, illness, and warfare. While food supplies have become sufficient, newly emerged social systems and power relations have created gaps causing unfair distribution. Some people experience severe hunger, while others enjoy affluence and wealth. The birth of social inequality was an inevitable outcome. On the other hand, illnesses often result from a lack of scientific medical treatment. Viral and bacterial infections have been present for centuries, but we humans were not aware of their “scientific” existence until the 19th century after the discovery of microscopic organisms.

Ironically, human warfare has become worse. Due to social inequality and unfairness within highly systematized societies, people accumulate anger and grievances towards those who have more than they do. This frustration has led to increasingly brutal and violent ways of killing each other, to the point where we have even invented a word like “genocide” to describe it.

Another turning point, of course, is the Industrial Revolution, which could be seen as the start of exponential growth in every area of human life, society, and civilization. Science and technology became the main focus of human efforts to understand and control the world. For the first time in history, we achieved mass production and mass media. Knowledge can be shared among a huge number of people, and sophisticated products serve to improve the quality of everyone’s life, not just the lives of kings, queens, and aristocrats as in the pre-modern era.

Within walking distance, we can now visit high-quality establishments serving various ethnic cuisines from all over the world, which would have been beyond the dreams of King Solomon, Genghis Khan, or Louis XIV. In this 21st-century town, even an unknown citizen can enjoy this luxury while listening to songs and films selected by AI according to their preferences.

In terms of starvation, the situation has dramatically improved throughout human history, even though there are still people who suffer from it. This is explained clearly with a series of data in books like “Factfulness”. Similarly, the situation around viral and bacterial infections is far better now, thanks to antibiotics, vaccinations, and recent messenger RNA vaccines. It seems that humans are about to overcome this type of suffering as well, although there is still room for improvement.

Regarding warfare, I hope that as humans we continue to improve and become less brutal than in the past. We no longer suffer from constant tribal wars, where killing your neighbors was seen as a value. According to archaeological findings, murder was one of the main causes of death. Why was this the case? Perhaps because survival was a key value that superseded the value of loving-kindness and compassion. While they were of course kind and compassionate, the harsh reality of tribalism limited their ability to extend loving kindness and compassion beyond their own family members or kinships. Unfortunately, this limitation is still observable in some societies even in the 21st century.

To eliminate warfare, the key factor is not the technology we have invented or the social systems we have formulated, but rather what kind of values we prioritize in the current state of human history.

For example, even if you are naturally kind and compassionate, under the social pressure of the survival of the fittest, your priority would be to literally and figuratively kill others. In tribal warfare, we killed each other with oxen, spears, or simply stones. In the modern world, our killing weapons have become more sophisticated, including firearms, artillery, missiles, bombs, drones, and even cyber weapons. In a milder way of saying this, we could call this value a series of competitions to be a winner rather than being a loser. Being a winner means you survived while being a loser means you are killed.

From international disputes to civil riots to workplace harassment to domestic violence, there are many types of warfare that still exist. Are there any remedies to eliminate such a seemingly ingrained nature of our aggressiveness?

One key approach is the developmentally-defined value systems. In developmental psychology, human consciousness is said to pass through various developmental stages, from survival to selfish to compassionate to selfless or from pre-rational to rational to post-rational, and so on. A typical example could be exemplified by a belief in God.

We don’t know anything about God, nor do we know Him unconsciously like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. One day, suddenly, due to the birth of self-consciousness after eating the fruit of knowledge, we faced questions such as who we are and who created us. Our naive, unconscious unison with God abruptly ended. Instead, outside of the Garden, our search for God began, whether it be through myth, superstition, tradition, mysticism, or even science, in hopes that our separation from God would be resolved at the culmination of our consciousness, leading to the ultimate return to the Garden of Eden.

Among various theories, as I mentioned repeatedly in this blog, Spiral Dynamics is the model that defines such a developmental model from the perspective of human history.

Spiral Dynamics is a theory of human development and cultural evolution developed by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan. It is based on the work of psychologist Clare Graves, who developed a model of human psychology that identified various stages of development that people go through as they mature and evolve.

According to Spiral Dynamics, there are eight levels or stages of development that individuals and societies go through as they progress from a survival-focused, egocentric perspective to a more complex, holistic view of the world. Each stage is characterized by a unique set of values, beliefs, and behaviors, and people move through these stages in a predictable, sequential manner.

The eight levels or stages of Spiral Dynamics are:

  • Beige: This stage is focused on basic survival needs, such as food, shelter, and safety. People at this stage are typically concerned only with meeting their immediate physical needs.
  • Purple: At this stage, people begin to form small groups based on family, clan, or tribe. They are motivated by a need for security, and their values are based on tradition and superstition.
  • Red: This stage is characterized by a focus on power, dominance, and individualism. People at this stage are motivated by their own desires and needs, and they seek to control and dominate others.
  • Blue: At this stage, people begin to value order, structure, and stability. They are motivated by a need for security and seek to find meaning and purpose through adherence to rules, traditions, and religious beliefs.
  • Orange: This stage is focused on achievement, success, and individualism. People at this stage are motivated by a desire for personal success and seek to use their talents and abilities to achieve their goals.
  • Green: At this stage, people begin to value community, equality, and social justice. They are motivated by a desire for harmony and seek to create a more egalitarian society.
  • Yellow: This stage is characterized by a focus on complexity, integration, and systems thinking. People at this stage are motivated by a desire to understand the world in a more holistic way and seek to find solutions to complex problems.
  • Turquoise: At this stage, people begin to value spirituality, interconnectedness, and a global perspective. They are motivated by a desire for a deeper understanding of the world and seek to create a more sustainable and interconnected society.

According to the Spiral Dynamics model, the Turquoise level is the highest stage of development currently known. However, it is also recognized that the model is not static and may evolve over time as our understanding of human psychology and cultural evolution deepens.

Some researchers and theorists have proposed the existence of additional stages beyond Turquoise, although these are largely speculative and not widely accepted within the Spiral Dynamics community. One example is the “Coral” stage, which has been proposed as a hypothetical future stage of human development that would be characterized by a universal spirituality and a deep sense of connectedness to all life on Earth.

It’s worth noting that the Spiral Dynamics model is a theory, and like all theories, it has its limitations and is subject to revision as new information becomes available. While it provides a useful framework for understanding human development and cultural evolution, it should not be viewed as an absolute truth or a definitive guide to the human experience.

The distribution of the different stages of development within the world population is not well documented, and it’s difficult to accurately determine which stage is the most prevalent. However, it’s generally believed that the majority of the world’s population is currently at the Blue and Orange stages of development.

The Blue stage is characterized by a focus on order, structure, and stability, and is often associated with traditional religious beliefs and conservative political ideologies. This stage is prevalent in many parts of the world, particularly in regions with a strong religious or cultural heritage.

The Orange stage, on the other hand, is focused on achievement, success, and individualism. This stage is often associated with modern capitalism, technological innovation, and a secular, rationalist worldview. It is prevalent in many industrialized nations and is often associated with Western culture.

It’s worth noting that while the majority of the world’s population may currently be at the Blue and Orange stages, there is a growing recognition of the importance of higher stages of development, such as Green and Yellow, particularly in areas such as education, leadership, and personal development. As our understanding of human development continues to evolve, we may see a greater emphasis on these higher stages and a shift away from more traditional or materialistic values.

By knowing all of these stages, there is certainly an evolutionary drive to uplift all humans into higher stages throughout human history. In tribal societies, the majority of people were in the stages of Beige, Purple, and Red. In pre-modern traditional civilizations, people were in the stage of Red, Blue, or partially Orange. As mentioned above, we are now living in a world where the center of gravity is in the stages of Blue and Orange, and possibly Green, which also includes all the lower stages that might emerge suddenly in extreme situations, such as people being cruel on the battlefield, a family member exhibiting domestic violence under pressure, or drug addicts, etc.

Is there any practice that can enhance this evolutionary drive? Just like developmental psychology’s efforts, the pursuit of maturity could be part of these efforts. There is a set of suggested life practices:

  • Self-reflection: Taking time to reflect on your thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors can help you gain greater self-awareness and identify areas where you may be stuck in a particular stage. Journaling, meditation, and therapy can be helpful tools for self-reflection.
  • Seek out diverse perspectives: Exposure to different worldviews, cultures, and ways of thinking can help broaden your perspective and challenge your assumptions. Traveling, reading, and engaging in dialogue with people who hold different beliefs and perspectives can be effective ways to expand your understanding.
  • Cultivate empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and it’s a key component of higher stages of development. Practicing empathy can help you develop a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of all life and foster a sense of compassion and care for others.
  • Engage in personal growth practices: Practices such as meditation, yoga, and mindfulness can help you cultivate greater self-awareness and mindfulness, which are important qualities for higher stages of development. Personal growth workshops and retreats can also be effective in supporting personal growth and development.
  • Embrace complexity: Higher stages of development are characterized by an ability to think in more complex and nuanced ways. Embracing complexity means recognizing that the world is not always black and white and being comfortable with ambiguity, uncertainty, and paradox. Engaging in practices such as systems thinking, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving can help you develop your capacity for complexity.

It’s worth noting that personal development is a lifelong process, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to elevating one’s stage of development. The most effective practices will depend on your individual needs and circumstances, and it’s important to approach personal growth with an open mind and a willingness to learn and grow.

In our 21st-century lives, we have access to various practices that can support personal development. Once we decide to pursue maturity, we can start implementing these practices immediately without prior preparation. All we need is intention and commitment.

As the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Similarly, the resources for personal growth are out there, but it’s up to each individual to take action. The first effective step is self-reflection. By taking a step back and observing our lives from both a macro and micro perspective, we can live each day wholeheartedly and make studying our personal and human histories a lifelong commitment.

Image by Bruno /Germany

2 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Maturity

  1. Thank you Tom for this article.I enjoy the way you encapsulate the reality of human growth and development in time and space in psychological terminology and connect to it the truth revealed in biblical history of people of faith in God.
    I can see that the Truth is the prime mover in the human life.”The Truth will set you free…”The process is a continuous deepening of mind, heart and soul- a completeness of a true human being; remove one spec from this total equation of a human being and then… Yet God is with us as a merciful , forgiving Father forever..So we continue to develop and can enjoy life at any moment of our existence.Many fruits to harvest but
    not enough workers on the field .


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sofia,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my article and for sharing your thoughts on it!

      I completely agree that Truth is the prime mover in human life. It is also reassuring to remember that God is always with us as a merciful and forgiving Father, guiding us through our journey.

      God bless you!


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