Human Development Theory - Individual and Cultural


My inquiry into my own evolution of intelligence is greatly influenced by human developmental theory. Both as it relates to individual’s growth from infants to adults and cultural development as populations seek to evolve to more generative forms of behavior.


In my particular case, one of the sources I lean on heavily is the writings and research of noted philosopher and bestselling author Ken Wilber. Developmental theory is a product of scientific inquiry into how humans grow up. This work continues to evolve in the 21st century. Ken has been influenced by developmental theory giants of the past like Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, and Jean Gebser. Currently, he tracks the work of Susanne Cook Greuter and her colleagues at the Vertical Development Institute and the work of Robert Kegan at Harvard who is looking at what constitutes a "deliberately developmental organization."


Developmental theory at first can seem complicated and academic, so in this section I am including Ken’s explanations of the basics of Integral Theory and its value to navigating the wicked challenges we face globally. When I set out on this inquiry into the evolution of my intelligence, my first question was… what do I include? Ken’s Integral Map is one of the best guides I have found to ensure I was at least as considering… everything.

Ken Wilber - The 5 Elements of Integral Theory

In this clip, Ken summarizes the five elements of his Integral theory. They include quadrants of experience, levels of development, lines of intelligence, states of consciousness and archetypal types. The acronym for these elements is AQAL.

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Ken Wilber - The Three Strands of Knowing

In this clip, Ken examines the Three Strands of Knowledge that help us sort out what is real in our experience. The eye of flesh, the eye of mind and the eye of contemplation are all useful ways to make sense of your experience and help us include all that is available.

Ken Wilber - Do Cultures Evolve?

In this clip, Ken examines the concept of cultures evolving. Scientific research has discovered the many stages of individual human development. The question remains whether cultures do as well. Humans have gone through a least six major stages of intelligence since we became self-conscious. Three of these stages of cultural development are currently vying for dominance every night on the news. This “culture” war is  revealed for the first time utilizing the Integral theory map.

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Ken Wilber - Dominator vs. Growth Hierarchies

As humans have evolved from traditional to modern to postmodern world views, one of the conversations that creates a lot of heat has to do with hierarchies. Traditional and Modern stages each have their own versions of pecking orders. In healthy cultures these determinations create order. In unhealthy cultures these determinations can be the basis for domination and suffering. Postmodern with its emphasis on diversity rightly condemns all forms of dominator hierarchies, but fails to recognize that the universe is actually organized in “growth” hierarchies.  

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Native Perspectives

Integral developmental theory can often times get to theoretical. This Native Perspective exercise we created represents a practical application of the quadrants. Although all four perspectives are in play in any moment, each of us has a favorite we go to, particularly when we are challenged. See which one of these perspectives is your natural go to. The video to the left is the opening summary of the Native Perspective practice. More can be found on Integral Life.

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