In Shakepeare’s As You Like It, Jaques said, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages,” the first six being infant, school-boy, lover, soldier, justice, and old age. Finally, “Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.”
To depict these various stages of human ontogeny, a number of thinkers have produced various models of development, going much further than Jaques’ rather limited view. Ken Wilber has synthesized many of these models in twelve levels in three tiers, illustrated here, with some modifications.
To keep this model as simple as possible, the first tier is where the great majority of people live today, democratically electing politicians who lay down the economic laws and educational curricula that govern our lives.
Recognizing that these traditional cognitive structures are unsustainable, a growing number of individuals are developing into the second tier, seeking a more spiritual and ecological foundation through which to govern society.
As very few have yet reached the third tier, it is not so easy to describe. From one perspective, fully awakened mystics live in these higher levels of consciousness, ultimately living in Oneness in complete union with the Divine.
But this developmental process, which is more involutionary than evolutionary, does not lead to the Omega Point of evolution, where seekers return Home to Wholeness, recognizing that no one can return Home for nobody has ever left Home.
The challenge we face as a species is that while many are seeking to break free of our cultural conditioning, we are constantly being pulled back by the prevailing culture, which has little understanding of the entire spectrum of consciousness. We briefly look at some reasons for the critical situation in the next two pages.