Since returning from the Colorado Synergy Forum as a moderator for a group of highly motivated change-makers, I’ve found myself reflecting on many inspiring conversations that happened throughout the week. One discussion in particular that stood out was with author and philosopher Ken Wilber.
I was quite inspired by Ken and his belief that for change to occur we must be waking up, growing up and cleaning up. His theories on horizontal states and vertical stages of development tie in well with the work we are cultivating with the Global Purpose Movement and offer some guideposts for what we need to do both personally and as a society to transform the world.
Waking Up is the First Step in Transformation
Wilber shared with our group that we are constantly moving into temporary states of enlightenment with daily epiphanies. These are horizontal states, however, and soon we find ourselves moving back to our old self without much development. It’s like waking up in the morning, and eventually going back to sleep.
These horizontal states are still an important part of transformation, but it’s critical that we see this as a state and not a developmental stage. Just as we need sleep in our lives, we need to work on building a foundation of horizontal states in order to wake up to the next step in our transformation.
Growing Up Individually and as a Community
The second step to achieving positive change is what Wilber calls “growing up.” It was at this point in our conversation that my interest was really piqued. This vertical developmental stage (which he’s coined from the work of Robert Kegan, a professor of developmental psychology at Harvard) highlights the need for not only individuals to develop vertically, but for organizations to grow as well.
Kegan and Wilber refer to this intentional community growth as “deliberately developmental organizations” (DDO). I feel strongly that to create a critical mass that positively shifts our evolutionary path we need organizations to get on board. When there are deliberately developed organizations, we find spaces of creativity, open-mindedness and the structure as a whole takes on work with the intention of moving into a higher stage of development.
photo courtesy of Global Purpose Movement
When this happens, both individuals and organizations shift from ego-centric perspectives to eventually world- or even cosmic-centric views. Kegan and Wilber say these organizations have the capacity to adapt a broadened worldview, but must go about it with intention.
If this can be applied to companies and communities, I thought, why not apply it to entire populations? Why not create a deliberately developmental civilization? Our group agreed that this was absolutely possible. What was even more exciting was the idea that by focusing on community development, we could possibly speed up our evolutionary transformation. Wilber believes that while individuals must develop in set stages, moving through each one in order to grow, groups don’t necessarily follow these same developmental rules.
Organizations can– and do– develop rapidly or even skip stages of growth by changing components to their structure. Referring to his theory of spiral dynamics, Wilber gave an example that started with an organization at the orange level, or modernist stage of development. If this organization hires new employees that are at a higher level of consciousness, this can average out to a higher developmental stage without having to pass chronologically through all the levels.
Organizations can of course be slower to change, so the need to deliberately develop as a group is necessary. Likewise, this can be done with civilization as a whole; this gives me more hope for society. We may be stuck in traditional levels, but maybe we can actually make a leap and transform society after all.
It is Wilber´s understanding that around 5% of the world population has a world-centric view. If we could increase that number to 10%, we would have enough momentum to create a critical mass for social transformation. When milestones of positive change have occurred in the past, it is important to remember that, often, a majority in support of a shift did not necessarily exist. Likewise, if we can foster the deliberate development of our civilization, we will see that, as Ken Wilber said to us, “The evolutionary wave coming our way is flowing in our favor.”
Cleaning Up is Critical for Success
If we are intentional in waking up and growing up, the third critical component to our transformation is “cleaning up.” A question was posed to Wilber about how we can develop while carrying emotional baggage or facing our shadow selves; how do we navigate these levels with this karmic weight?
He explained that within the transformational process we all experience horizontal states of waking up, but the vertical growth of growing up won’t hold unless we clean up ourselves as part of the process. Spiritual leaders, individuals in their daily lives and organizations must develop emotional intelligence and move from ego-centric views to world centric perspectives in order for us to successfully clean up our acts.
photo courtesy of the Global Purpose Movement
I loved this concept, because this component—accountability– is absolutely critical. Many people involved in spiritual work must be equally as focused on this stage of development as the waking and growing up stages of developmental process. It is important to remember, whether individually or as a community, the growth hierarchy must include and transcend. This is how we achieve growth without oppression: by building on previous stages.
We are a part of an extremely important transformation that we all have a responsibility to uphold. As a result of waking up, growing up, and cleaning up, I believe we will reach a critical mass of change-makers to successfully achieve our transition. Ken Wilber, then, is correct: the evolutionary wave will flow in our favor.
What are your thoughts on creating a critical mass by waking up, growing up and cleaning up for transformative success? Share your comments below!