George Lucas, the famed movie director and writer of Star Wars series, was being
interviewed by Bill Moyers. Both noted the great progress humanity had made since its
inception. Moyers noted that if humanity started out at a 0, we were now at a 5 rating
after all of these years of evolution, and were on our way to flower as a full 10. Lucas
responded with "no, actually our potential is a million."
Society has developed
through three overlapping stages -- physical, vital, and mental. Over the course of tens of thousands of years humanity has evolved from
a society mainly concerned with the physical realities, such as
our survival, a
life of fear and threat from without, and
the need for complete deference to authority;
to a stage in which our individual vital
needs and wants,
including our desire to interact with others and expand and trade, come into their own; to the
present emerging mental stage where
understanding, knowledge, peace, freedom, democracy, the
fulfillment and empowerment of the individual, the emergence of fast, complex
organizations, and the extraordinary power of thought to shape our world for endless
progress emerges. Beyond that is the spiritual stage of
social evolution where mind is more fully developed to allow multi-sided
awareness of truth, instead of the current limited capacity of
mind, and where one connects with the spiritual Force that
enable the ultimate flowering and transformation of life.
Let's then examine each of these stages.
When humans first evolved on earth
say 100,000 years ago, and in particular
over the last 10,000 years, individuals were mostly focused on their very survival
and existence; everything
else was secondary. The atmosphere
was one of physical and psychological insecurity. Threats were perceived
from threats in nature to threats from other tribes or collectives.
In this physical stage
people's social awareness was limited to
the tribe. To think and act outside of the tribe and tradition was considered
treasonous. In other words, humans had a very limited sense of their own selves.
They were beyond to the concerns and authority of
Over time society, the collective, overcame
these threats from nature, from the outside. Plus they began to develop
better cohesion and unity within the collectives
they were a part of. We began to master the basic productive
operations of life, and we gained control of the physical forces around
us. This enabled the emergence of a new vital human. Another way of saying this is
that humanity organized themselves
at a higher level in the physical
stage, enabling a more expansive vital stage.
So what is this vital age? In this stage we see a willingness of people to engage
others not of their own tribe or collective. We begin to see the beginnings of
trade with other tribes, more interaction
with others. This leads to the desire for more travel
and exploration to expand trade and resources. Gradually there is an
awakening that the individual can improve his own lot, and that he does
not have to only focus on the concerns and needs of the collective.
In this vital stage there is a
broadening of the social interactions, of interchange with others. We
could now begin to focus on our
own individual self-interests. We could become
prosperous and enjoy life. There was thus a vast expansion of vitality
in the vital stage.
Where the physical stage of
life was the culmination of an evolution
that began 100,000 or so years ago, and formed more fully around 10,000
years ago, the vital stage has only been there around 500 years, roughly
corresponding to the Renaissance and the centuries of exploration and
discovery. In the last 100 years, and in
particular the last 50, there has been the rapid emergence of the next
stage of human development; the mental stage.
The first thing that we notice about the mental stage is
that society begins to value the vast amount of accumulated knowledge of the
past. In the modern era this knowledge base of the past began to be
organized, codified, and then disseminated to the population. Information that was
formerly unfocused and scattered is now distributed through systems of training and education. That in turn
energizes individuals to further advancement in work, their careers. And
then that in turn accelerates people's achievement in life, which we can see
expressed in the vast
developments in science, communications, and technology of recent years.
Then through that rapidly
technology base, through exposure to the vast knowledge base presented in media, in the Internet, people become
even more aware of what can be achieved. They become aware of possibilities
for achievement; and see that others are
doing it. That
in turn leads to an era of ever rising expectations; people want and
demand more in their own lives.
It's actually been going on
for centuries. Freedom, democracy are unstoppable forces that have emerged
in the last century or two. These are products of the rationality of the mental
age; an acknowledgement of the needs for
these essential values in life. Now that same freedom is extending
as we each as individuals become aware of our ability to fulfill our individual
dreams, our own self-fulfillment and human potential.
So in this emerging mental stage
that we have now begun to enter, with its possibilities
of freedom, initiative, and self-determinism, we are very far from the
determinism of the physical
stage, where we deferred to the collective will to survive.
The quantification and dispersion of accumulated
knowledge, the qualitative improvements in life in areas such as education and social
benefits, the demand and ability to fulfill one's potential, the awareness and concern for
the plight of others, the demand of the individual to be involved in the decisions of the
collective, and the emerging political and social freedom are some of the indicators of
the mental stage of social evolution.
Then there is a spiritual stage beyond
the mental. That is obviously further out. As we begin to
emerge through the mental stage, we perceive that even the power of mind
cannot be the ultimate salvation for humanity; for after all the faculties
of mind as we have said are decidedly limited. So there begins to develop
a longing for a unity of awareness and perception that mind cannot hold;
an openness to greater truths, greater insights, spiritual
knowledge and vision. To an understanding that our individual will, the collective
will, and the Divine will are all bound together.
At some point individuals who
have experienced the inner life of the spirit, who have begun to transform
themselves to a higher physical, vital, and physical existence, who have experience
the spirit in action in life, who have felt and opened themselves to a
greater spiritual power to effect life, become the harbingers of a new
collective life, a new divine life on earth.
This is the vision that Sri Aurobindo
envisioned beyond the mental stage that we are only just emerging into
Evolutionary movement upward from
the physical to the vital to the mental
to the spiritual stages
-For additional Growth Online thoughts on the emerging stages of society, click
-To review more
detailed information on
this topic of The Four Stages of Social Evolution, please click
learn about the course of human evolution, which describes how the
individual human grows and develops amongst the same physical, vital,
mental, and spiritual aspects of his being, click