1974, American professor of psychology Dr Clare W Graves wrote an article for The Futurist magazine titled Human Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap. Graves described an impending change in human consciousness that would be, in his words:
…the most difficult, but at the same time the most exciting transition the human race has faced to date. It is not merely a transition to a new level of existence but the start of a new “movement” in the symphony of human history.His claim wasn’t just speculation though, it was based on seven years of field research plus almost 20 years of data analysis. Unfortunately he died before publishing his research findings and therefore his work remains largely unknown. Graves’ theory was used as the basis for the book Spiral Dynamics (Beck & Cowan, 1996) and most of his original research papers were eventually published as The Never Ending Quest (Cowan & Todorovic, 2005).
Dr Graves’ findings provide a credible map for what philosopher and psychedelic pioneer Terence McKenna called The Archaic Revival. According to Graves, humanity is indeed making a momentous leap in consciousness, which is characterized in part by the re-emergence of archaic themes. One of these themes is tribalism; not a regression to ancient tribalism, but the emergence of one global tribe.
Graves described human development as ‘an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiralling process’ marked by progressive movement upwards through increasingly complex stages. This upward movement is an adaptive response to our changing life conditions. So as our lives become more complex (ie more connected), we are prompted to develop higher, more complex thinking and behaviours in order to cope.
One of the special gifts Dr Graves brought to the field of developmental psychology was his ability at pattern recognition. He discovered that the same change process and the same stages of development can be seen in the evolution of our species, from hunter-gatherer to the present day; in the development of an individual from infant to adult, and also in the development of social groups. Like a fractal, the same pattern shows up at all scales.