FAQ Graves and politics

Values Choices for Voters and Others

   As election campaigns in the U.S. move into political high gear, ask which of the value systems described below resonate with you, and which candidate(s) best embody your vision? These are not types of people; they are subsystems within people, so you might find more than one in a candidate. The basic thinking systems can be expressed in many different ways, in various forms. There are transitional forms and combinations.

   As you watch politicians debate and track the campaigns, look for signs of the thinking within the parties. Listen through the rhetoric – the expressions of these systems – to hear the deeper values assumptions that lie beneath the campaign talking points. Ask what problems drive them to solutions. What value systems distinguish one candidate from another within any party. Explore how they process decisions. 

   Candidates promoting the same thing might come to the valuing of it in very different ways, just as candidates whose thinking is of essentially the same sort might argue for diametrically opposed positions. How one thinks isn’t the same as what one thinks, and this page is derived from a theory about thinking, not a typology for values. So ask, “How is this person/party/faction thinking about what they’re for and against?” [For more on political values among Americans, see “The Politics of Polarization” by going to Advanced Resources under the Resources tab (above) where we summarize some relationships among party affiliation, political position, and issues.] 


The following adaptation is based on comments about values written by Ed Cornish with Dr. Clare W. Graves’s within the Gravesian point of view for the 1974 article, “Human Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap,” The Futurist, October issue. [To read the entire article in its original form, follow this link to the ClareWGraves.com website.] Though some of the language appearing on this page is unchanged, we (Cowan and Todorovic) have edited and elaborated throughout in an effort to expand on the ideas and to add relevance to 2011:  


Terms for the Levels of Psychological Existence 1 A-N Beige
2 B-O Purple
3 C-P Red
4 D-Q Blue
5 E-R Orange
6 F-S Green
7 A’-N’ Yellow
8 B’-O’ Turquoise
9? C’-P’? Coral?


Animistic / Traditionalistic Values (level 2)

   The prime end value at this level is safety and the prime means are custom and tradition. Man is dominated by the traditions of the particular tribe. Things are valued because man’s elders and ancestors seem to have learned what fosters man’s existence and what threatens his well-being. Thus the theme for existence at this level is “one shall live according to the ways of one’s elders.” The individual follows a magical, superstitious, ritualistic way of life. Life is regulated by taboos and customary ways of doing things. 

   The thinking is animistic in that non-human beings and inanimate objects are seen to embody a life force. The physical and spiritual worlds are undifferentiated and indistinct. There is often a realm of unseen but active spirit beings that glide between the material and immaterial realms. Luck and good fortune play large. Those centered in other levels may consider these values mysterious, peculiar, and inexplicable ways of life, but they do order man’s second level state of existence, and they bring order and explanations to an uncertain world.

   Level 2 values were state-of-the-art thousands of years ago, and still play a role as a subsystem in human affairs. In isolated pockets of earth, some indigenous peoples still live by them as a primary system for coping. In the more developed world, we find artifacts of this thinking in totemism, as well as superstitions, omens and hexes. The sagas, myths, and legends can be rich and complex sources of wisdom. Why do things happen? Because spirit being(s) cause them to. How does a person do things at the second level? As custom and the signs direct. She can trust members of the tribe, family, or clan, and will rely on the wisdom of elders, the shaman, stories and legends. 

   These values fail when energetic youth, who have not experienced the problems of their elders, decide to break with tradition, or when other ways of life challenge the values and stability of the tribe. Thus boredom or challenge may lead man to attack the values of his first “establishment” and begin to doubt the spirit realm and the ancestral ways as guides to being in this world.

Egocentric / Exploitive Values (level 3)

   Level 3 man recognizes that he is a separate and distinct being, and therefore no longer seeks merely for relief of tension or the continuation of his tribe’s established way of life. He now feels the need to foster one’s own individual survival – a need which cannot dominate him until he becomes conscious of himself as a distinct being in this world. He seeks a form of existence which he can control and dominate for his personal survival. He proceeds to explore his world and begins to manipulate it intentionally rather than merely to passively accept it. He becomes a magician, an active rather than passive agent shaping outcomes. His world is himself; all things and beings in it are extensions of him.

   As he manipulates his world, he egocentrically interprets the reward or punishment feedback as good or bad for himself, which is his major consideration. He perceives that many people try, but few succeed and, as a result, he comes to believe that the heroic deed is the means to his survival. He values heroism as the means, and the epic hero becomes his most revered figure. Respect and avoiding shame are paramount; loss of face is dreadful. To the hero or victor belong the spoils, along with the right to exercise greed, avarice, envy, and pride, for he has shown through his deeds that he is worthy of survival and dominance. Might is right, and those who lose have a right only to the scraps that a hero may toss their way. A power ethic prevails in a world of haves and have-nots. Those who dominate and those who submit share in a social contract.

   At the third level, man values the ruthless use of power, unconscionably daring deeds, impulsive action, volatile emotion, the greatest of risk. To be feared is to succeed. Conquest in any form is valued, and war is the epitome of heroic effort that leads to Valhalla, to glory, and to being remembered as mighty and one without fear. Trust is hard to come by, though alliances and caring are common for those bound inside the emotional lasso. 

   For all its negative aspects, this third value system might lead to giant steps forward. In pursuing power, some men do succeed in taming the mighty river, or building a city or doing other things that improve the lot of some immediately and directly, and indirectly help others. Dictators can be malevolent or beneficent. This semi-feudal approach is a viable way of coping with an unpredictable world driven by raw might and impulsive, uncontrollable acts. It is a world of conquer or be conquered, be strong or find protection. Acts tend to be impulsive and without guilt or attention to long-term consequences. Motivation is through fearful acts, as seen in contemporary Mexico’s drug wars. 

   But this guilt-free third way of life and its value system create a new existential problem: the winners (heroes) must eventually die and their admirers wonder why, and why they themselves are doomed to a miserable existence. Both winners and losers seek a reason for their inexplicable fates.

   Egocentric values break down as the haves ask: “Why was I born? Why can’t I go on living?” and the have-nots wonder, “Why can’t I find some success in life?” Eventually, they conclude that life’s problems are a sign indicating that if one finds the “right” form of existence – the one true way – there will be pleasure and reward everlasting. Man now comes to believe that the life is part of an ordered plan, in which it is meant that some shall have more and some shall have less, and all shall suffer and die. The reason is that life is a test of whether one is worthy of salvation, and this leads into the next level.

Absolutistic / Sacrificial Values (level 4)

   In this existential state, man’s theme for existence is “one shall sacrifice earthly desires now in order to come to everlasting peace later” – deferred reward. This theme gives rise to the sacrificial, deny-the-self kind of value system. Man focuses her earthly existence on the means to redemption and salvation – sacrifice of desire in the here and now for reward in an afterlife or immortal state, reincarnation of the soul in an eternal process. This life is only preparation for what is to come. The spirit beings and gods of the previous levels consolidate to become One. Faith and self-sacrifice take over from expressions of raw power. The Truth is absolute and all powerful. There is but one way to do a thing: the right way. Others are wrong, likely evil. Values choices are straight forward and polar: either right or wrong.

   At this level, man does not propitiate the spirits for removal of threat to her immediate existence; rather, she is on a quest for ever-lasting peace – heaven, eternal life, a state of nirvana or some other ideal realization. Typical means values are denial, deference, piety, modesty, self-sacrifice, and harsh self-discipline. Often, the instructions are laid out in a holy book which prescribes the righteous life of the good and punishments for the wicked since both reward and punishment are inherent in the nature of things in this often scary world. Existence is an endless struggle of good against evil. Compromise is surrender. Expect authoritarian aggression and submission so long as the authority behaves as proper authority is supposed to. 

   At this level, man accepts her position and her role in life. Inequality is a fact of life. The task of living is to strive for perfection in her assigned role, regardless of how high or low her assigned station. She believes that salvation will come to the person who lives by the rules of life prescribed for her. What one wants or desires is not important; what is important is that she disciplines herself to the prescriptions and proscriptions laid out in his world. She who is submissive and sacrifices best in the way authority prescribes is most revered, most worthy. The leader values the life that enables her, if necessary, to sacrifice herself in the protection of the followers. Those who follow value sacrificing in support of the leader. Trust means obedience and predictability, and involves honesty, loyalty, fidelity and obeisance to authority. Faith and politics overlap. Time is linear and sequential. Seniority and rank weigh heavy in shaping this search for meaning and purpose in life.

  Existence at level four is often serious business: only institutionalized, authorized pleasure is permitted. Joy comes through service. Rules are black and white, and only the authority that she accepts (for instance, her church or political party) is proper in its definition of virtue and sin. Conformity is demanded, and one should know and keep to one’s prescribed place. The fourth systems has much in common with the second system, but now it is man’s ultimate authority that sets the rules for life instead of his elders and the ancestral spirits. Soul and body are distinct and separate.

   This fourth system is one of the most confusing, because its values often are so diametrically opposed that they seem to be different value systems. Doctrinaire evangelical Christianity, rigidly certain atheism, devout communism, and Islamist fundamentalism are, within this point of view, only differing schema within the same central sacrificial theme. The common threads are certitude in a truth that must be defended through sacrifice, and sometimes aggression: “Our way is true; all others are false.” “Our values are righteous; theirs are dangerous.” “We must sacrifice ourselves to defend the one true way from its ever-present enemies.” The values might be pacifistic, true believing theist, or adamantly atheist. This system has led to both holy wars and demands for pacifism. The similarity lies in sacrifice now to achieve something better in the situation later. 

   Eventually some people question the price of sacrificial values and the price of obedient saintly existence. They wonder why they can’t have more enjoyment in this life, here and now. Man comes to realize that she cannot have enjoyment in this life so long as she is at the mercy of an unknown world, the servant of the universe rather than its master. Perceiving this, she begins again to try to adjust her environment to the self and begins the tortuous climb to the next system. Free will and the exercise of options take over. As fifth level values begin to emerge, people hanging onto the fourth level view them as the ultimate sign of man’s depravity, Satanic influence at work to destroy the established order of things. Meanwhile the new-found independence of fifth level man is exhilarating to people caught up in its individualistic values, while impious, impure, and threatening to those holding the earlier fourth level ones.

Multiplistic / Materialistic Values (level 5)

   Perceiving that his life is limited by his lack of control over his environment, fifth level man seeks greater independence. This is the rationalistic man who “objectively” explores the world. His theme for existence is “express self in a way that rationality says is good for me now, but carefully, calculatedly so as not to bring down the wrath of others upon me.” The impulsivity of the third level is tempered at the fourth, then turns into strategic thinking at the fifth. The universal laws of science, not the moralizing of man, provide needed guidance. It is multiplistic, not absolutistic, egocentric, or animistic. The craving for certainty gives way to appreciation of calculated risk and clever strategy. He is no longer restricted by a single absolute truth; he seeks the best among options, to compare and contrast to make things better now. He sees many ways to do a thing, multiple possibilities, then sorts for the most efficient and practical. He is aware that others have their own interests, that they are not extensions of himself. He is a player. 

   In fifth level spiritual practice, the objective is fulfillment now along with an improved next- or afterlife, greater success. It is an acquisition got by knowing more facts through learning from the best teachers; information is power. For some, spirituality is merely a construction of the human brain at work, a rationalization for mortality. For others, it is the empowered mind reaching out to grapple with the big questions of causality and origin, life and death, why and wherefore the universe, which will be solved through further research and study. Soul and consciousness can be developed and improved because these are constructions of our energetic mind. The literalism of the fourth level surrenders to reinterpretation and revision, even convenient rewrites of doctrine. Now, compromise is necessity, not weakness. He believes in change and his ability to effect it rather than awaiting permission. A formerly rigid, sometimes stifling, hierarchy opens up into a stairway to a bright future full of opportunity. Performance is the proof of worthiness. 

   The end value of man at the fifth level is materialism in the sense of control of the material world with quantifiable results. We create the whole of our own reality; prosperity and winning are the result of doing it well. Values choices are practical and scalar. Principles yield to necessity. The means to that end is rational, objectivistic positivism, that is, scientism in the form of pragmatic, scientific utilitarianism. At this level, the answers provided by science transcend myths and stories to explain why things are as they are. Ideas and information are property; life can be fabricated, owned, and improved. Image and style are creations and measure worth; the desire to be different is tempered by fashion. Trust is derived from personal experience and demonstrated competence. The determination of truth shifts into the self, so external authority is to be challenged, at first gently, then harshly if need be. Autonomy and the ability to control one’s own destiny are highly desirable – to be the captain of one’s fate. Neurology drives psychology. This analytical, experimental approach is a dominant mode of existence in the United States and much of the developed world today, though it vies with level 4 values for influence and control. 

   The values deriving naturally from the fifth level theme are the values of accomplishing and getting, having and possessing, developing and growing. Fifth level man personally seeks control over the physical universe so as to provide for his material wants and to shape it to his needs. He values equality of opportunity and a mechanistic, measuring, quantitative approach to problems, including human problems. Hierarchies are built on demonstrable success, not ranked by birth or gender or race. He also values gamesmanship, competition, the entrepreneurial attitude, efficiency, work simplification, the calculated risk. Trust is for the self and one’s capabilities – “to thine own self be true;” others must prove their worth and be prepared for ongoing competitive challenges. 

   With the emphasis on personal achievement, these values put responsibility onto the individual, not the collective. Work and creativity lead to prosperity; there is no free lunch; every man for himself. The fifth level helps create wealth and new techniques for enhancing efficiency and reducing costs. Emotions are signs of weaknesses and should be mastered. Because it doesn’t wait for permission or rely on higher authority, fifth level thinking produces knowledge which improves the human condition and increases choices. The brain and mind are split away from the soul; all are subject to conscious development. Generosity is present, though usually with a quid pro quo return in mind. Now there are many possible ways to do a thing; the quest is for the best one, not the only right one.

   Once they think they have solved the problems of human’s earthly existence, fifth level thinkers find they have created a new existential problem that great knowledge and material abundance still cannot resolve. On the surface, fifth level man’s life seems relatively assured, but his subjectivity is gnawing inside him. Comparison has set them apart. Some simply close their eyes and live on happily, gated away at the fifth level above the fray of ordinary folk. Many try to share their abundance. And for some, it begins the search for a new way of life and a new value system with the emergence of empathy over sympathy or pity. These feel increasingly a need to belong, to affiliate with others rather than “go-it-alone.” They conclude that total self-sufficiency is an illusion, and focus widens to include the immaterial world and finding peace of mind within the physics of consciousness. They have not learned how to live obliviously with abundance, nor how to feel good when there are other men who still must live in want and need. There is again something bigger than the self, a transcending field beyond the conventional senses. And so a new theme comes into existence: “Sacrifice some now so that others can have, too.” 

Relativistic / Personalistic Values (level 6)

   As in the second and fourth levels, the new sixth level man values external authority; but it is not the authority of his elders’ wishes and custom (as at the second level) or of the all- powerful higher authority (fourth level). Here it is the authority the peer group that determines the means by which the end valued – community and belonging with other people he values – is to be obtained. It is the authority of peers, of the sensory field and the collective vibe that takes over from data, dogma or dictators. In this relativistic view, absolute truth becomes fuzzy in light of shifting contexts, situations, and opinions. Now there are many ways to do a thing, and all of them have worth; what’s ‘best’ depends on many complex variables, and it might change. Time is cyclic. Enlightenment comes from many directions and follows many paths. Certitude is hard to come by, so people looking from levels four and five at level six may see it as ambiguous, inconsistent, and indecisive. From the level six perspective, it’s all good.  

   On the surface, these personalistic values might appear shallow and fickle in contrast to values at other levels because the surface aspect of them shifts as the “valued-other” changes preferences. At the core, sixth level man is seeking to be with and within the feelings of her valued-other(s). She prizes interpersonal connection, communication, committeeism, majority rule, persuasion rather than force, softness rather than cold rationality, sensitivity rather than objectivity, taste rather than displayed wealth, personality more than things. Trust – both interpersonal and institutional – are central to peace of mind. The feelings of her fellows draw the attention of sixth level man more than the hidden secrets of the physical universe. She values “getting along with” more than “getting ahead of.” Reconciliation overtakes retribution. The good of the consumer takes precedence over free enterprise profits; cooperation is preferred to competition; sharing supersedes winning – all can win; and social approval is valued more than individual fame. 

   Sixth level man may return to the religiousness which the fifth level has tended to leave behind, but she does not value religion in the same way as fourth level man did. Soul, spirit, mind and body are intertwined as one; existence flows toward unity. Neurology is the manifestation of consciousness. Religious ritual and dogma are not important to sixth level man; what is important is the spiritual attitude, the tender touch. Doctrinal purity is seen as a fourth level relic, a quaint artifact of earlier attempts to explain why things are. Because the fifth level is individual/elite oriented, religion there is about self-discovery and personal empowerment, a tool for achievement and mastery of the mystical. At the fourth level life is about salvation and sacrifice to bring righteous order to the world and hope for the world to come. At the sixth, it is exploration of the universal, discovery of the self in context of others, of notions like Gaia-consciousness, of deliberate and participatory evolution, and reintroducing spirit to daily life. God with a beard and capital G is evolving and incorporating goddess, godhead, gaia. After the fifth level fission that breaks the chunks apart, sixth level talk shifts to mind/spirit/body fusion, to unity and a universe built from consciousness that manifests as the reality we co-create. Compassion joins empathy to move awareness toward action.

   The ascendance of sixth level values shocks the materialistic establishment, which views it as evidence of regrettable weakness and as a surrender of self for social approval. To the fifth level, human factors are soft and fuzzy, impractically multi-layered. The relativism is too soft-edged for those hunting certitude, types and categories in the right-or-wrong fourth level way. Open-mindedness and tolerance for many simultaneous, even contradictory, views gets confused with left-wing politics; it is relativism, not liberalism. As at the fourth level, it is vital not to confuse the sixth conceptualizing system with the values someone within it might promote. These systems exist across the political spectrum. There is wide variability of beliefs; the common thread is the focus on people and a relativistic, context-sensitive approach. A goal of successful living at the sixth level is the resolution of many of humanity’s “animalistic” problems – food, water, shelter – and a closing of the gaps between haves and have-nots, knows and know-nots, the free and the entrapped. 

   The person living successfully through the sixth level has learned and developed values which would assure physiological satisfaction, provide for the continuance of a way of life, assure him that he would survive whether others did or not, assure him of a future after death, bring him earthly satisfaction here and now, and enable him to be accepted and liked by others – so long as the conditions in the milieu allow for it. 

   One problem is that all people do not share the sixth level view and vision; despite their wishes, it is not universal. The emphasis on relationships and humanity consumes energy and attention; tangible outcomes one step removed become secondary. Individual expertise is diluted within the collective. The price of the soft touch is vulnerability; the price of openness is to be overwhelmed by manipulations, consumed in the short term by determined exploiters.

   Now something happens which changes his behavior markedly, for suddenly the human being is again free to focus on himself and the world, and to see himself and his situation as it really is – to see the variability that exists in this world. Affiliation is no longer paramount. There is a return of self-interest, but it is tempered by a larger view than either of the previous two individualistic systems, three and five. There is incorporation of learnings from spirituality, but as influence, as complement and curiosity, not as a driving central force, for this next system seeks knowledge from any and all sources, and from this knowledge chooses what seems to be the most appropriate and congruent path ahead. While relationships are important, they are not the centrality of life as individuality returns, this time in context with others as they are.

Systemic / Existential Values (level 7)

  When man finally is able to see himself and the world about him with this clearer cognition, he finds a picture that is far from pleasant. Visible in unmistakable clarity and devastating detail is man’s failure to be what he might be and his misuse of his world. All the solutions that previous levels have come up with have created problems which only new thinking at a next level can begin to solve. The best of the past is not enough. This revelation causes him to leap out in search of a way of life and system of values which will enable him to be more than a parasite leeching upon the world and all its beings. He seeks a foundation for self-respect which will have a firm base in existential reality. None of the solutions he has come to find up to this point address the problems he now perceives; new thinking must awaken. He is comfortable with the thought that the great questions of ‘why are we here?’, ‘what came before?’, and ‘what comes next?’ might simply be unanswerable. 

   He creates this firm basis through his seventh value system, a level truly rooted in knowledge (not just information) and cosmic reality and not in the delusions caused by his still-present animal-like needs. He looks at all the values which have come before and asks, what now? How does this elegant living system work and what are our effects on it and in it? It is not pessimistic, but it is concerned in the knowledge that humans have the power to ruin earth for themselves, and that today’s decisions have consequences for future generations. He asks how everything connects to everything else, how layered causes and effects work. Paradox is not discomforting; science and spirituality are not mutually exclusive. He is not reliant on either the physical or the metaphysical; he thinks in terms of and rather than or, so both apply in an integrative living systems approach. The fifth level compulsion to make a show of knowing it all gives way to unassuming competence and a will to know what matters, to be open and able to learn more, and most important, to try to apply it congruently.

   For seventh level man, the ethic is: “Recognize, truly notice what life is and you shall know how to behave.” The view is that: “Life is the most precious thing there is, yet my life is unimportant.” The proper way to behave is the way that comes from working within existential reality. If it is realistic to be happy, then it is good to be happy. If the situation calls for authoritarianism, then it is proper to be authoritarian; and if the situation calls for democracy, it is proper to be democratic. Behavior is right and proper if it is based on today’s best possible evidence; no shame should be felt by him who behaves within such limits and fails. This ethic prescribes that what was right yesterday may not be seen as right tomorrow. Instead, life is within an interactive living system full of connections and unforeseen consequences. Trust revolves around knowledge that one will do the best they can, with the information available, under the circumstances at hand with the quality of the outcome taking precedence over ego and self-interest or relationships. When problems arise, attention goes to fixing systems rather than blaming people. 

   The seventh state develops when man has resolved the basic human fears. He is not afraid of death or of life. He is not fearful about to have or to have not; he deals with what is. Compulsiveness is gone. Neither ego nor affiliation are drivers. Emotions are information; feelings are not something to dominate or conceal. Paradoxes are not threatening. Religion and spirituality matter when they matter to others. 

   With all of this, a marked change in his conception of existence occurs. He now turns his attention to the truly salient aspects of life and sees that the most serious problem of existence to date is how the human species can survive with all its diversity and simultaneously operating levels of values. The living system is a complex one, and it is on being a useful component of that complexity that seventh level man focuses. It acknowledges that the previous systems are present in the field, from the questions of first level survival that so often resurge in refugee situations, in times of famine, and among the very young and very old right up to the view of earth as a global village floating in a field of energy. 

   At this level the new thema for existence is: “Express self so that all others, all beings, can continue to exist.” His values now are of a different order from those at previous levels: they arise not from selfish interest but from the recognition of the magnificence of existence and a desire to see that it shall continue to be. Seventh level man is part of a complex whole – not a master of it, not a victim of it; a being interdependent with it. Distinctions among mind, body, soul, spirit, and energy blur. Coherence becomes more natural as metaphysical certitude continues to soften. Curiosity about consequences and unforeseen influences within living systems, the quest to create better fit between forms and functions, and efforts to work in ecological alignment instead of relying on faith, conquest, feelings or control are more the seventh level way. 


   Many people are talking about this seventh level approach today. Just be aware that it’s far easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk, to write about it than to live it. Some frame it like a fourth level path to global salvation and promote it with missionary zeal like a surrogate religion; others present it like a fifth level means to the end of ultimate self-mastery and reengineering of our world through the concatenation of models and theories within the neo-spirituality business; and many are couching it as the opening to the penultimate phase in human kind’s evolutionary trek with a great enlightened awakening of new consciousness just ahead, a door opened to what Graves and Cornish called “a momentous leap” in the 1974 article from which this page is adapted. Recall that the theme of ‘something wonderful just around the bend’ is both recurring and comforting, and that many of the scholars Dr. Graves relied on in the 1950s shared similar views, as did many for generations before them, so it’s not new. 

Again, it’s easy to use the jargon and talk about, philosophize about, meditate on it, and idealize such things as human kind’s ultimate destiny. Science fiction and spiritual development programs are full of the language. Many true believers are convinced that they live in a most advanced, enlightened way, just shy of the ultimate final state, poster-persons of the demi-divine. But it’s not so easy to BE at this level, especially on a consistent long-term basis. Talking is not walking, or even comprehending, so beware the charlatan in flowing robes preaching transcendence in existential jargon or the now-popular quantum-speak. 

Advanced development involves the transformation of one’s ego, not an expansion of it. This is not to say that the seventh level does not exist – it is on the rise – only that it’s not as common as many would wish despite being the direction that humanity’s existential problems are moving and the hot topic in trendy sociopsychology. Writing about it from outside is not the same as living it from within. 

   One of our assessments looks at a preference for statements which were designed to try and reflect a step beyond the seventh level that swings from individualism to a next form of collectivism. Much of what is said about this eighth level is conjecture, and some is based on extrapolations from the existing trends and findings. Words like holistic, globalistic, differentialistic, universal, experiential, quantum, and transpersonal get tossed around. Conventional discussions of it often include higher planes of consciousness, enlightenment, and transcendental states, as well as coexistence and co-creation in a universe(s) we can’t yet fathom. It’s useful to ask whether this is an aspiration, a way to find peace of mind in an incomprehensible universe when traditional answers no longer suffice, or a set of values someone actually holds – and lives by. Ask what the B’ (level 8, helix 1) existence problems that cannot be solved by previous systems are; then ask how an O’ (level 8, helix 2) neurobiological equipment functions. How is it different from systems that came before?  

Perhaps it’s more like a collective brain – a global morphic field, to use Rupert Sheldrake’s term – or collaboration of non-local knowledge to address species-wide problems of existence which are not yet generally recognized. Think of each person connected in the web as a neuron in the mind of humanity. At the same time, big questions remain as to whether feelings of transcendence are products of an adaptive brain at work and/or if brains are assemblages built from infinite consciousness. 

   In describing the likely behavior of the eighth level in “The Congruent Management Strategy,” Graves described it as follows:

Personal experience has shown this person that no matter how much information is available, one can never know or understand all things. Wonder, awe, reverence, humility, unity, and simplicity are valued. Reality can be experienced, but never known. Insists on an atmosphere of trust and respect. Resists coercion and restrictions in a quiet, personal way – never in an exhibitionistic manner. Avoids relations in which others try to dominate – seeks not to dominate others, but can provide firm direction as required.

Elsewhere he spoke of “communities of knowledge” – the collectivization of the most knowing to address the large-scale systems problems identified at the seventh level. This is not about data or fact collecting; it means using all sensory systems and being open to input from multiple sources. It means being receptive to science, spirit, and everything else. Dr. Graves’s approach to this level was as much philosophical as data-based; he reported only six subjects who ‘might’ have been at this level. The theme he described was: “One shall adjust to the existential realities of one’s existence.” In essence, it is the confederation of the seventh level to address whole-earth problems which individuals can recognize, but cannot resolve.

   An expressed preference for these eighth level values in self-report assessments can mean several things. Sometimes, it reflects that the person tends to think in the way described. Often, however, it indicates someone who aspires to the abstract ideals ascribed to it, or someone at an earlier level (level four, the four-to-five transition, or the five-to-six transition) who is attracted to the concepts yet might not conceptualize them in the holistic, multidimensional, disengaged yet involved way this level suggests. If the theory holds, it must include both knowledge and an empathetic sense of ‘the field,’ of all living things. Expressions with a Turquoise tone are incredibly popular among those convinced that they are gifted exceptions who are beginning to see the ultimate light. Just be sure to watch the feet while listening to the talk.

   From this point of view, there are many more systems ahead; it’s open-ended and expanding, not focusing down to some perfect end state. The sixth, seventh, and eighth are rarely heard from in political debates. Very few nations have really experienced much of the sixth. It’s still the future of many developed states, just as the fifth level is the future of many developing states, and the fourth the future of others moving out of dictatorship and feudal-like conditions. 

   So the prominent voices in contemporary American politics speak mostly from the fourth, fifth, and early phases of the transition to the sixth. We invite you to watch for them, and to sort among them. Then listen for what’s missing and ask how those values can be included in the debate, and in future policy making.