It is common to look at social evolution in terms of the various modes of techno-economic production, moving from foraging to horticultural to agrarian to industrial to informational (what I would call the lower right quadrant, or social systems). By supplementing that analysis with a focus on worldviews (which move correlatively from archaic to magic to mythic to mental to global), A Sociable God was able to make a series of predictions that have held up quite well. One was that the breakdown of civil religion (as discussed by Robert Bellah) would leave American culture open to several trends, including a retrenchment and even resurgence of fundamentalist religion, as well as regression to narcissistic New-Age agendas and intense self-absorption (a resurgence of Romanticism in ist unhealthy forms).
It’s not hard to find corroborative evidence for both of those in today’s culture. But another, riskier prediction involved the fact that beyond the rational-egoic (and centauric) level is the first stage of postrationality, referred to in A Sociable God (somewhat unhappily) as the psychic level, which supports a panenhenic nature mysticism. The prediction was that the most widespread, popular themes of a newly emerging spiritual orientation would therefore involve panenhenic nature mysticism and Gaia worship, along with a considerably reinterpreted shamanism, focused on ecological consciousness and gross realm unity. More than I imagined, this has become the case.
On the one hand, this is altogether salutary, coming just in time, one hopes, to help stem a certain ecological catastrophe wrought, not by modernity per se, but by typical human greed, a greed which–most definitely present from the time of archaic foraging, but which at that time had not the means to express itself globally–finally found a way, by hijacking the fruits of modernity, to make itself suicidal on a global scale.
Alas, with this resurgence of nature mysticism has also come the standard, correlative distrust of all higher mystical states, including deity mysticism and formless mysticism. These are, as always, misinterpreted by panenhenic enthusiasts to be “other-worldy” and therefore supposedly anti-earth, anti-Gaia, and anti-ecological, whereas they actually transcend and include all of those concerns. But the nature mystics have often come armed with venomous words for souls who seek yet deeper and higher occasions, and I believe it will be decades before this particular fury runs ist unpleasant course.
It was by focusing on a developmental and evolutionary view of consciousness that these books (especially Up from Eden and A Sociable God) were able, I believe, to contribute to an understanding of these various movements. Toward the end of this period I began, not so much to question the evolutionary model, as to appreciate both its strengths and its weaknesses. In particular, studies in developmental psychology were already starting to suggest that development does not proceed in a linear fashion through a series of discrete ladder-like stages. Rather, overall development seems to consist of numerous different developmental lines or streams (such as cognitive, moral, affective, psychological, and spiritual) that progress in a relatively independent fashion through the basic spectrum of consciousness. If we simplify the spectrum of consciousness as going from preconventional affects (e.g., narcissistic rage, impulse gratification), conventional affects (belongingness, care, concern), postconventional affects (universal love, global altruism), and post-postconventional affects (transpersonal compassion, love-bliss, Kosmic care). Likewise with cognition, morals, needs, psychological (or self) development, and spiritual development (considered as a separate line), among many others.
Each of these developmental lines or streams traverses the same basic levels or waves, but each does so in a relatively independent fashion, so that, for example, a person can be at a very high level of cognitive development, a medium level of interpersonal development, and a low level of moral development, all at the same time. This shows how truly uneven and non-linear overall development can be. A massive amount of research continued to demonstrate that the individual developmental lines themselves unfold in a sequential manner–the important truth discovered by developmental studies. But since there are at least a dozen different developmental lines, overall growth itself shows no such sequential development, but is instead a radically uneven and individual affair. Moreover, at any given time a particular individual might show much growth in one stream (say, psychological), while showing little or no growth in others (say, spiritual). None of this could be explained by a single-stream evolutionary model, but all of it made perfect sense according to a levels-and-lines model (so-called phase-3).