The rise of China in a holistic context


The consciousness-raising hippie movement in the West during the 1960s led to a growing interest in Eastern spirituality. While the movement largely disintegrated in the 1970s, its spirit lived on in the New Age movement. Millions of people embraced meditation and personal growth.

But society as a whole became more polarized, more conservative, and less equitable. Meanwhile, China, not very “new age” by most standards, has set the table for the 21st century. What happened?

In 1977 the American philosopher Ken Wilber published The spectrum of consciousness, a groundbreaking synthesis of religion, philosophy, physics and psychology. Wilber developed a framework (AQAL) that integrates all human wisdom into a new worldview.

Wilber is credited as the founder of the Integral Movement and also helped popularize Spiral Dynamics, a system that described evolving human consciousness.

Wilber’s Integral Theory and Spiral Dynamics (SDi) argue that human consciousness evolved in eight stages, each with distinct psychological characteristics. Humanity went from the instinctive self (100,000 years ago) to the achievement self (300 years ago) to the sensitive self (starting in the 1980s). The highest level is the Holistic or Unified Self when we transcend all dualities and feel oneness with all that exists.

In the SDi framework outlined below, Northern Europe is typically considered to be the most advanced region. Scandinavian countries are green and orange because of their high levels of social and gender equality, environmental awareness, etc. Most developing countries are considered either blue or orange. Uncontacted tribes in South America would be either beige or purple. All of humanity goes through the eight stages, roughly defined as follows:

  1. Beige (archaic/instinctive): Basic survival needs: food, water, warmth, rest, sex, and security.
  2. Purple (Magical/Animistic): Tribes, nature spirits, mysterious powers, magic, rituals, taboos, spells, voodoo.
  3. Red (Dominance/Egocentric): Fulfill your desires to the detriment of others. hero cult. Mighty gods. Slavery.
  4. Blue (Order/Authoritarian): Conformity, respect for procedures and traditions. Absolute authority of religion and/or rulers.
  5. Orange (Achievement/Materialistic): Creativity, competition, technological advances, entrepreneurship, capitalism.
  6. Green (relativistic/communitarian): egalitarianism, pluralism, environmental awareness, community sharing.
  7. Yellow (systemic/integrative): self-development, continuous learning, hierarchies based on knowledge and competence.
  8. Turquoise (Holistic/Connected): Culture of global thinking, collective intelligence driven by harmony and calm.

The SDi model consists of three stages: Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3. They correlate with a developmental model of psychology that has three sequential stages: the pre-personal (before ego formation), the personal (the functioning ego), and the transpersonal (the ego remains, but is replaced by higher development). The transpersonal level (the Unified Self in SDi) has access to “Ultimate Reality”.

The AQAL model developed by Ken Wilber and Don Edward Beck.

Overlapping cultures

The SDi model is very demanding and valuable for personal development. But can it be transferred to entire cultural-geographical regions and countries as different as China and the USA? Within the framework of SDi, China is predominantly blue, while the US is predominantly green. But from the Chinese point of view things are different.

Modern Confucian scholar Tu Weiming argues that Chinese culture is much more nuanced, holistic, inclusive, and “spiritual” than most people realize. The likely reason: Much of the outside world views China through an ideological prism. China’s political system obscures the substrate of Chinese culture.

Even under Mao Zedong, China never stopped being Confucian. Roots that have grown over 2,500 years are not easily lost. For the Chinese, Confucianism is “the habit of the heart.” Confucius is also the point of reference for the current government. Every Chinese government official has read the Confucian classics, which emphasize the importance of self-cultivation.

Tu Weiming points out that Confucian self-cultivation is not exclusively self-centered. Rather, it is about “learning how to integrate body and mind into the context of family, community, society, nation and universe.” This explains why the Confucian classics are replete with aphorisms emphasizing the importance of self-cultivation in the larger context:

  • When there is justice in the heart, there will be beauty in character.
  • If there is beauty in character, there will be harmony in the home.
  • When there is harmony at home, there is order in the nation.

The Feminine Principle

The 1960s not only gave birth to the consciousness-raising hippies and New Age movement, but also marked the beginning of feminism, which impacted the consciousness of women everywhere. The American futurist Lawrence Taub, author of the book gender, age and last casteargues that women, or rather the female principle, play a key role in transforming global society.

In his sex model, Taub uses the yin-yang principle to describe the interplay between the feminine and masculine principles throughout history at a macro level. He explains that in prehistory and early history, humanity was primarily yin (matriarchal). About 3,000 years ago, after the era of Confucius, Buddha, Plato and other sages, it gradually became more yang.

The so-called patriarchal revolution began at about the same time in East and West. But Taub says the West became extremely yang while the East retained more of its yin qualities. He called it the Sexo-Cultural Division of the World. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are yang religions; Hinduism and Buddhism are the Yin religions. Jerusalem is the male pole and Benares is the female pole.

The Sex-Cultural Division of the World, from Taub’s book gender, age and last caste.

In the 19th century, after centuries of male dominance, women reasserted themselves by demanding the right to vote. The movement reached critical mass after the Feminist Revolution in the 1960s. Feminism has permanently changed gender relations. Female CEOs became commonplace, as did the housewife dads.

Taub argues that feminism has changed the consciousness of women and men. The balancing of yin and yang, the feminine principle and the masculine principle will gradually lead to a more androgynous society. Dove writes:

“Feminism, the key movement of the sex model, is changing the consciousness of women everywhere, including women who think they have no affinity with it or claim not to be feminists. Without the changes in women’s consciousness that feminism is bringing about, men’s consciousness would remain in the old yang form, as would be the case throughout human society.

“Feminism thus creates the underlying consciousness that enables all other androgynous movements. Without them we would be stuck in the yang age forever.”

The sex dialectic from Taub’s book gender, age and last caste.

Taub uses his sex model to explain the current shift in the world’s center of gravity from West to East Asia. Confucian ideas such as inclusion, mutuality and holistic thinking are manifestations of the feminine principle. Other Confucian qualities such as integrity, sincerity, humility, and good listening also emanated from the feminine principle, albeit via the “soft masculinity” that characterizes Confucian teachings.

Taub says the masculine principle gave us science and technology, but also eternal war and ecological destruction. He argues that wholeness, consensus building, reciprocity, and the balance between duty and freedom, all part of the feminine principle, will help address many of the issues facing the world today. East Asia, which has remained closer to the feminine principle, will play a key role in this process.

The guiding principle of all Confucianism and all aspects of Chinese culture is the reconciliation of yin and yang – spirit and matter, man and nature, inner and outer, being and doing.

Yin and yang form the invisible warps and wefts of Chinese culture. But the feminine principle was leading in shaping Confucian culture. A subtle sign is the Chinese view of consciousness: xin. The word is written with a compound letter meaning “heart-mind”. The connection of heart (yin) and mind (yang) is an expression of the feminine principle.

In the end, Taub’s Sex Model and the SDi framework for consciousness development intersect. The androgynous qualities that Taub identifies in the sex model—harmony with nature, mind in harmony with body, awareness of our oneness with the universe—correlate to Tier 1 and Tier 2 of the SDi framework.

While the two models take different paths into the future, they arrive at the same destination. That is reason for optimism. Both are unlikely to be wrong.


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