The Golden Room, A Golden Civilization: Saving the World, Step Three, Part C-1

Follow the Map: Story and Sketch

Trees have inner maps that enable them to grow out of situations that look impossible.  We do, too.  Let climate change or nuclear winter render earth uninhabitable for our species, and still a remnant may find a crack in that barren landscape to nurture a fragile survival.  We may not have much time left on the Doomsday Clock, but the good news is that we have something trees do not.  We have brains that can cultivate insights to solve problems, we have entrepreneurial spirit and technological skill that we can harness.  We may need a new consciousness in order to solve the problems that are threatening our survival, but we have knowledge and tools to “facilitate the process of inner transformation” (Thomas Keating’s phrase for Centering Prayer).  What we need are people who are willing to pursue the world-saving work of developmental growth toward that new consciousness.  Rarely have these questions been more poignant: “If not us, who?  If not now, when?”

The Golden Room, A Golden Civilization: Four Steps toward Saving the World

Here is the outline of this series of related posts:

Step Three is to study the map that leads us individually and culturally to the new, higher stage of consciousness that we now need—and to commit ourselves to follow that map.


This story comes from one of the authors of The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain.  It was included in an article in The New Yorker in 2008 about research on how the human brain generates insights.

Researcher John Kounios told about a Zen Buddhist meditator who participated in a large study.  They were given a set of puzzles to solve.  The Buddhist performed extremely poorly at first as he strained his focus, but then he shifted his approach and used meditation skills to relax and unfocus his mind.  The article said he became “an insight machine,” and solved puzzle after puzzle.

We can cultivate insights.  We have maps that we can follow to new, higher levels of consciousness that may yield the insights we need.


Here is a sketch of one such map.

It begins where we are now.  We face problems that we either lack the insights to solve, or that we know how to solve but lack the insight how to create sufficient political support.  The problems are urgent and threaten the survival of the world as we know it, even the survival of our race.

Already they are causing massive suffering: climate change and other environmental devastation from a variety of human causes; economic inequality and poverty; wars that unjustly kill or dislocate innocent civilians indiscriminately; the use or threatened use of cyber, biological, chemical and nuclear weapons; the rise of totalitarian and fascist movements, the weakening of democracy and entrenched polarization; hatred and oppression of people based on race, religion or other surface differences; and the escalating refugee crisis caused by many of these problems.

This map leads from here to the destination of a new consciousness that can save the world from these problems and create a Golden Civilization.

To speak of attaining a new consciousness is to speak of growing as a society to a new developmental stage. Three developmental stages dominate the civilization that has produced the threats to our survival, and the people in these stages are waging a global culture war against one another.  We need to address this enormous problem underlying our other problems and blocking their solutions.

All people pass through successive stages of development on their way toward full maturity.  The stage people are in determines their way of seeing, understanding and interacting with the world.  As we grow from stage to stage we incorporate the advances in maturity from the earlier stage, but we gain a new, very different perspective on the world.

One metaphor for this is climbing a ladder or mountain where we gain a new vantage point from a higher altitude.  Another metaphor is growing rings like a tree, widening our perspective.  Every stage plays an important role, and we can be healthy and happy at each stage, but many people stop at a stage and for one reason or another stay stuck there without growing beyond it long into their adulthood.

Society can be said to be at the stage that shapes the dominant world view (or in our case today, the multiple stages promoting competing world views).  There may have been enlightened, rational people before the Enlightenment or Age of Reason, and there may have been only 10% of the population who grew to that new rational developmental stage at first, but because those people transformed and dominated society with their new world view, we say that from the dawn of the Enlightenment, civilization was at that rational stage.

Most adults in our society today operate from one the following three developmental stages: 1. the ethnocentric (amber) stage; or one of the two “worldcentric” stages, 2. rational (orange); or 3. pluralistic (green). (There are over one hundred models with different names for the stages.  These names and colors are adapted from Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute which has analyzed all the others.)

  1. Ethnocentric stage people tend to be concerned with law and order, borders and identity, and often are members of a fundamentalist religious group.  Stability, a purposeful life and self-sacrifice for a higher cause characterize this stage, as do conformity to absolute, black and white conventions and the judgment of others based on how they conform to those rules.
  2. Rational stage people are oriented toward a scientific approach, with open minded consideration of varying opinions and facts. They tend also to be open to people from other groups without prejudice if they are in accord with their principles.  They are success oriented and tend to act in self-interest or enlightened self-interest.  They can be skeptical of religion, or participate more with the head and hand than the heart.
  3. Pluralistic stage people show equal respect for people of all races, creeds, ethnicities and opinions.  Differences and diversity are celebrated.  Inner peace, caring community and the well being and harmony of all species and the earth are of utmost concern, and they tend to be spiritual whether or not they are part of an organized religion.

Each of these stages is an essential step toward individual maturity and has contributed enormous good to society.  The problem is, people in these stages, also each think that if they could vanquish the other two they could make the world right.  For instance, the Scopes monkey trial pitted the ethnocentric/fundamentalist stage against the rational/science-based stage.  Go back and read the rhetoric exchanged, or tune into your favorite news source today to see this culture war between all three stages.

They cannot abide, let alone embrace, the others.  This causes  polarization and paralysis in the face of the imminent threats to our world.  We need the consciousness of a higher developmental stage that can see a way for us all to work together.  This is what Wilber calls the integral or nondual (turquoise) stage.  James Fowler gave it the name universalizing in his Stages of Faith.

People in this stage experience life holistically, they see the interconnection and interdependence of all things and they are able to reframe problems and relationships in transformative ways that open whole new possibilities.

The map leads from where we are now into the intentional cultivation of this universalizing, integrating developmental stage where we will be able to intuit and envision solutions that are hidden from the three stages that dominate civilization today.

The Zen Buddhist in the story above illustrates the internal shift we need to make as a society from the rational straining that left him unable to solve puzzles to the relaxed, nondual consciousness that enabled him to become “an insight machine.”

Mindfulness and meditation come in many forms from many traditions.  The map leads us along their path.  They not only cultivate our capacity for insights, but also expedite growth from one developmental stage to the next.  (Step Four will talk about additional ways we can “facilitate the process of inner transformation.”)

“The Golden Room” is the name of the region on the map where developmental and spiritual growth take place.  It is where we find our calling and our gifts, and it is the main focus of

The next territory on the map borders the final destination.  We are almost to the goal where we will have our best chance to solve seemingly impossible problems, saving the world and establishing a sustainable Golden Civilization.

This penultimate territory could be called the Twelfth Step.  It is similar to the culmination of that powerful map of transformation that has saved so many people with addictions.  The Twelfth Step of AA says, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

The map asks that we commit ourselves to make others aware of the need for developmental growth to a higher consciousness.  We commit to educating people about the universalizing, integral stage, and about the tools for how to get there. We share the perspective of the new consciousness passionately and, if we can, model that stage in all we do—especially what we do in response to the problems the world faces.  We remain in this Twelfth Step territory until our numbers reach the tipping point.

Step Two in this series cited a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute study that demonstrated how quickly an entire culture shifts once a committed, vocal minority of 10% is promoting a new perspective.  The road may be long from 5% at the new integral stage (where Ken Wilber estimates we are now) to that 10%  tipping point—it can take many years to make a transition from one stage to the next—but once we reach 10% the distance to the goal of saving the world may be much shorter.

The entire population does not need to attain the higher level of consciousness, it needs only to become convinced of the wisdom of the reframed world view and the solutions the 10% have developed (including political solutions that can work with the other three stages—see Step 3 Part B for an illustration of this in a case dealing with beavers).  The RPI study found that a cultural shift can happen almost overnight if the 10% is committed and passionate in communicating its perspective.

The map ends in the heart of a new, stable, sustainable Golden Civilization founded on principles of freedom and integrity—a civilization that is working cooperatively to solve the problems that are threatening to destroy us now, and is discovering ways to live with a sufficiency, justice and peace for all.

You can continue reading this series in order by clicking here.

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