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Carter Vincent Smith


Note.  TSV is in the process of being recast as

Accelerating Evolution of Integral Consciousness

( see AcceleratingEvolution.info )

However, all the current content of this website remains valid.


INTRODUCTION.   Twelve Stage Vision (TSV) provides an integral  framework for viewing our accelerating development from atoms to apes to astronauts and beyond. While each stage is a field of study in itself, the overall view can surprise an observer embedded in one stage.
     For example, in the last 50,000 years, higher technology and economics have enabled a higher morality and spirituality – and a broader view of "who is human" (from "my tribe" to "my state" to "my world").
    Despite the current world problems, this surprisingly positive trend shows every indication of continuing and accelerating in the next century (as our view of "who is human" expands with globalization). However, change can cause pain – inequality, conflict, ecological meltdown – and it will take all our skillful means – integral, compassionate, inclusive – to ameliorate the trauma and experience the  benefits.


The concept of development by stages – from body to mind to spirit – originated in the wisdom traditions[1] and has been revised and expanded by modern scientists, psychologists, and philosophers. Theorist Ken Wilber[2] has integrated many of these ideas.  

     Viewed historicaly, there has been an extraordinary acceleration in the timing of stages: matter-cellular evolution took billions of years, animal-hominid only millions, and cultural mere thousands. 

     The key TSV concept is the timing pattern of these stages.  With only minor modification to Wilber's stages, the simplicity of this pattern is revealed as we go backward in time:

·   About 500 years ago the current rational-science-industrial-democracy stage began with Galileo, Guttenberg, and the breakaway from the mythic church.

·   Roughly 5000 years ago, the mythic-empire-agricultural-church-state stage coalesced from tribal societies with the help of plows, writing and swords.

·   A little less than 50,000 years ago modern humans (Cro-Magnon) started painting caves and inventing tools at an explosive rate compared to the stodgy old Neanderthals (probably initiated by modern language and preoperational-conceptual -- but still magical --  thought).

Surprisingly, this roughly ten times faster per stage pattern holds even further into our past:


·   500,000 years ago hominids evolved large brains, fire and the complex tools of archaic humans. 

·   About 5 million years ago Lucy the upright ape walked the Serengeti plains. 

·   A little over 50 million years ago a meteor killed off the dinosaurs and paved the way for sexy smart social mammals to flourish.

·   500 million years ago the "Cambrian explosion" of complex animals with legs and hearts and eyes formed from the microscopic cellular ooze that covered the earth. 

·   And a little less than 5 billion years ago life itself emerged from a newly coalesced earth.


Each stage is based on and incorporates the previous stage. For example atoms form cells that form animals; or magical tribal concepts form the basis of mythic concrete-operational thought and then rational thought. Scientists have examined many different lines of development – physical, cultural, moral, cognitive (Piaget), or needs (Maslow). At any given time, the world's people, and even an individual – are at various levels – but the average or "center of gravity" gradually evolves to higher levels.

Investigating this relationship between time and developmental level has so far yielded some surprising discoveries:

·   A view of our past.  Each stage incorporates a major field of study and each subsequent stage requires the foundational elements of the previous stage and evolves ten times faster.

·   Insights into our human culture.  Our sense of self and who is human is expanding as we have moved from magical-forager to mythic-agriculturist to rational-global-citizen.

·   A vision of our future.   Surprisingly, over the last 50,000 years, higher technology and economics has continually been accompanied by higher morals and spirituality. Our continued accelerating technological-economic development promises to move us into a new integral-spiritual stage in the next century.

· Our view of morality has expanded as we have progressed thru the stages. Cannibalism was common until the new technology of plow-agriculture suppressed it (more productive to enslave). Slavery was common world-wide until the industrial revolution outmoded it. [Note that priests/religions generally supported the economically advantageous view at each stage.]
    In the last 50-100 years racial and gender prejudice has started to go the way of cannibalism and slavery as the information age and the competitive pressures of a global market economy force companies to see even distant people's as fully human.  [A bright young woman in Mumbai just helped me publish this page on the web – an amazing change from the women road workers pounding rocks into gravel I saw in India only 15 years ago.]

What is needed is for us to ease the inevitable pain of all this change --- to recognize the value of all the worlds resources (no global meltdown please) and maximize the opportunity and life quality of all the worlds peoples. 

     In the face of global warming and global terrorism, this vision may seem unreal, but the accelerating change is not an illusion. 

     Attempts to retrogress to the "good old days" can bring incredible human misery as witnessed in fundamentalist Islam or Maoist-China or even protectionist Gandhi-India (which delayed development and kept millions in misery/poverty for many years).
     It is now up to us to skillfully midwife the birth of this new human stage – not push the emerging baby back in the womb.



The rest of this home page provides an introduction to TSV including:  Stage Descriptions,  Past ChangePresent Change,  Future Change  and needed Actions .    Other sections of this web site include:

  • TSV STAGES & INSIGHTS.  Detailed stage descriptions.

  • TSV ARTICLE.   An 14 page study written several years ago.

  • ACTION PLAN.  Plan for developing and transmitting these ideas.

  • BIO.  Biography of Carter Vincent Smith, the author.

  • CONTACT.  TSV contact information.

  • GUESTBOOK.  A place to sign in or make comments.

  • BLOG.  Author's diary and notes -- with future entries by others.

Note from the author. This web site and the TSV organization are under construction. I am currently searching for partners with whom to network and who are excited about the vision and wish to deepen and expand it. If you would like to help or if you know of someone who can help (research, publishing articles, networking) please email me at CarterSmith@TwelveStageVision.com or sign the Guestbook.  Thanks for your interest,

                                                                      Carter Vincent Smith.






For more info see TSV Stages or TSV Article.


Table 1. STAGE DESCRIPTIONS.  (A top down expansion of Figure 1. )


Start Time

(Years Ago *)


[ bya=billion years ago, m=million, k=thousand ]



undetermined past

1. Matter.  Our universe of matter /energy starts with the big bang 14 bya, but current cosmological theory says the seeds were there earlier.



2. Cells. The earth cools and microscopic life/cells begin. About 2 bya  nucleated cells and sex began – larger, but still microscopic.



3. Animals. "Cambrian explosion" -- complex life (legs, eyes, brains) forms from the cellular ooze.  [Primarily instinct driven.]





4. Mammals.  A huge meteor kills off dinosaurs 65 mya and gives mammals/sex/"love" a chance to flower. [Emotional/social drives.]



5. Hominids. Climate change impels apes to walk upright on the African plains.  [Bigger brains, signs/symbols but pre-conceptual.]



6. Archaic humans. Evolutionary pressure produced big brained hunters that spread over the earth.  [Early language/signing. ]






7. Magic. The modern human explosion of language, art, and invention. [Current magical tribal or child-like thinking. "Pre-conventional".]



8. Mythic. Agriculture-writing-empires. Cherishes rules and roles. Current Islam and other fundamentalists world wide.  [Piaget's concrete-operational thinking. "Conventional".]


(Years ago *)


9. Rational. Printing-science-"age of reason"-"enlightenment"- democracy-market economy.  Predominant first world thinking today -- developing from individualistic to pluralistic to a mature integral view. [Formal-operational. "Post-conventional".]  



undetermined future (*)

10-11-12. The Spiritual Stages. (Insight-Subtle-Causal).
 While a few individuals have achieved spiritual stages of development, just how this trans-rational highly moral culture will display itself is as unforeseeable as www.global.com would be to Plato

(* The discussion under FUTURE DEVELOPMENT indicates that the Spirit Stages could start by 2100ad with an end or transition point or singularity – 50 years later. Thus the precise TSV model should be "Years before the Transition point" instead of "Years Ago".)







While this ten fold acceleration in the start of each stage holds roughly true for past stages, there are some considerations:

  • The start of each stage approximates the initial wide-spread flowering of a new developmental level.  The new level builds on and includes prior stages:  cells from atoms or rational thinking from mythic (concrete-operational) thinking. 

  • Early signs usually herald the inception of a stage – mammals hiding in the Jurassic bushes – or Plato teaching logic in ancient Athens.

  • There are different types or lines of development (e.g. cognitive, moral, emotional, interpersonal, spiritual, mathematical, musical, etc.).  A culture or an individual can be at different stages or levels of development in each line (e.g. a conniving business man with high cognitive and low moral development).   

  • These TSV start times focus on exterior objective evidence, but they are accompanied by interior subjective states of consciousness as we move from primitive instincts to emotions to symbols and concepts to "concrete operational thinking" to rational or "formal operational thinking" to integral and mystical states.      

 But the overall acceleration of development is clear – it took:

  • billions of years for cells to evolve into animals,

  • millions for hominids to evolve into modern humans, and only

  • thousands for modern humans to develop from foragers to astronauts. 

For example it took nearly two billion years for simple cells to evolve to nucleated cells – and another  billion years until the Cambrian Explosion of complex life forms.  But notice that the Cambrian Explosion took "only" 10 million years or so – a tiny fraction of a billion years, but longer than it took for apes to evolve into astronauts. 

In another example, Cro-Magnons (early modern humans) changed more from valley to valley or millennia to millennia than Neanderthals changed in 200,000 years.


Higher Technology/Economics enables Higher Morality/Self-Concept.  In the "Mind Era" of the last 50,000 years, development has shifted from genetic to cultural.  In our development from Magic to Mythic to Rational there has been a fascinating correlation between increased exterior objective technology/economics and interior subjective morality/self-concept.

  • 20,000 years ago the Magic hunter-gatherer viewed only his own tribe as human. This provided a moral justification for the economic/nutritional/survival advantages of raiding and eating the neighboring tribal members.

  • 2,000 years ago the Mythic farmer-warrior viewed only those of his own Mythic faith or king-state as fully human. The Mythic priests reviled cannibalism, but justified slavery which -- during this stage of horse drawn plow technology -- was economically advantageous to the survival of the culture.

  • 200 years ago the Rational industrial-egalitarian was starting to view all people in the world as fully human.  The Rational priest-philosophers now reviled slavery.  Since slaves make lousy entrepreneurs or even factory workers, this higher moral view helped democratic market-economy countries prosper. 


Thus technology and morality have both gradually increased over the last 50,000 years from Magic-hunter cannibalism, to Mythic-farmer slavery, to Rational-industrial democracy.

In each stage our view of who is human has increased: from tribe to state to world. Even in the last 25 years our value of others has continued to expand to an increasing pluralistic view of gender and racial equality. 

Higher technology and wealth have allowed us to shift our value of others first from cannibalism to slavery -- and then from slavery to democracy. And this increase in technology and economics with its accompanying expansion of morality, of who is human, is continuing today.






 Each stage is a rich mixture of levels of development and just what constitutes a complete stage is somewhat arbitrary. For example, TSV Cellular Stage combines Wilber's simple and nucleated cellular stages. And the TSV Rational Stage combines three sub-stages delineated in the widely used Spiral Dynamics Theory– Individualistic, Pluralistic, and Integral. [3]  Table 2 shows the distribution of people and power across these divisions. This distribution is very useful in examining the current changes in world cultures.


Table 2. Distribution of Power and Population
in the world by  Stage or Sub-Stage.

Power %

Pop. %

Pre-Rational.  (Magic and Mythic Stages.) Most of these people are in the later Mythic (conformist-rule-role) ego developmental stage.





Rational-Individualistic.  Provided the initial break from the mythic church-state with science, democracy and the market economy. Still the dominant view.





Rational-Pluralistic. Softens the Rational-Individualistic stage with multi-perspective human bonding, anti-hierarchy, diversity, and eco-psychology. [Small minority 50 years ago -- 25%  on US by 2000.]  





Rational-Integral.  Expands and matures the Rational-Pluralistic view to integrate and value other stages instead of denigrating them.  A holistic prelude to Spiritual. [Very few 50 years ago – but could double every dozen years and be dominant within 50 years.]





Trans-Rational or Spiritual Stages.  Deepens the Integral view of the Rational-Integral to an actual experience or trans-rational direct knowing of a non-separate self – that we are all one.  [Very few today. But could easily be measurable in 50 years as people develop beyond the Rational-Integral.]





Percentages (normalized to 100%) are based on Wilber's "Integral Psychology" (2000) [2].


While 59% of the world's people are still at the pre-Rational stages, most of the power (71%) has shifted to the Rational.  And this shift is accelerating as many people move from the early Rational-Individualistic to the Pluralistic or even the Integral.


CHANGE IN THE LAST 50 YEARS.  Since the end of World War II there has been a huge increase in technology, economics and politics – both democracy and the market-economy have spread world wide. Already, in 2006, the "poor" or developing countries produce more than the "rich" ones [4].  


In 1950 it would have been hard to imagine:

  • Integrated southern schools, a national Martin Luther King day, or a black female Secretary of State;

  • Mostly democratic Latin American countries (they were mostly dictatorships then);

  • A collection of emergent market-economy and democratic countries in the place of the disintegrated communist "evil empire".

  • Quality Japanese products (they were cheap and shoddy then) or outsourcing computer programming to India (known then for famines and hand crafts);

  • China as the producer of the most steel, cement, refrigerators, and televisions in the world – and soon to be the world's largest industrial power [5].

Over the last 50 years, American companies – in order to survive and compete – have had to learn to respect and value the creative energy of women and minorities.

Today companies pay hard money to management consultants to teach them how to change their internal culture and values -- so they can learn to respect and value distant non-American men and women as equals.  If a company today does not change and widen its value of others, it will lose out to the companies that do.

We have had huge changes in technology and values in the last 50 years. What will happen in the next 50?





In this century it is quite possible that we will see a shift in power first to Integral and from there to spiritual.


CHANGE IN THE NEXT 50 YEARS.  Rational-Integral by 2050.

Acknowledged expert Ray Kurzweil ("The best at predicting the future of artificial intelligence" Bill Gates, 2005) says that technology progress is doubling every 10 years – so in 50 years we will experience 32 years of today's annual progress in a single year [6].  This technological explosion will continue to drive economic progress so that in 50 years the average global citizen will be six to eight times wealthier with a per capita income of over $35,000 per year -- compared to $1800 in 1950 and $350 in 1850 (in constant 2003 dollars) [7].

As in the past 50 years, TSV suggests that higher exterior technology/economic development will continue to drive or enable higher interior moral/spiritual/self-concept development [8].  For a company or a country to prosper they will have to continue to expand their value of others.  This progress should continue to move people into the Rational-Integral – possibly doubling it every decade – until it becomes dominant in the next 50 years.

The Rational-Integral is the first developmental level that values all the other stages instead of demeaning them.  The Integrals recognize there is a need in the world for all developmental levels -- Magical creativity, Mythical order, and Rational science (just as an integrated adult values his or her inner magical-mythical child-like parts).  If the Integrals hold the power in the world, they will be much more able to control and defuse explosive situations like the Middle East (this does not mean they will not use force if it is required).

At the integral stage fear drops off radically, and spiritual exploration explodes – which could in turn lead to substantial numbers of these folks entering the Spiritual Stages in the last half of this century.



CHANGE IN 50-100 YEARS.  Spiritual by 2100.

Most of us have had brief spiritual experiences – where time slows and fears disappear – the smile of a lover, the glow of a sunset, the agony/ecstasy of an athletic effort or sexual orgasm.  A few of us have had near-death or other exceptional experiences where the feeling of mystical union and lack of fear has a lasting effect on us. 

And some of us like the Dali Lama or Sharon Salzberg or Thomas Merton have made the exceptional effort through meditation or other techniques to extend that brief experiential state into a permanent Spiritual Stage of development – to really experience - to know at an experiential level - that we are not separate little egos packaged in separate little bags of skin and bone -- but are all part of a vast and natural and integrated expression of Nature (or God, or the Source, or the One).   This enlightening experience or realization brings us peace. It also makes us naturally value and be compassionate to all other people - since we know they and I are not separate but one -- and we naturally work to bring this sense of peace and realization to all others.

It is beyond the scope of this brief paper to describe the various levels or states of Spiritual development – but we can say that they are not a pre-Rational hopeful belief in a Mythical big daddy God, but are based on and go beyond the Rational – they are Trans-Rational.

When many of us reach a Rational-Integral stage later in this century, we will naturally have the time and the interest to explore and practice the spiritual techniques that can lead to an enlightened Spiritual stage.  Already some corporations are sponsoring meditation workshops – they find that employees that meditate are more calmly focused, more cooperative, and more productive.


Theoretical Transition Point. If the TSV accelerating mathematical model continues, starting the spiritual stage at 2100 implies there will be an end-omega-transition point 50 years later -- at 2150.  Thus for the mathematics of TSV to be consistent, the "years-ago" term in the model should be replaced by "years-before-transition". This 150 year shift would only have an appreciable effect on the start of the Rational Stage – shifting it from 1500ad to 1650ad.  

Beware of too much literalness about the inception of the spiritual stages or a final "transition point".  Imagine Plato trying to project the current world of jets, expressways, televisions, cell-phones, democracy, the internet, and globalization.  

The very concept of time itself has shifted radically from the Magic-shaman to the Mythic-priest to the Rational-scientist – and it will likely shift again when we enter the spiritual stages.






It sounds so easy; we just ride the stage escalator to Integral and Spiritual – to peace and happiness.  Actually, like the birth of a new child, the birth of a new Stage will require blood, sweat and tears.

Today we have terrorism; famine; AIDS; genocide; war; racists; judgmental fundamentalists; greedy executives; avaricious corporations; environmental rape; global warming; huge wealth inequalities; angry gangs and poverty even in rich countries.  And globalization, which TSV suggest will increase global wealth and help reduce these problems, itself causes enormous disruptions and changes – from lost jobs in America to peasant migrations and cultural and family anguish in China.

So what do we do? How will we ever make these enormous changes that TSV suggests?

Any change causes pain.  But resistance to change exacerbates it enormously.  So what we need to do as individuals, organizations and countries is to help mid-wife this change – to ease this birth to a new paradigm as much as possible.  

So we don't fight to return to the so-called "good old days" as Muslim and American fundamentalists are doing today (which creates misery, wars and terror), or as the well meaning and saintly Gandhi did in India (whose economic policies condemned millions to poverty and starvation before India opened to the Global economy).  Global democracy and the market economy have proven themselves as a way out of poverty and misery for billions of people.  We need to work to make the inevitable change as fair and easy as possible. 

The opening of China, India, and Russia has doubled the competitive global workforce – reducing poverty and prices worldwide.  The responsible rich country response is to re-train their own workers, not cling to low skill jobs better done by (temporarily) lower cost Asians. 

Governments, pushed by citizens and NGO's, must keep the playing fields fair and level; and they must protect our environment from global meltdown.  And the powerful (as they develop to Rational-Integral) must keep the peace and nourish global prosperity, while respecting people and cultures at all earlier stages.

Hang on -- the human race is going through the wildest, most exhilarating century of our long development. And it needs our help!  







 [1] The Wisdom Traditions and Perennial Philosophy was popularized by Aldous Huxley in his 1945 book.  Leibniz first used it to designate the common, eternal philosophy that underlies the  mystical streams of all religious movements east and west.  Great thinkers from Plato to Sri Aurobindo have taught a developmental order moving from body to mind to spirit

[2] Ken Wilber [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Wilber ] is the world's foremost integral philosopher (and the most widely translated American academic author.)  Ken's twenty plus books include:

  • Up from Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution, 1981

  • SES: Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution, 1995

  • The Essential Ken Wilber: An Introductory Reader, 1998.

  • Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy, 2000.

  • Boomeritis: A Novel That Will Set You Free, 2002.

  • Integral Spirituality, 2006

A BLOG entry "Feb0206. TSV Comparisons with Wilber and Spiral Dynamics" provides a chart that compares TSV with Wilber and Spiral Dynamics.

[3]  Spiral dynamics (targeted at business management) by Don Beck and Chris Cowan is based on the theory of psychology professor Clare W. Graves.  [TSV has designated the Spiral Dynamics Memes (Orange, Green, Yellow/Turquoise) as Rational sub-stages (Individualistic, Pluralistic, Integral). ]  Ken Wilber in "Integral Psychology" (Shambhala 2000 p48) describes the Memes and gives percentages based on his private communications with Spiral Dynamic's Don Beck (p229). They were repeated in "Boomeritis" and in an article he wrote (WIE?).  The percentages total 111% (power), and 106% (population) – so the numbers used in TSV normalized the amounts so the total is 100%.  Note that  in "Boomeritis" (p209) he says the Greens (Pluralists) are an even higher percentage of the population -- 20% to 25%.

[4] Rich vs Emerging Country GDP.  The Economist (January 21, 2006 p10).

[5] China GDP.  The Economist (The world in 2006).  They project 2017 as the year China will exceed the US in GDP (in purchasing power parity ) -- providing they do not implode.  But in manufacturing China may lead long before that -- China already makes the most steel, cement, refrigerators and televisions.

[6] Technological Acceleration.  [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Kurzweil  ] Raymond Kurzweil is a scientist and a technological futurist. (In 2005, Bill Gates called  Kurzweil "the best at predicting the future of artificial intelligence".) In his 2001 essay, "The Law of Accelerating Returns", Kurzweil proposed a generalization of Moore's law. Progress is doubling every 10 years today (Or 32 times by 2050).  In fact it will grow even faster in the future: [http://www.kurzweilai.net/ ]

"An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense 'intuitive linear' view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate)."

Note. Ray Kurzweil's new book "Singularity" envisions a time within 50 years when computers get much much smarter than a person – a singularity or transition point beyond which computer's speed, growth, and impact are unknowable.  .

[7] Economic Acceleration. Historical data from  J. Bradford Delong 
 U.C. Berkeley [ http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/ ].   Future projections assumes World GPD/person growth will increase from recent 2.3% to 2.8%. Actually it should be higher with the rapid growth of China, India and other developing countries.  

[8] Correlation between higher Interior and higher Exterior states.  TSV suggests that technology/economics comes first and drives or enables morality/spirituality.  But what drives our quest for higher technology?  It would be interior states such as greed, compassion, or curiosity.  An in-depth study of this chicken/egg puzzle could be very fruitful.