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The Century of the Self

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The Century of the Self

The Century of the Self, DVD Cover
Directed by Adam Curtis
Produced by Adam Curtis
Lucy Kelsall
Stephen Lambert
Written by Adam Curtis
Starring Werner Erhard
Jerry Rubin
Tony Blair
Bill Clinton
Robert Reich
Wilhelm Reich
Adam Curtis
Music by Brahms Symphony No. 3
What a Wonderful World
Cinematography David Barker
William Sowerby
Distributed by BBC Four
Release date(s) 2002
Running time 240 min
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget GBPUnknown
All Movie Guide profile
IMDb profile

The Century of the Self is an acclaimed documentary by filmmaker Adam Curtis released in 2002.



[edit] Overview

"This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy." - Adam Curtis

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, changed the perception of the human mind and its workings profoundly. His influence on the 20th century is widely regarded as massive. The documentary describes the impact of Freud's theories on the perception of the human mind, and the ways public relations agencies and politicians have used this during the last 100 years for their "engineering of consent".

Among the main characters are Freud himself and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in advertising. He is often seen as the "father of the public relations industry". Freud's daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer of child psychology, is mentioned in the second part, as well as Wilhelm Reich, the main opponent of Freud's theories.

Along these general themes, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of modern consumerism, representative democracy and its implications. It also questions the modern way we see ourselves, the attitude to fashion and superficiality.

The business and, increasingly, the political world uses PR to read and fulfill our desires, to make their products or speeches as pleasing as possible to us. Curtis raises the question of the intentions and roots of this fact. He cites a Wall Street banker as saying "We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. [...] Man's desires must overshadow his needs."

In Episode 4 the main characters are Philip Gould and Matthew Freud, the great grandson of Sigmund, a PR consultant. They were part of the efforts during the nineties to bring the Democrats in the US and New Labour in the United Kingdom back into power. Adam Curtis explores the psychological methods they now massively introduced into politics. He also argues that the eventual outcome strongly resembles Edward Bernays vision for the "Democracity" during the 1939 New York World's Fair.

To quote the BBC site:

To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?

[edit] Awards

  • Best Documentary Series, Broadcast Awards
  • Historical Film Of The Year, Longman-History Today Awards

Nominated for:

  • Best Documentary Series, Royal Television Society
  • Best Documentary, Indie Awards
  • Best Documentary Series, Grierson Documentary Awards

[edit] Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard appeared in the 2002 documentary. He appears in episode part 3 of 4. This segment of the video discusses the Est Training in great detail, and includes interviews with New York Times columnist Jesse Kornbluth, as well as Est graduates John Denver, and Jerry Rubin.

[edit] Episodes

  1. Happiness Machines
  2. The Engineering of Consent
  3. There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed
  4. Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering

[edit] Music

[edit] See also

  • The Power of Nightmares - A documentary in a similar style also by Adam Curtis, documenting the death of idealism in politics, replaced by scaring voters and then vowing to protect them in office.
  • PANDORA'S BOX - Documentary on the strange applications of science in 6 parts. Episodes include the Atomic Age, DDT, economics, game theory in warfare..by Adam Curtis
  • The Trap (television documentary series) - Adam Curtis's 2007 BBC TV documentary series.

[edit] External links

THE CONSERVATIVE NANNY STATE: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer

The Conservative Nanny State, by Dean Baker

(this goes out to all those people who blame the "free market" for the ills of globalization. what we have here is state-sponsored corporatism, not free market capitalism. and until you learn the difference, you will not get to the root of the problem)


  1. Doctors and Dishwashers: How the Nanny State Creates Good Jobs for Those at the Top

  2. The Workers are Gettting Uppity: Call In the Fed!

  3. The Secret of High CEO Pay and Other Mysteries of the Corporation

  4. Bill Gates – Welfare Mom: How Government Patent and Copyright Monopolies Enrich the Rich and Distort the Economy

  5. Mommy, Joey Owes Me Money: How Bankruptcy Laws Are Bailing Out the Rich

  6. The Rigged Legal Deck: Torts and Takings (The Nanny State Only Gives)

  7. Small Business Babies

  8. Taxes: It’s Not Your Money

  9. Don't Make Big Business Compete Against Government Bureaucrats



This book is written in frustration and hope. People in the United States who consider themselves progressive must be frustrated over the extent to which conservative political ideologies have managed to dominate public debate about economic policy in the last quarter century. Even when progressives have won important political battles, such as the defeat of efforts to privatize Social Security, they have done so largely without a coherent ideology; rather, this success rested on the public’s recognition that it stood to lose its retirement security with this “reform.” It also helped that the public was suspicious of the motives of the proponents of Social Security privatization. However, success in the goal-line defense of the country’s most important social program is not the same thing as a forward looking agenda.

The key flaw in the stance that most progressives have taken on economic issues is that they have accepted a framing whereby conservatives are assumed to support market outcomes, while progressives want to rely on the government. This framing leads progressives to futilely lash out against markets, rather than examining the factors that lead to undesirable market outcomes. The market is just a tool, and in fact a very useful one. It makes no more sense to lash out against markets than to lash out against the wheel.

The reality is that conservatives have been quite actively using the power of the government to shape market outcomes in ways that redistribute income upward. However, conservatives have been clever enough to not own up to their role in this process, pretending all along that everything is just the natural working of the market. And, progressives have been foolish enough to go along with this view.

The frustration with this futile debate, where conservatives like markets and progressives like government, is the driving force behind this book, along with the hope that new thinking is possible. We shall see.

FREEDOM UNDER SIEGE: Ron Paul on the Constitution

This book is made available (with permission from Ron Paul) as a free download from the Daily Paul Web site.

Click here to download (753KB PDF file)

You may also download the book in smaller sections:





SOCIALISM, by Ludwig von Mises

Reference Links
Publisher's Preface
Foreword by F. A. Hayek
Preface to the Second English Edition (1951)
Translator's Note (1936)
Preface to the Second German Edition (1932)
Part I Liberalism and Socialism
I.1 Ownership
I.2 Socialism
I.3 The Social Order and the Political Constitution
I.4 The Social Order and the Family
Part II The Economics of a Socialist Community
Section I The Economics of an Isolated Socialist Community
II.5 The Nature of Economic Activity
II.6 The Organization of Production Under Socialism
II.7 The Distribution of Income
II.8 The Socialist Community Under Stationary Conditions
II.9 The Position of the Individual Under Socialism
II.10 Socialism Under Dynamic Conditions
II.11 The Impracticability of Socialism
Section II The Foreign Relations of a Socialist Community
II.12 National Socialism and World Socialism
II.13 The Problem of Migration Under Socialism
II.14 Foreign Trade Under Socialism
Section III Particular Forms of Socialism and Pseudo-Socialism
II.15 Particular Forms of Socialism
II.16 Pseudo-Socialist Systems
Part III The Alleged Inevitability of Socialism
Section I Social Evolution
III.17 Socialistic Chiliasm
III.18 Society
III.19 Conflict as a Factor in Social Evolution
III.20 The Clash of Class Interests and the Class War
III.21 The Materialist Conception of History
Section II The Concentration of Capital and the Formation of Monopolies as Preliminary Steps to Socialism
III.22 The Problem
III.23 The Concentration of Establishments
III.24 The Concentration of Enterprises
III.25 The Concentration of Fortunes
III.26 Monopoly and Its Effects
Part IV Socialism as a Moral Imperative
IV.27 Socialism and Ethics
IV.28 Socialism as an Emanation of Asceticism
IV.29 Christianity and Socialism
IV.30 Ethical Socialism, Especially That of the New Criticism
IV.31 Economic Democracy
IV.32 Capitalist Ethics
Part V Destructionism
V.33 The Motive Powers of Destructionism
V.34 The Methods of Destructionism
V.35 Overcoming Destructionism
Conclusion The Historical Significance of Modern Socialism
Biographical Note
About the Book and Author

"The program of liberalism, therefore, if condensed into a single word, would have to read: property, that is, private ownership of the means of production... All the other demands of liberalism result from his fundamental demand."

German edition, 1927; latest English edition Copyright 1985 The Foundation for Economic Education, Irvington, NY. Translation by Ralph Raico. Online edition Copyright The Mises Institute, 2000.

Download entire text, portrait
Download entire text, landscape
Go to hand-held version for Palm


Preface, 1985 by Bettina B. Greaves, p. v
Foreword by Louis M. Spadaro, p. ix
Preface, English-Language Edition,p xvi


1. Liberalism, p. 1
Material Welfare p. 4
Rationalism p. 5
The Aim of Liberalism p. 7
Liberalism and Capitalism p. 10
The Psychological Roots of Antiliberalism p. 13


1. Property p. 18
Freedom p. 20
Peace p. 23
Equality p. 27
The Inequality of Wealth and Income p. 30
Private Property and Ethics p. 33
State and Government p. 34
Democracy p. 39
Critique of the Doctrine of Force p. 42
The Argument of Fascism p. 47
The Limits of Governmental Activity p. 52
Tolerance p. 55
The State and Antisocial Conduct p. 57


1. The Organization of the Economy p. 60
Private Property and Its Critics p. 63
Private Property and the Government p. 67
The Impracticability of Socialism p. 70
Interventionism p. 75
Capitalism: The Only Possible System of Social Organization p. 85
Cartels, Monopolies, and Liberalism p. 90
Bureaucratization p. 95


1. The Boundaries of the State p. 105
The Right of Self-Determination p. 108
The Political Foundations of Peace p. 110
Nationalism p. 118
Imperialism p 121
Colonial Policy p. 124
Free Trade p. 130
Freedom of Movement p. 136
The United States of Europe p. 142
The League of Nations p. 147
Russia p. 151


1. The "Doctrinairism" of the Liberals p. 155
Political Parties p. 158
The Crisis of Parliamentarism and the Idea of a Diet Representing Special Groups p. 170
Liberalism and the Parties of Special Interests p. 175
Party Propaganda and Party Organization p. 179
Liberalism as the "Party of Capital" p. 183


1. On the Literature of Liberalism p. 194
On the Term "Liberalism" p. 198

Glossary by Percy Greaves

Special thanks to Bettina B. Greaves for granting her permission for this online edition.

This Mises e-book was prepared by Richard Perry

e enjte, 14 qershor 2007


Every generation approaches closer and closer to the truth. This is the fight of *our* generation. This film single-handedly undermines the power structures behind the Judaeo-Christian myth, the 9-11/war on terror myth, and the federal reserve/money myth. It exposes the true origins of the great military-industrial conflicts of the twentieth century--not to mention the Great Depression. It is nothing short of a revelation, and highlights the fact that this is not just a revolution to re-arrange the externals, but to liberate human consciousness from the occult socio-political forces that have dominated it for centuries. Enjoy!

ZEITGEIST, The Movie - Part 1 : "The Greatest Story Ever Told"

ZEITGEIST, The Movie - Part 2 : "All The World's A Stage"

ZEITGEIST, The Movie - Part 3 : "Don't mind the men behind the curtain"

Much of the material in the first part of the film comes from the esoteric research of Jordan Maxwell, who explains the symbols and ideology of the fraternal orders behind the world's great banking dynasties and political institutions in the following presentations. Please watch with an open mind and do your own research. I am positively convinced of the truth behind Maxwell's assertions--and as he always refers to ample documentation, one can always fact-check any of his more seemingly outrageous statements. Also, bear in mind that Maxwell is not some right-wing Christian evangelical conspiracy nut who blames the devil for everything and warns us about the end times; indeed, he believes the literal fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible is controlled by the same powerful special interests, and is based on the same old astro-theological "pagan" traditions. It is important that we target the *real* centers of power in the world--it is important that we understand how we have been manipulated by a coded language of symbols and words our whole lives--otherwise history will continue to repeat itself. Artists should watch with an especially keen eye, as it is their duty to fashion news symbols and new languages that empower every human being--not just some platonic elite.


Aldous Huxley: The Gravity of Light

A feature film essay on Aldous Huxley's cultural criticism and social prophecy in light of the new millennium.

Narration: Dr. Jean Houston.

A contemporary reading of Huxley's oeuvre, a rendition and interpretation, inspired by an immersion into his life and thought. Complex, iconoclastic, psychedelic, and historical.

Aldous Huxley: The Gravity Of Light incorporates rare archival footage, computer rendered 3D animation, speculative fictions, and selections from his essays.

Personal in tone, the film also recalls the impact of Huxley's LSD-25 and mescaline experimentations and writings for a whole generation of youth and examines the utopianistic impulses associated with the recent Rave scene. The work reflects the aesthetics and poesis of the psychedelic state without collapsing into the tie-dye cliches that have trivialized the '60's era.

Doctor Jean Houston, a senior advisor to the United Nations on matters of Human Development, eloquently speaks on the immense contribution Huxley has made concerning the possible human.

Special thanks to Laura Huxley and Jean Houston.

"Hockenhull's simultaneously thoughtful and carefully conceived approach to the subject has made for a kind of documentary I would not hesitate to compare with the works of Trinh T. Minh-ha in form and self-reflexivity and Derek Jarman in style and composition. Hockenhull's approach to this "hybrid" form of cinema manages to aggressively question our presumptions and preconceptions around the current Zeitgeist while simultaneously exploring the knowledge and impact of one of the twentieth century's greatest minds." Alex Mackenzie, Curator/Programmer

Originally produced in 1997 this work is a
re-edited/revised edition for DVD (2003)
by the director.

Inclusive of additional interview material with Alexander Sasha Shulgin

http://www.disinfo.com/archive/pages/article/id2024/pg1/ & http://www.filmref.com/journal/archives/2005/04/aldous_huxley_t.html

Northwest Film Festival Award

Film Festivals:
- Official Competition - - International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam - The Vancouver International Film Fesitval - Award - The Best of the NorthWest Film/Video Festival - Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, Montréal - The Museum of Modern Art, New York City

Quotations from Aldous Huxley's Island

(Page 16 of 295, or .05)

"Listen to him closely, listen discriminatingly. [...]"
Will Farnaby listened. The mynah had gone back its first theme.

"Attention," the articulate oboe was calling. "Attention."

"Attention to what?" he asked, in the hope of eliciting a more enlightening
answer than the one he had received from Mary Sarojini.

"To attention," said Dr. MacPhail.

(Page 80 of 295, or .27)

"God has nothing to do with it," Ranga retorted, "and the joke isn't cosmic, it's strictly man-made. These things aren't like gravity or the second law of thermo-dynamics; they don't have to happen. They happen only if people are stupid enough to let them happen..."

(Page 141 of 295, or .48)

"There!" said Vijaya when the last brimming bowl had been sent on its way. He wiped his hands, walked over to the table and took his seat. "Better tell our guest about grace," he said to Shanta.
Turning to Will, "In Pala," she explained, "we don't say grace before meals. We say it with meals. Or rather we don't say grace; we chew it."

"Chew it?"

"Grace is the first mouthful of each course---chewed and chewed until there's nothing left of it. And all the time you're chewing you pay attention to the flavor of the food, to its consistency and temperature, to the pressures on your teeth and the feel of the muscles in your jaw."

"And meanwhile, I suppose, you give thanks to the Enlightened One, or Shiva, or whoever it may be?"

Shanta shook her head emphatically. "That would distract your attention, and attention is the whole point. Attention to the experience of something given, something you haven't invented. Not the memory of a form of words addressed to somebody in your imagination."

(Page 143 of 285, or .49)

"Whereas we," said Dr. Robert, "have always chosen to adapt our economy and technology to human beings---not our human beings to somebody else's economy and technology. We import what we can't make; but we make an [sic] import only what we can afford. And what we can afford is limited not merely by our supply of pounds and marks and dollars, but also primarily---primarily," he insisted---"by our wish to be happy, our ambition to become fully human."

(Page 144 of 295, or .49)

"Aren't you supposed to be intellectuals?" Will asked when the two men had

emerged again and were were drying themselves.

"We do intellectual work," Vijaya answered.

"Then why all the horrible honest toil?"

"For a very simple reason: this morning I had some spare time."

"So did I," said Dr. Robert.

"So you went out into the fields and did a Tolstoy act."

Vijaya laughed. "You seem to imagine we do it for ethical reasons."

"Don't you?"

"Certainly not. I do muscular work, because I have muscles, and if I don't use
my muscles I shall become a bad-tempered sitting-addict."

"With nothing between the cortex and the buttocks," said Dr. Robert. "Or rather with everything---but in a condition of complete unconsciousness and toxic stagnation. Western intellectuals are all sitting-addicts. That's why most of you are so repulsively unwholesome. In the past even a duke had to do a lot of walking, even a moneylender, even a metaphysician. And when they weren't using their legs, they were jogging about on horses. Whereas now, from the tycoon to his typist, from the logical positivist to the positive thinker, you spend nine tenths of your time on foam rubber. Spongy seats for spongy bottoms---at home, in the office, in cars and bars, in planes and trains and buses. No moving of legs, no struggles with distance and gravity---just lifts and planes and cars, just foam rubber and an eternity of sitting. The life force that used to find an outlet through striped muscle gets turned back on the viscera and the nervous system, and slowly destroys them."

[...Vijaya explained,] "If you'd been shown how to do things with the minimum of strain and the maximum of awareness, you'd enjoy even honest toil."

(Page 228 of 295, or .77)

He opened a a second door that gave access to a large gymnasium where two bearded young men and an amazingly agile little old lady in black satin slacks were teaching some twenty or thirty little boys and girls the steps of a lively dance.
"What's this?" Will asked. "Fun or education?"

"Both," said the Principal. "And it's also applied ethics. Like those breathing exercises we were talking about just now---only more effective because so much more violent."

"So stamp it out," the children were chanting in unison. And they stamped their small sandaled feet with all their might. "So stamp it out!" A final furious stamp and they were off again, jigging and turning, into another movement of the dance.

"This is called the Rakshasi Hornpipe, "said Mrs. Narayan.

"Rakshasi?" Will questioned. "What's that?"

A Rakshasi is a species of demon. Very large, and exceedingly unpleasant. All the ugliest passions personified. The Rakshasi Hornpipe is a device for letting off those dangerous heads of steam raised by anger and frustration."

"So stamp it out!" The music had come round again to the choral refrain. "So stamp it out!"

"Stamp again," cried the little old lady setting a furious example. "Harder! Harder!"

[...] "So stamp it out," the children shouted again in unison, and the boards trembled under their pounding feet. "So stamp it out."

"Don't imagine," Mrs. Narayan resumed, "that this is the only kind of dancing we teach. Redirecting the power generated by bad feelings is important. But equally important is directing good feelings and right knowledge into expression. Expressive movements, in this case, expressive gesture. [...]"

"It's meditation in action," she concluded.

(Page 230 of 295, or .78)

"Now let's play some pretending games. Shut your eyes and pretend you're looking at that poor old mynah bird with one leg that comes to school every day to be fed. Can you see him?"
Of course they could see him. The one-legged mynah was evidently an old friend.

"See him just as clearly as you saw him today at lunchtime. And don't stare at him, don't make any effort. Just see what comes to you, and let you eyes shift---from his beak to his tail, from his bright little round eye to his one orange leg."

"I can hear him too," a little girl volunteered. "He's saying 'Karuna, karuna!'"

"That's not true," another child said indignantly. "He's saying 'Attention!'"

"He's saying both those things," Susila assured them. "And probably a lot of other words besides. But now we're going to do some real pretending. Pretend that there are two one-legged mynah birds. Three one-legged mynah birds. Four one-legged mynah birds. Can you see all four of them?"

They could.

"Four one-legged mynah birds at the four corners of a square, and a fifth one in the middle. And let's make them change their color. They're white now. Five white mynah birds with yellow heads and one orange leg. And now the heads are blue. Bright blue---and the rest of the bird is pink. Five pink birds with blue heads. And they keep changing. They're purple now. Five purple birds with white heads and each of them has one pale green leg. Goodness, what's happening? There aren't five of them; there are ten. No, twenty, fifty, a hundred. Hundreds and hundreds. Can you see them?" Some of them could---without the slightest difficulty; and for those who couldn't go the whole hog, Susila proposed more modest goals.

"Just make twelve of them," she said. "Or if twelve is too many, make ten, make eight. That's still an awful lot of mynahs. And now," she went on, when all the children had conjured up all the purple birds that each was capable of creating, "now they're gone." She clapped her hands. "Gone! Every single one of them. There's nothing there. And now you're not gong to see mynahs, you're going to see me. One me in yellow. Two mes in green. Three mes in blue with pink spots. Four mes in the brightest red you ever saw." She clapped her hands again. "All gone. And this time it's Mrs. Narayan and that funny-looking man with a stiff leg who came in with her. Four of each of them. Standing in a big circle in the gymnasium. And now they're dancing the Rakshasi Hornpipe. 'So stamp it out, so stamp it out.'"

There was a general giggle. The dancing Wills and Principals must have looked richly comical.

Susila snapped her fingers.

"Away with them! Vanish! And now each of you sees three of your mothers and three of your fathers running round the playground. Faster, faster, faster! And suddenly they're not there any more. And then they are there. But next moment they aren't. They are there, they aren't. They are, they aren't..."

The giggles swelled into squeals of laughter and at the height of the laughter a bell rang. The lesson in Elementary Practical Psychology was over.

"What's the point of it all?" Will asked when the children had run off to play and Mrs. Narayan had returned to her office.

"The point," Susila answered, "is to get people to understand that we're not completely at the mercy of our memory and our phantasies. If we're disturbed by what's going on inside our heads, we can do something about it. [...]"

(Page 217 of 295, or .74)

"[H]ow early do you start your science teaching?"
"We start it at the same time we start multiplication and division. First lessons

in ecology."

"Ecology? Isn't that a bit complicated?"

"That's precisely the reason why we begin with it. Never give children a chance of imagining that anything exists in isolation. Make it plain from the very first that all living is relationship. Show them relationships in the woods, in the fields, in the ponds and streams, in the village and the country around it. Rub it in."

"And let me add," said the Principal, "that we always teach the science of relationship in conjunction with the ethics of relationship. Balance, give and take, no excesses---it's the rule of nature and, translated out of fact into morality, it ought to be the rule among people. [...]"

(Page 89 of 295, or .30)

"Escape," she explained, "is built into the new system. Whenever the parental Home Sweet Home becomes too unbearable, the child is allowed, is actively encouraged---and the whole weight of public opinion is behind the encouragement---to migrate to one of the other homes."
"How many homes does a Palanese child have?"

"About twenty on average."

"Twenty? My God!"

"We all belong," Susila explained, "to an MAC---a Mutual Adoption Club. Every MAC consists of anything from fifteen to twenty-five assorted couples. Newly elected brides and bridegrooms, old-timers with growing children, grandparents and great-grandparents---everybody in the club adopts everyone else. Besides our own blood relations, we all have our quota of deputy mothers, deputy fathers, deputy aunts and uncles, deputy brothers and sisters, deputy babies and toddlers and teen-agers."


"Nothing," she assured him, "could be less like a commune than an MAC. An MAC isn't run by the government, it's run by its members. And we're not militaristic. We're not interested in turning out good party members; we're interested in turning out good human beings. We don't inculcate dogmas. And finally we don't take the children away from their parents; on the contrary, we give the children additional parents and the parents additional children. [...]"

(Page 77 of 295, or .26)

"What's a not-sensation?"
"It's the raw material for sensation that my not-self provides me with."

"And you can pay attention to your not-self?"

"Of course."

Will turned to the little nurse. "You too?"

"To myself," she answered, "and at the same time to my not-self. And to Ranga's not-self, and to Ranga's self, and to Ranga's body, and to my body and everything it's feeling. And to all the love and friendship. And to the mystery of the other person---the perfect stranger, who's the other half of your own self, and the same as your not-self. And all the while one's paying attention to all the things that, if one were sentimental, or worse, if one were spiritual like the poor old Rani, one would find so unromantic and gross and sordid even. But they aren't sordid, because one's fully aware of them, those things are just as beautiful as all the rest, just as wonderful."

"[... It] is contemplation."

(Page 242 of 295, or .82)

"[...] 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'" He screwed up his face in an

expression of disgust.

"And yet," said Susila, "in a certain sense the advice is excellent. Eating, drinking, dying---three primary manifestations of the universal and impersonal life. Animals live that impersonal and universal life without knowing its nature. Ordinary people know its nature but don't live it and, if ever they think seriously about it, refuse to accept it. An enlightened person person knows it, lives it, and accepts it completely. He eats, he drinks, and in due course he dies---but he eats with a difference, drinks with a difference, dies with a difference."

"And rises again from the dead?" he asked sarcastically.

"That's one of the questions the Buddha always refused to answer. Believing in eternal life never helped anybody to live in eternity. Nor, of course, did disbelieving. So stop all your pro-ing and con-ing (that's the Buddha's advice) and get on with the job."

"Which job?"

"Everybody's job---enlightenment. Which means, here and now, the preliminary job of practicing all the yogas of increased awareness."

(Page 141 of 295, or .48)

"Do you like music?" Dr. Robert asked.
"More than most things."

"And what, may I ask, does Mozart's G-Minor Quintet refer to? Does it refer to Allah? Or Tao? Or the second person of the Trinity? Or the Atman-Brahman?"

Will laughed. "Let's hope not."

"But that doesn't make the experience of the G-Minor Quintet any less rewarding. Well, it's the same with the kind of experience that you get with the moksha-medicine, or through prayer and fasting and spiritual exercises. Even if it doesn't refer to anything outside itself, it's still the most important thing that ever happened to you. Like music, only incomparably more so. And if you give the experience a chance, if you're prepared to go along with it, the results are incomparably more therapeutic and transforming. So maybe the whole thing does happen inside one's skull. Maybe it is private and there's no unitive knowledge of anything but one's own physiology. Who cares? The fact remains that the experience can open one's eyes and make one blessed and transform one's whole life."

(Page 188 of 295, or .64)

"Is there any connection," Will asked, "between what you've been talking about and what I saw up there in the Shiva temple?"
"Of course there is," she answered. "The moksha-medicine takes you to the same place as you get to in meditation."

"So why bother to meditate?"

"You might as well ask, Why bother to eat your

"But according to you, the moksha-medicine is dinner."

"It's a banquet," she said emphatically. "And that's precisely why there has to be meditation. You can't have banquets everyday. They're too rich and they last too long. Besides, banquets are provided by a caterer; you don't have any part in the preparation of them. For your everyday diet you have to do your own cooking. The moksha-medicine comes as an occasional treat."


Interview with philosopher Ken Wilber on "integral politics":

Integral politics

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Integral Theory
Integral theorists:
Integral themes:
Influences on integral theory:
Integral artists:

Integral organizations:

Integral politics is an emerging approach to politics that is based on developmental and holistic approaches to the self, culture, and society.

Ken Wilber's integral theory takes an all quadrant, all levels (or AQAL) approach to understanding politics. All quadrants refers to the importance of understanding the interplay between subjective (the self), intersubjective (culture), objective (physiology and behavior) and interobjective (systems theory, including ecosystems, society, and institutions) realities, which are all valid and cannot be reduced to one another. All levels emphasizes integral politics' developmental perspective, which holds that people, culture, and society develop through successive stages. Stages of psychological development, like the stages of moral development articulated by Lawrence Kohlberg and of cognitive development identified by neo-Piagetian theorists (after Jean Piaget), like Robert Kegan and Michael Commons, are mirrored by stages of intersubjective or cultural development, like those identified in Spiral Dynamics. Institutions, like governmental and economic systems, often embody the prevailing cultural values in a society; as intersubjective values evolve, they influence the development of societal institutions.

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A developmental model of psychology, evolutionary enlightenment and that singularly postmodern disease: "BOOMERITIS"

BOOMERITIS, a term coined by philosopher Ken Wilber, describes a curious condition afflicting the baby boom generation. In short, "high cognitive pluralism mixed with low emotional narcissism." AKA: a smart, progressive person with a big ego. It's a disease that began infecting human beings during the sixties revolution, when millions of rebellious American and European teens, took full advantage of the rights and freedoms afforded them by Western society and explored the entire spectrum of their egoic autonomy. Busting through every limitation, subverting every authority, and ingesting every psychedelic drug they could get their hands on, they each tumbled out, squinting and dazed, into the bright sunny dawn of the Age of Aquarius.

And although that new age, obscured by the rose-colored glasses of hippiedom, wasn't all it was cracked up to be, it did mark the birth of an actual new stage of human consciousness and culture. Historians, sociologists, and philosophers call it postmodernity, and its defining characteristic was the capacity to allow a variety of differing viewpoints, cultures, and worldviews to peacefully coexist in an egalitarian embrace. Today this multicultural consciousness is also frequently called "pluralism" for its ability to honor and respect a multidimensional plurality of perspectives, and is recognized as being the singular fuel behind the revolutionary fire of the sixties—having ignited the flames of feminism, civil rights, animal rights, gay rights, ecological activism, Vietnam war protests, sexual liberation, and even rock 'n roll. The Beatles' song "All Together Now," for example, perfectly captures the fundamental sentiments and sensitivities of the pluralistic stage of development.

But every social revolution has its downsides, and postmodernity had, and continues to have, plenty of its own. Perhaps the most obvious and unfortunate side-effect of postmodernity's noble intentions to include and embrace all worldviews and cultures—leaving no individual or social group behind to be marginalized or oppressed—is that by idealistically championing "equal rights," it ends up flattening all value judgments into an ultra-egalitarian pancake. Wilber has dubbed this postmodern landscape "flatland"—a world in which no value distinctions, no judgments, and no hierarchies are allowed, and in which it's considered "politically incorrect" to judge another person, group, or even worldview as being fundamentally better or worse than any other

About Spiral Dynamics > Overview

Spiral Dynamics® is a way of thinking about human nature. Its intent is to make living better for individuals, groups, and even societies by increasing understanding of why we do as we do, and then to broaden our conception of choices about what we might do next.

This framework is based in the original research and theory of developmental scholar Dr. Clare W. Graves. It explores what makes us different and alike at levels deeper than the demographics of age or gender, economics or ethnicities. With these insights, it is possible to build education, business, and governance systems which fit who people are better, and to help diverse people to find contexts of best fit. In addition, it offers a trajectory for change, both progressive and regressive in our search for congruence and fit.

Spiral + Dynamics
The term “Spiral Dynamics” refers to the cycling, expanding nature of this interactive emergent process, illustrated in many of Dr. Graves’ diagrams, as well as the energetic forces which drive transformative change. Thus, we describe a spiral of dynamically emerging systems which people can engage in their lives.

While the spiral part provides a map, the dynamics are the energy that move us across it. That spiraling dynamic results when (a) the experience of being in this world interacts with (b) the amazing human brain. The outcome is a range of recognizable systems for coping with the world - as we sense it. That 'as we sense it' is where SD becomes especially useful since it describes those various systems for sorting our observations and the shape of the logically consistent worldviews that arise from them.

Moving along this spiral, SD highlights the entry of more factors into life's equation and the ability to incorporate other ways of knowing. It elaborates different ways of behaving that are congruent with shifting views of existence which are seen as appropriate and sensible by people functioning at those respective levels.

While it is an expansive sequence in some respects, this is not a hierarchy of wisdom or decency or even intelligences, much less happiness and worth. Instead, it delineates a series of different ways of prioritizing and framing those things as solutions to one set of problems create new ones which require new thinking to resolve. First congruence then, if necessary or possible, growth. There is an increase in cognitive complexity as we move through the systems, but not in intelligence. Different intelligences are valued differently at different levels, just as different levels have their own sense of the spiritual, of the social, and of the essential.

To the extent that higher levels offer more degrees of freedom and consider a more expansive group of elements, they are 'better than' lower levels in the long run. However, the qualitative key to this point of view is appropriateness: using the brain which is there in ways that are constructively adaptive to the realities at hand with the openness to deal with the world to come.

A multidisciplinary approach
Spiral Dynamics describes what Dr. Graves termed biopsychosocial systems along a continuum that forms an expanding spiral. The term, bio-psycho-social, reflects Graves's insistence on the importance of a multidisciplinary, multidimensional approach to understanding human nature:

  • “Bio” for the neurology and chemical energy of life and the organismic part of us
  • “Psycho” for the variables of personality and life experiences, our temperaments and sense of self and relationships to other
  • “Social” for the collective energy in group dynamics and culture as the interpersonal domain influences human behavior in collective settings ranging from small groups and families to corporations and entire societies
  • “System” for the interdependence and action/reaction of these three upon one another in a coherent whole according to principles laid out in General Systems theory and other approaches to how things work and interact

Spiritual aspects
These four elements coalesce within Gravesian levels, and within SD. Some users feel it is also appropriate to add “spiritual” with the result, “biopyschosociospiritual systems.” This view holds spirituality as a distinct aspect of human nature that isn’t integrated into the others, or else which transcends them.

It is our view that the SD levels explain why different perspectives on religion and spirituality exist, why there are different approaches to their expression, and why there are both conflicts and confluences among spiritual movements. From our perspective, biopsychosocial systems is sufficiently comprehensive and offers those interested in spirituality and religion a fresh window through which to look at the metaphysical and how people think about it.

Evolving consciousness
Spiral Dynamics doesn’t track well with intelligence as described by the old IQ models--higher levels aren't smarter than lower ones, or vice-versa. However, it relates better with multiple intelligences models (such as Gardner's approach) since they suggest differences in priorities. Temperament variables do not fit neatly into the Spiral Dynamics view, either. Although there are some correlations with factors like rigidity, authoritarianism and impulse control, some of these are linear relationships, and others appear to rise and fall in different systems. We suspect an increase in cognitive complexity, though this doesn't make one a better or worse person, either.

In other words, this is more of a quantitative than qualitative hierarchy, though more is not always better. Instead, SD describes differences in how people think, but not the worth of how they think; for that, congruence and appropriateness to the realities at hand are the keys. Thus, it reflects a variety of worldviews and conceptions of what life is about; but it doesn't suggest any one as the ideal. It describes variability in thinking, behavior, and conceptualization, not the worth or decency of a person.

So, although people don't get smarter or better as they move through the levels, they do broaden their perspectives and increase their options to act appropriately in a given situation. That's why the overall trend in human nature is up the spiral as our world becomes more complicated. They don't necessarily achieve higher planes of "consciousness" in the metaphysical sense of pop-spirituality; but they do become conscious of more complex factors in more elaborated ways. And they may well come to think about “consciousness” in new and different ways, thereby shifting their perspectives on the material and immaterial.

So the reasons for acting in particular ways change, as do the behaviors, themselves. Yet all of this doesn't necessarily make a person happier or sadder, wiser or more foolish, kinder or harsher, better adjusted or more out of sorts. It only increases their degrees of behavioral freedom and opens a different sense of what life is about.

Containers, not contents
Graves’ concept was called "Value Systems Theory" for a long time. That title produced confusion, since most people have a clear definition of values in mind already. When we then add a word like ‘moral’ to values, the field is even more limiting. The Spiral Dynamics model is about moral or ethical standards; it addresses where those decisions come from and how they are made. Its focus is on why people adopt the values they do—not what those values are. It is a deep systems perspective for valuing—not a description of the collections of values held by different individuals, groups or societies since people who think alike can believe very different things; and people can agree on the very same thing despite vast differences in who they are.

Thus, you might think of values, moralities, standards, beliefs and priorities as contents (“memes” as defined by Richard Dawkins, Susan Blackmore, and others), and the Gravesian levels as containers for them (vMEMEs in the Spiral Dynamics model--valuing systems as meme attractors.) In some ways, containers delimit their contents—not everything fits or stays once it's put in. But in other ways, certain contents dictate the characteristics of their containers—and can’t be forced into just anything. A paper cup is a poor vessel for helium, and even worse for molten steel.

The Spiral Dynamics model describes eight basic theoretical containers found thus far. They can hold all sorts of contents. The question is, how do they hold and react with them? How does the person using such a container(s) think about the thing? How is that container impacted by the contents put into it? If it changes, what's next?

Two interacting forces
The systems identified in Spiral Dynamics arise from the interaction of two elements

  • The life conditions the person or group encounters
  • The brain/mind capacities available to cope with such conditions

For his terminology, Dr. Graves used alphabet letters beginning with A to represent the life conditions that embody a certain kind of existential problems and a view of what the 'real' world is like. He used letters beginning with N to represent mind/brain capacities—the neurobiological equipment and mindsets required to recognize and deal with such a reality. Together, the life conditions + mind capacities produce a level of psychological existence in Gravesian terminology, a vMEME in the language of SD.

The idea of two interacting forces is central to Dr. Grave’s theory and forms the foundation of Spiral Dynamics. That is to say that both genetic predisposition and neuronal systems as well as the experiences accrued in being alive and conscious help shape who we are. The use of letter pairs (rather than colors or numbers) serves to emphasize this double-helix notion and sets this model apart from many others that rely only on typologies and traits, or which do not recognize the interplay of environmentosocial challenges with neurological systems.

A person isn’t generally locked at a single level. The letter pairs can shift with respect to each other and, to some extent, be shifted by conditions. For example, it’s possible for someone to live in an E-level world but only have access to Q means of dealing with life; or to have F thinking while being caught up with overwhelming P. Whether at work or in school, we are over-stretched and stressed or under-employed and bored because of these misalignments.

Take an old-time government seniority-oriented bureaucrat who suddenly finds himself in a newly- privatized agency that must prove its bottom-line effectiveness in a competitive, out-sourced climate. For this individual, the world will seem incomprehensible at times. Some things from the more complex level simply won’t “register” in his awareness and coping may be stressful—perhaps impossible. Some people can learn more complex ways of coping and interacting; others may not be able to. Or imagine a bright and creative new employee anxious to try new ideas suddenly assigned to work in a culture that values obedience, punctuality, routine, and not making waves above all else. The alignment of the letters matters.


A State of nature and biological urges and drives: physical senses dictate the state of being.


N Instinctive: as natural instincts and reflexes direct; automatic existence.
B Threatening and full of mysterious powers and spirit beings that must be placated and appeased.


O Animistic: according to tradition and ritual ways of group: tribal; animistic.
C Like a jungle where the tough and strong prevail, the weak serve; nature is an adversary to be conquered.


P Egocentric: asserting self for dominance, conquest and power. Exploitive; egocentric.
D Controlled by a Higher Power that punishes evil and eventually rewards good works and righteous living.


Q Absolutistic: obediently as higher authority and rules direct; conforming; guilt.
E Full of resources to develop and opportunities to make things better and bring prosperity.


R Muitiplistic: pragmatically to achieve results and get ahead; test options; maneuver
F The habitat wherein humanity can find love and purposes through affiliation and sharing.


S Relativistic; respond to human needs; affiliative; situational; consensual; fluid.
G A chaotic organism where change is the norm and uncertainty an acceptable state of being.


T Systemic: functional; integrative; interdependent; existential; flexible; questioning; accepting.
H A delicately balanced system of interlocking forces in jeopardy at humanity’s hands; chaordic.


U Holistic: experiential: transpersonal; collective consciousness; collaborative; interconnected.
I Too soon to say, but should tend to be I-oriented; controlling, consolidating if the pattern holds.


V Next neurological capacities. The theory is open-ended up to the limits of Homo sapiens' brain.

The theory is open-ended, with the possibility of more systems ahead...

(GT, HU, and IV are also designated as A'N', B'O', C'P', etc. See FAQ for more.)

Seeing the systems in colors
We use colors in Spiral Dynamics—beige, purple, red, blue, orange, green, yellow, and turquoise (coral would be next)—to represent the letter combinations—AN, BO, CP, DQ, ER, FS, GT, HU, IV. These colors are a metaphor and symbolic code to make conversation easier since they break from overt hierarchy—it's hard to say whether Green or Blue is better. They were deliberately not related to chakras or other color schemes. In fact, these colors were introduced only as a graphic element to make training materials more attractive. Some people who are satisfied with simple renditions use them as their primary descriptors. Dr. Graves himself used the letter pairs almost exclusively to describe the various systems, though he occasionally used numbers, as well.

You can think of the colors as representing what people in each world seek out in life as the systems grow out of those which came before.

  • Beige (AN). Survival; biogenic needs satisfaction; reproduction; satisfy instinctive urges.
  • Purple (BO). Placate spirit realm; honor ancestors; protection from harm; family bonds.
  • Red (CP). Power/action; asserting self to dominate others; control; sensory pleasure.
  • Blue (DQ). Stability/order; obedience to earn reward later; meaning; purpose; certainty.
  • Orange (ER). Opportunity/success; competing to achieve results; influence; autonomy.
  • Green (FS). Harmony/love; joining together for mutual growth; awareness; belonging.
  • Yellow (GT). Independence/self-worth; fitting a living system; knowing; good questions.
  • Turquoise (HU). Global community/life force; survival of life on Earth; consciousness.

The colors symbolize the "nodal" states—hypothetical peaks on a series of overlapping, wave-like curves. There are sub-systems between the peaks where the thinking represented by the adjacent colors blend together. (In original Gravesian language, this is done with letter pairs in upper and lower case.) You could think of them as string of holiday lights. Each light is on its own dimmer. They brighten and fade as conditions change. Sometimes the shift is by conscious choice, more often not.

The cyclical aspect of the Graves/Spiral Dynamics theory is depicted with the colors, as well. You might have noticed two color families—warm and cool—alternating (above). The warm group (beige, red, orange, yellow, etc.) describes an internal “I-focused” locus of control and a way of living centered on self-expression and the ability to change and master the external world. These tend to be change-oriented. The various levels of are differentiated by how this expression of self takes place and the foundation of other systems on which it rests.

The cool group (purple, blue, green, turquoise, etc.) describes a “we-oriented” locus of control and a way of living centered on self-sacrifice and the ability to stabilize and come to peace with the inner world. These tend to be stabilization-oriented and emphasize attention to external anchors and authorities. They, too, are differentiated in their forms of collectivism and the self-express systems subsumed within them.

The spiral winds between a series of individualistic "I" and collective "we" poles as it turns between cool, self-denying group systems, and warm, individualistic, self-expressing systems. As persons, most of us are mixtures of both, often living in the transitional phases, and sometimes settling predominantly with one family or the other. Organizations are also mixtures, though their cultures often take a tone of 'coolness' or 'warmness' in emphasis. These broad swings from individualism to collectivism and back are also something to note as societies move through time and cultures adjust to changes in life conditions in the world around them.

Not a typology
The Spiral Dynamics/Graves model is not a typology for categorizing people into seven or eight rigid boxes; it's not that simple. These are ways of thinking about a thing that resides in varying proportions within human beings and which ebb and flow within us; they are not labels for kinds of human beings. We move into and out of them. They can coexist within us, though we tend to find a zone of comfort that works so long as conditions remain unchanged. This explains why the Spiral Dynamics model is an emergent sequence and not a developmental stair step tied to age. There is no mandate for movement, nor for stagnation; and no predictable timeline when there is or isn't change, only a probable sequence as we move forward or back in our search for balance and congruence with our worlds.

So, the question is not how to deal with a 'kind of person,' or even with people at a given level; the question is how to deal with the thinking of the level when it is activated in its particular way within the particular person. While most of us operate with mixtures and blends of these colors to some extent, one or two are often dominant.

Themes that repeat
The table above illustrates the colors and letter pairs—AN, BO, CP, DQ, ER, FS, and GT, as well as the fuzzier HU and the possibility of IV plus more since the theory is open-ended. In his later work, Graves posited that there might be six basic themes which repeat in human nature. (Other theorists have proposed similar patterns.) (Rather than being a continuum of eight or more systems, they can also be presented as a series of six core themes that repeat. This aspect of Dr. Graves's hypothesis is as yet unproven but fascinating to consider and widely promoted.

Beginning with an individual survival mode, the phases go up to a broad collective. At that point, the cycle begins again at a higher level, individualism in a context which includes all the previous systems. Thus, AN through FS represent a first run-through—a first tier of thinking systems. Graves called these the “subsistence levels” because they focus on relatively basic human needs. The first repeat—the second tier—is represented by the base letters primed; thus A'N', B'O', etc. Graves called these the “being levels” because subsistence needs are subsumed beneath quality-of-existence issues once the problems of the first six levels are in hand. The primes suggest similarities to the base systems, plus an additional set of neuronal capacities brought online. This is all hypothesis, of course, and it now looks to us that the gap between first tier and second tier—a transition Graves called a "momentous leap"—is far narrower than sometimes reported, if it exists at all.

So what is SD?
Spiral Dynamics is a way of thinking about who we are, a point of view about human nature and how it changes. The model differentiates some well-researched 'levels of psychological existence,' then offers suggestions for dealing with people centralized in them more effectively. It represents a different approach to human diversity, one rooted in how we think about things and conceptualize our worlds. It is not a religion, nor a doctrine, nor a dogma rooted in matters of faith. SD is an application of a data-based psychological model, and aims at making it practically constructive and useful in people's lives. If SD does that, we are happy.