In the United States today, Robert Kegan’s 2nd Order of Consciousness has become the foundational worldview for 70 million American citizens. Kegan’s 2nd Order of Consciousness (OoC) is the default mindset for as many as 45% of the adult individuals now living in America. All of those who voted for Donald Trump for president last year. And more.
I offer this assertion as a warning. A proposition that suggests, as clearly as possible, the idea that those of us who care about things like global warming, democracy, and/or economic and political equality should be sure we’re fully aware of the fact that the dominant discourse in the United States is now being driven by the collective impulses of a besieged and punitive President and his aggrieved and angry followers. Individuals who almost certainly are fully immersed in, if not captured by, the darker aspects of what Ken Wilber, in his new thought paper, Trump and a Post-Truth World, is calling an egocentric--ethnocentric worldview.
To fully understand the challenges this proposition poses, you must hear, embrace, and accommodate seven propositions:
- Adult development is not a one-way process, a psychological dynamic that moves inexorably upward toward more sophisticated modes of thinking and feeling.
- Rather, in terms of the evolution of their orders of consciousness, 21st Century adults are as likely to regress backwards to a 2nd OoC as they are to evolve forward toward their 4th Order of Consciousness.
- Kegan’s Self-Sovereign Mindset is the Order of Consciousness that most frequently responds to external events and experiences through the hardwiring in our brains that links the amygdala and the limbic system together into the rudimentary beginnings of a unified threat management system.
- The Self-Sovereign Mindset is the brain system that creates the mind’s least sophisticated, least expansive, and least flexible attitudes, abilities, and beliefs.
- Individuals living with and through a Self-Sovereign mindset see themselves as the center of all things. They're driven by their egocentric, autocratic, and punitive instincts. They consequently see the world as extraordinarily threatening; a place that demands constant vigilance; an environment where the best response to any threat they encounter as either fighting or fleeing.
- If, in the U.S., this Order of Consciousness has become the normative mode of thinking for a large number of people then, for most adults living in the U.S. today, moving from their 3rd Order of Consciousness to their 4th Order of Consciousness is NOT their primary developmental challenge.
- Rather, in U.S. today, the primary developmental challenge for most adults is actually going to be finding effective ways of resisting the regressive pull backward into the 2nd Order Worldview and Self-Sovereign Mindset that Trump and his followers are surrounding us with.
The conclusion I draw from these propositions is this.
For those interested in adult development, it’s time to recognize that, at this point in history, everyone is beset with deep-seated existential anxieties. Everyone is trying hard to cope with and respond to anxieties emanating from the dramatic threats that the world's ethnic, gender, terrorist, climate change, “nano-bio-info-cogo,” and globalization revolutions are bringing to our front doors. Each of us, in our own ways, is struggling with an emergent world that President Trump and his followers hate.
In this context -- where fear and hate are the ambient background to our lives -- I believe it’s time for us to come to terms with the idea that the “Sacred Canopy” that's soothed and bound us together in communities of true believers for several hundred years has just recently evaporated into thin air like so much cigarette smoke. Peter Berger, in his book, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion, and in its sequel, A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural, has plainly shown us how and why the six radically disruptive revolutions listed just above are dismantling the cosmic worldview we've been living with and through since the Enlightenment. In these books, Dr. Berger's also explained why the existential fears that have emerged out of this dis-integration are not destined to go away any time soon: Without this Sacred Canopy, he says, we no longer have the unfailingly stable and unconsciously unifying belief system that until just yesterday had both soothed our worries and held us together.
Ken Wilber, in his recent article, Trump and a Post-Truth World has taken second somber step and told us that this loss of our traditional “Sacred Canopy” has created amongst us a “post-truth world,” a society where no one perspective can lay claim to the kind of universal validity that we all will unconsciously accept as real and true. This Post-Truth world, Wilber says, has moved us all into a world that's swirling with a Natural Mind's “aperspectival madness.”
Given the above is a fair approximation of what’s true, at least for those who are most stressed by the 21st Century’s radically new threats, we should think through whether or not, from here on, our best course of action might be to seek ways to help each other at least perceive the regressive pulls we're all now subject to. Shouldn’t we, as a friend, a thought partner, or a mentor, at least help those friends and colleagues who will let us find ways to give voice to what we and they are seeing and probably experiencing as at least confusing and vastly troublesome?
If, as I’m suggesting here, it’s true that President Trump and his supporters are being driven by their fiercely aggressive Natural Minds, and that as a consequence Trump’s presidential powers and his followers’ ferocious energy are working together in ways that is fostering throughout the U.S. an environment that’s more prone to encouraging regressive reactions than it’s prone to promoting progressive development, then shouldn’t we at least be as concerned with helping ourselves and our friends become aware of the regressive pulls towards our Natural Minds' more impulsive, egocentric, and punitive instincts as we are with helping a precious few sophisticated learners move toward their 4th Order ofConsciousness?
This isn’t, I believe, an either/or choice. Rather, it’s a suggestion that in the U.S. today we’re facing complicated developmental dynamics that demand some careful examination. And that the sooner we begin this work, the better off we'll be.