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Process of Human & Social Development

By Robert Macfarlane

Sept. 20, 1999

I.       Introduction

A human centered theory of development must necessarily base itself on the idea that the progressive development of the external capabilities of society is a reflection of a progressive development of the internal consciousness and capacities of human beings, not just the result of external factors or the creation and application of better tools and instruments. Society changes outwardly because people change inwardly.

A fundamental premise of our framework is that the process by which societies develop, companies develop and individuals develop is the same. They are only various expressions at different levels of the same process of human development.

We have defined social development as the increasing complexity of the social organization that enables it to release, organize and express human energies and creativity more effectively to achieve the goals of the society – regardless of whether those goals are political, economic, social or cultural.

We can apply a similar definition to the development of the individual. Individuals develop by increasing their capacity to release, organize and express their energies and capacities to achieve the goals they aspire for – regardless of whether those goals are physical health, economic well-being, social recognition, mental understanding or spiritual enlightenment.

II.     Correspondence between Social and Individual Development

A.     The social process and the individual process are not only similar. They are interdependent. Individuals develop with the active support of the society and societies development by the creative contributions of individuals.

1.     Pioneering individuals serve as leaders for introducing new activities in the society.

2.     Society passes on to individuals in the next generation the knowledge, skills and values acquired through its collective efforts in the past.

B.    The development of society involves simultaneous advances in the physical, social, mental and cultural/spiritual organization—

1.     Physical infrastructure of town s, cities, sanitation, transport,

2.     Social infrastructure for defense, governance, food production, trade, finance, industry, and education.

3.     Mental infrastructure of organized information, technology, science and other forms of knowledge.

4.     Cultural/spiritual organization of beliefs and values that determine human aspirations and behavior.

C.    Each of these advances requires a corresponding development of the skills, attitudes, behaviors, knowledge and values of individual members of society.

1.   Physically, as social activities become better organized, individuals have to acquire higher level physical skills for making tools and weapons, hunting, growing and preparing food, craftsmanship, maintaining health, construction of buildings, fortresses, and ships, defense against wild animals and human threats, etc. They have to acquire higher attitudes of vigilance, loyalty to the group, obedience to the leader, courage in the face of danger, etc. They have to acquire a knowledge of minerals, fuels, land, soil, water, animals and plants. They have to acquire physical values such as cleanliness (for hygiene), punctuality (for planting and harvesting crops), efficiency and maximum utilization of materials, time and space.

When an Albanian traveler buying a ticket for train travel in Germany was told by the agent that he had only six minutes to change trains at a connection point, the traveler asked what would happen if his arriving train was late and he missed his connection. In response, the German ticket agent, who was steeped in the value of German punctuality, asked with bewilderment “Why on earth would the train be late?” This is an expression of a physical value, punctuality, that has become an integral part of the national culture.

2.   Socially, as society becomes more politically and economically organized and dynamic, individuals must acquire the discipline and self-restraint needed for living and working with others, organizational skills for collective activities such as hunting, war, self-defense, farming, trade, and governance; social skills for communicating, working together, negotiation and instruction; leadership skills, specialized skills for division of labor and for developing systems to improve the efficiency and reliability of group activities such as trade; social values for cooperation, politeness, tolerance for people with different behavior and customs, respect for law and order, etc.

There are countless instances of social hostility of traditional societies to inventions such as the steam engine, automated looms and optical telegraph

3.   Mentally, as society becomes more sophisticated in its application of science and technology, individuals must acquire mental skills for analysis, writing, mathematics; attitudes of open-mindness to new ideas, willingness to welcome change and try new things; information about an increasingly wide range of facts about every aspect of life, laws, rules, customs, the usage and operation of more sophisticated types of equipment; conceptual knowledge of the physical, biological and social sciences; values such as objectivity and integrity.

4.   Cultural or spiritually, as society advances, individuals must acquire tolerance for people with different beliefs and a recognition of common human rights and values.

III.   Anatomy of Human Development

A.  Human development consists of a progressive evolution of higher powers of consciousness and a higher organization of that those powers.

B.  Human beings organize the expression of their energies on different levels by enhancing their skills, attitudes, information, conceptual understanding and values.

C.  During this process the very nature of human consciousness evolves from being predominantly physical to becoming more vital and mental. The higher levels of consciousness release greater energy and capacity.

D.  In society we see this evolution from almost exclusive dependence on physical resources to an increasing reliance on the powers of organization, science and technology, which are mental resources.

E.  In the individual, we see the same progression from people who express their energy almost exclusively through a life of manual labor to those who rely increasingly on social skills and mental knowledge to augment the productivity of their physical energy.

Table 1: Organization of Social & Individual Energies in Different Phases of Social Development





Organization of physical processes – transport, communication, agriculture

Organization of physical energies through physical skills


Organization of social processes – governance, commerce, industry

Organization of vital energies through social skills and attitudes



Organization of information, knowledge as technology, science & education

Organization of mental energies through information and conceptual understanding


IV.   Aspects of Human Consciousness

A.   Human beings have three partially developed centers of consciousness – physical consciousness (physical sensations, impulses and urges), a vital consciousness (nervous, psychological desires, feelings and emotions) and a mental consciousness (mental self-awareness, knowledge and will) – as well as a spiritual potential (spiritual intuition, wisdom and power) which is in most cases fully undeveloped.

B.   All three are partially subconscious, partially conscious. The physical is the most gross, mostly subconscious, acting autonomically and in response to mental volition. The mental is the most subtle and conscious, capable of conscious self-awareness and volition. The spiritual is almost entirely subconscious or, more accurately, superconscious.

C.   Each part of being can be further subdivided into three subparts that reflect the same three levels within each part, since each interacts with and has its representative expressions in the other three.

D.   Each of the nine parts can be developed to varying degrees in varying combinations with the others. People whose predominant endowment is in a particular center the represent the predominant type for that center, but in reality all possible combinations exist.

Table 2: Aspects  of Human Consciousness

Aspects of Consciousness

Functional Attributes

Predominant Type

Physical Centers

Physical – Physical


Physical movement


Manual laborer

Vital – Physical

Physical energy

Energetic worker

Mental – Physical

Physical skills

Skilled worker


Physical – Vital


Social skills, vital energy & enthusiasm


Trader, salesman

Vital – Vital

Pure emotions (affection, courage)

Emotional poet, artist, patriot

Mental – Vital

Vital insight, shrewdness

Political, military & business leaders


Physical – Mental


Practical intelligence, organized information, planned activities, thought based on sensations & facts


Scientist, engineer, executive, senior administrator, programmer

Vital – Mental  

Idealistic sentiments, passion for ideals (emotionalized thoughts)

Mentally creative poet or writer, idealist

Mental – Mental

Abstract thinking, creative thought  & conceptual knowledge without power (pure thoughts)



Intuition, wisdom

Saint, yogi




V.   Ascent and Descent

A.   In society, the physical infrastructure (roads, telecommunications, schools, research institutes, factories) serves as the basis for its vital activities (commerce, industry, banking) and mental development (science, technology, education).

B.   Similarly, in individual human development the physical basis provides the foundation for a progressive elevation and conversion of physical energy into higher forms of energy and consciousness. Gross physical movements release physical energy, which through repetition becomes organized as physical skills. Nervous sensations and impulses give formation to organized vital attitudes. Sense data gets organized as information, information gets distilled into thoughts, the essence of thoughts separated from sensations becomes refined ideas, and ideas get further organized and distilled into conceptual knowledge.

C.   The same process works in the reverse direction both in society and the individual. Society’s accumulated mental knowledge is applied to develop and expand its social activities and strengthen its physical infrastructure.

D.   Similarly, when the individual mind accepts pure ideas and exercises its mental will to translate them into action, the ideas get energized and expand into multiple thoughts. The thoughts when applied to external circumstances proliferate into an organized mental image of facts. When the mind decides to translate the thoughts into action, it releases vital energy giving rise to formed attitudes or emotional intentions (e.g. determination, enthusiasm). When the vital energy is sufficiently released, the physical consciousness acquires a higher order of skill and expresses it through in physical action.

VI.  Self-Conception

A.   Development of both the individual and the collective personality is by a process of self-conception. The release, channeling and expression of human energy are guided by the conscious or subconscious self conceptions that people seek to realize, individually and collectively. 

B.  This self-conception undergoes a continuous evolution based on an unfolding hierarchy of needs—physical, vital, mental and spiritual. Normally in proportion that the physical needs for survival, security and comfort are meet, more and more energy goes into the pursuit of vital needs for social interchange, freedom of expression, adventure, power, social prestige and enjoyment, mental needs for understanding, organization and creativity, and spiritual needs for peace, inner freedom, truth, love and oneness. The higher needs sometimes begin to emerge even before the lower or met. In individuals, steps in the sequence may even be skipped.

C.  This self-conception may be strongly influenced by experiences, information and perceptions arising from the environment, but the source of its power always issues from what the personality accepts and endorses, regardless of whether the source is internal or external. Belief and imagination are the determinants of human progress.

D.  As the individual and the society evolve, both increasingly discover that the central determinant of their progress is their own self-conception and the development of their own latent capacities. They come to understand that all real growth issues from within themselves.


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