I am presently reading George Vailliant‘s 2002 book, Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development and it seemed his theory paralleled my Paths to Human Maturity, published in Nov. 1994. What pleases me is that his vastly more deeply researched book came to the same general conclusions as mine, even though his procedures were different. His was retrospective based on empirical observations, and mine was prospective and theoretical. I approve of his method for finding what really worked and will work in the future, but it didn’t provide a method for exploring what humanity might progress towards.
There was a major snag in Vaillant’s book, for me, on page 81 where he wrote, “For another 28 men their defenses at age 50 were already so mature as to render significant increase not possible.” This quote has context, but he had been comparing the maturity development of his entire set of 237 men selected from the Harvard sophomore classes of 1939-1944. What bothered me was his implication that psychological development was no longer possible for these well developed men.
To my way of thinking these supremely emotionally developed men are on the edge of the next developmental stage. They have the potential to develop into Sages. It is from people with superior moral development that our most exalted humans must arise. The 28 men he mentioned have the ideas that potentially will lift humanity to higher levels. Vaillant doesn’t seem to acknowledge how important it would be to help these men to their next level of personal development. His level of development ends at mature. The chart above goes one step beyond Mature and ends at the Sage level, but it clearly implies that it could be extended to the right, and perhaps some of the people considered as Sages might already have gone there.
There may be limits to how much can be developed out of a human brain, but if 28 men, about 12%, out of one of the most ability seeking and selective institutions of all time, Harvard University, have reached what Vaillant considers the top level, it means there is plenty of opportunity to grow. It doesn’t take access to Harvard to grow, although being there does give more access to opportunities for going beyond to higher levels. What it takes to become a true sage is the right kind of quest beyond the level of Maturity. Maturity is available to most people if they quest after it, and I maintain that of those people who make it that far, many could take another step and become sage level.
Finding an original path toward even greater maturity may require intelligence and a spirit questing for a better life. The Sage is derived from these maturity questing people but he differs from them in that at some point the quest becomes one of fulfilling the needs of all humanity and not ones self, his family and local his personal community. These are probably not such advanced personal qualities as to be unobtainable by many people, possibly most people. Perhaps every normal person can do it, or perhaps only one in a thousand, or even one in a million, has those qualities needed, but when we consider that seven billion people are presently inhabiting our planet, even that most rarefied number would mean there are seven thousand potential sages among us right now. If humanity is to prosper to its maximum potential we must –
Find and help our local sages grow. You will know them by their universal goals.