Dr. Graves' Seminar Handout* (Fonte)
What the Research of Clare W. Graves Says a Model of Healthy Mature Psychosocial Behavior Should Represent

1. That the human being, though but one biological organism, has developed to date, seven Exiting, seven Nodal, and eight Entering progressively developing psychosocial systems because it is an almost infinite psychological being which changes systematically as the world changes in the course of living.

2. That these nodal systems are, normally, hierarchically ordered, prepotent and upwardly spiraling.

3. That these systems alternate their mental focus in a cyclic, oscillating, dominant fashion.

4. That the first system is slightly differentiated to favor focus upon the external world and how to gain and expand power over it, then alternating thereafter upon the inner subjective world and how to come to know and come to peace with it in even numbered systems, and focus upon the external world and how to control and expand power over it in subsequent odd-numbered systems.

5. That cerebral dominance, in the odd-numbered systems is by the left hemisphere of the brain and in even-numbered systems is by the right hemisphere of the brain.

6. That these alternating systems show little mean variation for some psychological dimensions, such as intelligence and temperament.

7. That certain psychological dimensions such as ideological dogmatism and objectivity emerge with a particular system in the hierarchy of systems, then decrease or increase systematically in subsequent systems.

8. That certain psychological dimensions such as guilt, as a felt emotion, emerge with a particular system in the hierarchy then, in subsequent systems, vary quantitatively in an increasing or decreasing cyclic, wave-like fashion.

9. That every other psychosocial system is like, but at the same time, not like its alternating partner. Systems 2, 4, and 6 etc., are predominantly obeisance, conservative systems; but each obeys different authority sources and obeys and conserves in different ways. Systems 1, 3, 5, and 7 etc., are predominantly change systems, but how to and what to change is different in each odd-numbered system.

10. That each system has a general theme for existence which typifies it.

11. That each central theme for existence is particularizable into almost an infinite number of ways for peripheral expression. For example, the fourth level absolutistic "sacrifice now to get later" theme is found in the world particularized into many absolutistic, monotheistic, religious theologies and many non-religious absolutistic ideologies.

12. That increasing degrees of behavioral freedom, increasing degrees of choice emerge with each successive level; but the degree of increase is greater in odd-numbered than in even-numbered systems.

13. That every seventh system shows a degree of change in excess of the sum of all six previous changes.

14. That adult psychosocial life is a developing, emergent process which can be likened to a symphony built on six basic themes which repeat, in higher order form, every set of six. The first six tell the story of adult psychosocial development in a world of naturalistic abundance. The second order systems tell the story of how psychosocial development will take place in a world of naturalistic scarcity.

15. That each system develops from the interaction of hierarchically ordered, parallel, and prepotent sets of existential problems and sets of neuropsychological coping equipment.

16. That adult psychosocial development is a flowing process in which the solution of current existential problems creates the next set of existential problems to be solved and in their creation produces complex chemicals which activate the next set of neuropsychological coping equipment consisting of the information processing means for detection and solution of the created set of existential problems.

17. That the process moves in a complex wave-like, progressive, nodal, regressive fashion and may fixate at certain progressive or regressive points. Each wave develops slowly to the point of inflection, then rapidly ascends to its nodal form, then begins a slow descent to the point of deflection where a precipitous fall ensues as the next wave starts slowly to ascend.

THE FIRST SUBSISTENCE LEVEL - The A-N or Autistic Existential State

Theme: Express self as if just another animal according to the dictates of one's imperative physiological needs and the environmental possibilities.

Thinks in an autistic, that is, need-satisfying, wish-fulfillment manner. Lives a herd-based, automatic, reflexological, undifferentiated-from-other-animals form of existence.

No true self-awareness, no awareness of self as differentiated from others. Imperative need-based concept of time; no concept of space beyond home territory; no concept of Gods or God, the universe, or the like.

Motivated by the tensions of the imperative, periodic, physiological needs.

Shows no organized or oriented planned work effort. Has no concept of leadership. Effort is expended in response to immediate needs or desires if awake and plays when surfeited.

Has a physiological, imperative need-based concept of time, cause, space, and materiality which are of very limited character.

The system by which all lived 40,000 or more years ago. Still exists in viable and functioning form today, though most often found today in pathological cases. Exists today in conditions of existence which provide for automatic satisfaction of the A-level problems of existence, the problems of individual and race survival -problems which are sensed, processed, and reacted to through the automatic equipment of the N neurological system, the neuro system specifically attuned to processing imperative, physiological need information. Learns through the process of habituation, the learning process which automatically signals the on-off character of need. Responds only to change in intensity of need, not to patterning of need.

A state which cannot be assessed by verbal means.

THE SECOND SUBSISTENCE LEVEL - The B-0 or Animistic Existential State

Theme: Sacrifice to the way of your elders.

This state emerges when living an A-N way produces safety and security problems, for example, by exhausting the natural food or water supply. These problems activate the neuropsychological system that is specifically attuned to sensing, processing, and acting upon conditions which threaten satisfaction of the non-imperative physiological needs and activates the aperiodic physiological needs like escape from harm from various dangers.

The person’s thinking at this level is animistic. This is the thinking which is in terms of indwelling spirits of life in all things—be they animate or inanimate. Thinks in terms of there being a transmutable spirit in self, in others’ selves, in animals, floods, stones, earthquakes, etc.

Believes in the continued existence of disembodied spirits capable of exercising benignant or malignant influence.

Lives a tribalistic way of life which is believed inherent in the nature of things, thus is unchanging and unalterable. They resolutely hold to and perpetuate things "as they are." Thinks spatially in an atomistic, not wholistic, manner, thus has a name for each bend in a river, but none for the river.

Thinks ritualistically and superstitiously and stereotypically, thus tries to control by incantation, totems, and taboos. Uses such to invoke continuance of what is or to control the unexpected.

Predominant learning method is by Pavlovian or classical conditioning by association without conscious awareness or intent. This learning without awareness produces the fixated, tenaciously-held-to, totem-and-taboo, tribalistic way of life, elder-dominated by the controller of lore and magic.

First appeared approximately 40,000 years ago.

This system, as the first, is not open to verbal assessment.

THE THIRD SUBSISTENCE LEVEL - The C-P or Egocentric Existential State

Theme: Express self, to hell with the consequences, lest one suffer the torment of unbearable shame.

This level arises when the achievement of relative safety and security produces boredom with the life of elders and activates awareness of self as a being separate and distinct from others.

The accumulating problems from living a secure, unchanging, elder-dominated, "shaman"-controlled way of life produces expressive problems for those who experience the awakening of "selfism."

These problems activate the P system, that psychoneurological system which possesses the tissue which is specifically tuned to sense consciousness and consciousness of self and has the capacity to experience the feeling of shame. It also activates the operant or intentional learning system.

Thinking at this level is totally self-centered, that is, egocentric in fashion. It is in terms of controlling or being controlled, in terms of intentions to assure that self will receive and to insure that self will always receive.

Thinks in terms of struggling to gain one's own satisfaction, to hell with others--in terms of snaring, entrapping, and acting to avoid being caught while taking advantage of others.

Shows stubborn resistiveness to power exercised by others, but obeisance when overpowered until power over self is lost. Thus, thinks in terms of "haves" and "have nots."

Sees life in a very person-affective way. Is a cauldron of strong, negative emotional forces such as shame, rage, hate, disgust, grief, but not guilt. Coexistent in this person is the tendency to revel in hedonistic, pleasure seeking pursuits to an orgiastic degree.

Shows strong emotional reactivity to the actions of others who are pleasing or not pleasing to selfish desires. Expresses such with no consideration of others, spawns an exploitative form of management.

Shows a generalized "you are with me or against me" emotional response to others. Has a two-fold aim in life -- to win, or at least to live forever in the mouths and legends of others. There are no true two-way'-interpersonal relations.

Learns predominantly through Skinnerian operant conditioning principles, but does not learn from punishment.

This system is open to verbal assessment, but only minimally so.

First appeared about 10,000 years ago.

THE FOURTH SUBSISTENCE LEVEL - The D-Q or Absolutistic Existential State

Theme: Sacrifice self now in order to receive reward later.

This system begins to emerge when successful C-P existence creates a bi-polar set of problems, the problems of existence D. These result when the self-centered, hedonsitic C-P exis tence creates a problem for the haves, as well as the have-nots. They are also products of the increased activation of consciousness of self and consciousness of others. The have is brought face-to-face with death's taking away the pleasure of existence and with the problem of having to give up his/her successful self-centered existence. The have-not, also facing the awareness of death, has the problem of explaining why life has been such a miserable existence. These awarenesses of death problems activate the Q neurological system, a system specifically equipped to experience quilt, to learn through avoidant learning (i.e., punishment) and to rationalize.

Thinking at this level is absolutistic, a one right way - all others are wrong, black and white, good or evil, all or none, categorical fashion. It is in terms of absolute rules as a necessity for control of C-P impulses.

True two-way interpersonal relations are expressed along with true identification with and pity for others. Thinks in terms of others being taken into account, as a person having needs and feelings which are different from the others' , but such feelings are judged as the right feelings or the wrong feelings.

Assumes a right-wrong position in respect to everything, even an either-or conception of knowledge and sees weakness in any person who takes a position and then changes.

Thinks in terms of giving and receiving, but, in the long run, always in terms of giving now or doing now in order to get, (i.e. , to receive later) , but only after one has learned the right.

Also thinks in terms of punishment right now, and ever after, for wrong doing unless one repents. Thinks in terms of tenderness, of giving, of living with, provided one lives by "my" authoritarian ways.

Giving is professed as more important than receiving, but giving is done with the ultimate aim of receiving.

Is sensitive to the feeling of guilt and, thus, to disapproval. Feels guilt for possessing forbidden thoughts or desires and believes the feeling of guilt and the act of atonement are the proper responses for wrong done to others.

D-Q behavior shows a struggle to free self from the guilt of selfishness thorough the acceptance of hierarchy. The higher authority evaluates the struggling acts of the lower without taking the offending person's feelings into account.

Sponsors a benevolently autocratic, moralistic-prescriptive form for managing all life. This must be religiously adhered to.

First appeared about 6,000 years ago.

THE FIFTH SUBSISTENCE LEVEL - The E-R or Multiplistic Existential State

Theme: Express self for what self desires, but in a fashion calculated not to bring down the wrath of others.

This level arises when the D problem, the need for lasting order and everlasting security, is provided by the philosophical prescriptives for authority. This rigid, dogmatic, authoritarian leadership blocks those developing feelings of self which began to emerge in the third level of existence. This produces problems in the self for having to adhere to authoritarian ways. And, it arises from the problem created by the fact of death which a developing consciousness begins to question.

This desire for the expression of self and this doubt about the prescriptions and answers of authority, plus the fact that lower classes have little pleasure in life and higher cannot be certain of afterlife, activates the R neurological system. This leads the person to ask, "is this the only life I will ever live and, if so, why can't I have some pleasure in this existence?"

This activation of the N system provides for the beginning of dispassionate, objective, hypothetico-deductive, not moralistic-prescriptive thinking. This leads to thinking in a multiplistic, not absolutistic, manner. That is, there are many ways to think, but only one best way, rather than only the right way or the wrong way.

Thinks beyond giving and receiving to objective viewing of self, others, things, activity around self and one's own activities. Thinks in terms of it being right to receive and to aspire beyond what one's class is--permits one's status desire. Behaves in terms of not receiving or not following "the word." Tries to analyze and to comprehend and, in so doing, to be impersonal and distant.

Thinks in terms of all life being a game with the end being to discover how to circumvent the rules to one's own advantage, but not so much as to raise the ire of others. "Bend-the rules, don't break them," is the dictum. Promote the individual self, but carefully.

Enjoys mapping the territory of experience, but shies from intense personal experiencing itself. Uncomfortable sensing the whole as more than its parts. Prefers to add up his/her own conception of the parts. Breaks things into parts so as to understand and to control them.

Shows actions perceived by others as hostile, but are unaware of the hostility and deny its presence. Lives so as to express self, but by avoiding serious trouble when so doing.

Sees the world in terms of intra-psychic separation from others, Thinks in terms of disidentifying self from earlier ways of thinking and doing and of rearranging things to suit self. See selves as struggling to free selves from others. These are struggles to free self from actual restriction, not egoencroachment.

Thinks in terms of real concern for others so long as such thinking does not hurt self. Spawns a rational, economic, bargaining, self-promoting conception for managing life's problems.

First appeared 600-700 years ago.

THE SIXTH SUBSISTENCE LEVEL - The F-S or Relativistic Existential State

Theme: Sacrifice now in order to get acceptance now.

This level arises when the human's struggle for individuality is solved but does not bring the happiness expected because it has created the problem of interpersonal acceptance. The struggle for individuality, through expression of self and outer material existence, seems solved, but it has left one alone in the world. This creates the F problems, the problems of coming to peace with aloneness, with one's inner self and with others. These problems increase markedly the activation of the right side of the brain, the equipment for subjective, non-linear thinking.

Thinks in terms of one's own and others' individualities, in terms of others also being individuals in their own rights, havein their own, just as good, views of the world. Thus, shows a greater degree of affective warmtn and a greater ability to extend it to full appreciation of the individuality of the other person. Turns excessively to the exploration of the inner self and others and focuses on relationships as a central aspect of living. The way people relate to others looms high in their consciousness.

Thinks in terms of goals which relate to all human kind, rather than just to self; in terms of living by what is unique for thee.

This system sees the world relativistically. Thinking shows an almost radical, almost compulsive emphasis on seeing everything from a relativistic, subjective frame of reference. Thus, shows growth in placing self at a distance when reflecting on,one's own actions.

Appears to effect a deliberate inarticulation and disdain for precise language. Expresses a need to be "more connected'' and feels alienated when others do not share his/her unique personal delights.

Talks earnestly about community, intimacy, involvement, shared experience, but behaviorally shows an inability to commit self to others. Rigidly against uniformity and homogenization, but follows the crowds' or peers' lead or pressure. Objects strongly to authorities' lead or pressure. Spawns a participative form of management.

First appeared about 80-90 years ago.

THE FIRST BEING LEVEL - The A'-N' or Systemic Existential State

Theme: Express self for what self desires and others need, but never at the expense of others, and in a manner that all life, not my life, will profit.

This is the first system in the second spiral of existence. In this system, sheer organismic life is threatened by the rape of the world by the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th subsistence levels. Thus, the A problems are problems such as the need to substitute for depleting natural resources, overpopulation, too much individuality, and the like -- problems which require tremendous change in thinking of human kind in order to solve them. This is accomplished by a marked activation of previously uncommitted cells in the brain. These cells of the Y system in the brain combine with the basic coping cells to form the first of the second order coping systems, that is, N + some Y = NO.

Because of its prime characteristics, dissolution of fear and compulsiveness and marked increases in conceptual space, seventh level thinking cannot be readily empathized with by other people.

This type of thinking still involves anxieties, worries, and concerns, even some fears, but not in a manner bothersome to the person. No need is felt to overcome them. They do not intrude. One lives comfortably with them, tries to deal with them, but does not feel compelled to master them, though still thinking it would be nice if they were gone. Ambition is shown, but there is not ambitiousness. Anger, even hostility, is present, but it is intellectually used rather than just emotionally displayed. one directs it, rather than its-directing the self.

Concern is felt, but solutions do not have to be.

Care for others is displayed, but one does not feel compelled to care for. Things done well is prefeered, but things not done well does not mean the end of the world.

Knowledge in A’N’ thinking exists in different settings and knowers think in different ways. Thus, thinking is in terms of several legitimate interpretations and several sets of values are legitimate, depending on the thinker and his/her conditions of and for existence.

The world is seen kaliedoscopically with different views demanding different attention. AIN' thinking is in terms of the systemic whole and thought is about the different wholes in different ways. Thought strives to ascertain which way of thinking or which combination of ways fits the extant set of conditions.

Thinking is in terms of what is best for the survival of life, my life, their lives, and all life, but not compulsively; and what is best for me or thee does not have to be best for she or them. My way does not have to be yours, nor yours mine, yet I have very strong convictions about what is my way, but never such about yours.

They think in terms of authority being centered in the person in terms of his/her capacity to act in this or that situation. It is not derived from age, status, blood, etc. It is situational. It must be earned and it must be given over to the superior competence of another. Thinks in terms of competence, not trappings.

Thought is of being there to help and helping if helping is desired, but not helping to straighten out, to shape up, to gain power or control over.

Sees life in terms of life continuing hereafter, not in terms of my life continuing in a hereafter. Accepts and lives with the fact of differences and that one is relating to people who are different. Shows readiness to live with differences.

Accepts that life is an up-and-down journey from problem to solution, with no mean point ever to be found.

Spawns a variable management form wherein managed and managing change according to the fit between problem and competencies to deal with problems.

First appeared about 30-35 years ago.

Levels of Existence as Seen by Dr. Clare W. Graves
from... "Human Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap," The Futurist, April 1974

Learning System


Motivational System

Specific Motivation


End Values

Nature of Existence

Problems ofExistence

 A-N Habituation Automatic Physiological Periodic physiological needs No conscious value system No conscious value system  Automatic Maintaining physiological stability
 B-O Classical conditioning  Autistic Assurance Aperiodic physiological needs Traditionalism Safety Tribalistic Achievement of relative safety
 C-P Operant conditioning  Egocentric Survival Psychological survival Exploitation Power Egocentric Living with self-awareness
 D-Q Avoidant learning Absolutistic Security Order, meaning Sacrifice Salvation Saintly Achieving ever-lasting peace of mind
 E-R Expectancy Multiplistic Independence Adequacy, competency Scientism Materialism Materialistic Conquering the physical universe
 F-S Observational Relativistic Affiliation Love, affiliation Sociocentricity Community Personalistic Living with the human element
 G-T All learning systems open Systemic Existential Self-worth Accepting Existence Cognitive Restoring viability to a disordered world
 H-U All learning systems open  Differential Experience ?????? Experiencing Communion Experientialistic Accepting existential dichotomies