Centre for Integral Transformation  


Levels of Consciousness

Seven Personal Levels

Seven Organizational Levels

Other Seven Levels


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The current thinking about levels of consciousness can be dated back to the American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ which was developed during the 1940’s. In this Maslow suggests that humans must satisfy certain needs in sequence before moving on to the higher levels of personal growth and fulfilment or ‘self actualisation’. Maslow’s original hierarchy of needs is shown below:


Maslow’s original five levels of needs have been extended by others during the 1980’s and 1990’s to the eight levels as shown below:

Clare Graves levels of existence

One of Maslow’s students, Clare Graves, attempted to create a pencil and paper instrument to identify what needs were currently pursued. Graves later concluded that a person's needs change with his or her values; and that a person's values change in a predictable way. Graves later did much research into individual’s values and how they impact not just the individuals, but organisations and society as well. He put forward the "Emergent Cyclic Levels of Existence Theory" which laid out different levels of human existence.

Spiral Dynamics

Grave’s work was used by Chris Cowan and Don Beck as the basis for their book ‘Spiral Dynamics’ which in turn is referenced by the American philosopher and psychologist Ken Wilber in his ‘Theory of Everything’. The concepts behind Spiral Dynamics were used by the authors to great effect in rebuilding South Africa in its post apartheid era. The term ‘meme’ is used and was first coined by Richard Dawkins in his book ‘The Selfish Gene’, to indicate cultural change and evolution in the same way as gene’s do for physical evolution. A ‘v’ is added to meme to indicate that it is referring to ‘values’. The ideas behind Spiral Dynamics are shown in the following two diagrams;


Many other writers and consultants have used the work done by Graves in domains ranging from personal coaching to executive assessment, from organization design to social policy. For example, Dudley Lynch and Paul Kordis developed a startlingly new perspective on business strategy in ‘Strategy of the Dolphin’.

Richard Barrett’s Seven Levels of Consciousness

Richard Barrett took Maslow’s hierarchy and expanded it in his books; ‘Liberating Your Soul’ and ‘Liberating the Corporate Soul’;

These levels can be broken down as follows:

  • The three lower levels represent a range of values which reflect an increasing consciousness about an individual or organizations’ self-interest.

  • The middle level represents the transformation from an inward focus to external one. This, together with the lower three levels, equates to Maslow's ‘hierarchy of needs’ with the original bottom two levels of ‘physiological needs’ and ‘safety needs’ being combined into one level named ‘survival’.

  • In the three upper levels Maslow’s concept of ‘Self Actualization’ is expanded and the values identified become increasingly focused on the common good.

Barrett’s model is shown in greater detail below, where the attributes for each level are shown under the headings on the right hand side, red indicates that the attribute is potentially limiting, these are those values which can hinder the progress of the organisation if they are not dealt with.


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