Ken Wilber Vs. The Yugas

Paper I submitted for my Atlantic University TP5100 Course – November 21, 2020

There are many more differences than similarities between Wilber’s The Integral Vision at the Millennium and Joseph Selbie & David Steinmetz’s yugas. Both cover tens of thousands of years. Wilber follows a straight-line ascending approach that mirrors traditional human evolution and begins with a Beige Meme approximately 100,000 years ago. At this point, humans are only concerned about surviving, and their level of consciousness is similar to that of animals (n.d., p. 4). It’s 50,000 years later when we see humans evolve to the Purple Meme, where their sense of religion emerges primarily by “keeping spirits happy” (2002, p. 7), which Wilber labels “Magical-Animalistic” (n.d., p. 4).

It takes another 40,000 years before Red Meme humans emerged roughly10,000 years ago (2002, p. 7). Wilber labels this the “Power Gods” era (n.d., p. 4). At this point, humans begin to focus more on self, “distinct from the tribe; powerful, impulsive, egocentric, heroic” (n.d., p. 4). Five thousand years later (2002, p. 7), the Blue Meme commences, which lines up with when most historians and anthropologists see modern man emerge. At the Blue stage, humans now know that life has “meaning, direction, and purpose, with outcomes determined by an all-powerful Other or Order.” Wilber labels this period, “Conformist Rule” (n.d., p. 4).

Unlike Wilber’s straight-line of consciousness evolution, the yugas are cyclical, playing out over a 24,000-year cycle (2010, p. 6). The authors examine our current cycle, which they say began in 11,500 B.C. with descending Satya Yuga, called the “Spiritual Age” (2010, p. 6). Satya consciousness is the highest and most advanced form possible – where man is essentially one with Divine essence. This period lasts until approximately 6,700 B.C. when Satya consciousness descends into Treta. Selbie & Steinmetz call Treta Yuga the “Mental Age,” which lasts until about 3,100 B.C. (2010, p. 6). Treta consciousness is much more evolved than our current state, and in it, “mankind will rely on intuitive attunement – a higher octave of intellect and perception, one that includes both thought and feeling” (2010, p. 103).

One area of agreement between theories is that humans from various levels of consciousness are still present while others transform into higher levels. Wilber notes that one of the obstacles to achieving Integral Vision is that there will remain “the more typical or average mode of consciousness, which is far from integral anything, and is in desperate need of its tending” (n.d., p. 1). Selbie & Steinmetz, while envisioning “A Truly Civil Society” in Treta Yuga (2010, p. 117), also acknowledge the presence of war and conflict. Part of this is due to the self-interest that will still exist in this elevated state of consciousness (2010, p. 123). Also adding to the potential for conflict “as in every yuga, there will be those whose consciousness is more in tune with lower yugas” (2010, p. 124).

Selbie & Steinmetz’s contention that we achieved our highest two levels of human consciousness from 11,500 B.C. until 3,100 B.C. contrasts sharply with Wilber’s theory. He posits that humans in 11,500 B.C. were leaving the Purple Meme and entering the Red Meme. According to Wilber, even by 3,100 B.C, humanity had only evolved to its “‘terrible twos,’ rebellious youth, frontier mentalities, feudal kingdoms, epic heroes” (n.d, p. 4). A far cry from reading others’ thoughts telepathically and living primarily in communion with others, as Selbie & Steinmetz contend.
Wilber has humanity stuck in the Blue Meme starting 5,000 years ago for roughly 4,700 years until the Age of Enlightenment, approximately three hundred years ago (2002, p. 7). At this point, humans enter the Orange Meme, where Wilber sees humans escaping “from the ‘herd mentality’ of blue, and seeks truth and meaning in individualist terms” (n.d., p. 5). He labels this the “Scientific Achievement” era (n.d., p. 5). Starting roughly 150 years ago, or the middle of the nineteenth century (2002, p. 7), Wilber’s theory has humans evolve into the Green Meme, which he calls “The Sensitive Self.” At this point, according to Wilber, man’s consciousness has now grown to “Communitarian, human bonding, ecological sensitivity, network” (n.d., p. 5).

Meanwhile, in Selbie and Steinmetz’s yugas, having achieved the two highest levels of consciousness, humans now devolve into Dwapara Yuga, which they label “The Energy Age” beginning in 3,100 (2010, p. 6). This lines up closely with our current understanding of recorded history, and according to the authors, humans continue a slide into lower levels of consciousness, driven by man’s self-interest and a focus on possessions. Selbie and Steinmetz’s believe we slid into the lowest form of human consciousness beginning in 700 B.C. as we entered Kali Yuga, which they label the “Material Ages” (2010, p. 6). In approximately 500 A.D., we reach the bottom of the cycle 24,000-year cycle, and Ascending Kali takes us up to the Age of Enlightenment, where Wilber’s Orange Meme begins. The Kali Yuga was dominated by a male hierarchical system, where violence, power, wars, and possessions drove the leaders to commit horrific atrocities against their governed people.\

Since 1,700, we’ve been in Ascending Dwapara Yuga, according to Selbie & Steinmetz. Again, they call it the “Energy Age,” which is undoubtedly appropriate. When the Yuga began, people used animals for transportation and labor, and they were using candlelight to see. The technological revolution of the past century is not possible without the advent of electricity and fossil fuels as an energy sources. And all of this fits in nicely with how Selbie and Steinmetz describe this yuga period.

Having taken 50,000 years for Wilber’s Beige Meme to achieve the 2nd level of consciousness, the Purple Meme, he now has them coming in rapid-fire fashion. His “Second Tier” of Memes began only 50 years with the Yellow Meme (2002, p. 7). Yellow consciousness, which he calls, “Integrative,” will be known by its “Flexibility, spontaneity, and functionality” (n.d., p. 6). And finally, Wilber’s crown jewel is the Turquois Meme, which began only 30 years ago (2002, p. 7). While it may not feel like we’re living in this age, according to Wilber, it will usher in “Universal holistic system, holons/waves of integrative energies; unites feelings with knowledge [centaur]; multiple levels interwoven into one conscious system” (n.d., p. 6).
Whereas history and reality fit cleanly with Selbie & Steinmetz’s yugas, the same cannot be said for Wilber’s theory of the evolution of consciousness. To take over 100,000 years for humans to achieve the first five levels or colors and then to have his final four occur in only three hundred years is not plausible. There’s not nearly enough time for a previous meme to clear out before the new one begins, and as he notes, there are still a whole bunch of them currently competing for attention today.

Another issue I have with Wilber, which is not present in the yugas, is that his model as he moves from Blue to Orange to Green is not an evolution of human consciousness, it’s an advocation of a political ideology. For example, he relegates the Moral Majority and patriotism to Blue (n.d., p. 5), a level of consciousness that began 5,000 years ago! He then throws the most famous libertarian of all times, Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and a huge proponent of liberty, self-determination, and free markets, back in the Orange level (n.d., p. 5).

Meanwhile, his fellow “enlightened” Green Meme folks have evolved way beyond the “Neanderthal” Blue and Orange Conservatives. And to support his position, he points to extremist groups like Greenpeace, and the Communist-based ideology of liberation theology. And then he suggests the socialistic Canadian healthcare system is an achievement of this Meme. This is not an example of the evolution of human consciousness, it’s a policy dispute (n.d., p. 5).

Not surprisingly, I favor the yugas as opposed to Wilber’s theory of human evolution. As noted, Selbie & Steinmetz place their thesis within the context of human history as we understand it today. They also provide for the possibility of highly evolved cultures like Atlantis occurring in the distant past since their model is cyclical.

There is no room for highly evolved ancient cultures in Wilber’s model, however, as I’ve discussed previously. With his final four Memes occurring so rapidly, it’s not surprising to see him confuse political and ideological differences with the evolution of consciousness. We are moving towards a holistic, open, and more compassionate society and many individuals who express the traits that Wilber sticks in Orange and Blue are actually at the front of the line. Our evolution will occur individually, and the best way to allow this to happen naturally is by providing the greatest amounts of personal freedoms as possible.


Roemischer, J. (2002). The never ending upward quest, What is Enlightenment magazine, Fall/Winter (22), 1-24.

Selbie, J. & Steinmetz, D. (2010). The yugas: keys to understanding our hidden past, emerging energy age, and enlightened future, Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity Publishing.

Wilber, K. (n.d.), The integral vision at the millennium. Connexions.

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