For illustrations in my two most recent blog posts I’ve quoted passages from a (NY Times bestselling) book by historian Yuval Noah Harari entitled, Sapiens. The subtitle is: A Brief History of Humankind. Any work so ambitious necessarily uses lots of shorthand. While I have no lack of instances where my view diverges with Harari’s take/viewpoint and arguments, it is an enjoyable, interesting, and important read. Harari makes some very bright and challenging arguments grounded in his understanding of history. I would highly commend it to your reading list. —A PDF is available to read or download (here).
Following through on a teenage aspiration, Harari says he wrote the book to discover the “big picture.”—[Q&A pg. 3] One question he addresses is why ‘sapiens’ are the sole surviving form of several kinds of humans—e.g., Homo neanderthalensis; Homo erectus; Homo soloensis; Homo floresiensis; Homo denisova; Homo rudolfensis; Homo ergaster.
The earth of a hundred millennia ago was walked by at least six different species of man. It’s our current exclusivity, not that multi-species past, that is peculiar—and perhaps incriminating. As we will shortly see, we Sapiens have good reasons to repress the memory of our siblings. [pg. 8]
History, psychology, anthropology
I have no way to know if Harari has ever heard of Clare Graves, his research, or the elegant “Emergent Cyclical Levels of Existence Theory” Graves developed. I will say, on my reading, the evolutionary transitions of the past 70,000 years that Harari describes in his historical account do correspond rather easily, if loosely, with Graves’ developmental anthropology depictions. Harari writes:
About 70,000 years ago, organisms belonging to the species Homo sapiens started to form even more elaborate structures called cultures. The subsequent development of these human cultures is called history. [pg. 3]
Sociological research indicates that up to one hundred fifty persons are able to organize life strictly based on personal relationships—bonded by gossip. Any community larger than that number must organize differently. Harari argues that Homo sapiens brought the “Cognitive Revolution,” and that it was our early forebears’ capacity for language and imagination (mythologizing) that enabled them to rise to the top of the natural order. Harari writes [Note, I add: Graves’ letter designations in brackets/and SD colors to Harari’s text]:
How did Homo sapiens manage to cross this critical  threshold, eventually founding cities comprising tens of thousands of inhabitants and empires ruling hundreds of millions? The secret was probably the appearance of fiction. Large numbers of strangers can cooperate successfully by believing in common myths.
Any large-scale human cooperation—whether a [ER] modern state, a [DQ] medieval church, an [CP] ancient city or an [BO] archaic tribe—is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination.
[Note: “people’s collective imagination” = LL, lower left quadrant in our holism mnemonic.]
Churches are rooted in common religious myths.
States are rooted in common national myths. [pg. 27]
Harari’s take forms a (historical) paraphrase for Graves’ description of the evolutionary movement in values development from Red [CP] (power, ego driven values) to Blue [DQ] (conventional, mythic-membership, order values). Graves’ Blue level of existence enables a society to tame and harness the impulsive energy of Red and meet together cooperatively in the order of shared communal conventions (rule of law). Further, the Sapiens’ development reflected in the Industrial Revolution that Harari describes rhymes with the result of Graves’ Blue [DQ] values transcendence to Orange [ER] (rational, modernist, merit values).
So, recent human beings are ‘wise,’ dominant, and, unarguably, terribly destructive. Sapiens exercising their ‘wisdom’ is not without significant cost to most Sapiens and nearly all other life on earth. Before the end of Part One [of four] of the book, Harari foreshadows what will later be firm conclusions:
Long before the Industrial Revolution, Homo Sapiens held the record among all organisms for driving the most plant and animal species to their extinctions. We have the dubious distinction of being the deadliest species in the annals of biology. [pg. 74]
Recall “… we Sapiens have good reasons to repress the memory of our siblings.”
Harari’s can o’ worms
Graves and SD present a rather positive way of modeling/accounting for human anthropology. And yet, as Harari’s book lifts up, history often tells us that our better angels have not always been in control. In fact, our “nature” has unequivocally been lethal to most other life forms on earth. Harari’s take on human history reveals much of our shadow—our darker dangerous side.
Google ‘Yuval Noah Harari’ and you may find something about his questioning the traditional conception of free will. I feel there’s a strong probability we’ll be talking about that here next week.
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?
Note: This blog page has employed a serial approach to outline, Spiral Dynamics, a helpful developmental anthropology based on the research of Clare Graves. Introduction (June 30, 2018), first in series (July 1, 2018).