The Mature Soul Society

Soul Age

One of the tenets of the Michael Teaching (MT) is that the world's social organization is going to evolve into a "Mature Soul" society. This series of articles is going to examine that concept and flesh it out.

This chapter talks about background issues in the Michael Teaching that underpin the actual analysis of the "Mature Soul society."

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Reincarnation and the Learning Paradigm

One of the core concepts of the MT is a form of reincarnation. The reason I say "a form" is that, in the MT, personality doesn't reincarnate. Rather, Essence creates personalities somewhat in the same way that a person playing a Role Playing Game (RPG) creates a new character when a previous one is killed. That new character has different stats (overleaves), but the player (Essence) remembers lessons learned from prior characters and applies them. Each character starts off at the beginning, but if the player has learned, each character progresses farther before being killed off.

Through a succession of lifetimes, Essence learns more about how the game is played. Past lessons learned are available to subsequent lifetimes. A lesson that's been learned in a past lifetime shows up as talent or a feeling of familiarity -- the person knows how this goes, even though they may not have seen the situation before.

Soul Age

One major focus of the learning paradigm is that there is a series of lessons about the relationship of the individual and society that are cumulative. These are encapsulated in the five Soul Ages: Infant, Baby, Young, Mature and Old. A lot of students are a bit uncomfortable with the terminology, but it is the standard terminology, and I'm not going to propose a different set of terms.

At the Infant Soul stage, society is basically what was inherited from the several million years of evolution leading to Homo sapiens before we became ensouled. Society is never examined or thought about, and if one tries to teach an infant soul to do so, the results are, at best, superficial. The typical setting for an early Infant Soul is in a hunter-gatherer society. Late infant souls can be found in, for example, slum areas where there is a high need for day to day survival skills. They can also be found in areas with major long-term social disruptions and "failed states." Each of these environments brings the necessity of dealing with Survival level lessons.

At the Baby Soul stage, the person learns how to live as a member of a specific society. The society's rules are regarded as sacrosanct, and there is a strong tendency to punish deviants. There's also a strong tendency to try to enforce proper behavior with threats of hellfire and damnation. Baby souls tend to fit into socially defined roles, and frequently define themselves as their role, rather than as unique individuals. The Baby Soul grows into a notable ability to analyze the rules of his society, but does not have much ability to adapt to changes in the rules. In fact, they tend to be rather irritated when the rules change under them, especially if it's done without notice. The typical setting for a Baby Soul is in an agricultural society which has villages and small cities. They can also be found in large, bureaucratic organizations with many rules and which present at least the impression of stability over time.

At the Young Soul stage, the person begins to realize that they are an individual, not just a component of a society. They learn how to achieve personal goals, hopefully within the context of their society. This is frequently called an achievement perspective. Achievements can be anything from raising a perfect family, becoming the Ruler of the Universe, or so rich that Scrooge McDuck seems like a pauper. In other words, Achievement is personal, and what one person sees as an achievement another may see as unnecessary, futile or even counterproductive. Young Souls tend to be very astonished when their pursuit of their goals undercuts their standing in society, or even destroys some essential part of society. The typical setting for a Young Soul is a major metropolitan area.

Having learned how to accomplish goals, Mature Souls turn their attention to creating the perfect relationship. This starts with themselves, and eventually culminates into their relationship with the world community, or at least as much of it as they can reach in a particular lifetime. In concert with Baby Souls, Matures regard social cohesion as more important than individualism. However, they don't regard the current rules as anything really special, and they spend a huge amount of time discussing how they'd like to change them, frequently with a great deal of vigor, drama and angst. Mature Souls tend to like cities and large gatherings, and tend not to like people who want to do whatever it is differently -- at least without discussing it to death first.

The Old Soul cycle is a progressive stripping away of all of the inessentials from the previous four soul ages, to reach the essence of the lessons learned. Old Souls are engaged in being themselves in the context of their society. If they don't like the way their society is organized, they're just as likely as Matures to try to discuss and make changes, but if that doesn't work, they're likely to go somewhere else where they can be themselves.

One way of encapsulating this is to observe that Infant, Young and Old souls are individualists, but for very different reasons. Baby and Mature souls are much more conformist, although they have very different attitudes about adapting to group norms.

Another really major point about Soul Age is that it isn't a set of rooms where you move from one into something totally different by going through a door. Instead, it's more of a continuum, where a particular level in a soul age is a central tendency that one can see if one looks, but there are other factors that are spread out on either side of it.

Note that there's another stream of channeling that does compare it to a series of rooms, in the sense that the Role in Essence has its own set of Internal Monads, and that traversing these in the positive pole is required to shift to the next level in the current Soul Age.

Soul Age Is Rising

One underlying assumption is that the average soul age is rising, and the rate of change is also accelerating. It took 50 to 60 thousand years to get through the Infant period, and about 8 thousand to get through the Baby period. The Young period has been going for around three millennia at about one level every four to five centuries or so, and now it seems to have accelerated once again to maybe one level every century.


Part of the answer is population. It requires an available body to incarnate into, and when the population was small, there were fewer available bodies than there were essences that wanted to use them. The consequence was that lifetimes were at fairly long intervals.

Once agriculture was invented and the population started expanding, more energy rings joined the party (energy rings have 85-90 thousand essences each), but even so the population began to approach the number of essences that wanted bodies, so lifetimes began to be closer together which compressed the amount of time it took to go from first Infant through cycling off.

With industrialization, there is another massive explosion in the available number of bodies. This time new energy rings are not joining up, so the time between incarnations is not only contracting even more, many essences have multiple lifetimes running concurrently. This is resulting in another acceleration.

One of the reasons new Energy Rings are not joining is that the number of places where a new Infant soul can get its initial lessons have been steadily shrinking as more of the planet becomes developed and the hunter-gatherer tribes that are an Infant Soul's preferred starting place are pushed to extinction. This isn't recent; it started happening with the expansion of agriculturists from the Fertile Crescent into Asia and Europe 5 to 6 thousand years ago. At present, there is supposedly only one relatively pristine hunter-gatherer society left on the planet, and it's being threatened by expansion encroaching on its traditional grounds.

Consequently, the number of new entrants has pretty much dried up. There are, in fact, many channels who insist that there have been no essences starting their series of lifetimes since sometime in the late 20th century. With no new entrants, or at least not enough entrants to balance the number finishing up and cycling off, the average soul age will inevitably increase.

Yet another piece is that the possible population has outstripped the number of essences by a very large amount. Most essences have several lifetimes now running concurrently. This means that the three or four lifetimes that it usually takes for a level of a soul age can be done at the same time, rather than one after the other with major breaks between.

That's going to slow down, though, because the Earth simply can't support the current population for very much longer. Where the population will stabilize is anyone's guess. My guess is about 2 billion, but that's simply a guess. I've seen a channeling that puts it at around 4 to 5 billion, which seems awfully high to me.

If it does drop back to around 2 billion, it seems like the time to transit a soul age will go back to around two to three centuries.

Apocalypse Never!

It seems like an awfully large number of new MT students look at the shift from a Young to a Mature society as some kind of sudden, apocalyptic change. Nope. Michael has said that it will be a gradual transition that will take from two to five centuries.

While part of the reason for anticipating an apocalyptic shift is due to Christian influence, there's a more obvious reason: the bulk of Michael Students are mid mature to Old, and we're heartily tired of this Young Soul nonsense! Gimme the remote and let's change the channel to something more interesting!

Unfortunately, attempting to put on the 7 league boots and move faster doesn't work well.

Social Support

Societies are not random. The way a society is organized supports learning some kinds of lessons better than others. For example, hunter-gatherer societies support learning survival lessons; anyone much above Infant soul age would find them totally stultifying, although occasional Young and Old souls do incarnate into them for various specific reasons.

The underlying assumption behind most of the world's societies today is that individual achievement is the single most important factor to consider. This is why we classify them as Young Soul societies.

The fact that they're focused on Young Souls doesn't mean that they don't provide at least some support for the lessons that other soul ages need.

The statement from some channels that the U.S. is sixth level Young tends to obscure the fact that the U.S., like all cultures, has a distribution of soul ages, from mid Infant to last level Old. The culture in the U.S. has some support for Baby, Mature and Old, although that support is in the general context of a Young Soul paradigm. Support for Infant souls in areas like the Appalachian back woods or some of the Native American cultures of the Four Corners area and the Arctic is rapidly waning.

Mix of Soul Ages

Every country has a mix of soul ages among its population. To say that the U.S. is late young doesn't do justice to the distribution of soul ages, which go from Infant to Old. The modal soul age is probably 6th or 7th Young, but there are lots of folks who are both earlier and later than that.

The last channeling I had on the distribution of soul ages worldwide was from J.P. van Hulle. This was some time ago, but I'm pretty sure I remember it correctly.

It would be well to take some of these figures with skepticism. I think that J.P. van Hulle's figures are worldwide, while the Yarbro group's figures are for the United States. However, it looks like these figures are off - I have difficulty believing that the proportion of Infant souls in the U.S. is as high as 10%, while it does make sense that the U.S. is tilted more toward the Young end than the world as a whole, or at least Europe.

This is a somewhat distorted bell curve, so within the ages Infant and Baby are loaded toward the end while Mature and Old have many more early Mature and Old than late Mature and late Old.

It might seem that, since there are more Mature souls than Young souls, we should be living in a Mature Soul society already. There are several reasons why we aren't.

First, Baby souls tend to align with whoever sets the social goals, and right now that's the Young soul contingent. For different reasons, Old souls tend to like the relative freedom to be themselves that's more characteristic of Young than Mature societies so many of them are also aligned with the Young soul contingent.

Second, the Mature souls on the planet are heavily weighted toward early mature, and they haven't yet shaken off many of the Young soul beliefs and behavior patterns that are characteristic of Young but not Mature.

Finally, culture evolves. It does not suddenly take huge jumps into areas that most of the population finds totally incomprehensible, and which they don't have the tools and background that let them handle it. Chapter 4 will be about the evolution of the current Young soul to a future Mature Soul culture.

That doesn't mean that there can't be a spectacularly sudden shift of a couple of decades or less. Chaos theory (The Tipping Point) allows it, but there are clear signals that something's building, and the underpinnings don't just come from nowhere. William Strauss and Neil Howe document this pattern in U.S. history in their book, Generations.

The 7 levels of the Mature Soul

Before she died, Sarah Chambers (the woman known as Jessica Lansing in the Messages books) worked with Jose Stevens to channel the Seven Levels of the Mature Soul. Then Jose and J.P. van Hulle worked to clarify it and extend it to the Old Soul. J.P. presented the result at one of the Michael Symposiums in, I believe, early 2000.

In looking at this, it's well to bear in mind that this isn't the same as the levels within the Mature soul age. They progress at different rates. A Mature soul will look at each of these before progressing to Old, but there simply isn't a one to one correspondence. Also, of course, there could well be channeling errors.

Right relationship with self.

Right relationship with intimate others.

Right relationship with other people you come in contact with.

Right relationship with your culture/subculture.

Right relationship with the opposite sex.

Right relationship with the other cultures on the planet.

Right relationship with the other beings, plants, animals, etc with which we share the planet.

This is, as you can see, a progressive widening of horizons, and a progressive process of alignment with wider groups of people.

Level 1 - Right relations with self

Modern psychology got its start in the mid 19th century. Freud is the one that gets all the ink, partly because he was a great writer (in German -- the official English translations are almost unreadable), and partly because he built an organization and a structure. However, there were others that were as important as Freud, or even more so.

The discoveries about how people actually work, and how problems can be fixed relatively cheaply and with few side effects, is still going on. It's quite fascinating, really. One of the things that's relatively clear is that a lot of the "conventional wisdom" about people is simply wrong, and this applies to what's current in the sciences as well as on the street.

The interest in that can be measured by the shelf feet of space in your local super bookstore devoted to self-help books.

Another interesting observation is that most of the questions in Michael channelings have to do with Level 1 and Level 2 concerns. I take that as an indication that these are still hot issues, not done deals. Also, the lack of questions on Level 3 concerns and above means that Levels 1 and 2 are still not firm foundations on which to build.

Level 2 - Right Relations with intimate others

People live in families. Intimate others means your core family: the people you see across the breakfast table every morning.

The opening wedge in this was probably the family therapists of the mid 20th century. The field is really going gangbusters, but it's hard to sort out the wheat from the chaff. One thing that comes across in channeling is that the "until death do us part" meme is counterproductive, except when it comes to raising children, and not always then.

Level 3 - Right Relations with the people you see and work with on a daily basis

This includes everyone from the girl at the checkout counter to the people in your workgroups, and there's been a lot of actual change in that area in the last 50 years. Chapter 4 will go into this in depth.

Level 4 - Right Relationships with the society as a whole

Quite frankly, this seems to be a black hole. The Communists tried it, and turned it into an unmitigated disaster. Reputedly, Mohammed had a lot to say about it in the context of the culture of the time, but it was more in the way he and his Companions operated; not in what got written down in the Koran, or even in the Practices. There are probably a lot of lessons that can be learned from Gandhi in this area, but what gets talked about is more non-violent ways of doing inter-cultural social combat.

The current Culture Wars phase in the U.S. seems to be an attempt to sort out a society wide direction, but it's based on a winner-take-all paradigm that's doomed to fail - the eventual losers will just come back unless they're integrated.

Intentional communities seem to be a fertile place to experiment. So far, the experiments I've seen have not been all that pretty. I really wish I'd have gotten to Twin Oaks when we were still holding annual Michael meetings there; it seemed like a fairly interesting place.

There are supposed to be a few communities in the Netherlands which are getting organized on Sociocratic principles (see Chapter 4), and I've heard of some experiments that were to take place in India.

Level 5 - Right Relationships between the sexes

This looks like it's misplaced -- it ought to be somewhere back around level 2 because most intimate relationships are sexual in nature.

However, it isn't. You can't deal with one level without having a firm foundation in the preceding level. This is the reason why the various Women's movements have had very mixed success -- there isn't a firm foundation of a well integrated culture or sub-culture that they can use as a platform which can be evolved in a more useful direction.

Consequently, most people relegate them to just another instance of the same old identity politics. That doesn't mean that they haven't made beneficial changes, but changes made in a Young Soul context only stick until the next leader comes along and wants to change it again.

Also, I'd classify GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transexual) activity as the same thing, although pushing against a lot stronger headwind.

Level 6 - Right relationships with all the human cultures on the planet

Ah, international politics. Everything from terrorism to Global Warming. A Mature Soul approach to this is just as much a black hole as the level 4, and there's no indication that anyone is even thinking about it.

Progress is made one step at a time.

One of the interesting tidbits that Michael channeled through J.P. is that it's possible that there will be one global culture, simply because, as a Level 3 aggressive species, it's highly unlikely that we'll ever have peace on the planet while there are multiple cultures.

Level 7 - Right Relationships with everything else that lives on the planet

This is where a lot of ecology and other similar causes live. Once again, without a solid platform at Level 4 and eventually Level 6, there isn't a hope of developing an integrated approach that's going to stick.

There are three specific terms that go under the umbrella term of "average." There's a joke that illustrates this. Bill Gates walks into a homeless shelter with an entourage of flunkies. What's the average income of the people in the shelter?

The mean is what you get when you add up all the incomes and divide by the number of people. It's probably over a million dollars per year -- Bill Gates is just that rich.

The median is the dividing line where half of the people are above that line, and half are below it. It's probably in the $20,000 to $100,000 range. Bill Gates' entourage is loading the group with people that have significant income, in addition to the social workers that are always present, but in a minority.

The mode is zero. The most prevalent income is, of course, the homeless in the shelter.

The Mature Soul Society - Chapter 2

So what is a mature soul society likely to be like?

First, remember that, like anything people do, there will be lots of variations, so it's not possible to give a lot of detail. Also, it's a moving target; the first sustainable societies that I would label Mature will not look all that different from the preceding Young soul societies, while the last ones before the transition to an Old soul society will not only look very, very different, they could very well be incomprehensible to people today.

What I'm going to say in this chapter is primarily from my memory of channeled tapes made in J.P. van Hulle's Advanced Class around 20 years ago, extrapolations of the basic Michael Teachings, and other pieces that I'll introduce as I go along.

In a recent channeling, Michael Toth compared our current society to a symphony. Not in the sense that it sounded good, but in the sense that there were many different instruments playing a composition with many different themes. Currently, the themes that resonate for Mature Souls are just beginning to be heard. Over time, they will inevitably swell until they become the dominant themes, but they will never entirely drown out other themes that resonate for other soul ages and other purposes.

Over the years, I've used a different comparison. Most of us are familiar with transition scenes, where little blocks of the new scene replace corresponding blocks of the old scene. At some point, the new scene suddenly snaps in, and we recognize it as a scene while there are still pieces of the old one present. Exactly when the new scene "snaps in" depends more on what you're expecting than anything that's inherent in the actual scene -- some people will see the new pattern earlier, some later.

Both of these metaphors illustrate one basic fact: our society is a mosaic of bits and pieces which support different soul ages, different roles, goals and all of the other pieces of the Michael Teaching. In a lot of cases, there are options: the opulent areas that support Young Souls flaunting their Achievements contrast strongly with the urban jungles and slums that give late Infant Souls necessary lessons in day to day survival in an advanced society. The United States, for example, has been channeled as having an excess of Artisans and Warriors, and a dearth of Servers. Correspondingly, it's not at all surprising that we tend to specialize in labor saving devices, and that we attract "illegal" immigrants that do server type work for us that we're not willing to do for ourselves.

There are several central facts of a Mature Soul society that distinguish it from a Young Soul society. One is that it is based on equality, rather than hierarchy. The second is that it is based on people conforming to established social norms rather than rugged individualism.

These two look like they're in conflict. Well, they aren't. Quite. The trick is that, in a Mature Soul society, the social norms are a matter of agreement, not something that was inherited via tradition or handed down from On High. The social norms are changeable, however the principle of equality means that the changes have to be acceptable to everyone before they're implemented.

A Mature Soul society is similar to a Baby Soul society in one significant way: there are norms, and people are expected to conform to the norms. People who deviate can be in serious trouble.

It differs from a Baby Soul society in another very fundamental way, however. The members of the society consult with each other and make changes to it on a fairly continuous basis. The discussions tend to play out with the full force of Mature Soul drama and angst.

Decision making is by consensus (for a not unreasonable meaning of the term.) According to the channeling, while a lot of different things are being discussed at any time, one will rise to the forefront and then people will realize that they are in agreement. When they realize that they've agreed on a direction, then they make it happen. The trappings of mechanism to implement that decision are unimportant; different Mature Soul societies will have different ways of executing.

What one won't see are the trappings of a Young soul society. For example, decisions are not made by voting. Majority rule inherently disenfranchises the minority. Likewise, there is no interest in winning or losing at all costs, a point that's very easy to miss in the drama of the discussion. That doesn't mean that there are no sports teams or such like. There will still be Young souls whose needs have to be handled, and young men will still compete for the attentions of young women. People are, after all, still people!

Another point to consider it that a realistic Mature Soul society, rather than a textbook example, has provisions for Baby, Young and Old soul ages. It doesn't include provision for Infant souls simply because most Mature Souls won't put up with the conditions that Infant Souls find growthful. They find hunter-gatherer tribes and "urban jungles" or slum areas to be offensive, and a Mature Soul society would clean them up.

Baby Souls are accommodated by having full, frank and pubic discussions of what people want to change, and taking due care that the implementation isn't so rapid as to cause whiplash. One implication of this is that changes are made relatively slowly. Another piece to understand with Baby Souls is that they'll naturally align with the Mature Soul segment of society rather than the Young Soul segment, once that gets established as "the way."

Young souls are accommodated by having lots of opportunity and recognition for personal achievement, with clear and enforced boundaries of what is out of bounds.

Old Souls are accommodated by having lots of breathing room for personal style, and also a respect for reasoned, rather than impassioned, discourse as well as reasoned analysis of what's being discussed.

Regardless of the above, both Young and Old souls will find Mature Soul society somewhat stifling, at least until enough time passes for it to loosen up. Mature Soul societies tend to be very conformist. Early Mature soul societies tend to be more conformist than later societies, because the proportion of Baby and Young souls in them outweighs the proportion of Old souls. As the proportion shifts, the society tends to become more accepting of individual differences. At the same time, the pace of change tends to pick up as the proportion of Baby souls drops.

In the rest of this chapter, I'm going to look at several common situations and how they'd be different.

Business Organization

Today, businesses follow a corporate model, where there is a group of stockholders who theoretically own the corporation and exercise control, via a Board of Directors, over the affairs of the enterprise. The reason I say that it's theoretical is that, in practice, most large businesses have very diffuse ownership, and most of the owners aren't interested in exercising management authority -- they take management's recommendations for the Board, which means that the business is being run for the benefit of executive management, including excessive compensation and perks that are more appropriate to medieval royalty. If the theoretical owners don't like what management is doing, they tend to sell their interest rather than get involved with cleaning up the mess.

The Mature Soul alternative is neither employee ownership, which has been tried and which has usually failed miserably, or state ownership, which is what lead to the disaster of Communism. The alternative is to eliminate the notion of ownership completely. The reason is that ownership is a statement of inequality. There is, in fact, an argument that's been advanced that ownership of a corporation is a violation of the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

So how does it work out? Well, first, any large organization has to be a legal entity (not a person!), so it can make contracts, own property, receive investments and repay investors, hire employees and so on and so forth. The form of the legal entity is less important.

The critical issue is that organizational policies have to be agreed to by all of the affected work units and their employees. The principle of equality demands this: policies cannot be established by a remote executive or Board of Directors. They also, of course, have to be agreed to by the investors (if any) and be in accordance with the applicable government laws and regulations. On the face, it looks like it would be very difficult to get agreement among so many people.

As it turns out, there is an organizational governance structure that's been demonstrated to work with corporations as large as 10,000 employees and as diverse as manufacturing plants, police departments, co-housing communities and retirement homes. I'll have more to say about it in Chapter 3. Whether this is the system for Mature Level 3 is something I don't know, but so far it seems to fit the requirements.

Once external ownership and totalitarian executive management have been eliminated, many of the larger organizations will start to dissolve. Economies of scale generally don't apply over an industry-specific size. Larger organizations are simply the result of managers who are playing the competitive game and trying for world domination. There is no reason, for example, for multiple vehicle manufacturing plants that produce almost identical products for the same markets. Nor is there a good reason for plants to ship vast quantity of product over long distances.

Over a longer period, boundaries between enterprises will start to dissolve, at least in some circumstances. There's already a movement toward this that's called "supply chain management."

This reorganization is already beginning, although it's not all that common even in The Netherlands where it got its start.


Government in a true Mature Soul society will probably look nothing like it does today. One of the few places where the Communists were right in their theory is the "withering away of the State." Monolithic national governments will be replaced by a system of specialist councils, each of which is concerned with organizing a particular area that's of concern to the community. As most things in a Mature Soul society, this will be more of a gradual transition than any kind of revolutionary action.


The entire notion of competition is a framework to allow there to be winners and losers, a typically Young Soul notion. The mythology of competition celebrates it as efficient, however, it's only efficient if you contrast it with the specter of a completely stagnant monopoly which is resistant to change in any form. It's not that these don't exist. They do, but they're either Baby Soul organizations that resist change as a matter of policy, or Young Soul organizations where the people on the top are trying to protect their privileged positions.

The Right Relationship concept in a Mature Soul context would insure that a business treated its customers and suppliers with respect, including improving its products and services to meet its customers' needs better. It wouldn't need the threat of another company gobbling up its market share to keep it moving.

Business competition won't exist in anything like its current form. There is no particular reason to have more than one company manufacturing a particular kind of vehicle in a particular metropolitan area, for example. Similarly, really large business organizations won't exist, and that includes governmental entities. It is much more efficient for things to be handled as close to where the need arises rather than decided in some remote boardroom.

On the other hand, at least initially there will probably be fairly large organizations that deal with infrastructure issues, where stability is paramount and where Baby souls can find a home. Those are likely to be the last really large organizations.

To extend the vehicle example: today, the top two companies worldwide are Toyota and General Motors. They both have very similar lines of products, at quite similar quality levels. A good deal of that is because the auto industry has caught up to Toyota: most of the major manufacturers are so similar on quality that they can only be differentiated by nit-picking on quite minor points, something that Consumer Reports is very good at. Toyota has a bit of a lead in product development time, but that might not last too long if the new GM CEO is more like Jack Welch than his immediate predecessor.

Once the industry reorganizes, I'd see a group of maybe a half dozen or more vehicle manufacturers in each major metropolitan area, each one specializing in a particular kind of vehicle and with relatively little overlap. There would be a common group of suppliers as well. What wouldn't happen would be either world-wide organizations simply because the advantages of centralization are vastly outweighed by the disadvantages. Likewise, long distance transportation would be minimized simply because it's not only an unnecessary expense, but the time taken to transport material bloats inventories of partly finished products as well as raises the risk that a component may be obsolete or no longer wanted by the market by the time it's delivered -- another definite minus.

The auto industry is well aware of what the consumer really wants: to be able to walk into the dealership, talk with someone to define an appropriate vehicle at an appropriate price, and have it custom built and delivered in a week or less. That's not going to happen in a Young Soul world; the supply chains in a global economy are simply too long to allow it. In a Mature Soul world, it's a lot more likely to happen simply because the necessary supply chains will be shorter. Meeting that one week goal is not helped if the nearest assembly plant is, for example, three days away, and if the manufacturer of critical subassemblies is another three days away from the assembly plant.

Market Economy

Adam Smith is known for the invention of the "invisible hand," a mechanism that is supposed to regulate market economies. The notion that market economies are self-regulating actually seems to be true -- in the sense that a drunk, staggering from the high of a binge to the inevitable crash, hangover and vow of "never again!", and then back to another binge, is self-regulating. Many people tend to think that the "invisible hand" is the finger that God showed to Job.

The market economy is, however, central to the way we do things today, so the earlier Mature societies will most likely regulate it. What later societies will do is another question entirely.

Today's economy is based on money as the eventual medium of exchange. The banking system is one of the places where Young Soul excess shows its true colors today. I'm not even going to venture a guess about how the banking system will be transformed, other than to say that a lot of the controls today are counterproductive.

Michael has said that eventually we may well get rid of money altogether. This is probably a real good idea, although I find thinking about a society without money to be very, very difficult. It most likely won't happen until fairly late in the Mature Soul period.

The Mature Soul Society - Chapter 3: The Transition

The transition from a Young Soul to a Mature Soul society has been under way for well over a century. However, it's still very much in the experimental and learning stage. What I'm going to do in this chapter is point at some of the experiments at level 3: Right Relationships with people you interact with on a daily basis. I'll also point at a number of failures, and try to explain why, sort of in Michael terms.

There have been numerous experiments in living and working together as equals over the years. Most of them have been relatively small, and done with dedicated and quite above average people. Most of them have failed to scale or have not worked well with other than their originators. While the people who created these experiments have been far from ordinary, they have worked with very large organizations and with ordinary people.

One thing to pay attention to is that Young Soul relationships are hierarchical -- there is always someone with more power, and someone with less. Mature soul relationships are egalitarian -- everyone has relatively equal power.

Toyota and Lean

The NUMMI experiment

Some years ago, General Motors had an assembly plant in Fremont, California. It was, by all accounts, the absolute pits from just about any measure you could name. They had about 20% more workers than they needed just so they could be sure that enough workers would show up sober to run the plant on any given day. Union grievances were sky high. Wildcat strikes were common. Quality was abysmal, even in the context of GM's already bad quality in the early 1980s. Costs were way out of line. Eventually, they shut it down.

A year or two later they reopened it as a joint venture with Toyota. It had a sexy new name (NUMMI), and it assembled GM vehicles but with Toyota management. They rehired most of the original workers, including the troublemakers from the former era. Within a year, quality went way up (defects per unit down by around 70%), morale was up, union grievances were so rare as to be almost non-existent.

What was the difference? Part of it was Japanese business culture, but only part. Japanese business culture was built on the teachings of J. Edwards Deming, an American management consultant who got his start as one of the central team behind the productivity explosion that supplied the WW II war effort. He was then part of the team that helped to reorganize Japanese business culture -- they appreciated the industrial effort that went into the U.S. war effort.

The rest of it was, however, Toyota's specific organizational culture. Toyota had learned a lot of lessons that are almost the opposite of standard management practice. Those came from Toyota's specific history, which goes back to Toyoda Spinning and Weaving. Toyoda Spinning and Weaving made power looms -- gigantic pieces of machinery with thousands of moving parts. The mechanics who assembled and serviced them had to have years of experience before they could become really productive. There was literally no way you could hire someone off the street and have them become productive in three weeks.

This contrasts with Ford Motor Company, which did exactly that: hired its workers and expected them to become productive in three weeks or less. What's not always appreciated about Ford in that era is that it existed in a time of high immigration: it was a social good to be able to take immigrants right off the boat and get them a good paying job. It's said that one could walk through the Rouge River plant and hear 50 languages spoken, and that there were workgroups where no two people spoke the same language, including the foreman.

Ford's error was not in serving the particular needs of its place and time, it was that it set the expectations of how things should be organized for much of the rest of the century.

The lesson that Toyota learned, and that Ford didn't, was that the most important person was the one actually doing the work: workers were highly skilled, needed years of experience, and were not replaceable. Management's job was to organize, train and facilitate.

Here's an article about how the change happened by someone who was in on the ground floor and helped make it happen:

How NUMMI changed its culture

So now they're going to shut the plant down. If it was so good, why are they getting rid of it?

Well, there are some reasons. First, it was good in terms of the early 1980s and GM. Today, its quality level is actually below GM's average. That's not because quality has slipped at NUMMI; it's because GM's average quality has risen to where it exceeded NUMMI's quality. Here's an article that evaluates the decision, by the same guy who was on the team that made it happen.

Toyota shuts down NUMMI

And if GM learned something, why did it go bankrupt?

GM bankruptcy

The take home from this, in Michael terms, is that this is still a Young Soul world, and the man at the top of a hierarchy matters a great deal. Jack Smith, the previous CEO, made a lot of strides cleaning up the mess. His successor, Rick "everything's fine, stay the course" Wagoner, the GM CEO who lead it into bankruptcy, simply couldn't accept that there was more that had to be done, and couldn't see the handwriting on the wall even when the wall was falling on him. I could name others, like the guy who forced Steve Jobs out of Apple and almost ran it into the ground, or the guy who took over from IBM's founder (T.J. Watson, Jr.) and practically killed it before Gesthner managed to revive it.

When the Toyota leaders who had created the Toyota Production System and Toyota Development System retired, their successors foundered. Great leaders do not understudy great leaders. A system that can't be handled by rather average people, albeit with good training, is not sustainable. In fact, the entire notion of a "great leader" is a Young Soul idea.

Lean basics

The articles above don't tell very much about the details. They aren't intended to. The series by James Womack and Daniel Jones on Lean is a good set of starters.

The Machine that Changed the World
Lean Thinking
Lean Solutions
The Lean Enterprise Institute is a major resource.

So why hasn't Lean taken over the world? Well, there's a secret ingredient to the secret sauce. The Wikipedia article on Lean is a great example of missing the point by enumerating the trees and not seeing the streams that make the trees flourish.

The secret sauce is Respect for People, and the secret ingredient is Toyota's attitude toward what that actually means in everyday, operational terms.

The reason that it's a secret ingredient isn't that Toyota won't talk about it. They talk about it incessantly. It's a secret because it's practically invisible to people who are steeped in Young Soul philosophy.

And that's not because it's something that's prototypically Japanese. Much of it comes from the work of W. Edwards Deming. Deming formalized this during WW II as part of his job on one of the War Production Boards, and took it to Japan after the war. See the Wikipedia article, which seems to be a bit corrupt on Deming's actual history:

W. Edwards Deming

What doesn't come through is this: the Toyota attitude is that the only thing that matters is the work being done on the gemba, which is a Japanese term that translates roughly as "where the real work is done." The real work is done on the shop floor, not in the manager's or executive's offices. In fact, the first thing that a Lean sensi will do is take the people out of the conference room that has been carefully reserved for them, and do a walkabout to show the management what's actually going on.

It's a hard lesson for conventional executives to learn that management's job isn't command and control; it's long range planning, training and facilitating getting the work done to the customer's satisfaction.

Another major point that frequently comes under the radar is that the best person to know how to do a job is the person who does the job successfully. That sounds like a platitude until you realize that it means that managers are not the best people to tell workers how to do their jobs. Neither are staff departments, etc. These people are not the ones that are on the assembly line putting parts together into widgets day after day.

It means that work units are responsible for the procedures they use -- not their managers, not some corporate policy department, not the design engineers, not some external auditor who's trying to avert regulatory risk. It also means that two different work units doing the same job might have different procedures, a notion that is so radical that it's not even anathema to conventional thinking -- it simply can't be right, can it?

It also means that deviations from Standard Work aren't tolerated. Standard Work is whatever the current procedures are, neither more nor less. The current procedures are, of course, open to change, but the changes have to be discussed with the rest of the workgroup and agreed to. There may have to be measurements, and there may also need to be buyin from other workgroups that have shared responsibility.

This isn't a prescription for stagnation. One of Taichi Ohno's more famous pronouncements is: "If you haven't changed your procedures in the last month, you're wasting the company's money!" (Taichi Ohno is the person behind the Toyota Production System.)

These are not easy lessons to learn. It takes committed management to make the transition, and it's been said that it takes around five years for the mind-set to sink in thoroughly enough for it to be self-sustaining.

Sociocracy, a.k.a. Dynamic Governance

It's called Sociocracy in Europe, and it was rebranded in the U.S. because Americans seem to have a knee-jerk negative reaction to any word with the suffix -ocracy (except Democracy, which seems to be more worshiped than practiced, especially in the workplace and the schools.)

Sociocracy was invented in the Netherlands by Gerard Endenburg, partly as a result of his experience as a student at Kees Boeke's school, which in turn was an implementation of the Quaker principle of the Sense of the Meeting, and which gave everyone, including the students, an equal voice in running the organization. This experience gave him as deep a distrust of democracy as he had of autocracy. He researched a great many experiments, and was dissatisfied with all of them.

As an engineer with his own company, Endenburg Electric, he worked out how to make strict equality work in an organization of 10,000 people. It took from the early 70s through the 80s.

Unlike Lean, which started out in large companies and is still seen as primarily a business organizational tool, Sociocracy can be applied to anything where two or more people need to cooperate to achieve a common aim. In the Netherlands, Sociocracy has been applied to everything from families, fairly large businesses (Endenburg Electric has about 10,000 employees) including the Dutch units of several multi-nationals, all the way through community development. This includes organizations that everyone regards as necessarily authoritarian, such as police departments.

Consent Decision Making

Also unlike Lean, Sociocracy very explicitly institutionalizes giving everyone an equal voice, while still managing to get the job done and avoiding the problems of consensus decision making. It explicitly rejects both authoritarian rulership and majority rule (suppression of the minority) in favor of consent. It avoids some of the problems with naive application of consensus by explicitly delegating the ability to make operational decisions; only policy has to be agreed on by the full circle.

Consent isn't that easy to understand the first time one comes across it. The definition of consent from "We the People" is: "Consent is granted by an individual to a proposed action when all their argued and paramount objections have been satisfied. Consent is assumed if there are no objections remaining." Also: "It does not imply agreement or solidarity, but only that a proposed decision is the best one that can be achieved under the circumstances."

This contrasts with consensus, where the objective is to get agreement, and where there tend to be long drawn out discussions, arguments and other maneuvers by highly motivated and vocal people to try to get everyone else to agree with their preconceived solution. Many applications of "consensus" seem to be more exercises in endurance, and eventually evolve into avoiding stepping on other people's hot buttons.

Consent, on the other hand, is driven by objections to a formally presented proposal. Objections are worked through, modifying the original proposal as necessary, until either the proposal is withdrawn or there are no more objections. Once there are no objections, the proposal will succeed, because there is no longer any reason to withhold consent.

The process of evaluating proposed decisions is highly structured to insure that everyone has a voice, that the discussion is not dominated by a few individuals, and that everyone actually voices their objections.

Circle Organization

There are two organizing principles behind Sociocracy. The first is that the basic organizational unit is called the circle. That's a not very good translation of a Dutch term "kring." It's an arena where events happen, but it doesn't have the implications of contests and strife that the English term arena has. I tend to think of it more like the circles in a circus, except that it's not all that exciting to watch. In this case, boring is good.

A circle is an operational unit where everyone has a common aim. A circle makes its own policy decisions based on consent rather than consensus. This doesn't look like a major difference, but it has profound implications. Consent means that a proposal is going to pass unless someone has either a reasoned (facts, data, etc) or paramount (I simply can't do this) objection. It specifically elicits objections from everyone and works them through until all of them have been dealt with or the proposal has been abandoned.

Circles should be limited to around 40 people.

Scaling the organization: Double Linking

Larger organizations link hierarchically using a principle called double linking. The circle manager actually works for the next higher circle in the organization. Her consent is required in both circles to any policy changes. Likewise, the lower circle elects two representatives to the higher circle; they fully participate in both circles and their consent to policy changes is required in both circles. This last principle needs to be understood: it means that there is no way of implementing a policy that everyone in the organization doesn't agree to.

This principle saved Endenburg Electric when the Dutch shipbuilding industry collapsed due to Japanese competition in 1976. That industry represented about 50% of Endenburg Electric's business, so the Governing Circle (the equivalent of a Board of Directors) decided that they'd have to lay off a lot of people.

The principle of double linking meant that they couldn't just do it - the proposal to lay off people had to be agreed to by all the circles in the company. What actually happened was that someone in one of the lower circles made a proposal, and his circle elected him as a representative to the next higher circle to present it. Repeat all the way up to the Board. His proposal was accepted. They used part of their emergency reserve to give a lot of the guys who would have been laid off sales training and then sent them out to drum up more work. They succeeded in getting enough new business that most of the layoffs were averted and their customer base became much more diverse -- which was also a good thing.

One reason why it's interesting is that some of us have at least a nodding acquaintance with it, since it's one of the threads existing at Twin Oaks, although it's not the way Twin Oaks was being run (or so I hear).

The following articles give some information:

Wikipedia article
North American Sociocracy Center
Sociocracy History
Applying Sociocracy as an individual
We The People: the Sociocracy Book
Twin Oaks page

The Twin Oaks pages give a fairly good overview of how parts of it work, however, the North American center site gives a lot more detail, including a reference to the book, We The People.

Another reason that it's interesting is that it can be applied to just about any organization, from families up to rather large corporations. It's also not possible for someone to mistake it for just another way to improve productivity: it does not talk about productivity at all. It talks about how to structure organizations of any size so everyone has roughly equal power.


For a company that's also flouting the conventional wisdom, and doing quite well at it, you could look at Semco, somewhere in South America. I don't know them well enough to comment on them in Michael terms, but from all accounts they're weird. They're also successful. Very successful.

Ricardo Semler

Level 3 Summary

So that's three experiments that I think will have a major influence on how the coming Mature Soul society handles Level 3 issues.

Do they work?

Well, sorta. They're like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good, and when she was bad, well, she wasn't very good.

Lean is very good at executing, it's not all that good at setting direction. In fact, it's pretty much about optimizing operations, and Concern for People is somewhat of a side issue. Sociocracy should be much better at setting strategic direction because the double linking principle should result in people with wider vision being elected to represent their circle.

Another major issue is that they're in a Young Soul matrix. Both the GM and Toyota examples show that a new CEO can destroy the good work by simply not understanding the real roots of what makes things work. Toyota's current problem, for example, is that the CEO who replaced the founder when he retired decided to go after worldwide market share at all costs (a typically Young Soul goal) and neglected the emphasis on quality at all points in the process.

It's very easy for someone outside the process to miss the fact that Lean is actually more consistent with American and Western European values than it is with Japanese values. When management tries to implement Lean in an American or European plant, the general reaction is going to be extremely positive but also very cautious: is this too good to be true? In many parts of the world, the reaction is simply: huh? As part of its expansion plans, Toyota put plants in areas where that underpinning of democratic values simply doesn't exist. The results were, unfortunately, predictable.

Toyota never used to have to do recalls.

Endenburg Electric won't have that problem. The founder, Gerard Endenburg, turned ownership back to the company some years ago -- it's now an employee owned company. Further, it's generated its own external support infrastructure: there is a network of other companies doing the same thing, trainers and lots more in the Netherlands.

The principles are simple. The execution is complicated. Eventually, it all makes sense, but it takes a while and it takes training and practice.

Another problem is that the mindset isn't standard. Every plant and workgroup is on its own. Isaac Newton is reputed to have said: "If I have seen further than most, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." Without the "this is the way it's done" as an almost invisible background that's taught in the schools, shown on the media and simply accepted and done without a lot of comment, each and every implementation is swimming against the stream.

On the other hand, some of the issues are probably because there isn't a firm foundation of Level 1 sanity. Sociocracy seems to depend on having a fairly experienced facilitator to run meetings; the Society of Friends (Quakers) need even more experience in the Clerk since they're even farther from the mainstream. That would be a whole lot easier if that was simply The Way It's Done, rather than an oddball method that's swimming upstream against the current.

The take home here is that it's not sufficient to sit back and wait for the Millennium. People have to get out there and do this stuff for long enough to learn it and internalize why it works on a gut instinct level. That's the only way it gets incorporated into reincarnational memory so it's available the next time around.

I suggest Sociocracy partly because it can't be implemented in a Young Soul autocratic fashion: the notions of equality in decision making are simply too deep. The crisis at Endenburg Electric I've mentioned above shows that: two of the outside directors resigned because they just couldn't accept that one of the workers from the shop floor, with grease under his fingernails, belonged in the board room.

It's also easy to get started: you just need several like-minded people on a joint project that has a single aim and which will last long enough to provide the experience. There's a nice page on the Sociocracy site that has suggestions for what to do when you don't have a formal circle.

I don't know that either of them are "the final answer." In fact, I suspect that they aren't -- it would be very surprising if they were more than good first attempts and grist for the learning process. Even Sociocracy, which I think is a lot closer, still seems a bit too hierarchical. And it doesn't say much about how to handle local governments, which is a subject that's been discussed a bit. There are supposed to be several experiments, in the Netherlands in in India, that may clarify this.


Russian Communism

There have been some really major failures on the road. The most obvious of them was Communism. The Russian communists managed to make several really major mistakes.

First and foremost, they based their entire philosophy on Enlightenment idealism: somehow the "state of nature" was a state of perfection that people had fallen from. If you threw the rascals out, people would somehow magically do better. This has very seldom worked: there are very few military revolutions in history where the end result was better than the previous state, at least until a fairly long time had passed. The American Revolution worked because the revolutionaries weren't attempting to either make major social changes, or get rid of the layer of society that was actually managing things.

The second one they violated was that the means has to be consistent with the ends: a totalitarian dictatorship cannot create a state of perfect equality. Equality has to come from the ground up, not the top down. This is one of the lessons that Jesus probably taught, that Mohammed tried to teach, and that Gandhi actually did teach.

Marx thought you couldn't have a socialist or communist state in an agricultural society, which is why he never looked at Russia. The Russian communists came about because the Germans shipped them from exile in France into Russia to energize the revolutionaries who were already fighting the Czar and consequently destabilize the Russian front during World War I. The resulting rulers never had a clue how to organize the peasant agriculture into something more efficient and effective. They set up large agricultural communes that were organized with political commissars and which never listened to the actual workers, leading to persistent food shortages that they had to make up with imports.

Another major problem was that they tried to industrialize on a crash basis, using their "five year plans." That had the wrong time frame. Five year plans are beloved of Young Soul bureaucracies, but they didn't allow for shorter term adaptation by the individual work units, nor did they have a realistically worked out long term vision of how they were going to achieve the "withering away of the State."

Part of their rush to industrialize was because of the Marxist ideology that said that Communism required an industrial society to function.

Using our framework, it's easy to see one of the root causes of failure: it was an attempt to jump right to Level 4 without a firm foundation in Levels 1 - 3. Consequently they managed to do just about everything wrong, and eventually got thrown out. The amazing thing isn't that they failed, the amazing thing is that they lasted as long as they did. Of course, a lot of that was because it was actually just another Totalitarian dictatorship, with a facade of Mature Soul values that made it attractive to Mature souls. Another reason is that the people (who were at a Mature level) really wanted it to work.

The Way Forward

Time Frame

So when's it going to happen?

Channeling has been saying anywhere from 200 to 500 years, which is a major discrepancy. My viewpoint is that I'd say that a country has a "mature soul society" when the governmental structure is based on equality, not on hierarchy. I wouldn't wait until it's got everything fixed -- that will be a long time coming, and I doubt if anyone, at any time in the future, will really be ready to sit back and say: "we're done."

If William Strauss and Neil Howe (Generations) are correct, I'd expect the next Awakening in the U.S. to be around 2050. That will be the opening to invalidate the whole Young Soul hierarchical thing on a culture-wide basis. The reorganization would follow around 2090. However, that will require that there be a fairly widespread adoption of Sociocratic methods, or similar. Without that, the Awakening will probably have the same result as previous Awakenings: invalidate the current consensus, but leave chaos in its wake.

There's an expectation that the Millennial generation is going to make serious changes. The Millenials, using Strauss and Howe's definitions, were born beginning in 1982, so the oldest of them are now 28 years old. I think they're going to play a major role in the upcoming resource shortage crisis, and set a new social consensus for the next cycle, but I don't think that they're going to take us all the way.

What's Next?

The next step, as far as I can tell, is to work on consent decision making. It's a bottom up process. It's possible for individuals to use many of the principles of consent decision making without having to have the formal structure in place.

Once people get familiar with how the consent process works, then they're going to want to migrate the organizations they work with to that structure. That's a cascading process that will move through community organizations as much as it will move through businesses.

The eventual shift to a Mature Soul governmental structure will happen as a natural result of more and more organizations adopting one of the Mature organizational models I've mentioned above. As the people get familiar with them, they're going to want to start organizing their communities that way. At present, there's simply aren't enough examples to indicate how that's going to work.

About John Roth

John Roth is a sixth level old scholar with scholar casting, a goal of growth, in the observation mode sliding to caution, and an idealist sliding to skeptic on occasion.  He's in the emotional part of intellectual center with a chief feature of stubbornness. He's a wild card in the third entity of the first cadre of the 14th energy ring (which is the same ring most of the rest of us are in.)  Interestingly, John walked-in during the late 70's; before that the essence running his body was a fourth level old king with a goal of discrimination.

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