The 10% challenge

This is the second of a three-part series of blogs looking at the origins of our current crises and the way out of them. 

Over the years, countless psychologists have done work on human spiritual development. They divide our spiritual evolution into six or more different stages. Based on their work, the philosopher Ken Wilber has found that whenever the leading edge of spiritual evolution covers around 10% of the population, far-reaching changes occur. For example, when 10% of the population in the West reached the rational stage in the late 18th century, we saw the French and American revolutions; universal human rights; representative democracy; the abolition of slavery; and the advent of modern sciences. Likewise, in the 1960s, 10% of the population evolved to the pluralistic stage, and we had the hippies; the civil rights movement; professional feminism; the environmental movement.

Today, many believe that the 10% tipping-point for the next level – the Integral stage – may be reached by the 2030s. Here are some early manifestations of these leading-edge Integral values:

  • Talks of the ‘moral economy’, as opposed to shareholder capitalism
  • Growth in employment in civil society sectors 
  • More ‘society-friendly’ business practices (eg. B Corps or ‘Net Positive’ companies; regenerative agriculture)
  • Increasing interest in spirituality and meditation practice
  • Holistic trends in education (eg. social-emotional learning).

Nearly twenty years ago, I embarked on a spiritual quest. My ‘aha’ moment did not come on the meditation cushion. That’s just exercise, like going to the gym. For me, revelation came through interaction with people who suffer – either material/physical suffering, or psychological suffering (like all those on a quest of some sort, whom I meet during retreats).

For me, these contacts with suffering represent true understanding, because the rekindled compassion makes me realise that in spite of differences in ethnic origins, social circumstances, age groups, intellect, perspectives or even values, all humans have the same aspirations and we all face challenges. I realise that we are all One, and therefore we should care for one another as we do for ourselves.

We are all One – this is the most important truth that all spiritual traditions in the world have been teaching us. For a paradigm shift to happen, 10% of the population need to awaken to the fact that we are
all interconnected. I want to be part of that 10%. I want to be an active participant in helping nudge humanity towards the next stage of spiritual development.

In fact, I consider that to be the #1 objective of all my activities.

Now, you will notice that with each transition to a new era, there has been some kind of revolution, be it in the late 18th century or the 1960s. Here, a hedge fund manager and a priest are saying the same thing.

The forthcoming era will also arrive amidst some turmoil.

Remember this as you witness or live through extreme chaos in the future, but beyond the upheaval lies the hope of a more evolved civilisation.

The final blog in this series explains how movements aimed at switching mindsets have already sprung up and had success.

In 2018, Nguyễn Phương Lam retired as Co-founder and Co-head of the Private Equity business of Capital Group, and CEO of Capital International’s Singapore branch. Lam is involved (as an advocate, donor, or mentor) with numerous local civil society organisations and global NGO’s, including, and

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