The Five Main Worldviews
The following is a quick checklist that you can either apply to yourself or use to explain the idea of worldviews to others. None of these are hard and fast descriptions. Many people are in a transitional phase between two of the worldview stages, and these transitions can last for several years, or for a lifetime.
Moreover, I advise caution in two respects: the first is to avoid being judgmental of any of the stages. This is our natural reaction. If we have a Modern worldview we will take a pejorative attitude toward those with Traditional worldviews. It is pointless. There is always someone with a wider worldview. About 15 percent of the world population has a Pre-Traditional worldview, about 40 percent has a Traditional worldview, about 30 percent has a Modern worldview, around 15 percent has a Postmodern worldview, between 1-2 percent has an Integral worldview, and much less than 1 percent is at any of the four stages of a Spiritual worldview.[i]
This leads to the second caution, which is not to overestimate the depth and breadth of your own worldview. If anything, you are better off underestimating it. Again, these are just general descriptions and this is not a test. However, hopefully it will clarify what I mean when referring to the main worldviews.
You probably have a Traditional worldview if:
- You believe in a literal interpretation of your particular religious scripture (whether it is the Christian Bible, the Jewish Tanakh, the Muslim Koran, or any other ancient text).
- You believe that faith is more important than science.
- You believe that abortion should be illegal.
- You believe that homosexuality is a sin and should be illegal, or at the very least that gays and lesbians should not be afforded the same rights as others, particularly that they should not be allowed to marry.
- You believe that sex is something that should be reserved for marriage, and you may not believe in contraception.
- You tend to believe that moral issues are black and white, right and wrong.
- You long for a return to a less complicated way of life with clear and easy-to-understand social structures. Depending on your ideal, this could be a longing for a return to the 1950s, 1900s, or even the 1800s.
- You believe in a return to a “traditional” family structure, with a stay-at-home mother and a father who is the source of income and the principle decision maker.
- You believe in a Creationism explanation for the origins of life and the universe over the Theory of Evolution.
- You prefer more authoritarian forms of government and justice (i.e. the death penalty, and longer prison sentences for repeat offenders of non-violent crimes).
- You believe that the individual will must submit to the will of a higher power.
- You believe that life and human social structures are naturally hierarchical.
- You prefer a more isolationist approach to economic and cultural globalization.
- You would feel uncomfortable if someone described you as Modern or Postmodern.
You probably have a Modern worldview if:
- You believe that science has disproved most, if not all of the basic tenets of religious beliefs.
- You believe that religious texts must be interpreted in the light of science, and that the best interpretation is metaphorical.
- You tend to reject faith for rationality.
- You tend to reject religion and prefer secularism, or at least a more secular version of your religion.
- You believe that moral issues can be more than simply black and white, right and wrong.
- You don’t “understand” homosexuality, but you prefer not to take rights away from other people.
- You feel that sex is something that individuals should decide on their own, and you believe in the use of contraceptives.
- You believe in the Theory of Evolution over a Creationism explanation for the origins of life and the universe.
- You believe that abortion should be legal.
- You believe in individual agency, and that individual will and desire should be constrained as little as possible by the government or society.
- You believe in the equality of women, but it isn’t a priority for you.
- You believe the consumer lifestyle of the United States and other Western countries is the best way to live and structure society.
- You prefer an expansionist approach to economic and cultural globalization.
- You don’t mind hierarchies as long as they don’t get in the way of what you want to do.
- You would feel uncomfortable if someone described you as Traditional or Postmodern.
You probably have a Postmodern worldview if:
- You are searching for a spiritual path that incorporates religious beliefs but does not deny science.
- You prefer a secularism that embraces the spiritual aspects of religion.
- You believe that moral issues can be not just black and white, right and wrong, but gray and dependent upon context.
- You do not support the death penalty.
- You do not want to see any laws passed making abortion illegal.
- You see sex as something natural and human in all of its expressions, and believe in contraception.
- You believe in the equality of women in all aspects of life: work, family, religion, and government.
- You believe in a pluralistic and egalitarian society that embraces all people of all races, ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations.
- You see nothing wrong with homosexuality or marriage between gays and lesbians.
- You believe in giving equal value to all cultures and see Western culture as part of a rainbow of cultural possibilities, and not its supreme expression.
- You tend to dislike hierarchies of various kinds.
- You believe that everyone’s perspective should be honored.
- You like to try to “see” the world from different perspectives.
- You reject the consumer way of life and are searching for an alternative.
- You are very concerned with the ecological state of the Earth and the impact of humanity upon the natural world.
- You are critical of the current expansionist mode of economic and cultural globalization and see it as detrimental to non-Western nations.
- You would feel uncomfortable if someone described you as Traditional or Modern.
You probably have an Integral worldview if:
- You can see the difference between alternative worldviews clearly and understand how each successive stage embraces more truth than the previous stage.
- You seek to take the truths of each worldview and abandon their falsehoods.
- You acknowledge the conflict between science and religion, but see no need for conflict between science and spirituality.
- You seek to see how to supply the needs of each worldview and help people transition between the different stages.
- You see hierarchies as necessary but potentially pathological.
- Your understanding of moral issues rests not in religious rules, social laws, or cultural customs but in an understanding of the interconnectedness of all people.
- You actively seek to understand how the different aspects of our world are connected, including the ecological, economic, social, cultural, and personal.
- You are concerned with the individual and collective health of the entire human world as well as the living and non-living systems of the natural world.
- You would be amused if someone described you as Traditional, Modern, or Postmodern.
You probably have a Spiritual worldview if:
- Your first response to hatred is universal love.
- Your first response to anger is universal compassion.
- You are concerned with the suffering of all living beings.
- You recognize the interconnectedness of all living beings and the entire manifest universe.
- You are less concerned with the wants and desires of your individual ego-self and more concerned with the needs of all other living beings.
- You rely not upon a literal interpretation of religious texts but upon a direct experience of the Divine for your faith and beliefs.
- Your understanding of moral values is not grounded in religious rules but in a direct experience of the interconnectedness of all things, and in universal love and compassion for all suffering beings.
- You see the Divine in all people and all things.
- You are unconcerned with what people call you, because you have found that you identify less and less with the ego-self that people usually cling to as the ground of their beings because you have begun to realize a greater Ground of All Being that is all people and all things.
[i] Ken Wilber, A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality, p.9-11
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