Understanding Worldviews

We can look at the main worldviews of the last two eras of social evolution and the one coming next. The Medieval Era lasted thousands of years and ended with the transition to the Modern Era around 1500-1700. We are now in the middle of the transition to the Next Era.

Even though our Modern Era is dominated by its worldview, the Medieval Era worldview is till very strong in many part of the world. The Next Era worldview is now emerging and spreading.

These are just my projections of what the Next Era worldview will be. They will not all be accurate. What do you think?

As you read over these, notice which worldview you hold in each area. Also notice which aspects of the Next Era worldview you hold intellectually but not yet in your heart and lived experience.

Medieval Worldview: We are part of a meaningful tradition, each with our place in a given divine hierarchy.

Modern Worldview: We are separate individuals and groups competing for success in a mechanical, rational world.

Next Worldview: We are autonomous yet related individuals and groups, participating in a dynamic, complex, intelligent whole.

Major Aspects of Worldviews

We can examine these worldviews in more detail by looking at four major aspects of each:


Medieval: The world is a divine hierarchy.

Modern: The world is mechanical and separated into parts.

Next: The world is a self-organizing, complex whole with autonomous parts inter-related in multi-level networks.


Medieval: We are part of a community and tradition.

Modern: We are separate individuals, nations, and cultural groups.

Next: We are individuals and groups who are interconnected with each other and the natural world as co-creating participants in a larger whole.


Medieval: The world is imbued with divine or pre-ordained meaning. We must receive this information and follow it in order to live a moral life.

Modern: The world is lifeless and meaningless. Only humans provide meaning through our consciousness. Meaning comes from achievement, success, and progress.

Next: Humans may be the self-reflexive lens of a meaningful, intelligent universe. We discover the meaning of our lives as part of a larger whole.


Medieval: We understand the world through divine law as interpreted by the authorities. We aim to play our given role.

Modern: We understand the world through rational thought and scientific experimentation. We can think for ourselves, but things are so complicated that we often must rely on experts for answers. We aim for prediction and control.

Next: We understand the world through combining scientific rationality integrated with systems thinking and other modes of knowing. We aim for co-creative participation.

Other Aspects of Worldviews

Then we can look in even more detail at how each worldview makes sense of various aspects of life:


Medieval: Change happens (a) in cycles, or (b) through devolution from a golden age, or (c) according to divine plan.

Modern: Society is making progress because of science and rationality. When necessary, change should come from implementing the visions of leaders, engineers, and scientists.

Next: Society is dynamic and evolving in complex ways. When necessary, systems self-transform through a chaotic process which can be partially understood and guided.


Medieval: We each have our assigned place in the hierarchy of power.

Modern: Everyone should have an opportunity to compete for success. The winners deserve the primary share of the power.

Next: We are concerned about the good of the whole as well as each part. Therefore, cooperation and self-determination are our primary values, within which competition can sometimes be useful.


Medieval: Our tradition/religion understands the world. Other traditions and their followers are wrong or evil.

Modern: There are many traditions that are legitimate even though ours is more advanced. People have equal rights no matter what their tradition. Diversity is a problem to be handled.

Next: Each tradition is appreciated in its own right. People are free to choose or create their own lifestyle and values. Diversity—biological, cultural, and political—is a strength to be embraced.


Medieval: Each gender has its place, men above women, with women’s place in the home.

Modern: Each gender has its role, but women have an expanded role and equal rights.

Next: Each gender has its own strengths to be appreciated and equal rights. People should be able to define gender in their own way.


Medieval: The world is organized in a given hierarchy, and human organization should reflect that.

Modern: Things should be organized in bureaucracies for maximum efficiency and in markets to maximize economic growth.

Next: Systems are spontaneously self-organizing in multi-level networks, while still benefiting from visionary input. Organizations and technology should be aligned with natural process, including human nature.


Medieval: Small scale is natural.

Modern: Bigger is better—in buildings, organizations, population, economies, military might, technology, and national power.

Next: Everything should be of a size that is appropriate to its function and the scope required for effectiveness, and no larger.


Medieval: Do what is moral and right.

Modern. Do what works.

Next: Do what contributes to the quality of life.

Attitude toward Nature

Medieval: The natural world is an enchanted place where we belong.

Modern: Nature consists of unlimited natural resources to be used for human benefit.

Next: Nature is made up of complex, interrelated, evolving ecosystems. We are a part of nature and must align society with natural processes. We must be respectful stewards of all forms of life.


Medieval: The world is a divine hierarchy. We receive wisdom from the religious authorities. We can become redeemed or enlightened through personal effort within our religion.

Modern: Religion is superstition. Science provides the only way of truly understanding reality.

Next: Spiritual development involves a dynamic unfolding of our connection to a larger mystery that can take a variety of forms. We aim to embody spirit in all aspects of our lives and society.