Exhibits appearing in this paper are close approximations based on the text. The actual illustrations have not been located.

Readers should note that this paper was written before Dr. Graves included a distinct C-P system in his work. Therefore, like other early papers (typically pre-1969), the numbering of the levels is different from later works.

From the Historical Collection of the work of Dr. Clare W. Graves
- presentations, papers, recorded transcripts, notes-
William R. Lee February 2002

Man: An Enlarged Conception of His Nature

Clare W. Graves
Professor of Psychology
Union College
Schenectady, New York

Presented before:
Second Annual Conference on the Cybercultural Revolution
Hotel Americana
New York, New York
May 27, 1965

Accepted for publication in "The Living Society" Vol. II.
Proceedings of the Second Annual Conference of the Cybercultural Society.
November 10, 1966

   Since the subject of this section of the Second Annual Conference on the Cybercultural Revolution is change, change in political institutions, change in science, change in social values, I would like to suggest that one cannot give adequate meaning to such changes unless one considers that these changes are not "forever new and surprising" as says the theme-setting paragraph in the program of this conference. I will suggest to you that these changes in science, political institutions, and social values as well as other changes in adult human behavior are not surprising if we examine them within the frame-work of an enlarged conception of the psychology of the adult human being. I will suggest that such changes may be varying concomitantly with orderly, not previously emphasized changes in the nature of man. 

   But, before I am taken to task, by you assembled, for speaking against the evidence, namely the evidence that the nature of man, the organism homo sapiens, has not changed since first he appeared, may I point out that my words said changes in the nature of man, not changes of the nature of man. I am suggesting to you that we may not comprehend the significance of change whenever it takes place and whatever form it takes unless we consider that such is a function of the orderly progression of change within the nature of man as his life circumstances change. An order of progression which I shall designate herein as movement through the Levels of Human Existence.

   To date in the psycho-philosophical world we have had presented three basic explanations of the changes which take place in man's behavior and in man's institutions. One is the Lockean, Pavlovian, Watsonian, Hullian, yes, ever Wienerian, behavioristic, man is a computer tradition wherein change results from an increase in the complexity of stimulus-response bonds brought on by experience. One is what is called the Schopenhaurean, Freudian, psychoanalytic instinctual transformation point of view. And one is, to me the Nietzschean, Hiedeggerean, Kierkegaardian, existentialistic, striving to be, to find self, emergent, blocked emergence explanation of change. Each of these points of view, in my judgment, has substance so far as explaining human behavioral change, but only limited substance. And, in my mind, the latter point of view, over and above the others, provides a substantive base for fuller comprehension of change than we have come to so far but for some reason it has not been utilized to comprehend the phenomena which interest us. But I do not believe the latter point of view is mutually exclusive of the other two. And I do not believe that any of the points of view can be excluded when we try to explain change in human behavior and human institutions. It is because of my  belief that each of the points of view has substance, with each successive point of view having more substance than the preceding explanation, that this paper is titled, "Man, An Enlarged Conception of His Nature." 

   I have suggested that we might better understand scientific, political and social value changes if we viewed them as arising from changes within man's nature - - changes of a profound and significance order. Time will not permit me to acknowledge fully those whose preceding thoughts contributed to the development of the Level of Existence conception of man's behavior nor will it permit adequate documentation or support of the ideas. Suffice it to say that much is owed to Nietzsche, Adler, Goldstein, Maslow, the cultural anthropologists and the existentialists and that in time I hope to present more adequate documentation and support of the conception of man to follow.

   The Level of Existence conception of man's nature is offered as a framework within which it may be possible to comprehend more adequately change which ensues in the behavioral and institutional world of man. It has developed with a fourfold purpose in mind:

(1) To extend into broader realms a correction in psychological thinking that has been taking place in the last thirty years.

(2) To correct what I suggest is a major illusion are to the nature of man.

(3) To explore beyond the existentialistic position that the aim of man is to come to be, to become his potential by exploring the question: Is there order in the nature of mature biological man's becoming? 

(4) To try to synthesize the behavioristic, psychoanalytic and existentialistic conception of man within a broader framework.

   The correction that is taking place in psychological theory is that man does not seek freedom from tension, an existence without tension, that man is not a tension reducing organism. This conception of what motivates man has been seriously questioned by men like [Kurt] Goldstein and [William] Gomberg.

   Goldstein pointed out that normal behavior does not correspond to a tension increase, tension decreases, rest formula, but rather to a tension increase, tension expenditure, new tension ad infinitum, formula. He said essentially, ala Nietzsche, that the only drive of the organism is to actualize itself according to its emerging potentialities. To him normal behavior continuously creates new states of tension which were not present before and which impel the organism to value new experiences and new activities according to it's emerged nature. 

   Gomberg referred to this same change in focus in his writings on entrepreneurial psychology. He called to our attention that the human values most the experience of releasing tension, particularly new tension, and that he dislikes most the experience of being free of tensions. He believed the job of management was to create conflict in human behavior. He believed it so strongly that he said essentially: 

"The job of management is to create conflict, generate it and provide for its release in a setting of changing institutional arrangements in which the person is free to pursue this interminable cycle endlessly."1

   Goldstein did not characterize the new tensions of normal, i.e. non-brain injured man, nor the new things people would come to do and value. Nor did Gomberg go on to study what innovations management must consider if it is to successfully manage. Such is one purpose in the Level of Existence conception of man.

   The illusion I refer to is that since man, the mature biological organism, stabilizes for the greater part of his adult life at one biological level, that man the psychological organism, does the same thing. Have we not concluded, as a result of this illusion, that we should be seeking the general psychological principles which explain differences in the mature human being? Has not this illusion led psychologists to overlook some very substantive anthropological evidence that the mature biological human organism is not a general psychological being and that there are no general principles for explaining people's behavior that will ever be found.

   My third purpose, to go beyond the existentialistic position that the aim of man is to become, relates back to Goldstein's ideas as to new tensions and to the anthropological evidence referred to above. It seemed to me that anthropological evidence suggested that when man's conditions of existence changed that man's psychology changed and that these changes are orderly, though complex, and that they are related to Goldstein's new states of tension of the normal mature man. Thus, I set out to see if one could give order to the nature of man's becoming.

   The fourth purpose, the synthesis of the behavioristic, psychoanalytic and existentialistic positions will, I hope, be seen more clearly in the latter parts of the paper and in other papers to follow. 

   The Level of Existence conception of human behavior was developed to explore the nature of change in behavior with time and to provide a framework which questioned that mature psychological man varies only on a quantitative scale over the biologically mature years of his life. It was developed also to explore further the nature of man's becoming. Much has been written as to man's need to become from Nietzsche to Allport, let us say. But it seems to me that few have thought of becoming, in the mature biological organism, as an emergent organism, as an environmental complex similar to the development of the cognitive component of the child as presented in the works of Piaget.

   The Level of Existence conception of man's nature proposes that the mature human mind cannot be likened to a computer. It suggests that the mind of the mature biological organism is not a system in which the data processing aspects change only quantitatively with time. It does not see the mind as a system in which the changes that occur are primarily in the complexity of stimulus-response bonds or memory units. The conception asserts that if one is to view the mind through a computer analogy that it must be viewed as a computer which changes its programming in a regular and orderly way as well as a computer which spontaneously changes and re-orders the data in its memory bank. 

   Within this conception of man, the mind of the mature human organism moves continuously to metamorphize a new form, a new quality, a new shape. Like the moth to the larvae, to the egg each new psychological form of mind is contiguous with the old stage but is qualitatively different from the previous stage.

   I see the psychology of the mature human being as tending to pass through a series of levels of integration which I call Levels of Human Existence. Man's psychology is quantitatively and qualitatively different as the new form appears and the old is absorbed within it. When the conditions of man's existence change, (a concept referring to the amount of free energy in the person-environment system, the type of insights present in the human mind and the degree of satisfaction or dissatisfaction present in the person) man becomes programmed, so to speak, in a manner that is quantitatively and qualitatively different from what he was before. Quantitatively in the sense that more brain cells are operant, that is activated, than were previously operant and qualitatively in that brain systems, networks, cell assemblies, dynamic neurological systems or what-ever one calls them, are activated which permit ways of thinking, acting, transacting, perceiving, valuing, organizing, managing, scientificating, etc., which were not operant before.

   The psychology of the mature biological organism is seen as an unfolding or emergent process marked by progressive sub-ordination of older systems in favor of newer higher, order systems. These conditions of existence, level of previous emergence, developmental sequences of the mind of the mature man are typical of the species, not necessarily of the individual. The mature human, in general, tends to change his psychology as the conditions of his existence change, but a particular human may not be genetically or constitutionally programmed so as to progress even if his existential conditions change. Thus the biologically mature human organism is seen as a psychological person in transit from a beginning point, the lowest level of behavioral organization of homo sapiens, to some unknown destination. A psychological person, who if the conditions for his transportation are right, will move through an hierarchially ordered series of systems possibly to some end or possibly will travel behaviorally infinitely on. Yet, if the conditions of his existence are not right or if he is atypically programmed he may tarry and remain psychologically at one of the way stations he comes to in his journey.

   Today I believe we can delineate, clearly, some nine of these levels of existence, levels of hierarchially ordered change from which we can determine where a person, a society, a culture, an organization is within the hierarchy and from which we can see where each would move next if the proper conditions came to be. And from which we can determine what the conditions are which produced the movement from one level in the hierarchy to another. Thus we can say theoretically that if we find a certain form of political institution present in a society, associated with a certain attitude toward science, and these in turn associated with certain social values, that these were preceded by a certain form of political institution, a certain scientific attitude and a certain set of values and that when certain specified conditions occur that these political institutions, scientific attitudes and social values will change to a different but predictable form of political institution, scientific attitude, and social value. 

   The first five of these levels of human existence are quite open to view at the present time. Two of them can be seen in descending degree of dim outline and one has almost disappeared and is rarely open to view. How many more stages may yet appear, or if there are more stages I do not know. It may be as Maslow writes of this hierarchial movement in the motivational world that there is a final self-actualizing stage or it may be that self-actualization, reaching one's potential, is as Fromm suggests through his existential dichotomy concept, an infinitely changing process we can never hope to achieve. 

Hypothesized Levels of Human Existence, Existential States, 
and Three Sub-systems

Level of Human Existence

Nature of Existence

Motivational System**

Ethical & Value System







Fourth Being





Third Being





Second Being





First Being


Esteem of Self 


Group Process

Fifth Subsistence





Fourth Subsistence





Third Subsistence




Tough Paternalistic

Second Subsistence



Totem & Taboo

Friendly Parent

First Subsistence



Amoral Physiological


[* Exhibit I is compiled from the Graves, Huntley, LaBier paper of May 1965 which is cited herein along with the managerial controls from the later 1970 Graves, Madden & Madden paper.]

** The motivational levels follow Roe's modification of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, as modified by Graves. The subsistence levels refer to deficiency motivation, while the being levels refer to growth or abundancy motivation.


   The nine systems are designated in turn as the Autistic Existence, the human psychological form no longer open to view in normal man; the Animistic Existence, the Absolutistic Existence, the Energetic Existence, the Sociocentric Existence, the Personalistic Existence, the Seeking Existence, and possibly the Comprehending Existence and the Appreciating Existence. It is the latter three which can be seen only in dim outline. Since the pre-conditions necessary for movement into the latter levels of existence have seldom occurred for individual, let alone masses, we have as yet little data as to the psychology of the later appearing or yet to appear levels.

   The first five of the levels are classified as Subsistence Levels and are so numbered consecutively. They are called subsistence levels because they have in common different kinds of deficiency or deficit motives. People at any of these levels behave in order to get, in order to get something that is needed, while people at the other four levels behave in order to be, in order to express self. Thus, the other levels are numbered consecutively Being Levels because they have in common growth or expressive motivation.

   Within this conception of man's nature of total psychology of the mature biological organism changes when three conditions occur - - when there is an increase in free energy in the person-environment system resulting from a solution of the existential problems of a level, when certain necessary insights are arrived at and when there is dissonance in the current state of being. When these conditions are present a qualitatively different state of being emerges cognitively, emotionally, motivationally, value-wise and other-wise. Man's institutions change, also, and so do his attitudes and beliefs.

   Within this conception of man, change can be thought of in many ways, three of which are presented in Exhibit II [similar to what is described in text]. We can see change as movement up the vertical axis from systems more homogeneous, less complex, more restricted behaviorally to systems more heterogeneous, more complex, more free behaviorally. This type of movement will occur when there is an increase in energy in the system, when there is dissatisfaction with the present state of being and when the insights necessary for propelling man to the next level occur. Movement of this sort results in marked qualitative changes in behavior, greater freedom to choose and increased variability within the behavioral thema of the next level.

   Change can be seen, also as movement horizontally to the ultimate of a particular state. Such change would take place when there is surplus energy in the system, when dissonance is present but when no new insights for living have developed. It results in marked elaboration of the thema of the level and would ultimately achieve, so to speak, maximum entropy and thus the demise of those who reached the maximum of horizontal change. 

   A third way that we can think of movement is movement on the oblique. Oblique movement would result when free energy and dissonance were present along with only partial rather than the necessary insights for vertical movement. Here the behavior would remain based on the level from whence the oblique started but would show subordinate aspects of behavior at the levels reached by the oblique. Thus, theoretically, if a society or person is operating at a certain level, we can predict, by this conception what changes in behavior would ensue if certain combinations of releasor conditions occur, and we can hypothesize the following within this conception of man. 

1. That the mind of man can be conceived as a series of hierarchially ordered dynamic systems each with its own form of motivation, perception, cognition, emotion, valuing, etc. 

2. That each dynamic system is triggered into action by certain general releasor conditions, surplus energy in the current system and dissonance within the system plus certain specific releasor conditions, and the necessary insights required for movement to the next level. 

3. That man living within a particular level of existence will believe that the task of being human is to become that which his dynamic level perceives life to be.

4. That success in solving the problems of existence as they are perceived to be at a particular level produces dissatisfaction with the nature of his being at that particular level.

5. That as soon as man becomes dissatisfied with his state of existence at a level and has present in his person-environment system surplus energy and the necessary insights he moves psychologically to the next level of human existence where he perceives the problem of becoming to be of another order.

6. That movement from lower levels of existence to higher levels of existence means movement from a narrow, more humanly restricting way of life to a broader, more humanly freeing way of life.

7. That movement can take place in many ways depending on variations in releasor conditions.

8. That change will take place in the psychological spheres of motivation, perception, emotion, cognition, belief, valuing, etc., - such that we can predict what will be discarded as no longer appropriate in the new psychological state; what will be modified; and what new form of mental activity and behavior will appear.

9. That since these are dynamic systems they may progress, regress, fixate or the like.

   But now I have tarried long enough on theory. Therefore, let me share with you some of what we have learned as we have worked within this conception of man's nature. Since time is limited, I will present only representative changes that take place with movement from one level of existence to another.

   Returning to Exhibit I (above) we see three of the systematic forms of change we have found. They are change in motivational systems, value systems and managerial control systems. In respect to the first, change in motivational system, we have found reasonable corroboration of Maslow's concept of hierarchy of need. It should be said that our data has required some modification of his scheme such as the addition of the mastery motive system between the survival and belonging systems. This successive change in dominating motivational system has significance in all other change as we shall subsequently see. For example in the political sphere our data suggest that as soon as the group in power, in a developing country begins to feel secure, that is to satisfy the safety motive, that their political moves will be in turn expansion and mastery, and then when such is satisfied one will find them making overtures to be accepted, to belong, to be recognized as a reasonable nation among nations.

   We have found that value and belief systems also seem to change in an orderly way as movement takes place from one level of human existence to another. We presented adults in general with a large number of value and belief statements. We asked them to respond by a scale extending from plus three, strongly agree, to minus three, strongly disagree, with the statement. Analysis of such data, which is to date incomplete, has produced five clusters of value and belief which are mutually exclusive and which fit our theorized levels three, four, five, six and seven.

   According to these data our third subsistence level man values suppression and repression of his inner life and a rigid ordering of the outer world. He values isolated, hierarchial, local unit political institutions and will accept at most only a weak confederation of political units. Federalization he strongly rejects. His believes in some absolutistic, usually Divine authority, and in hierarchially ordered human relationships, that he is born into position in life and that he should not question his authorities prescriptions. His authority is emphasized because the particular source of absolute authority varies from person to person. He believes that the world if full of dangerous forces stemming from within man's nature and existing outside his particular group. For those who are psychologically sophisticated, an interesting thing is suggested by the psychology of the third level. Third level man may be man as described within orthodox psychoanalytic circles. It may be that here we can see the beginning of a synthesis of psychological theory because if time permitted I could show that fourth level man is possibly man as Adler saw him; that fifth level man is man as Horney and Sullivan saw him; and sixth level man is possibly man as Rogers and the phenomenological-existentialists see him; while seventh level man may be the cognitive man of whom mystic poets are now writing; and at the other end may be the man that behavioristic principles apply to.

   In the above study, fourth level man demonstrated above anything else a will to power. He values action and risk, force and energy. He believes that the power to change rests in the superior talents of the few. And, as he sees it, it is better to act and fail than to suffer the ignominious shame of not having tried. He values the practical, the utilitarian and scoffs at the theoretical or idealistic. 

   When we examined his thema for living we found it to fit well the Machiavellian concept of Might is Right. He believes in and demands complete loyalty to the power source and that one should "rule by the book" if one is in power. At the same time he believes that the end is more important than the means. Belief in profit, rugged individualism, nationalism and federalization are expressed in this system. To him one's own self interest prevails even to the extent that fraud and manipulation are necessary means to the end and cruelty and fear are only tools to be properly applied, not means to be avoided.

   The same study indicated fifth level beliefs and values clustered around wanting to belong, to be accepted in a social group. Fifth level man is one of "The Lonely Crowd", "The Organization Man", "The Status Seekers". He is the only one who subscribed to the idea that a man's job title, office furnishings, desk size, and office size and location are important. He is "other directed". He values participation and the team and the committee means to the end. He believes strongly in compromise even if one feels strongly about an issue and he believes that the majority does and should rule. It was in this cluster, only, that we found the majority rule belief. Scientifically he values social sciences and social and social engineering of human affairs. This is distinctly different from fourth and third levels scientific beliefs. Fourth level value physical science and the mechanistic engineering of human affairs and third level man rejected the idea of tampering with natures design. Within this fifth level system social acceptance is more important than and individual desire and there is the dominant belief that life should be lived by social adjustment.

   Sixth and seventh level systems showed changes in value and belief distinct from one another and from third, fourth and fifth levels but time will not permit me to detail such, because I should like to present briefly the results of three other studies. The studies above and the ones below were pilot studies by Dow, Michaelson, LaBier and Graves.

   As Exhibit I indicated in the fifth column, we found a typical form of managerial control system associated with each of the levels studies. People at each level preferred to be managed by a different set of principles of management and if they were exposed to a form of management not congruent with the values and beliefs of the level of the people either did not respond or responded negatively. 

   When studies were done of dogmatism and rigidity as measured by Rokeach's dogmatism scale and the Gough-Sanford rigidity scale third level man was found to have a very closed mind. He was dogmatic and rigid. Fourth level respondents were dogmatic but not rigid; fifth level respondents were rigid but not dogmatic and sixth level respondents were low in rigidity and dogmatism. But over and beyond such was the interesting response of the seventh level to the scales which were utilized. Seventh level respondents soon refused to continue answering the scales saying essentially, "one simply cannot answer these questions, at least not without more evidence."

   The last study I should like to mention is the perceptual readiness study designed by Huntley and conducted by LaBier. ("Personality Structure And Perceptual Readiness: An Investigation Of Their Relationship To Hypothesized Levels Of Human Existence," Clare W. Graves, W.C. Huntley & Douglas W. LaBier, Union College, May, 1965).We hypothesized according to the theory that people at each level would recognize, tachistoscopically presented words more readily when these words reflected their level of existence, than they would words which reflected the hypothesized state of mind of the other levels. And since within this theory, later levels are partially present in current levels, we hypothesized that third level people would recognize third level words quickest, fourth level words next, fifth level words next, etc. We hypothesized that fourth level people would recognize fourth level words most quickly, third and fifth level words about equally as fast and fifth level words slowest of all and so on with other levels. The words were controlled for length and frequency of appearance in language usage. We found we needed a Chi square of 6.85 for a .01 level of significance. Our Chi square obtained was 16.57.

   Thus from our work to date it would appear that change may not be as surprising as some would think and that understanding the nature and character of change may be most important to man's future. Therefore, let me close on a philosophic note.

   Western man at this moment in history, within this conception of man, is approaching this great divide, the point between subsistence level behavior and being level behavior. Across this psychological space, a chasm of awesome significance to mankind, lies the difference between man's animalistic, in order to get behavior of the present and past, and his humanistic striving to be behavior of his potential. Across this psychological space man's behavior can change to be what is good for him in this life, not in after life; what is good for him, not his group; what is good for him, not his boss; what is good for him, not his Divine authority; what is good for him, not just for animals. Would that I had more time to discuss with you this conception of man and what it may mean but since I must end let it be this way. Would that we not be so misunderstanding of man's changing behavior as he strives to move to a higher level of existence, as in the case of Santo Domingo [probable reference to the 1965 U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic] or the Negro [reference to the civil rights struggle] that we block man forever from crossing the divide between his animalism and his humanism. 


1 Possibly in Fisk, George, The Frontiers of Management Psychology, 1964, Harper & Row




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