In dialectic terms social development can be described first as the move away from the universal and then back towards the universal. The thesis (an unconscious unity) would correspond to the first stage; the antithesis (separation - the process of individualisation and independence) would include the move from the 1st via the 2nd, and reaching its peak at the 3rd stage; the synthesis (a conscious re-alignment with the universal) is represented by the 4th stage, which is also potentially the beginning of a new period.
This graph is only a simplified two-dimensional representation. The curve should be imagined as a spiral around the central axis (the length of its segments do not correspond to physical time, but to an amount of change, ‘eventfulness'). In fact, a coil around the spiral (as it is drawn between 1 and 2) would present the process even more precisely. The shape of this coil and the speed are the result of human freedom. Nevertheless, to move along the curve, the two basic principles (static and dynamic) need to be in relative balance. If the process is too slow, the society can diminish (or be taken over). Too fast a move can lead to disintegration, chaos. The two principles are manifested as conservative and progressive forces that usually alternate. The points at which it is possible to change direction are the moments of supreme responsibility, everything else is inertia.
The curve reflects a well known symbol from ancient times, depicted with two intertwined serpents around god's staff, called the caduceus (still used nowadays as a medical emblem). It is, perhaps, not a coincidence that this symbol resembles the double helix of DNA. In esoteric tradition, the two serpents of the caduceus represent the process of evolution, ‘spirit descending into matter and rising again enlightened into spirit' (Watson, 1991, p.307). The serpent has traditionally symbolised knowledge, enlightenment and wisdom (the Western association with evil is relatively recent and atypical). From this perspective, the myth of the serpent inviting Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of knowledge, can be interpreted as the start of a new phase of the evolutionary process, ‘a liberation from unconscious limitations and the dawn of self-consciousness' (ibid).
For the sake of simplification, the social development diagram has only one curve, while the caduceus has two (one black and one white), which is more accurate. Both, the coil around the spiral and the spiral itself, have their counterparts that can be called the shadows. The shadow is a corrective mechanism, and not in itself something negative. As the symbol shows, what is dominant at one point becomes a shadow at the next and vice versa. This is similar to parliamentary politics: the opposition is a shadow, but has an important role to keep the government in check. At a certain point, the opposition may become the government, and the governing party opposition. The shadow is necessary, because human beings have a tendency to push the boundaries, as a demonstration of their freedom and control over various faculties. This can be recognised at every stage: physical self-mutilations are wide-spread at the first stage. Various forms of emotional mutilation (public humiliations, ritualised superstitions, chauvinism) are frequent on the second. A fascination with the morbid side of the mind is well documented in the third stage (as exemplified by artists such as Dostoyevsky, Shelley or Poe, and later by some approaches in psychotherapy). The fourth stage is also not immune from these extremes: fanaticism in following certain techniques or doctrines, severe deprivations, radical detachment, or attempts to annihilate the self, are a few examples. These and many other excesses can be kept in check by opposing forces that moderate the dominant trend.
- . Caduceus has a greater number of bends because it presumably personifies the whole of evolution, while the above diagram refers only to human social development.