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Union of Intelligible Associations

Projects Overview (Explanations)
Human Development Project (Explanations)

Human Potential and Development Project

Overview: Human Development Project

Scope and rationale
Organization and structure
Information content
Method and development

Explanatory comments

Reservations and disclaimer
Media used & multi-media

Scope and rationale

The purpose of this project is to describe briefly the complete range of concepts of human development with which people identify, consider meaningful or reject in their search for growth and fulfilment in life. The scope of this project has been deliberately extended beyond the unrelated concepts accepted with great caution by intergovernmental agencies: the job-fulfilment orientation of ILO, the health-oriented concepts of WHO and the education-oriented concepts of UNESCO. It includes concepts legitimated by the psychological and psychoanalytical establishments as well as those promoted by the various contemporary growth movements. It also includes concepts from religions and from belief systems of different cultures. Entries are clustered into two groups:

  • Concepts of human development and on therapies, activities or experiences in which a particular understanding of human development is implicit. The concept of human development is central to the preoccupations of educators and individuals concerned with their own maturation and fulfilment. It is also central to the declared concerns of policy-makers and those concerned with social development and learning. There is however no agreement on what is meant by the term and little recognition of the variety of meanings associated with the term (and its synonyms) in different sectors of society. Each group implicitly rejects concepts of human development favoured by others, usually without any understanding of what is implied. As a consequence reports on human development tend to stress relatively narrow ranges of meanings thus failing to recognize the variety of concepts with which people identify, consider meaningful or reject in their search for growth and fulfilment in life, however misguided their understanding from others' point of view.

  • Modes of awareness: In contrast to the focus on concepts of human development, this cluster focuses on distinct subjective experiences during the process of human development. The variety of such states of consciousness or modes of awareness, essential to any adequate comprehension of human development, is a fundamental characteristic of some approaches to human development. This is especially true of "alternative" approaches, traditional approaches and those originating in non-Western cultures. Recognition of the existence of such subjective states is not acknowledged in official studies of human development, except through externally defined terms such as fulfilment, satisfaction, well-being, and happiness or their opposites. They are frequently only considered because of their economic significance in ensuring a productive labour force and consumer satisfaction. Since fulfilling or challenging modes of awareness are key indicators for a person in assessing his or her own development, a clarification of their variety is therefore a way of establishing a bridge to active constituencies and to traditional frameworks in which human development processes have a well- established meaning with which people identify. Of great importance to many is that in a number of cases these modes are grouped into sets, cycles or series which enable people to order their psychic life and understand how they may aspire and progress to greater fulfilment, or deprive themselves of it.

This section indicates ways in which people struggle within themselves for fulfilment and the experiences associated with that struggle which they find meaningful (whether or not such experiences are considered totally deluded or inappropriate by different scientific or religious establishments). That many of these experiences cannot be effectively "put into words" is indicated by the use of metaphors or symbols in naming them. These appear as strange to Western eyes as do others to Eastern cultures.


This project was conceived as the complement to the World Problems Project in the original conception in 1972 of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential -- then titled the Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential.

Organization and structure

The database incluides  4,456 entries. It is divided into two sub-databases, corresponding to the sections described above:

  • Concepts of human development (Section HH) describes 1,407 concepts of human development. Used for ways of understanding, or undertaking, human development. Entries are included on explicit concepts of human development and on therapies, activities or experiences in which a particular understanding of human development is implicit. The entries do not include subjective experiences described under the following type.

  • Modes of awareness ( Section HM) endeavours to describe 3,049 modes of awareness, namely the experiential states associated with different stages in the process of human development as perceived by different groups (and preferably using wording with which such groups would identify). Used for experiential modes of awareness implying particular understandings of human development, or encountered during particular processes of human development. Each profile endeavours to describe a mode of awareness that is named in the literature of some particular approach to human development. The descriptions are provided as far as possible in the terms of those to whom the mode is meaningful, selecting and presenting the information in a way that may help others to find it meaningful as well. Where such modes have metaphorical names these have been retained, however odd they may seem to people from other cultures or belief systems. Where the distinction between modes is more precisely defined in another language (e.g. Sanskrit), the transliterated name in that language is also given. Where the mode is part of a set or a progression, this is indicated by a contextual paragraph and cross-references.
Attribution to a particular type is never considered definitive and is continually reviewed for the on-line version.

The entries have been interlinked by 15,237 cross-references. These either indicate relationships between more general or more specific concepts, or, especially in Section HM, the relationship between succeeding modes of awareness in some process of human development (whether linear or cyclical).

Information content

Profiles of human development approaches and modes of awareness, and their relationships, as perceived by different beliefs systems, disciplines, religions, and cultures (notably those represented by international organizations -- profiled in a complementary source: Yearbook of International Organizations):

Method and development

The information used was obtained from a wide range of specialized reference books as well as from reports published by intergovernmental organizations. A detailed description of the method is given in the commentary.

Source: There are no official lists of approaches to human development -- nor to their associated modes of awareness. The approaches to human development profiled here are derived from extensive literature searches across disciplines, cultures and spiritual traditions. In some cases what is named may not appear either like an approach to human development, nor a mode of awareness, but it may be interpreted as such by some within the culture or discipline concerned.

Names: Approaches to human development may have a variety of names, especially through the manner in which they are translated between different languages and spiritual traditions. The alphabetic index list, based on a single name per approach, is therefore an essentially arbitrary ordering of the items in the database. As a random presentation of the contents of the database, it has the advantage of drawing attention to the variety of pathways and understandings which individuals may encounter during their personal and collective development.

Development: Although this is the complete list of the human development entries published in the Encyclopedia, it is important to recognize that the database is continually being expanded, notably through the addition of other approaches that are aspects of those already included in the list. In addition to refining entries and extending the range, consideration could again be given to the possibility of including specific bibliographic references as was done for the previous edition. It would be possible to extend the range to offer better coverage of modes of awareness recognized in non-Western cultures. A pattern of cross-references to specific symbols and to specific values could also be developed. 

Explanatory comments

Detailed explanations and commentary are also provided in a collection of 27 documents

Research studies on human development, written in relation to this project and to international organizations, are directly accessible from separate checklists:

The information on human development and modes of awareness, and how it can be organized, is seen as one of the keys to the global organization of knowledge about organizations, strategies, or problems.

The contrasting approaches to human development in different cultures, and their respective understandings of the modes of awareness associated with different stages in that development process, are a challenge to knowledge management and comprehension. It is for this reason that unconventional approaches to the orgaznization of such information are explored, notably through web interfaces.

Note that more general comments and explanations, regarding the collection of projects initiated within the framework of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, are available in a collection of 27 documents.


The contents presented by this project may be considered as complementing the other projects in ways such as the following:

  • Integrative knowledge: By the manner in which advances in the integration of knowledge are paralleled by integration of the individual and of society and require such integration in order to be meaningful.
  • World problems: By the manner in which human development is frustrated and impeded by world problems, and through the world problems engendered by the unbalanced pursuit of particular forms of human development (or by the conflict between different forms of human development).
  • Metaphors and patterns: By the manner in which human development options are communicated, and through the evolution of new forms of communication following efforts to communicate new insights into human development possibilities.
  • Transformative approaches: By the importance of taking into consideration different modes of human development in designing techniques to be of relevance to people with different needs and modes of response.
  • Human values: By the manner in which values acquire their significance through the pursuit of different modes of human development and through the association of many specific modes of awareness with the experience of particular values (see cross-references in Section V to human development).

Reservations and disclaimer

Reservations: Many of the concepts of human development do not lend themselves to brief verbal description, particularly where their proponents sharply distinguish them from other concepts that could well be described using the same words. In editing the descriptions no attempt has yet been made to clarify such difficulties.

Verbal descriptions of subjective experiences can only be inappropriate, if not insensitive or totally inadequate. Nevertheless such descriptions are attempted by those drawing attention to the importance of particular modes of awareness. Attempting to group such descriptions into one framework obscures implicit subtle distinctions. It is for this reason that no attempt has been made to combine entries on different approaches to what might be considered the same mode of awareness.

Disclaimer: Whilst honouring the views of quite different cultures and belief systems, these profiles do not endeavour to distinguish between "positive" and "negative" approaches to human development. It is important to recognize that for advocates of particular approaches to human development, alternative approaches may be perceived as totally misleading, if not downright dangerous. Such views are usually reciprocated and lead notably to religious conflict. The purpose of this list is to raise questions about the circumstances under which particular approaches may be seen as constructive or destructive. It is for the reader to exercise discrimination in determining under what circumstances particular approaches amy be considered as "positive" or "negative" in their implications. Presence of items on this list in no way implies approval of a particular approach by the UIA as an organization. Extensive commentary on these issues is provided in the Encyclopedia.


Statistics on human development, in the light of the methodology of this project, are provided in tables in the commentary and were published in the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential. They are also also available on-line

Media used & multi-media

The profiles of approaches to are published in:

The information generated by this project on human development and different understandings of modes of awareness has been published initially in the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential; subsequently it has been made available on-line.

Networks of relationships between different concepts and successions of states of awareness have been explored with the experimental visualization techniques associated with the on-line version.

From Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential

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