It's one thing to describe a personal journey from the self-absorption and sensory/body awareness of childhood to the psychic wisdom of old age; it's another to construct a human cultural history on such upward-bound evolutionary lines. That, however, is Wilber's grand scheme--or Great Chain of Being: a construct that will appeal chiefly to other adherents of the consciousness movement in which Wilber has been a prime-mover. ""History,"" he writes, ""is basically the unfolding of those successively higher-order structures, starting with the lowest (matter and body) and ending with the highest (spirit and ultimate wholeness)."" Transpersonal psychology states the same thesis for the individual. The text then presents human history in terms of parallel lines of development--in which there is an average mode of personal evolution for a given place and time, along with the presence of a few exceptional individuals who represent a more advanced psychic state: the spiritual leaders and pointers-of-the-way. In analyzing the art and symbols of other cultures, Wilber can be instructive--apropos of the use of the serpent, for example, as a lowly groveling creature or an emblem of wisdom. And his dosing chapters on commonalities that link Democratic liberal optimism with Marxism, as expressive of the view that objective conditions must change, vs. Freudian/conservative/Republican pessimism, as expressive of the view that the subject is innately evil (and objective rules must prevail), are well done if not original. The mystical view, which he champions, is then seen to embrace and transcend both. For those who accept the premises, sophisticated soul-nurturance.