The term "human development" relates to concepts that people identify with, consider meaningful or reject in their search for growth and fulfilment in life. It points to a process which is of vital interest at a time when the organization and future of life on this planet is challenged by the consequences of past understandings of that same process. For it is human development, through its lack of restraint, which has given rise to a high proportion of the problems of the world. There is nevertheless much confusion concerning the significance of the term. And yet there is great need to harness the forces of human development to meet the challenge of the times more effectively.
The purpose of the Human Potential and Development section of the Encyclopedia is to describe briefly the complete range of concepts of human development. 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 included on explicit concepts of human development and on therapies, activities or experiences in which a particular understanding of human development is implicit.
As well as providing descriptions of these concepts, the Encyclopedia aims to provide a context for concepts of human development that are used in essentially different and frequently non-interacting sectors of society, and to draw attention to those concepts of human development which have hitherto been excluded from serious consideration within the international community. Concepts are also compared, for instance between those that place importance on the psycho-social development of the individual as a unique human being, from those which effectively stress the development of the individual conceived merely as a socio-economic unit. The Encyclopedia also provides information on the range of modes of awareness, as well as on the states of consciousness with which people identify during the process of human development, indicating where possible how these are perceived as interrelated stages.