Spiral Dynamics 101
A Brief Overview of the Spiral Dynamics model of Human Cultural Evolution
Ben Lipman (Varadaan), with Dennis Evenson
A Brief Overview of the Spiral Dynamics model of Human Cultural Evolution
Ben Lipman (Varadaan), with Dennis Evenson
For a quick overview follow the links above.
For a more complete grasp of Spiral Dynamics, you will have to read the whole 1001 document.
The term "Spiral Dynamics" to the best of our knowledge, was created by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan, and described in depth in their book Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change. It needs to be shared that the idea of a sequence of stages of consciousness is not a new idea, in fact the Beck-Cowan work builds on the work of Clare Graves. And there are many others who have ventured into the study of the evolution of human consciousness, in the past and more recently, including: Jean Gebser, Abraham Maslow, Rudolf Steiner, Sri Aurobindo, Erik Erikson, Erich Neumann, Herbert Fingarette, Piaget, Susanne Cook-Greuter, Jane Loevinger, Ralph Abraham, William Irwin Thompson, Ken Wilber and Jenny Wade, among others, not to mention the universes of Yogic and Buddhist philosophies, the Qaballah, and Christian Mysticism (especially perhaps Evelyn Underhill). A fair and deep examination of the different schemas and their interrelationships is beyond this quick introduction to the concepts offered within Spiral Dynamics. The reason we particularly like the Beck-Cowan schema is that it is accessible; each of the stages is coded with a visual color and a few syllables. The model is a remarkably powerful tool in learning how and why different groups interact the way they do. Why is it, for instance, that some groups seem incapable of real communication with another? And while the basic concepts can be grasped quickly, we recommend avoiding the most simplistic descriptions, especially for those who wish to apply the model in any sophisticated way. To make it possible to quickly grasp some basic concepts, we offer this document, that we call “Spiral Dynamics 101”, and strongly encourage also reading a more in-depth discussion, called “Spiral Dynamics 1001”. For those interested in an exploration of possible esoteric aspects, that may go beyond this model of human behavior, Varadaan will offer “Esoteric Considerations, Relating to Spiral Dynamics”. An advance apology is offered should anyone feel we are not appropriately presenting these important ideas – a concerted effort has been made to present an independent view, composed with the intention to serve humanity at this important time.
This system of sequential stages of cultural evolution is being used for the website www.sustainability.org, for two reasons. One is that the theme of sequential stages, of an unfolding process of human consciousness both for individuals and society, is of paramount concern as we, the denizens of a global civilization facing remarkable environmental challenges, are pondering an evolution into some greater capacity to curb our worst excesses and meet these profound challenges. The other reason such a thematic shorthand is useful, is that if it is in fact true that current human consciousness can actually be characterized with eight or more different discrete worldviews, well then we have a useful shorthand to discuss human societies and their interactions, with particular terminology that enables comparison and descriptions that would otherwise be difficult, cumbersome or perhaps impossible. Such a tool has implications not just for the urgent environmental concerns of our day, but for the journey toward more authentically collaborative and empowering global civil society, for international business, for political science, and for effective philanthropy, among other things. In terms of human culture evolving toward the ability to establish and maintain real ecological sustainability on planet Earth, the primary adaptive pattern change is the transition into 'second tier' worldviews.
The understanding offered with the Spiral Dynamics model is that there are discrete worldviews, meaning essentially boxes, within which people think. There are domains of ideas and ideologies that proscribe how individuals and groups understand and conceptualize the world and their experiences of it. Thus, it can be quite liberating to understand why someone or some group seems completely incapable of understanding another, or seems to be proceeding down some other parallel track. E.g. why do the right wing and the progressive left in U.S. politics seem to live in such different worlds, and why do some seem incapable of communication or statesmanship? The famous linguist Benjamin Whorf, in Language, Thought and Reality, explained how people can only think within a domain circumscribed by the set of sublinguistic building blocks with which they personally have familiarity. Our capacity for cognition is conditioned by the culture we live in. If we don’t have certain conceptual building blocks, then our thoughts cannot contain or describe ideas beyond a certain domain. The vMeme construct of Spiral Dynamics is similar; each worldview set is self contained, proscribes conceptualization and ideation, and even has its own linguistic sets and “codes” of identification and affinity for certain communication modalities. This of course, is particularly true in the first six levels; the limitations of the “first tier” is essentially the raison d’être for the conversation about this material, as well as for the www.sustainability.com project – human society has not yet reached a stage of ‘enlightenment’ such that suffering, difficulties, and ultimately the threat of our own personal and collective annihilation are not everyday concerns for almost every human on Earth.
Before going into the specific language of Spiral Dynamics, it is important to lay out some basic framework. If some of the details of this “lay of the land” appear overwhelming, skip this paragraph; for those familiar with the Spiral Dynamics landscape, some of this brief “position statement” may help in assimilating what we are trying to offer. It is important to share right away that there are 'now', in 2010, quite a divergence of opinions about what is “Spiral Dynamics” and how it should be properly presented and used. Christopher Cowan is holding a more orthodox “Gravesian” perspective, discounting any “end state” in the evolutionary process, and publicly expresses disappointment with overly simplified and conflated versions of the vMeme schema, such as may be offered by Ken Wilber and the Integral Camp. Ken Wilber has now, circa 2006 moved the schema into new color arrangements since the introduction of the classic Beck Cowan 8 level arrangement that was enthusiastically presented as 4Q/8L in 2000 (Theory of Everything), and in Integral Spirituality, demurs from specific discussion of the exact content of the “third tier” while yet suggesting it relates to degrees of spiritual development. Don Beck evidently has not evolved the 8 level presentation substantially since the 1996 release of Spiral Dynamics with Christopher Cowan, and presentation of workshop materials circa 2000, etc. and only indicates additional possible stages with a Coral level for which there are no details. However, a new installment is promised any day from Dr. Beck. Meanwhile, offering cogent arguments and real analysis, Jenny Wade in Changes of Mind: A Holonomic Theory of the Evolution of Consciousness, offers a related approach, mostly focused on a sequence of stages of the evolution of consciousness of the individual, yet offering unique perspectives including precursor prenatal stages, and the concept of bifurcation in the sequence of development, with some individuals apparently not progressing through all stages in sequence. For the most part her stages correlate quite tightly with the Spiral Dynamics model, yet focus more on individuals than social groups. We understand the importance of distinguishing between container and content, e.g. the difference between a vMeme worldview framework and individual ideas/memes that are contained within them. Perhaps the vMeme sequence which appears to be something like a sequence of chaotic attractors, and can be understood to be in a process of evolution in their own right, can be understood simply as one useful way to describe various interacting parts of the human socio-cultural matrix; it is a very useful perspective for coming to an understanding of history, current politics, and future strategies. And while we do not subscribe to the rigid ideology of a requisite sequential order with each layer exactly transcending and including previous levels, the basic theme of successively adopted worldviews that transcend and integrate the previous conceptual frameworks does ring true. As to the point of whether or not the ‘Spiral’ describes some kind of spiritual continuum, we are taking the position that well, yes, first and second tier indicate, at least in general, an increasing sophistication of understanding, of means of modeling the world. And there does appear to be evidence and experience of states of consciousness that are transpersonal, that occur beyond the realm of mind, and these stages appear to follow some patterns found throughout the rest of the spiral. It is our hope that the gently modified version offered here conforms closely with the now widely studied quasi-orthodox version of Spiral Dynamics that has been developed by Beck and Cowan in 1996. Our objective is to keep the conversation on familiar ground, in an easily accessible format, as much as possible. In deeper analysis we will explore possibilities beyond the basic model, but for now, explication of the basic model will be adequate, since most discussion about real society will, in the foreseeable future, be about the top half of the first tier and the transition beyond it.
Note evolutionary sequence is from bottom to top.
|Color||Descriptive Term**||Thinking Style***||Group Identifications***||Other Descriptive Terms|
|Turquoise||Gaian||Holistic||holistic meshwork||synergy of all life|
|Yellow||Integrative||Systemic||integral commons||systems understanding|
|Green||Affiliative||Consensual||value communities||everybody is equal|
|Blue||Conformist||Authoritarian||nation states||rules and traditional values|
|Red||Egocentric||Impulsive||feudal empires||this relates to hierarchical orders|
|Purple||Tribalistic||Magical||ethnic tribes||tribal magical-animistic|
|Beige||Reactive||Instinctive||survival clans||primal hunter-gatherer reality|
Click on a Color to go to its ‘quick summary’
** Largely from Wade and Graves
*** From Beck, especially Beige through Green
There are and have been various theories about the evolution of human consciousness; e.g. that different people have different ways of thinking at any given period in their lives, or at any period of history. Perhaps most notably, Abraham Maslow famously proposed a “Hierarchy of Needs”, whereby sequential stages of basic needs were proposed. Maslow’s model specifically addresses the evolutionary stages of individuals, and it is understood that higher levels of needs exist, such as understanding, or spiritual experience. In the 1950’s and 1960’s Clare Graves studied the way human beings operate. What he found is that in studying real people, a theory, based in experiential evidence, could not be completely fit into Maslow’s Pyramid. One particular aspect involved a recognition that there appeared to be discrete levels that loosely correlate to the levels in Maslow’s pyramid, but which appeared to have a quality of oscillation between two themes, that Graves described as 1) sacrifice of self and 2) self expression.
Later in this text, we will describe this alternation from an individual to collective orientation, as it is revealed in the Spiral Dynamics model, where it is expressed as an oscillation between warm and cool colors.
“Briefly, what I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating process marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man’s existential problems change.”  —Clare Graves
Beck and Cowan: “In other words, human thinking evolves in recognizable packages.” 
. . .
“Graves’ orientation was to integrate "bio-," "psycho-," and "socio-," thus meshing human knowledge and breaching the walls of academia that separated disciplines and fields. As early as 1973 he was pointing to the critical importance of mind/brain research with a focus on how the mind is shaped by neurological structures and networks, and how it is activated by chemical agents and life’s conditions. . . He would often summarize his point of view in the following constructs:
A Spiral vortex [may] best depict[s] this emergence of human systems as they evolve through levels of increasing complexity. Each upward turn of the spiral marks the awakening of a more elaborated version on top of what already exists. The human Spiral, then, consists of a coiled string of value systems, worldviews, and mindsets, each the product of its times and conditions. . .
The same principles of Spiral Dynamics apply to a single person, an organization, or an entire society. Since it describes human nature in a universal sense rather than through personality types or racial, gender, and ethnic traits, the model provides a common language for grappling with both local and global problems. It [can] offer[s] a unifying framework that makes genuinely holistic thinking and actions possible. ” 
In Spiral Dynamics, Beck and Cowan describe humanity’s journey though progressive stages, and here indicate the process that produces the emergence of a successive layer:
In the beginning, humans wandered the land, finding food wherever they could: hunting, gathering, and sticking together without forming tribal identity, merely doing what was necessary for survival, one day at a time.
Descriptive Term : REACTIVE
Thinking Style : INSTINCTIVE
Group Identification : SURVIVAL CLANS
Primary Motivation: CESSATION OF DISCOMFORT
Generating Life Challenge : SURVIVAL
Learning Mode : TRIAL AND ERROR
Primary Chakra / Possible Hormone Activation : #1 / Adrenaline?
Shadow Aspects : ???
Examples of Healthy Beige : Aboriginal, non-tribal, peoples that live in harmony with their environment without depleting resources.
Value Codes : I survive. Humans are the smartest animal.
The first level is a pattern of instinctive survival oriented behavior, labeled as Beige color in Spiral Dynamics. This level has been likened to hunter-gatherer consciousness, where activity is largely governed by instinctive, reactive behavior oriented around the fundamentals of survival. While Graves described this stage as not including awareness of distance and time, this could not be completely correct; an individual at this stage would of course know about which watering holes were closer or further away, or perhaps have some understanding of a daily sun cycle and probably even seasonal variations. Thus, the comprehension of distance and time would be framed in terms of nature pertaining to survival needs, but such an individual would not have the abstract concepts of distance and time, with units of measure, etc. It is understood that while individuals living within this value system can be found, with some effort, in modern day, they are quite rare, while certain examples of regression may demonstrate operation from within this conceptual framework, such as people with late stage alzheimers, people in starvation, and in terms of human development, newborns operate from this reactive kind of consciousness. Things of importance at this level are food, water, safety, sleep, shelter, and mating.
Between 69,000 and 77,000 years ago the Toba supereruption in Sumatra, Indonesia is believed to have created radical climatic shifts when all of South Asia was covered by 15cm of ash, the volcanic winter possibly coinciding with the onset of the last glacial period. In accordance with the Toba Catastrophe Theory, genetic evidence indicates that Humanity was reduced to as few as one thousand breeding pairs at this time. There are caves in South Africa recently getting attention because of the possibility that people approximately 70,000 years ago were participating in a ‘genetic bottleneck’ – because of drought and other factors, the entire human population had declined radically to a few thousand individuals. These people may well have tracked lunar cycles to follow tidal variations which enabled hiking significant distances on a schedule, to collect bivalves for food. It is now thought that the consumption of mollusks as a new food source, rich in omega fatty acids, led to significant developments in the human brain. These people may represent the transition to the next stage, the formation of tribal groups, a transformation literally required to ensure survival of the human race, and along the way an emergence of human culture, the advent of art and many now think, human language as well.
Social groups at this level will have the quality of survival clans, what some may refer to as hunter-gatherer family groups. Clare Graves felt there was one living example of a primitive people, who were a modern example of Beige, before they began interacting with modern civilization. There may no longer be any pure Beige system people on the planet today.
Note that the Beige vMeme may be seen to correlate closely with Gebser’s “Dawn Human”.
”In an early age we found refuge in clans and safety in a threatening world by awakening the capacity to sense the spirits and placate them through magic…” 
Descriptive Term : TRIBALISTIC
Thinking Style : MAGICAL
Group Identification : ETHNIC TRIBES
Primary Motivation: SENSE SECURITY AND SAFETY
Generating Life Challenge : RELATIVE SAFETY
Learning Mode : MYTHIC NARRATIVE
Primary Chakra/Possible Hormone Activation: #1, #2 / Oxytocin?
Shadow Aspects : Magical thinking and a blind need to be part of the group can lead to sacrifice of opportunities for growth and development of the individual.
Examples of Healthy Purple : Enduring indigenous communities living in harmony with nature
Value Codes : We Are Safe, Security through Ritual (and tribe)
The second level is essentially the emergence of a human society in the form of tribal group. At this level of development, people have a belief-oriented worldview that is triggered by fear of the unknown and a desire to collectively find a sense of security. Belief systems here tend to be animistic or oriented toward the idea of powerful Gods and Spirits that can be appeased in some way to increase the well being of the tribe. This way of thinking is not formally rational in any particular sense, but has a connection to the natural world that has an intuitive, almost dream-like reality. There is no real sense of the individual here, identification is with a collective reality. Of particular importance at Purple is the family or tribe, a sense of honor, respect for elders / ancestors / spirits.
Within this worldview framework, there is a tendency to oppose change or deviations; while there aren’t rules per-se, there is simply what has always been done, what the Gods allow or decree. There is a fear of stepping outside of the established safe patterns. This pattern is of course tribalistic, will be characterized by magical thinking, and identification with a given social and or ethnic group. Some religions will have a strong thread of purple, such as is seen when people make offerings to a deity or temple, looking for magical solution to some problem or issue.
When the magic and ritual became stifling, we escaped by asserting a raw sense of self and slaying the dragons that lurk in the dark. The powerful individual sought to dominate kith, kin, and nature.
Descriptive Term : EGOCENTRIC
Thinking Style : IMPULSIVE
Group Identification : FEUDAL EMPIRES
Primary Motivation: EGO GRATIFICATION
Generating Life Challenge : ASSERTION OF EGO-SELF
Learning Mode : REWARD
Primary Chakra/Hormone Activation: #1, #3 / Nor-adrenaline (per C. Graves)
Shadow Aspects : GREED, SELFISHNESS, NO RESPECT FOR LIFE
Examples of Healthy Red : The benevolent dictator or a king who truly cares for his subjects are hybrids of Red and Blue, possibly with a dose of Purple. Pure Red is beyond moral scruples; ‘healthy’ red is hard to like, red in its fullness populates the prisons.
Value Codes : I Control 
The third level in the Spiral Dynamics model, Red, is in particular, very self oriented. If purple in a sense can be seen as activation and use of the mammalian brain, Red can be thought of, in some ways, as a second order activation of the reptilian brain. At Red, there is essentially no superego development – guilt is not particularly evident here. A person at Red, will be so self focused that needs of others is limited in the scope of attention to such a degree that the focus may be more on the consequences of others thoughts about self, rather than an independent ethical framework, or a sense of ‘what is right’. In some ways this correlates well with the teenage years in human development, when as all parents know, the self is considered to be the center of the universe, and should some undesirable event occur, there may be a recasting of events to fit the self’s sense that ‘I didn’t actually do anything wrong’. Typical strong examples of manifestation of the Red vMeme set, which supports intensely fear-based and hierarchical structures, authoritarian societies and feudal social orders, can be seen in modern warlords, gang leaders, and family dynasties ruled by an ‘alpha male’ personage. Red leaders are often seen ruling Purple clans.
When there is a total absence of ethical framework, you are looking at the Red vMeme. With Red there may be fear of punishment for misdeeds, but the source of punishment is external. The Red wave can be characterized by concentration of resources and power in the hands of a few, the following phrases ‘might makes right, and courtesy of Beck and Cowan: “Respect and reputation are more important than life itself.” “Don’t worry about consequences that may not come” “In a world of haves and have-nots, its good to be a have.” Red is a core theme in corruption, often providing a flavor component of higher order worldviews. If someone is willing to hurt or kill others to obtain direct personal benefit, there is a quality of Red. Getting technical briefly, we can say they are expressing from a ‘bulge of Red in their vMeme stack’, and as the Matrix will reveal, there are often sectors of activity that may be less developed than others. When we get to Orange, there is a Red-Orange pattern, an Achievist vehicle with a core of self-serving Red. Think profit-seeking Multinational Corporation. Most companies will do some ‘green-washing’ etc for public relations, but ultimately, the profit, the bottom line, is the end all and be all. Generally if the corporate board members do not put profit to shareholders first, they are ejected. Most corporations do not operate from guilt per se, and while good ones are operated by individuals that hew to some moral principles, many are driven by purely financial calculations; sometimes presenting a moral or environmental image is just good for the bottom line, but it is about maximizing profit without particular regard for damage to ecosystems or human life. The top three economies of the world: Guns, Drugs and Oil are populated with spectacular examples of such enterprises.
When chaos and anarchy then reigned supreme, we sought meaning and found peace of mind in the absolute and unquestioned order of a Higher Power or rightful authority, the organizing principle greater than any individual or group.
Descriptive Term : CONFORMIST
Thinking Style : AUTHORITARIAN
Group Identification : NATION STATE
Primary Motivation : ORDER, PURPOSE, MEANING
Generating Life Challenge : OBTAINING APPROVAL, ACHIEVING ETERNAL PEACE
Learning Mode : PUNISHMENT,
Primary Chakra/Hormone Activation: #3, #4 / Adrenal Hormones (per C. Graves)
Shadow Aspects : GUILT, FUNDAMENTALISM, DOGMATISM, ABSOLUTISM
Examples of Healthy Blue : AA, 12 STEPS, BUDDHIST RELIGION
Value Codes : “WE ARE SAVED”
Police, who enforce society’s established rules wear blue. The Blue vMeme paradigm is characterized by belief in a higher power. We see in the historical shift from Red into Blue, which was the transition from feudal society, the emergence of a social order that is more structured, rule oriented and often, infused and informed by religious imperative. Blue will often manifest in an absolutist worldview, and because it tends to create large scale social organization, here you get real wars among nation states. Typically there can be clashes of ideologies, such as the Crusades of yesteryear, ongoing conflict in the Middle East fueled by religious fundamentalism, or the Christian Right in the United States wrapped in a patriotic faith in Democracy lined up against the Communist Nationalism of the East Bloc. Note that while Blue is a collective paradigm of identification, it will often be colored by Red (entry phase into Blue), or Orange. Established Blue-Orange would be indicative of typical Republican values in the U.S., characterized by the following identifications: the right to operate in a democratic capitalist society for personal benefit, adherence to religious principles as a matter of faith, and fervent belief in knowing what is right, true and just, and that nearly any means to accomplish these these goals are fully justified (which would be especially true in the case of a ‘red bulge’, as described above in the section on Red. (See Spiral Dynamics 1001 document for more detail in general). The Blue vMeme will typically be characterized by belief in serving a Divine Authority, and historically, this has even been described as the “Divine Right of Kings”; the archetype was clearly seen in China and post medieval Europe, e.g. Muslim, Christian and Confucian Empires, and in modern times, England and Japan. General MacArthur exploited the strong Blue cultural motif in Japan while brokering a lasting peace after WWII, by allowing the Emperor to remain in place, symbolically, in title. Blue cares more about ideology than material form.
The ferocity of Blue, when powered by absolutist belief in serving “the divine cause” is beyond remarkable; this particular worldview may be the most dangerous, and can be and has been exploited by corrupt leadership – examples stand out: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and even the Bush /Cheney administration intentionally used the Fundamentalist Christian Right for political purposes. Meanwhile, it is possible for a Blue-Orange to regress toward Blue-Red under extreme stress. Red-Blue in its emergent form could present as organized large gangs that begin to show empire scale of action or ambition, and may incorporate some religious, ‘higher power’ ideologies into their organizational milieu, examples being the larger Mafiosa families of Italy, and in current events, the frightening emergence of La Familia in Mexico, a gang that reads from a bible written by its leader, has strict rules including no drug use, and produces some of the highest quality crystal meth targeted for export to the U.S. The collateral damage from this one gang may exceed all the work of al-Qaeda combined. Political corruption has a Red flavor, and thus, in recent years the unbalanced side of the Republican party, fueled by years of the corrupt Bush Administration, which had at its core, powerful family dynasties (Red), has shown its true Red-Blue qualities, and this may ultimately be the undoing of the Grand Old Party – where there seems to be a dearth of fresh ideas from this sector of late, in a society that is actively transitioning away from Blue-Orange into Orange-Green and beyond.
One clear characteristic of Blue is the emergence of abstract laws or commandments. Behaviors are constrained [by abstract value systems] in order to avoid the anarchy of conflicting power bases. The rules are unchallengeable. This sets up a static equilibrium that acts by negative feedback mechanisms to eliminate heresy or nonconformist behaviors. An alternate descriptive term for the Blue vMeme is ‘Traditional’ – a reference to a more mature version of this worldview, while ‘conformist’ may be seen as applying well both the the entering stage as well as the stabilized and established forms.
When that absolute order became oppressive and repressive and we grew weary of waiting for future rewards, individualists challenged the authorities and tried to create the abundant "good life" here and now.
Descriptive Term : ACHIEVIST
Thinking Style : STRATEGIC
Group Identification : CORPORATE STRUCTURES
Primary Motivation: ACHEIVEMENT, UNDERSTANDING REALITY, LIVING THE GOOD LIFE
Generating Life Challenge : Higher Authority of Blue Failed to Create Safety
Learning Mode : REWARD AND FEAR OF FAILURE
Primary Chakra/Possible Hormone Activation: #3, #5 / Thyroid Hormones
Shadow Aspects : MATERIALISM
Examples of Healthy Orange : Scientific approach to reality. Advanced medicine. Computer and information technology applied toward collective human problems.
Value Codes : I UNDERSTAND, I PERFECT, “I IMPROVE”
The Orange vMeme set is the emergence of the Scientific Materialist worldview, characterized by an emphasis on individual achievement. In Orange, we get the Enlightenment in Europe and the emergence of the principles of Rationalism, the Scientific Method, Entrepreneurialism and the emergence of Free Markets. Orange venerates the potential of the one clever individual, having a largely Rationalist orientation.
Chris Lucas reveals the historical emergence of Orange: “Level 4 societies are stagnating, new possibilities are not permitted, so genius and development is suppressed. Many innovations are however clearly beneficial, and positive feedback will escalate these until they can no longer be contained. The society will switch to one allowing material goods (since these don't directly challenge most abstract 'dogmas'. Thus the free-market will arrive and this is stabilized by the 'invisible-hand' (self-organization), such that people will exchange goods for mutual benefit. The numbers of goods and their geographical spread tends to grow considerably by further positive feedback.”
The Orange worldview is perhaps the dominant force geopolitically and economically in the world today. The democratic ideals of meritocracy and ‘one person/one vote’ are well rooted in this fifth wave. It is Orange that produced the fossil fuel driven ‘Green Revolution’ in agriculture with its consequent environmental impacts. The phrase ‘Better Living through Chemistry’ is a perfect illustration of Orange with a tinge of fundamentalism present in an extraordinary faith in Science so typical of the 1950s. Rupert Sheldrake in particular, has made the point that Orange science can be characterized by its own peculiarly materialist dogmatism. The Academy, of course has its rigid rules, norms, structures and somewhat rigid belief systems – not so much a surprise: a lot of the what coheres the foundations of modern higher education is inherited from traditional religious academic institutions.
So it is with the exalted status of the mind in Orange, there is belief in and to a great degree, in fact, the ability to rationally grasp at the nature of material reality, often with great precision and specificity. Thus, at this point in human evolution, within the dominant social order, especially in the industrialized first world, we see an aggressive social order, cohered by a faith in Science and Technology, and to some degree, a turning away from divine and mystical aspects of reality, that implicitly confound rational explanation. Thus in Orange, we see particular developments in Science, Technology, Medicine, etc. In Orange physics, the goal is discovering the one universal theory, which can be encoded in mathematical symbols, understandable by mind, that explains everything. This physics is largely characterized by an orientation to discrete particles that support a model for physical reality which has the property of ‘symmetry’ and work in particle oriented physics is largely focused on massive efforts to build larger and more powerful machines to glimpse ever more subtle aspects of the particle ‘zoo’. Technology in Orange may be perhaps best illustrated with the advent of electronics and computer technology in particular. ‘Moore’s Law’ illustrates the point with particular clarity, to wit: “The number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years. The trend has continued for more than half a century and is not expected to stop until 2015 or later.”[Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law]. Orange medicine is characterized by better theoretical understandings of the human body, and tools for diagnosing and treating disease and injury. Thus, we see the advent of germ theory and antibiotic treatment, perfection of sterilization and surgical techniques, the emergence of biochemistry, genetic sciences, psychiatric science and single compound pharmacology.
The individually oriented paradigm, that rewards the clever and fuels financial markets, scientific endeavor, and remarkable developments in technology — it may be the undoing of the world’s ecologies. The economic model is not holistic, or beholden to a broad systems perspective that encompasses the entire planet. The basic economic assumptions of orange hold that there is a basic right for individuals, or organizations called corporations, to invest capital to make more capital; it is assumed that the environment provides an infinite resource base upon which to draw, and as well, provides an unlimited sink into which it is possible to deposit the waste products of industry. These ideas have proven to be catastrophically untrue, and while a Green reaction against the amalgam of corporate scientific-materialist enterprise has arisen starting particularly in the 1960s, we now inhabit a world facing frightening prospects for climate change, precipitous species extinction rates, depleted fisheries, loss and contamination of topsoils, proliferation of genetically modified food crops that may damage the human genome, water contaminations and shortages, antibiotic resistant germs, and many other major concerns.
When this progress-oriented materialism failed to bring happiness, we became lonely. Then we wanted to rediscover human feelings, recapture spirituality, and find "ourselves."
Descriptive Term : AFFILIATIVE
Thinking Style : CONSENSUAL
Group Identification : VALUE COMMUNITIES
Primary Motivation: COMMUNAL IMPULSE
Generating Primary Life Challenge : REJECTION OF THE EXCESSES OF ORANGE’S INSTITUTIONALIZED SELFISHNESS, FINDING TOLERANT COMMUNITY
Learning Mode : INCLUSIVE
Primary Chakra Activation / Possible Hormone Activation: #4 / Oxytocin?:
Shadow Aspects : Ungrounded Idealism. Rigidly anti-hierarchical and anti-meritocracy leading to “mediocracy”.
Examples of Healthy Green : Groups that allow people to be themselves
Value Codes : “WE LOVE”, “WE ARE TOGETHER”
Green is offended by the greed of orange and turned off by it's emphasis on mind, and rejecting the rules paradigm of Blue, seeks a heartful groovy new way, that will save the world.
As society faces the environmental and social consequences of a Blue-Orange social order, for many the first response is quite reactive. The young rebel against the older, established social hierarchy, which worked well up to this point, and rewarded in accordance with a rational basis. Hippies burning their draft cards, rejecting the National Imperative to fight Communism, is a particularly poignant image. We see the emergence of the Green vMeme, which coincidentally, is named that color. Green values are the pinnacle of what in Spiral Dynamics lingo, is referred to as “the first tier”; it is still a reactive paradigm, it arises as a reaction to the failures of Orange to solve the problems arising from the life conditions experienced by emergent Green. Values typical for Green include an appreciation of the inherent value of living systems and human life in general. There is a great sense of equality among those identified with Green, and it is characterized by a communal impulse. While entry Green may incorporate elements of other precursor cool colors, Green ultimately has qualities of its own, like a yearning for a sense of freedom from all perceived social orders and hierarchies, a focus on psycho-social ‘processing’, a yearning for achieving consensus reality even concerning rather challenging social issues, reluctance to accept hierarchical leadership models of any kind, a disdain for materialist values, and an interest in expanding consciousness, even with dangerous mind altering substances.
One basic theme for Green is the sense that everybody is equal. So Green values human connection, and prefers situations that create a feeling of belonging in close, harmonious relationships. J. Wade puts it clearly: the ultimate value for Green is ‘Being Needed’, and for Green, relationships are the most important thing.
While Green certainly has its shadow aspects, we need Green. Green is the first wave antidote to the excesses of Orange. It is the emergence of real populism, which enables the transcendence of racism and rigid religious ideologies. Green is also ‘green’ – the formation of an organized, socially based environmental ethos. The dark side of this can be a kind of rabid absolutism about an idea that ‘feels right’, whatever may in fact be true. An example would be attempts to create laws forbidding the use of ordinary light bulbs and requiring the use of compact fluorescent bulbs, never mind that fluorescent lights produce inferior light quality that often oscillates at 60hz (or 50Hz), which may have deleterious impact on human health at a neurological level, and fluorescent bulbs are manufactured with significant amounts of mercury and other toxic compounds, which will typically wind up being injected into the environment. Another example would be the widespread belief that photovoltaic technology is always better, but a real assessment of sustainability will require understanding there is a difference here between fervent belief and careful analysis of real environmental impact; cradle to grave study may show that the full environmental consequence of mining and manufacturing of silicon panels with significant amounts of metal such as silver, may prove other technologies to be superior in the long run, perhaps most especially basic efficiency measures which do not reduce quality of life, such as use of timers, dimmers, occupancy sensors, natural air supplies, passive solar heating, etc. There is a lot of opportunity for mature Green to draw on the best of Orange, which ultimately breaks into a whole new way of thinking, a broader systems view, that in particular combines Orange and Green, yet transcends them both to find a way for economics to serve a higher purpose.
Descriptive Term : INTEGRATIVE
Thinking Style : SYSTEMIC [Graves]
Group Identification : INTEGRAL COMMONS
Primary Motivation: SELF WORTH and CURIOSITY
Generating Life Challenge : Restoring Viability to a Disordered World
Learning Mode : MULTI-MODAL, MULTI-DISCIPLINARY, INTEGRATIVE
Primary Chakra Activation: #5, (#6)
Shadow Aspects : Weighted toward an individual orientation. A misguided and ego driven Yellow can be very dangerous, e.g. Carl Rove.
Examples of Healthy Yellow : Scandinavian Social Democracies that utilize both Orange and Green principles, creating a more functional and harmonious society – the “bluebird of happiness” is found in Denmark.
Value Codes : “I AM CURIOUS”, “I LEARN”
The Yellow vMeme is notably different from those that came before. It has a different fragrance altogether, and those operating from this frame will feel a certain distance from the fuss and passion of the ‘first tier’, the collection of the first six vMeme worldviews. If anything, these first waves can be characterized in their emergent states as having an aversion paradigm, somehow being driven by reaction to something that didn’t work, was perceived as dangerous or undesirable, and not in some mild way, but that required a whole new way of living. Yellow can enjoy the best fruits of the world whether foods, ideas, technology or art, but doesn’t need them. At Yellow there is a certain self confidence in the individual, which may be arising at least in part because of a certain clarity that on the one hand the passionate ‘sky is falling’ mentality of the previous vMemes are of a relative quality – that ‘truth’ is true for those who believe it is so. Thus while important issues of the day, be they environmental, economic, social or what have you, while they are important issues, they each are not THE issue; there are many issues and each of us has only so much time and attention to live, or work, or worry. Ultimately, one day life comes to an end, and meanwhile, the world is just so INTERESTING. The Yellow vMeme is truly an emergence of a broader view, and individuals here see things from different angles and are unlikely to get caught up in one way of looking at things for any length of time.
Thus, for instance, people whose worldviews are becoming consonant with Yellow don’t consistently feel affinity with those solely identified with Green, Orange, Blue, etc. “Water and oil” may be a more apt metaphor, but only the Yellow vMeme will perceive the quality and extent of separation clearly. Folks operating from this worldview are keenly aware that many others simply don’t see things they way they do, and often, will be quite enthusiastic to find friends who can share this broader perspective. Each vMeme set will tend to find ‘friends’ and as they say, ‘birds of a feather flock together’; yellow is no exception here. Markedly, people strongly identifying with Yellow may seem a bit narcissistic in a certain way, as Yellow is an individual orientation, and one where a person is aware of somehow seeing things differently, possibly in some way more sophisticated. J. Wade describes this layer, when appearing as an individual development, as having a focus on personal growth for its own sake. She describes this worldview as having the ultimate value of ‘fulfilling personal mission.’ Additionally, it can be said that Yellow, has a fundamental appreciation for efficiency, but again, from a broader point of view, thus Yellow demonstrates its Systems Understanding with a preference for distributed power networks. Quite possibly, much of the leadership in the development of the internet and related advanced computer technologies, is coming from Yellow. This worldview appreciates elegant technical solutions, but also wants everyone to benefit from human technical progress; meanwhile it is fine if individuals are recognized for their contributions, within appropriate measure. Scandinavia as a whole is quite beautifully trending to Yellow, but in these societies one finds a lot of Green and Orange too, along with healthy helpings of unique strains of rationalist Blue.
In what we might call “Orthodox Gravesian Spiral Dynamics”, there is a certain reverence for the spiral, as if it were a new religion. For some adhering to this formal doctrine, it seems that what is called “second tier” is only available to those who can comprehend the spiral model. But no, it is not that understanding of the “spiral” defines Yellow. An individualist emergence into a more comprehensive understanding, that for the first time, is not reacting to things just because they happen to have been there before. The Yellow vMeme likes the Spiral Dynamics model, because it speaks to this way of understanding the world; the model makes sense, as a model, and can explain a great deal of goings on, especially in the ‘first tier’. Actually, the model, in its orthodox form, oriented specifically on the bio-psycho-socio-economic dimensions of human reality, becomes of limited use in characterizing the higher reaches of the second tier vMemes (and beyond). But since only a reported approximate 2% of humanity has found their way to the glimmers of the broader view available in the Yellow vMeme zone, and much less beyond that, the Spiral Dynamics model, even in its closely guarded, trademarked, orthodox form is quite a useful thing. It is likely to be around for a while and one day may be better known and understood than Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but that probably will occur only when the world center of gravity has transitioned beyond Orange, and if that happens, it may be decades or centuries hence.
Descriptive Term : GAIAN
Thinking Style : HOLISTIC
Group Identification : GLOBAL ECOLOGY
Primary Motivation: Transcending the egoic self, feeling unity with existence
Generating Life Challenge : Bringing the Spiritual back into everyday Life
Learning Mode : OPEN RECEPTIVITY
Chakra Activation: #4 wide open, activation of #6, and possibly openings in all other Chakras, at least as ‘peak experiences’.
Shadow Aspects : Though misperception of translated spiritual experience, following incorrect spiritual tangents, and thus possibly misleading others.
Examples of Healthy Turquoise : The globally aware, ecosystem protecting ethnobotanical medicine movement may be largely Turquoise in its orientation. Biodynamic farming incorporates many Turquoise principles.
Value Codes : COMMUNION WITH ALL OF LIFE, GAIA, UNCONDITIONED LOVE
One of the last waves in common parlance in the world of ‘Spiral Dynamics’ is the collectively oriented perspective labeled with the color Turquoise. Turquoise has all of the systems understanding of Yellow, but in addition, there is a heartful awareness of the whole of life. With the Turquoise vMeme there is a felt sense of belongingness with existence. Turquoise is essentially, stabilization into the state of a fully open heart chakra, coupled with harmonious relationship with the rational intellect, which clearly distinguishes it from Green, which tends to reject a rational orientation. This integration of heart and mind can produce quite a beautiful state of consciousness — a union of Yin and Yang — thus we see remarkable perceptivity, an analytical intelligence combined with an emotional intelligence, and an ability to see any others’ point of view. These people are valuable leaders in their communities, combining compassion with practical problem solving skills.
Turquoise isn’t directly hooked up with spiritual truth but is aware there is an authentic spiritual truth, and yearns for it. So there is a seeking for spiritual connection, and there is a felt sense of spiritual connection because of the open receptivity to all of existence in what Ken Wilber has coined a ‘centauric’ state of awareness. The soul, which is separate from the rational mind and is directly connected to a spiritual reality, is very close to the heart, so in a very real sense spiritual reality is alive and close by, and there is a knowing of this, a palpable experience.
The strong sense of love for all of life is real, and this is something different than the reactive perspective typical of Green. When Green comes around to caring about ALL the people, when there are no longer enemies or those who must be opposed by any means necessary, think possible Turquoise. Turquoise may often be embedded in green weighted communities as leadership because of the perceived, or actual, spiritual connection, something that Green appreciates, but does not really understand. This confused green, or possibly even entry (still confused or unclear) Turquiose, may be characterized by a superficial ‘new age’ ideology – typically infected with some personal ego interpretations, conflations or inflations. This is to be distinguished from authentic spiritual knowledge, experience or authority. Authentic spiritual teachings of high value will generally be humble, quiet, and not stink of ego. Individuals stabilized in Green may receive inspiration from ‘peak experiences’ or tastes of the Turquoise worldview. As Clare Graves has described, there is some relationship between the way Purple and Turquoise see the world; both see something mystical in the a basic nature of reality.
Instead of trying to describe what may for many not be easy to receive in descriptive verse, here are some ‘pointing instructions’ or quotes that may help the reader ‘grok’ this rather expansive, yet connected worldview
“You can’t capture reality in a verbal net.”
"While this level is trans-verbal, it is trans-personal. That is, while it transcends language, gross concepts , and the gross ego, it does not transcend existence, personal orientation, or waking psychophysiological awareness. It is the last stage dominated by normal forms of space and time- but those forms are still there."
"This state is also similar to the initial stages of the path of Da Free John, where, relaxing thought and desire through attentive inquiry, one intuits an "unqualified sense of relationship". This unqualified sense of relationship, enjoyed while, paradoxically, still aware of the perception of the world and one's bodily presence within it, is intuition of the all-pervading Divine Presence." 
"The existential centaur, then, is not only the higher-order integration of ego, body, persona, and shadow, it is also the major transition towards the higher subtle and transpersonal realms of being. (Notice that Stan Grof's research seems to support this thesis very strongly.) This is so in both the centaur's "supersensory" modality, and in its cognitive process of intuition, intentionality, and vision-image. They are all intimations of the higher realms of transcendence and integration."
Warm vs Cool Colors
A special quality of the Spiral Dynamics model, is the concept of a spiral of evolution with an oscillation from warm to cool colors, which represents an alternation from individually to collectively oriented cognitive processes. May be alternation of use of left and right hemispheres. Thus we could almost say that warm colors, being individually oriented, more about discrete goals and particular aspects of life, are more ‘male’ and the cooler colors in a sense, with their collective more ‘collective wave field’ quality of perception, are more ‘female’. The cool realm is more heartful, more about nurturance, more female. Graves specifically identified the difference of adrenaline and nor-adrenaline, typical with Red and Blue vMemes, with some reputed experimental evidence that injection of adrenaline could take someone typically locussed at Red into Blue states of perception, cognition and action. Blue is more fear based, Red is more reward oriented. Orange is achievement oriented, and Green is all about ‘grooving with the pict’ and finding a community oriented solution.
Tiers of the Spiral
In the Spiral Dynamics Model, there is an understanding of a basic division of the whole Spiral into (at least) Two Tiers. The First Tier, ranges from hunter-gatherer Beige up through Reactive Environmentalist-Populist Green. The entire first tier is characterized by a progressive emergence of worldviews, with each successive stage developing as a reaction to perceived intolerable life conditions. Orange scientific materialism has emerged from perceived limitation of the belief driven organized religion or State-ism, Green emerges as a collectivist-environmentalist reaction to the evils of greed-driven corporate capitalism. Each level is looking backward, identified in spasms of reactivity, identified with this urge not to be the previous pattern. The Second Tier, represents a radical departure from this limited perspective. Instead of a belief oriented around reaction to something that is perceived as not working, the Second Tier is comprised of (at least) an Individual and a Collective pattern that each includes an ability to perceive the whole evolutionary nature of the First Tier of the Spiral as simply a natural, evolutionary pattern. The first tier could be described a being in a ‘paradigm trap’ of aversions, and the second tier could be called ‘trans-paradigm’, and instead of aversion might be more about attraction – Yellow, Turquoise and Coral are somehow more aware of the process of evolution and unfolding; they are intentionally ‘going somewhere’.
Other themes in the mixing of colors and progression along the spiral include the possibility of certain aspects being more developed than others, thus with the 12 sector model for Sustainable Culture crossed with the 8+ levels of Spiral Dynamics, we might see within one subset social group more development in say, Earth Stewardship at Green, and Economics and property interests weighted in Red. There is also the possibility of temporary ‘peak experiences’ of higher order thinking vs stabilization in a particular worldview, or even under stress, regression to more primitive operating frameworks, such as what occurs in wartime. Also it may be seen that there is frequently a blending and bleed through between levels, not just from adjacent colors, such as a Blue-Orange mix or a Red-Blue mixture, but also along one side of the individual-collective continuum, such as blending of orange and yellow, green and turquoise, red and orange. In fact there may even be some curious affinity with Purple and Turquoise, which would be a cycle level repeating situation with special affinity: Beck et al suggest that the cycle has a six level wave, with beige somewhat being recapitulated in yellow an Purple with Turqoise. The Second Tier might be thought of as a new ‘second wave’ with some resonance with the first wave.
©2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 Ben Lipman (Varadaan), 302 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80302 USA
 Quite fascinatingly, there is some archeo-geological evidence that a small cadre of humans may have survived in South India as well as South Africa, and emerging linguistic evidence suggests that much of modern human culture may have sprouted from India; two ancient linguistic groups from North and South India, respectively, may have ultimately formed into the Sanskrit that is the root of all Indo-European Language. It is also possible that these proto-languages are retained to some degree in the modern nomadic languages which have apparently isolated linguistic roots, such as Mongolian and Finnish. One tome and its two authors have contributed meaningfully to debunking the Arayan invasion myth (in English / European culture) is Hidden Horizons, Unearthing 10,000 Years of Indian Culture, by Dr. David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri) and Dr. Navaratna S. Rajaram (2008).
 Ok, now I’ve really stepped in it. There are dimensions of reality, what could possibly be described as morphogenetic fields, where there may be access to some aspect of the divine, something that may be Purple, or may in fact be beyond Turquoise. Nevertheless, actions inspired by expectation of magical response, particularly when it is in the terms of an exchange relationship: eg: ‘I give this to my god and he/she is then expected to do this for me’ – this is Purple, and may occur at multiple levels of sophistication and activation of those ‘divine’ forces. The other kind of relationship to the divine, which may seem like Purple for all orders Turquoise and below, but is something else, is actual resonance with something that is beyond the manifest physical reality, beyond mind. This connection is not about some exchange relationship or deal-making, it is a resonance in consciousness that is often about bringing consciousness to a higher order. Dr Beck might consider this some aspect of Blue, and that may be a springboard, but this author will offer a different, or more nuanced, opinion.8 In certain organized religious contexts, such as Hinduism, these two different paradigms are mixed together, and for those operating substantially from the Purple and Blue worldviews, there may be no appreciation of the differences. -V
 Flash forward to November of 2013, after the ‘Tea Party’ in the United States succeeded in shutting down government for several weeks, we see the Republican Party essentially devolving into two camps, one more weighted in Red-Blue (Tea Party), the other more in Blue-Orange (established old guard GOP, rooted in traditional Big Business).
 Sheldrake, Rupert. In USA: Science Set Free, Deepak Chopra Books, ©2012, ISBN 978-0-7704-3672-8. Of particular note is that the U.S. title was changed from the European version, titled “The Science Delusion”. Sheldrake’s video talk on this topic has the remarkable distinction of being perhaps the only ‘banned’ TED talk to date. With a majority weighting in Orange, U.S. Culture is apparently quite threatened by this author’s cogent desire for “the sciences to be less dogmatic and more scientific” (p.7). Some speculate that perhaps his direct challenge to the mainstream pharmaceutical industry and its practices triggered the ban.
 Ken Wilber’s discussion of the differences between ‘states’ and ‘stages’ is a real contribution to clarification about the journey of spiritual development. The term ‘peak experience’ distinguishes between having a temporary experience of the perspective of a given stage of development, and actual stabilization in a particular stage. Thus a ‘peak experience’ is a ‘state’ of consciousness, which may set the stage for eventual stabilization in a new, wider ability to perceive the nature of reality.
 Atman Project pg.55
 Atman Project pg.65
 Atman Project pg.70
 Atman Project pg.71
 Atman Project pg.72