"At each stage of human existence the adult man is off on his quest of his holy grail, the way of life he seeks by which to live... As he sets off on each quest, he believes he will find the answer to his existence. Yet, much to his surprise and much to his dismay, he finds at every stage that the solution to existence is not the solution he has come to find. Every stage he reaches leaves him disconcerted and perplexed. It is simply that as he solves one set of human problems he finds a new set in their place. The quest is never ending."
Clare Graves (1929-1986)
Human dynamics takes many forms, and when we form societies then we create one of the most complex systems on the planet, comprising not just complex human minds, but complex institutional ideas along with complex artefacts. All these mesh together and evolve dynamically over time. Understanding these dynamics is a complex problem in its own right and must be approached in different ways than those traditionally applied, which have the disadvantage of reducing the system to a collection of disjoint factors which cannot in truth be considered to be (in any sense) independent. In complex systems, comprising many interacting entities, we find the formation of many attractors, each of which can be entered in certain circumstances and this 'choice' is, in turn, linked to the environment in which the complex system resides. Thus our human behaviours exhibit many modes, and as we develop from babies to adults (and beyond to 'wise' adults) we increase the variety of the possible worldviews that we can take and the actions that we consider reasonable or ethical in various circumstances.
Viewing these different worldviews as levels that are reached progressively, allows us to categorise human behaviours into 'types', but these types are not static in the sense that people often (prejudicially) categorise other groups, e.g. the "all x are y" mode of one-dimensional thinking, but are instead modes that each human can adopt (potentially) in different circumstances and social contexts (i.e. they are not "types of people" but "types in people"). But what modes are then possible and in what circumstances do they manifest ? One useful approach to understanding this is that of "Spiral Dynamics", where the different levels are considered to form a spiral, not a linear progression, such that each level contains but does not replace the previous ones. Thus a human at one level can manifest behaviour appropriate to either that level, or to any of the earlier levels through which they have previously evolved, they have several approaches available to them. Additionally we find, in any society, that individuals generally exist at many different stages of evolutionary mental growth, such that the major features of the society, observable from outside, will relate well to the majority level behaviour (or the behaviour of those in power if not 'representative'). Merging these ideas with the insights from the complexity sciences is the aim of this essay, with a view to better understanding how we can help the majority to increase their options and to achieve a more encompassing worldview.
"Here’s the key idea. Different societies, cultures and subcultures, as well as entire nations are at different levels of psycho-cultural emergence, as displayed within these evolutionary levels of complexity. They have different centers of gravity. The previously awakened levels do not disappear. Rather, they stay active within the worldview stacks, thus impacting the nature and form of the more complex systems. Like the Russian dolls, there are systems within systems within systems. So, many of the same issues we confront on the West Bank (Red to Blue) can be found in South Central Los Angeles. One can experience the animistic (Purple) worldview on Bourbon Street as well as in Zaire. Matters brought before city council in Minneapolis (Orange to Green to Yellow) are not unlike the debates in front of governing bodies in the Netherlands. Countries and cultures are mosaics of multiple vMEME codes."
Don Beck, The Search for Cohesion in the Age of Fragmentation , 1999
Building upon the earlier research of Clare Graves, researchers Don Beck and Chris Cowan added the idea of memes to the levels identified, and colour coded these to help prevent cultural stereotyping. Eight levels were initially identified, with a ninth thought probable. The memes were related to the sets of values associated with each level, so were denoted as vMemes. In our table we characterise each level, whilst indicating the proportion of the world's human population thought (vague guesstimates !) to behave (at best) up to each level (WP%) and indicating what we think is the main stress upon each level that forces eventually a 'metasystem transition' to the next level. These levels can be regarded as analogous to the levels in a computer game, where the player has to develop better skills to master each new level of difficulty.
|vMeme||Colour||Target||Thinking||Orientation - Behaviours||Lifestyle||WP%||Stress Type||First Tier vMemes|
|Level 1||Beige||Me||Instinctive||Wild - food, water, shelter, safety, sleep, mating||Lives for survival||0.1%||Vulnerability|
|Level 2||Purple||Us||Animistic||Social - family, tribe, honour, respect elders, ancestors, spirits||Lives for past||10%||Tradition|
|Level 3||Red||Me||Egocentric||Psychological - power-driven, exploitative, privilege||Lives for now||20%||Fear|
|Level 4||Blue||Us||Absolutistic||Abstract - purposeful, authoritarian, dualistic, dogmatic||Lives for future||40%||Stagnation|
|Level 5||Orange||Me||Materialistic||Entrepreneurial - strategic, growth & success-driven, acquisitive||Lives for gain||30%||Emptiness|
|Level 6||Green||Us||Humanistic||Community - harmony, liberty, equality, fraternity, relativistic||Lives for cause||10%||Plurality||Second Tier vMemes|
|Level 7||Yellow||Me||Systemic||Flexibility - spontaneity, competence, uncertainty, balance||Lives for synergy||1%||Isolation|
|Level 8||Turquoise||All||Holarchic||Compassionate - transpersonal, intuitive, interconnected||Lives for wisdom||0.1%||Contentment|
|Level 9||Coral||All||Infinite||Imaginative - otherworldly, transcendent, enlightened||Lives for others||0%||Unknown|
In this table the 'warm' colours (odd levels) imply a mastery of the external 'us' world by using internal 'me' controls; the 'cool' colours imply a mastery of the internal 'me' world by using external 'us' controls. Only at vMeme levels 8 and 9 are these dualisms transcended and a two way balance or tensegrity established.
Let us say some more about the sets of values associated with each of these thinking styles and how they hold together to create a self-maintaining whole, whilst being susceptible to enhancement.
Instinctive - level 1 (beige)
This first level is akin to animal behaviour, and occurs when humans are so up against it that they have no opportunity to show their higher values, they become so distressed that they close down into a more primitive mode, that of pure instinct - the fight or flee reflex, that opportunist taking of the essentials necessary to preserve their primal values and very lives in the face of an harsh environment. Preservation of life is the central urge of all lifeforms and in evolutionary terms is deeply embedded within all our bodily functions - those that fail do not persist, their lines go extinct.
Animistic - level 2 (purple)
In an attempt to reduce the survival pressures associated with level 1, most humans and many animals choose to associate into groups. Initially these are family groups (e.g. a pride of lions), but often these become extended families and develop into tribes. To maintain stability and prevent the fragmentation that would endanger security, it is common for rituals and respect networks to develop. In these the more knowledgeable members of the group set out the 'correct' behaviours, and are revered as 'elders' of the tribe - wise men or women. Once stabilised by mutual benefit and mutual protection, such societies become highly traditional and oppose change or 'deviation' in behaviour, remaining suspicious of outsiders.
Egocentric - level 3 (red)
Tradition at level 2 is however frustrating for many, especially the young, and whilst many do leave the tribe, others try to take over power, often by force, which brings a leader or 'chief' to the fore. Getting their own way is central to this style of 'might-makes-right', and since power brings privileges many 'hangers-on' accumulate to support and benefit from the leader's power. This becomes self-stabilising since all the resources are concentrated into the few and they can easily crush any small-scale rebellion or dissent.
Absolutist - level 4 (blue)
But the fear generated by level 3 causes deep insecurity in the rest of the population, and eventually they will join together to overthrow the bullies, moving their society to an opposite form, that of abstract 'law' or 'commandment' - frequently associated with religious ideas but also with some scientific ones (i.e. 'scientism'). Behaviours are then constrained morally to avoid the anarchy of conflicting power bases. In such societies the 'rules' are unchallengable, they are fixed 'truths' and must be obeyed by all members of the society. It sets up a static equilibrium that acts by negative feedback processes to eliminate 'heresy' or non-conformist behaviours.
Materialistic - level 5 (orange)
Yet 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 stabilises 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.
Humanistic - level 6 (green)
The switch to a level 5 society however leads many to feel 'left out' and disadvantaged, and the inexorable neglect of values not associated with 'profit' causes dissent, leading to many groupings and collectives adopting different values and approaches, usually stressing human metavalues, and this empowers and gives a voice to many of the (previously suppressed) minority groups in our societies. Each of these 'peer' groups adopts an appropriate set of values within their organization, but most often will reject criticism or the application of the value-sets or 'truths' of others on their own exclusionary approach. An set of fragmented, but internally consistent, aims come into being, a diversity of views and priorities.
Systemic - level 7 (yellow)
The fragmentation of society at level 6 and the generally antagonistic attitude towards all other encroaching values, is recognised by systems thinking as the reaction of intolerant and hypocritical postmodern relativity to modernist absolutes (level 4) and vice-versa. Yet neither one truth nor no truths are adequate views for a optimum quality of life in a complex society, so what emerges then is an integral view allowing truth to be determined contextually, all 'stakeholder' views are therefore to be given some validity. This tolerance and cooperation stems from a higher individual self-worth and confidence, which does not feel threatened by any of the previous levels and understands the validity of each in different environmental circumstances. The integral 2nd tier view is called 'vision logic' and yellow is the earliest stage of this, although still largely based upon a personal self-mastery viewpoint.
Holarchic - level 8 (turquoise)
There is a natural tendency for the self-actualised individuals at level 7 to seek out like-minded spirits and to realise the greater possibilities for world transformation that will apply when integral ideas are practised globally. An embryo 'Global Mesh' possibility comes into being (middle stage 'vision logic'), which attempts to manage (in non-authoritarian consensus ways) all the other levels, seeing them in balance as part of an integrated planet. At the current time this is a somewhat fragile construct due to the relatively small numbers of people that can fully comprehend and relate to such a viewpoint, but hopefully will grow stronger over time as more and more people "see the light" as it were.
Infinite - level 9 (coral)
The limitation of a level 8 viewpoint is that it recognises that currently most humans are limited by their circumstances to a more restricted maximum level, usually 2 to 6. This gives an opportunity for more enlightened humans to assist in developing the level of those other humans (late stage 'vision logic'). Here we have the emergence of what the Buddhists call a 'bodhisattva', a person who works tirelessly to bring out the inherent possibilities in others - those possibilities which we occasionally see manifested in their rare 'flashes of genius'.
Within these stages, we see again an alternation between chaos (odd levels) and order (even levels), between compression (diverging) and tension (converging) elements or drives. This relates also to alternating positive versus negative feedbacks. Again, only at the last two levels do we find a balance, what in complexity thought is called the edge-of-chaos, here applicable to the whole world (other EOC states exist in earlier levels but are local ones)
In a developing world, societies that were for centuries isolated make contact with different ones. Depending upon their actual environment, some may have had to evolve to level 2, some to 3 or 4, some to 5 or partly to 6 (none are beyond this). This outside pressure usually tries to change the level of the target society to match the dominant one. What Spiral Dynamics (SD) tells us is that this cannot be done, the worldviews must evolve through all the stages naturally, they cannot be made to fit a higher (or be constricted to a lower). Attempts to do this (by U.S. interests for example) are using authoritarian blue bullying tactics, backed up by military red force, to try to impose an orange system of level 5 'free-trade'. For societies still at purple level 2 (like much of Iraq) this is disastrous - the level 2 'honour' must protect the tribal status-quo ! But the same is true for societies partly at a higher level, e.g. green level 6 - they will resist the implied destruction of their extra higher level values. In SD terms, all 6 early level vMemes (1st tier) are exclusive worldviews (although they may use the tactics of even earlier levels), they all try to force their level to prevail at any cost - hence the adversity we see all around us.
Interestingly we can classify the initial 8 vMeme levels in pairs, and each pair corresponds, in complexity science terminology, to a type of complex interacting system (CIS). The focus upon instinct and power (levels 1 and 3) corresponds to the usual 'complex adaptive system' (CAS) which tries to maintain itself despite environmental opposition (the 'system' could be an individual or an organization). The focus upon animism and absolutes (levels 2 and 4) corresponds to the 'complex maladaptive system' (CMS) where the social environment tries to maintain itself despite internal system opposition (again the 'system' could be an individual or pressure group). The two other pairs correspond to variants of the 'complex evolving system' (CES) where the system and environment coevolve for mutual benefit. The first, focusing upon materialism and systems (levels 5 and 7) treats the system as an individual (me); the second focusing upon humanism and holarchy (levels 6 and 8) treats the system as a collective (us). But we should note that many such CIS systems exist at all levels of our society and all over the globe, there is no uniformity implied here, the whole 'hypersystem' is a large fractal collection of overlapping groupings representing all the various vMemes. Whenever we take just two vMeme examples and analyse their interactions we are ignoring much of the actual complex structure involved and reducing the situation to a relatively simplified 'map'.
One of the most important complexity findings is that multiple equivalent optima are possible in a typical complex system. This contrasts with the "I'm right, you're wrong" dualisms common to the first 5 vMemes (the 6th thinks nobody is 'right' - except themselves !). To comprehend that all these vMemes are possible and even necessary within a complex environment requires tolerance and flexibility as well as understanding. Only when we get to 2nd tier worldviews (vMemes 7 to 9) does the tolerance emerge that allows for such coexistence, and engenders the ability to choose which vMeme is appropriate under which circumstance. Here we start with yellow, and with developing personal tolerance. Once this is in place then we can look to turquoise to obtain group and social tolerance, and finally in coral try to educate other less tolerant groups (such as cultural fundamentalists) in such a way as to help them develop their level towards 2nd tier worldviews, to transcend the limitations of earlier views without losing what they see valuable about them. In other words the old attractors still exist and can still be used where necessary, but we have added many more options and some may prove to be better optima for dealing with old problems.
"Human beings are born soft and flexible;
When they die they are hard and stiff...
Plants arise soft and delicate;
When they die they are withered and dry.
Thus, the hard and stiff are disciples of death;
The soft and flexible are disciples of life."
Lao Tzu, 6th Century BCE
Once we realise that each vMeme has a role, then we can start to consider whether we are using the 'correct' vMeme when we evaluate and act in any situation. Many of the world's problems stem from the fact that people use inappropriate and inflexible terminology to describe their current problems, for example in many cases today 'war' metaphors are used when the situation is not a conflict based one (e.g. 'war on drugs', the 'drugs' cannot fight, so the metaphor is faulty - green help is needed by addicts not red aggression), and in similar ways 'fighting' metaphors are employed politically to describe any and every disagreement - another manifestation of the dualist mindset stemming from the merging of the blue dogmatic vMeme with the red conquest vMeme (options other than the one or the other are being ignored). The language we employ is a vital clue to the vMeme we are basing our evaluation upon, and poor words constrain or canalize our options considerably, too restricted a vMeme greatly reduces the complexity of the situation and cannot achieve optimum fitness - in just the same way as choosing too restricted a valuation method reduces the information bits in our holarchic meta-ethics, disvaluing the situation by losing relevant values. Choosing the right vMeme for any situation relies upon our having a good knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses - just as choosing the right tool for a job needs us to understand the capabilities of each of our many tools.
Given that a complex system has many levels of structure and values, then to treat each of these optimally may well require a different technique. Thus for example we would not rely on 'politics' [on the First Floor in our analogy picture - note however that the colours here are arbitrary] to cook our food but we would employ the skills of 'cookery' [on the Ground Floor]. The same applies to the use of vMemes. If we are in a survival situation then the instinctive beige vMeme option of fight or flee may still be the most effective - one cannot reason with a 'tiger' ! Each new vMeme level however does give us additional options, better ways of doing some old things and ways to achieve new things (for example at purple we can cooperate to capture the tiger, at orange put it into a circus, and at green we may choose to release it back into the wild somewhere else). Thus our options will increase with personal development, just as they do if we purchase new tools for our toolbox - especially power tools which achieve the same things but quicker and better (analogous to 2nd tier vMemes). It seems clear that the more tools that we have the better, after all we don't have to use them all the time, just keep them handy for times of need. This analogy means that new tools don't replace old ones (unless they are better versions of the same tool), they augment them, and this is just the way vMemes behave, they augment our experience, they add new options for both old and new problems. Note however that these vMemes run vertically up through our store, there is a presence from each of the vMemes on each floor of our store (i.e. they all have 'views' on matter, life, mind, society and spirit) - although, typically, each vMeme will emphasise mainly one 'floor' of our building and may 'deny' or 'marginalise' the validity of other floors (a negative presence is, of course, a worldview too). What this means is that if we study one of these department store specialisms, for example agriculture, from a political perspective (e.g. ministry of agriculture) then we will take, typically, a blue vMeme perspective, and if we study, say, politics from a scientific perspective (e.g. voting systems) we will take, typically, an orange vMeme perspective, and so on for all the other combinations - we form a matrix between approach and subject.
Using any tool is a interaction or synergy between a living entity and an inanimate object, which enhances the fitness of the former. This sort of synergy between human and tool can also be achieved by cooperating with other humans, and this of course was the original drive for the emergence of the purple vMeme. However interactions can take 4 forms in complex interacting systems (CIS) and only one of these (CES) benefits both parties. This win-win is (potentially) associated with the vMemes for materialistic, humanistic, systemic and holarchic behaviours, but in practice in many cases, these vMemes are 'contaminated' by biases from other vMemes, especially the influence of egocentric red on materialistic orange, and the influence of authoritarian blue on humanistic green (and vice-versa). We met the CAS and CMS types earlier, the final one is the 'complex degenerative system' (CDS) and this comes into play when two red vMemes clash and 'fight to the death' (often over a blue vMeme issue !).
"Experience is not what happens to a man.
It is what a man does with what happens to him."
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Most perturbations to complex systems aren't disastrous, they can adapt in four ways. Firstly, there may already be an attractor relevant to the new situation available from past experience, the system simply then switches behaviour mode to suit (as we do when, for example, we change into a swimsuit at the seaside). Secondly, we can learn from the new experience and adapt our existing attractors to create a new, but similar, one to cope with the new experience. This is what we do when, for example, a new 'pop group' appears, we add a new category for this 'star', and maybe switch our 'allegiance' if we like them better. Thirdly we can learn an entirely new behaviour, like riding a bike or philosophising. As long as the new skill or knowledge doesn't clash with our existing vMeme then all is well.
The fourth option is more disruptive, and that is when a 'rival' idea challenges our entire view of life, i.e. our current vMeme, e.g. a 'scientist' claims 'proof' that 'God' does not exist, but we are a firm 'believer' and church goer. We can of course simply deny the claim and go on as normal, or we can investigate (in whatever way seems appropriate, e.g. by consulting 'experts', examining our 'conscience', analysing the 'facts', meditating for 'inspiration' or 'guidance', and so on). The result may be a big change to our life, it may alter many of our concepts and beliefs, it may deepen our knowledge and widen our experience, but it need not necessary challenge destructively our basic outlook on life. If we can accommodate in this way then our vMeme self-stabilizes and is retained. But what if we cannot, in all honesty, deny some contradictory idea ?
Spiral Dynamics suggests that the social transition between one vMeme and the next proceeds in four stages. The first, the 'Alpha Fit' stage, relates to a stable well-adjusted society, where there is a good balance between the collective and individual needs. Environmental changes (or internal inconsistency) then perturb the system, giving uncertainty and instability. This is the 'Beta Condition', and the 'powers-that-be' respond by trying to suppress the doubts and dissension and return to the 'Alpha Fit' state, but as the difficulties grow this becomes impossible. We saw the accommodating (evolutionary change) solution earlier, but where this proves inadequate we enter the 'Gamma Trap', which creates non-zero-sum outcomes. This crisis can go two ways, either the society collapses (revolutions may occur) or it transforms into a new synergy, the 'Delta Surge'. Here many new options become apparent, new opportunities, and it is a time of optimism, but is still unstable, fragile and self-organizing. Central to such leaps is a change of mindset, a widening of the collective view to encompass these wider values and options. Many society members will resist this however, trying to remain with what is familiar, and will do so even if the 'new era' ultimately prevails. If the vision engendered by this 'new era' does come to pass then the system enters a new more expansive 'Alpha Fit' and the cycle continues (mostly within the accommodating modes).
To more clearly denote these dynamics, the convention is to put the primary vMeme in uppercase and the secondary vMeme in lowercase, so a society currently at level 4, would be denoted as BLUE, one just moving to level 5 as BLUE-green, and one just leaving level 4 as blue-GREEN, with level 5 the destination stage as GREEN. These stages are applicable to individuals also, here our 'egos' are the 'powers-that-be', other parts of our mind and senses supply the incoherence, paradox and disturbance that threatens us. Our web site and writings are designed to challenge many of our current social ideas and beliefs, to encourage us to approach that barrier and possibly jump it. If we can personally get through these difficult stages and achieve a new 'Alpha Fit', then we will have developed ourselves to a new vMeme level. Congratulations !
"When trying to make sense of other people and ourselves, we may rely on several different kinds of cognitive processes. First, we form impressions of other people by integrating information contained in concepts that represent their traits, their behaviors, our stereotypes of the social groups they belong to, and any other information about them that seems relevant... Second, we understand other people by means of causal attributions in which we form and evaluate hypotheses that explain their behavior... A third means of making sense of people is analogy: You can understand people through their similarity to other people or to yourself.
We propose that making sense of people through information integration, explanation, and analogy can all be understood in terms of cognitive mechanisms for maximizing coherence."
Paul Thagard and Ziva Kunda, Making Sense of People: Coherence Mechanisms, 1997
It seems clear that a stable 'Alpha Fit' has much in common with a stable organism. Both are self-maintaining, both interact with the environment, both contain a set of stable components (beliefs and proteins respectively). This form of organisation is called autopoietic, and occurs at cellular, organism, mind and social levels. What these have in common is what is called an 'autocatalytic set', which is a set of elements such that each element in turn creates another in the same set, and ultimately is created in turn, closing the loop. This coherent 'balance' of components resists perturbation, since feedback loops regulate the deviations, maintaining an homeostatic balance. In social terms, these balances are our cultures or group beliefs, i.e. our vMemes, and this implies that the concept of coherence is applicable to both personal and social levels.
In such a network, all the units (ideas or people) are connected with either reinforcing (+) or inhibiting (-) links, as shown in the example. Just like in Boolean Networks, once the network is activated (by the observation) it will flow to an attractor. These attractors typically have three sets of components: cycles where the units alternate between 'on' and 'off', units that are permanently 'on', and units that are permanently 'off'. In social terms the 'on's are supported concepts, the 'off's are rejected concepts and the cycles represent inconsistencies within the system (oscillation or vacillation between incompatible ideas). It is clear that the assumptions we make force certain views to prevail (in this example, 'well dressed' is incompatible with 'ghetto' and 'ghetto' dwellers are all assumed to be 'aggressive') but these assumptions are often arbitrary (there are many 'well dressed' criminals and nice 'ghetto' dwellers). In these sorts of ways our belief structures lock us in to faulty viewpoints, and these of course manifest as the earlier vMemes. Identifying and transcending these stereotypes is one of the main aims of Spiral Dynamics. Thus by adding our two opposite beliefs ('well dressed' criminals and nice 'ghetto' dwellers) we cause a stress to the belief system, which helps break down the inherent assumptions and frees the holder to take a wider perspective and look for more evidence before jumping to a conclusion. In a similar way systems that are already stressed (having incompatible elements) can sometimes have the stress relieved if we can identify elements causing the stress that are not correctly classified by the either/or (+/-) form being employed.
"The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that
the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt."
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Once we add incompatible options, e.g. ghetto people can be either 'aggressive' or 'nice' (and lots of other things too...), then we find that we must abandon dualist logic for good, it simply is incapable of dealing with such situations. Deduction in Aristotelian logic must be made from certain premises, e.g. 'all x is y'. Where the premises are 'fuzzy' ('aggressive maybe') then we must move to the logic bearing that name. This is a move from a systemic valuation mode (used at blue) to an extrinsic valuation mode (used at orange). But we can go further, and use an intrinsic valuation mode which values the whole in itself (this is often used at green). Considering these three sets of valuations we can see that they are internally coherent but not upwardly compatible, i.e. whilst an intrinsic whole can comprise extrinsics and systemics neither of the others values 'wholes', only attributes of them, and whilst extrinsic recognises variability in attributes, systemic does not. It is for this reason that the later vMemes are more applicable than the early, they include but go beyond the earlier ideas.
Recognising this widening we can start to comprehend that different worldviews have different strengths and weaknesses (e.g. coming to a T-junction, we must go one way or the other, we cannot 'fuzzily' go 40% one way and 60% another !) and thus have different areas of applicability. It is here that we start to transcend 1st tier vMemes and consider, for any situation, which is the most appropriate for us to use (or even whether several are applicable). When we do that at a personal level we are using yellow, and once we do so as a group we are at turquoise. At these levels we go beyond the three earlier valuation and logic types and adopt a more holarchic valuation plus an integral or 'vision' logic mode which encourages us to consider how our social behaviours and beliefs relate to these four forms of valuation in practical situations.
Traditionally science has been concentrated at the orange vMeme level, emphasising novelty, experiment and the competition between both theories and scientists for 'recognition', but it also has incorporated a strong dose of the blue vMeme, with its background of invariable 'laws' and an inbuilt assumption of 'absolute truth' and infallibility - supported by an often dogmatic institutionalized 'peer review' system.
The modernist view endemic to old-style science was very much a 'one' answer option, only one isolated theory was 'right', only one isolated scientist was given 'fame' for its discovery. Today, in our postmodern world, we realise the delusions contained within such arrogance, but how are we to reconcile the modernist and postmodernist views of science within a vMeme perspective ? Here we can bring into focus what science is really about, which is not some isolated and theoretical set of 'specialist subjects' but a way of dealing effectively with our world, and thus needs to be better related to our values. In our 'hypothetico-deductive-evaluative' (HDE) metascience we started to make a move in this direction. Each main aspect of our extended science can be related to one of the 1st tier vMemes, so let us list these correspondences in a short table:
|beige||Needs or Goals||The human nature of all science, what we are trying to achieve|
|purple||Group Values||The intersubjectivity of agreement and the synergy of new choices|
|red||Alternatives||The exploration of possibility, the use of our creativity and imagination|
|blue||Theory or Law||The concept of empirical testing for confirmation and comparison|
|orange||Fitness or Evaluation||The idea of practical use, the positive or negative sum implications|
|green||Hypothesis||The appropriateness of belief and the context of our mental maps|
When we take an overall look at this set of ideas we are employing a metaview very similar to what is common at 2nd tier. Here we can regard 'scope' as the view from yellow. This scope question helps us to understand the contextual limitations that result from our normal vMeme thought processes and the possible benefits of relaxing them. It makes explicit the boundaries of any proposed theory or belief and indicates whether it is a systemic view applicable to all levels or is restricted to specific modalities or subjects. In a similar way, turquoise represents the 'integration' we desire overall. Here we can ask, does our view have a stabilising or destabilising influence on our society ? Does it help to unify matter, mind and spirit or separate them ? Does it reduce conflict, prejudice and specialisms or increase them ? This is the highest level holistic value, that global 'ought', and relates to a viewpoint that rates every level equally as contributing to universal fitness. This means that nature, society and individual must operate as one towards ends that meet all their fitness needs - this being assumed to result in the best overall result.
When we look at the 9 vMemes as complex systems, in terms of their connectivity approaches, then we see a number of different styles. At beige the people are isolated from each other, they behave independently as do plants in the wild, here there are no social benefits to speak of, meetings between the individuals are rare and likely to be competitive. At purple the leaders cooperate, bringing a consensus rule to the local group and controlling by loyalty, whilst the tribe loosely associate with each other, giving a 'symbiosis' approach for mutual benefit. Yet all groups remain disconnected and local. At red we see the first true hierarchy, with a single leader, aided by underlings, ruling by physical force. In this local society power flows down and resources flow up, the rich take from the poor. Justice here is arbitrary, based upon the whim of the leader, it is a style rich in unpredictability. Many societies compete for power.
Once we get to blue the emphasis changes to a bureaucracy, an inflexible hierarchy based upon the psychological forces of belief and the strong use of rules or laws to structure justice and order at both local and global levels. At orange local two-way transactions between participants comes to the fore, and we gain the benefits of exchange, with a freedom to decide whether or not to accept or make any offer. This is potentially a fully connected and somewhat chaotic matrix with global aspirations. Within the green worldview the focus shifts to more intangible ideas and small isolated consensus groups 'doing their own thing' as it were, but each competing to try to impose their single value globally upon all. It is a highly modular approach.
A change now occurs as yellow arrives, and the first stage of 2nd tier 'vision logic' is seen. These people act as facilitators (shown in white), acting locally to bind together the six 1st tier vMemes and to encourage the use of the most appropriate vMeme. At turquoise networks of such facilitators coordinate actions globally, acting to help make visible and solve the world's problems. Finally at coral enlightened sages appear who act to help those lower on the spiral in ways to progress along their spiritual path to 2nd tier understanding and tolerance.
"Our experience of the world is relative to our perspective,
The world of our experience is always changing,
Therefore we must be wary of our tendency to adopt fixed or dogmatic judgements, evaluations, and standards based upon a narrow viewpoint, since this leads to conflict and frustration."
Chuang Tzu, 4th Century BCE
Since these vMemes come into being sequentially, it is natural for us to assume that our current one is all, and ignore the earlier ones, but given that we do, after arriving at green, employ elements of all of the six 1st tier vMemes, e.g. in our need for food and drink (L1); in our family bonding (L2); in our desire to get our own way (L3); in our religious observance or politics (L4); in our jobs (L5); and finally in our hobby or favourite cause (L6), then we can consider what it would mean if we were to apply all the other vMemes to each level or type of behaviour. This, in personal terms, is the view from yellow, where we concentrate on examining our own personal worldview and try to evaluate whether a different vMeme (or a combination thereof) may give benefits in any area of our lives. We can try to help this analysis by two tables, where the first positions the orientation and the chief complexity science insight of each vMeme, and the second lists our six example foci and considers how each vMeme would approach them (we ignore the standard vMeme effect at its own principle level here, which we examined earlier):
|Survival||-||Sympathetic Magic||Warrior||Nanny State||Displaying||Flocking|
In this second table, the cell entry relates to how the standard vMeme personal behaviour noted in the first table (e.g. Magical) would act if confronted with the vMeme social focus or value in the left-hand column (e.g. Survival), i.e. how would an individual at this vMeme actually behave if put into a society at that vMeme ? These are just examples or course, there are many other combinations of values and behaviours possible. Let us expand somewhat however on these ideas, but now from the opposite direction, in looking at how the social focus of each vMeme could affect the personal behaviour at each level, looking at alternative ways of applying vMemes, i.e. how society values at this vMeme would apply to the individual behaviour at the other vMeme.
The focus here is now the survival of all the emergent levels of our human needs, which we can expand from the original (L1) focus on primal needs to include family values (L2); our freedom to choose (L3); order in our lives (L4); our property and material goods (L5); and our beliefs (L6). In other words we look to maintain our group loyalty (purple), our difference (red), our safety (blue), our inheritance (orange), and our 'rights' to our culture (green). Our first vMeme is concerned overall with our metavalues - our human goals and the balance between them. It looks to ensure that we do not neglect 'lesser' needs when we concentrate on 'higher' (e.g. people are starving whilst others are obsessed one-dimensionally with, say, 'racist' wordplay) or vice-versa.
We look to a loyalty perspective here, one concerned with the synergy of the overall group. We progress from the original (L2) focus on the tribe, to include humans as a whole (L1); our progress as a species (L3); our peace (L4); our sustainability (L5); and our heritage (L6). In other words, at this vMeme we should look to protect the balance and sufficiency of our primal needs (beige), of our human desires and goals (red), of our common safety (blue), of our commitment to experimental truth and growth (orange), and to the long-term integrity of our group within a global context (green). The second vMeme is concerned overall with cooperative endeavours, with the greater potential in all areas that comes from mutual support and feedback.
Here we embrace individuality, our autonomy or teleological behaviour. We progress from the original (L3) focus on greed to include the autonomy of other creatures (L1); our chosen lifestyle (L2); our political system (L4); our preferences (L5); and our priorities (L6). In other words, at this vMeme we should look to ensuring natural diversity (beige), protecting cultural differences (purple), varied political systems (blue), choice (orange), and different balances of needs (green). This third vMeme is concerned overall with freedom, with the ability to explore new areas and to discover new options and opportunities.
At this stage order is most important, so we tend to oppose chaos or uncertainty. We progress from the original (L4) focus on religion to include personal safety (L1); solidarity (L2); responsible behaviour (L3); availability (L5); and rights (L6). In other words, at this vMeme we try to prevent crime (beige), respect tradition (purple), instil morals (red), retain knowledge and stock (orange), and prevent marginalisation (green). The fourth vMeme is concerned with structure and its maintenance, with the ability to lock-in past gains and carry them into the future, with the discovery of appropriate laws and regularities.
Here science comes into its own with a focus upon knowledge, innovation, testing and technological development. We progress from the original (L5) focus on trade to include meeting our needs (L1); understanding history (L2); practising control (L3); ensuring stability (L4); and evaluating options (L6). In other words, at this vMeme we should target world deprivation (beige), determine which customs are factually based (purple), discover how to achieve results (red), comprehend the balance between order and chaos (blue), and identify sub-optimalities and valid alternatives (green). This fifth vMeme is concerned with the evaluation of fitness and with best choices, with adding new values to our lives and in exploring new combinations of ideas.
Our focus now switches to causes and the invalidity of any one fixed viewpoint. We progress from the original (L5) focus on pressure groups to include psychology (L1); team working (L2); power structures (L3); organization (L4); and wealth (L5). In other words, at this vMeme we should look at personal niches (beige), different family styles (purple), different drives and satisfactions (red), alternative political organizations (blue), and the nature of material styles (orange). Finally our sixth 1st tier vMeme is concerned with flexibility and the validity of non-conformism, with equal opportunity and protecting different values.
"There is a big change going on in the way people see the world: change in the concept of development, in the way people live together. But for this change to bear fruit, we need education on a global scale... Solutions will come when the world becomes educated about global values, the common values of its inhabitants and communities."
Rigoberta Menchú Tum, A Plea for Global Education, 1993
Assuming that we can personally reach yellow and feel happy about employing all the other vMemes (and this is a big assumption), then how can we best cooperate with similarly minded people to help that whole of which we are all an inter-dependent part ? Initially we must realise that we all have different contexts, so that whilst our views may be similar we will each have a different take on the whole and will not necessarily agree about solutions and the direction of highest priority. Tolerance has to happen at 2nd tier too... What this means is that there will be many simultaneous solutions at work in the world, all are useful, but none can claim to be the 'ultimate' solution. Even if the 'mountain' that we all climb is the same one, there will be many paths to the top - some more suited to some climbers than to others. The solution set then is multidimensional, multilocational and multilevel, as well as being a long-term (multi-temporal) endeavour. This fractal nature of the task we face has two main implications, firstly the incremental nature of improvement (no magic bullet) and secondly a need to co-ordinate and balance actions affecting many different human values.
Education today is highly fragmented, very few people in the world have easy access to information about more than a tiny specialist part of our world (usually related to their jobs). Our view from turquoise gives us a much wider education so we are, collectively, in a very good position to share this information widely, both amongst ourselves and also with the wider public and such media as will listen. Gradually, as with today's global 'green' environmentalism, such views will become common place. As they do so we should stress, perhaps, our two fractal implications - the need for diversity in not trying to enforce any fixed solution (especially from outside any group !) and the need for an openness to other views and to new ideas. There are already very many civil society groups working on differing world problems, and many groups proposing alternative ways of living. What all these approaches tend to have in common is a view of the world as a whole, as an integrated planet.
"Conflicts will diminish as our global, universal, spiritual, and cosmic awareness increase. By far the greatest contribution to peace an individual can make is to become a global, universal, and cosmic being."
Robert Muller, A Planet of Hope, 1986
The only real problem our planet has is people. Luckily we are not all the same, despite being born equal in all meaningful respects. What we do after birth changes our not-so-blank slate into what we are today. If we are nasty then so will be our world, if we are nice then our world will be nice too. It is entirely up to us, so the optimistic focus in our quote is highly relevant and the sort of being Muller describes relates to our last 2nd tier vMeme, coral. Gaining this sort of enlightenment is of course not at all easy, there is no 'quick fix' to Godhood. But every little helps, and if we target our own improvement, then we can (as we say) "Free Our Wild Side" and become content with our lives. As we are all inter-connected, then this goodness in us will flow outwards and inspire goodness in others. Our world will thus become a better place.
We have looked in this essay at how the view from Spiral Dynamics helps us to understand better our behaviours as a species, and of course from a complexity science point of view understanding ourselves as a 'system' is an essential step in working towards that better optimum, whether considered personally, as a local group, or globally. Here we recognise the importance of self-stabilizing attractors, both in their correspondence with the various types of vMemes and in their relevance to the problem of 'freeloaders' - selfish (red) elements that try to disrupt society and turn it 'bad' (e.g. promoting lies, hate, theft and bullying). An integrated society is better able to resist such pressures (a valid contribution of the purple vMeme), but further research is still needed if our science is to assist us in better understanding and minimising this problem (so widespread today). All vMemes have their positive and negative effects, and whilst we should not neglect the latter, we can also embrace the former, and this is the ultimate coral message.