Spiral Dynamics

Here is a brief summary of the key points of Sprial Dynamics, for my own benefit…

Main points

  • Each individual and group of individuals (subcultures, nations, etc) have their center of gravity mostly on one particular level. Life is of course more than and different from – and more fluid and complex than – any map.
  • Each level has its own meme, its own associated values and worldview.
  • The observed progression is from a lower level to the next higher, without skipping any (although we can progress faster or slower through each).
  • Level 1 through 6 are first tier and tend to see their view as the only legitimate one. They get into conflicts with folks with a center of gravity at other levels. Level 6 and 7 are second tier and acknowledge, seek and sort out the (limited) truth and validity of each of the other levels.
  • Moving up the levels, there is a movement…
    (a) From narrow concern with self to an increasing circle of concern.
    (b) From fragmentation to a systems and integral approach.
    (c) From blind identification with personality (sensations, emotions, thougths/ideas) to the center of gravity including awareness/witness.

  • Each level has its healthy and unhealthy expressions. It has strengths, insights and approaches valuable in specific situations, and its potential “diseases”, its less enlightened/helpful expressions.


  • Level 8 – Integral
    Keywords: Cosmic spirituality
    Examples: Ken Wilber, Big Mind, many/some spiritual traditions
    Concern: Universal in broad/deep sense, fully transdual. No experience/phenomenon in the outer/inner world is excluded, resisted or seen as “other”.
    Chakra: 7th/crown
    Healthy: Cosmic, integral view. Acknowledges the value of all previous levels, and applies principles from each when appropriate.
    Unhealthy: Inflation, the “guru disease”, not acknowledging the problems of the personality. Can also have an unbalanced view of the absolute/relative, emphasizing the absolute over the relative.
    Missing: Deepening exploration of each end of the polarity: transdual experience and embodied experience. Deepening integration of a fully transdual view into this body/personality/world. And probably something more as well.

  • Level 7 – Ecological
    Keywords: systems, multiple realities, seamless whole
    Examples: systems view approach, Fritjof Capra, Prototista
    Concern: Universal in broad sense, systems view
    Chakra: 5+6th, throat/third eye
    Healthy: Systems and holistic view. Integral.
    Unhealthy: Can be one-sided and emphasize systems over parts (holistic rather than integral/systems approach). Can deny the existence/value of higher levels.
    Missing: a cosmic spiritual view, more fully transdual.

  • Level 6 – Egalitarian
    Keywords: plurality, authenticity, community, inclusive compassion (self, other, earth, future generations), informational age
    Examples: Cultural Creatives, Greens, sustainability, seven generations view, Yes! Magazine, Utne Reader
    Concern: Human rights, civil rights, gay rights, animal rights etc. All life, all species.
    Chakra: 4th/heart (some 5th/6th)
    Healthy: The circle of compassion includes all life. Makes choices that seem to benefit all life.
    Unhealthy: Can deny the value of the other approaches. Can try to apply level 6 solutions when rational/scientific (level 5), rule based (level 4) or other level approaches are more appropriate (for instance when you are dealing with people operating from those levels). When there is a crisis, or you’re dealing with a gang, a strong leader or strong rules may be more appropriate than consensus and endless meetings.
    Missing: a second tier approach that sees the value in approaches from all precious levels.

  • Level 5 – Modern
    Keywords: progress, materialism, success, image, status, growth
    Examples: mainstream business, New York Times, Bill Clinton, industrialism
    Concern: universal care extended to humanity, human rights
    Chakra: 3rd/hara (some 4th/heart)
    Healthy: focus on science and research, rational approach.
    Unhealthy: focus on growth while resources are limited, blind to long-term/far-reaching consequences due to fragmented worldview.
    Missing: inclusiveness of all human perspectives, and care for the whole system, including society and ecosystems.

  • Level 4 – Morality
    Keywords: rules, discipline, lives for later (reward in the beyond)
    Examples: GW Bush, conservatives in most religions, agrarian
    Concern: own group, those with views aligned with ones own, some universal care
    Chakra: 3rd/hara (some 4th/5th)
    Healthy: rules and morality has its place, valuable in some situations.
    Unhealthy: inflexible, rigid, not able to see the value in other points of view, self-righteousness, harsh treatment of those who do not follow the rules.
    Missing: disidentification from rigid rules, universal humanitarian ethics.

  • Level 3 – Power
    Keywords: gratification, conquest, action, impulse, lives for now
    Examples: some US soldiers, some youth, some business people, gangs
    Concern: Self, gang
    Chakra: 2nd/sexual
    Healthy: taking care of oneself, life-force.
    Unhealthy: single-minded focus on self, lack of consideration for others.
    Missing: rules and guidelines that takes the welfare of others into account.

  • Level 2 – Tribal
    Keywords: rituals, taboos, superstitions, lore, tribal
    Examples: some tribes?
    Concern: self and small circle/tribe
    Chakra: 1st/root (some 2nd)
    Healthy: tribal connections, strong bonds.
    Unhealthy: irrational, strong sense of “us” vs. “them”, narrow circle of concern.
    Missing: individuality, sense of separate identity

  • Level 1 – Survival
    Keywords: protection, staying alive, food, water, procreation, warmth
    Examples: seen during extreme emergencies/crisis, and in most/all non-human species
    Concern: Physical self + few close others
    Chakra: 1st/root
    Healthy: survival, taking care of oneself.
    Unhealthy: narrow focus, ignore other human/own needs, very narrow circle of concern.
    Missing: sense of community, of “us”.

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