Spiral of problems and resolutions

If we look at the lines of development as spirals or widening circles, as many do, then it seems that one of the drivers of development is a spiral of problems and resolutions.

In a line, each level of development creates particular problems, often in the form inherent contradictions and unpleasant feedback from the world, and the next level of development is a partial resolution of these problems, which in turn creates new problems, and so on.

Lots of people have of course explored this in detail, yet I am aware of very little of it. But if we are going to give some local presentations on the aqal model, it is probably good to look at this a little more and find some examples.

Let’s look at value memes from Spiral Dynamics, and a few examples of problems of resolutions as we move into widening circles…


This is an individualistic and ego-centric level, and an example is the terrible twos, or the cowboy of the wild west, or rebels of any stripe.

The problem here can be a form of rampant and ego-centric individualism, which in the end hurts everybody.

And the resolution is, yes, rules, conformity, and an emphasis on authority, community and tradition. This is…


An example here, well known in the US, is a Christian fundamentalist, or an Muslim fundamentalist, or any form of absolutism or fundamentalism. Rules, authority, tradition, law and order, rule. There is an emphasis on the group, and this is the first ethno-centric circle.

For the Christian fundamentalist, the problems inherent in amber may take the form of lack of individual freedom, choice and expression, and also problems explaining the inherent contradictions in the scripture (if the Bible is the word of God, why are there two creation stories, and so on) and contradictions between science and the Bible (where do fossils come from, and how come millions of scientists around the world are so wrong, and if there is micro-evolution why not macro-evolution?).

The resolution here is…


Which again has an emphasis on the individual, but now in an early world-centric context, realizing the importance of universal human rights, a more equal access to opportunities and so on.

I am an individual, with certain rights and freedom to choose and express myself within some limits, and that is the case for others as well. And, by the way, the same is the case for businesses as well.

An example here is the typical westerner, well educated, embracing science and rationality as their guideline and consumerism as not only a good idea but a right.

The problems created by orange today are building up quickly and are difficult to ignore: Climate change, toxins and more due to an industry that does not take long-term effects into account, rampant consumerism not bringing the satisfaction it promised, sprawl creating reliance on cars and petroleum and reducing a sense of community, corporate globalization eroding human rights and quality of life for the poor, wars to protect remaining oil resources. Hierarchies in state, businesses and religion where those on top take advantage of everyone else. The news media gives plenty of examples daily.

The resolution is…


Green is egalitarian, value certain forms of diversity, and is even more world-centric than Orange. Its circle of care, concern and compassion expands to not only include all humans, but all life and future generations. This is where the web of life is beginning to be realized: we are all intimately connected, not only humans but all of life, and not only all of us alive today but past and future generations as well.

Community becomes more important than individual achievement. Taking care of life more important than consumerism. Consensus more important than the hierarchies of Amber and Orange.

One of the downfalls of Green is an over-emphasis on egalitarianism and consensus. Projects may fall apart because consensus is not possible, sometimes even for practical reasons such as getting everyone together to arrive at consensus, or because people get tired of it. Ideology can go before practicality here.

Also, the diversity is nice, but also a little fragmented. Isn’t there some larger patterns here somewhere?

And an inherent contradiction in the Green view is an appreciation of diversity in some forms, such as ethnicity and age, yet a distinct lack of appreciation of the diversity of the spiral as a whole and of of non-green turns of the spiral in particular, maybe especially Amber and Orange.

So then we have…

Second tier

Where there is an appreciation of the spiral as a whole, and of each turn of the spiral. I can see each of them in the foreground in different phases of my own life, and I can see each of them in my own life right here and now as well.

The first tier segment of the spiral becomes a toolbox for me. I can take each one out and use them as the situation invites me to, and I can connect with others at the various phases of the spiral because I know and are familiar with these in myself.

This also means that a more integral view becomes possible. One that sees the connections among the diverse views from Green, and the diverse insights and approaches from the various turns of the spiral.

Other examples

So this is the value line of development, and we can probably find a similar dynamic in the other lines. And it seems that for many lines, the process goes from egocentric via ethno- or groupcentric to widening worldcentric. It is a process of widening circles. A spiral where each turn is a resolution to a previous dissonance, in itself creating a new dissonance.

:: Self line, who am I?

For example, in the Self line, we may start out with no particular sense of self.

But then we realize that there is a correspondence with certain inner movements – such as thoughts, and the movements of this body which seems to be around all the time. Hm… maybe that means I am this body? Yes, that must be how it is.

So I am this body, which has sensations, feelings, emotions and thoughts. And these seem to organize in a particular way, creating a personality. So I must be this personality as well, complete with a particular worldview and a particular identity.

But wait a minute. I realize that all of this, this whole human package, is seen. It comes and goes. Yet it seems that something does not come and go. What is it that does not come and go? It seems to be the seeing itself. Or maybe this space and awareness that all of this content happens within. Yes, I must be the seeing, the witness, pure awareness.

OK, so I am the seeing itself. But where is the line between I as the seeing and me and Other as the seen? Can I find that line anywhere? Where do seeing end and the seen begin? Hm… The seen does not really appear that different from the seeing itself. That too seem to be awake space. Also, there was no I in the seen, so maybe there is no I in the seeing either? There seems to be only this Ground of awake space, taking the appearance of seeing and seen when filtered through the idea of I. It is only this Ground of awake space, temporarily appearing as seeing and seen, and with no I inherent anywhere.

So the sense of self goes from absent, undifferentiated and nonfunctional, via a sense of self as a part of the seen, to a sense of self as the seeing, to a realization of an absence of I yet – typically – highly differentiated and functional, able to make use of everything explored through identification at the earlier turns of the spiral.

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