Ken Wilber’s bashing of “unhealthy green”

When I see people do green-bashing, it looks a lot like they are fighting their own shadow.

First, what am I talking about?

Ken Wilber has popularized Spiral Dynamics which is a model of adult value development. What do we value? How does this tend to change as we grow and mature?

One of the stages described in this model is the green stage. The values here are inclusivity, taking care of nature, considering the needs of future generations, and so on. Many who are into sustainability or intentional communities are here or have it as part of their value package.

Predictably, this is a set of values that tend to come after – or be added onto – a typical modern mindset where we value democracy, science, and so on. We see that although there is much good here, it’s not quite sufficient. We also need to take care of life.

What people tend to mature into after the green values is a more integral approach, an approach where we see the function and value of the many different value-sets people operate from. Here, we can find it all in ourselves, make use of whatever makes sense in the situation, and see a bigger picture of how it all fits together.

What’s peculiar about Ken Wilber is his green-bashing. He often talks about “unhealthy green” which is not a problem in itself. If we want, we can easily find apparently unhealthy expressions of each of the different value-sets. So why is he so focused on it? Why does it seem to have an emotional charge for him? Why does he seem reactive? Why does it appear to be a hangup for him?

One answer may be his own personal experiences. I don’t know him or his life so I cannot say much about it. But I guess that he may have interacted with people who fit into an “unhealthy green” category in his mind, and he hurt himself in how he reacted to what they said and did.

To me, the green-bashing of Ken Wilber and his followers looks like shadowboxing. It looks like they are fighting their own shadow. It looks like they are fighting these sides of themselves.

And why do people mimic Ken Wilber in this? Again, I am not sure. One possibility is that they admire him and perhaps have their own identity mixed in with his, so they want to follow in his footsteps also here.


Models like Spiral Dynamics have their value. They can help us organize data and find patterns. At the same time, they also have their limits. They are all models. They are mental representations of phenomena that are far more rich and complex and also different in nature from these representations. They are to be held lightly and used carefully.

Why don’t I engage in green-bashing? Because it seems a bit silly to me. It looks so obviously like a shadow hangup. Also, I don’t have much personal experience with the “unhealthy” side of green. And what KW and others do tastes a bit of bullying and I am much more likely to go after the bully than to join in with the bullying.

What’s my history with Ken Wilber? I absolutely loved No Boundary when I found it in the ’80s and devoured everything he published for a couple of decades after that. In the late 2000s, I got into some online integral communities and quickly got disenchanted with it all. I am sure his more recent books have value but I haven’t read them.

Why did I get disenchanted? One aspect is seeing how he obviously (and apparently unnecessarily) misrepresented certain people and approaches in his own books. That gave me a bad taste in the mouth. Another is the green bashing he and his followers engaged in. I also noticed how some of his followers seemed to use integral theory to put others down and elevate themselves, and how they seemed to take models as gospel truth instead of recognizing them as questions about the world.

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Doing it for ourselves

It is sometimes helpful to notice that whatever I am doing, I am doing it for myself. It brings me back into my own business, as Byron Katie would say.

A simple way of exploring this is to follow the chain of what do I hope to get out of it? For me, this usually leads back to something very simple such as happiness, and avoiding suffering.

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Speaking up for (really) radical relativism

Some of the integral folks like to talk about the shortcomings of “radical relativism”.

But radical relativism, if it is radical enough, is the freedom to use stories in any way that seems appropriate. It is the freedom in seeing the limited value in any story and perspective, and then use whatever one(s) seem most appropriate in any given situation.

If it is a truly radical relativism, we see stories as just tools of practical value, so choose stories with more explanation power, that are more compassionate, more effective in getting things done, more elegant, and so on, and according to what is available to us based on our current insights, experiences and skills.

And the way we hold these stories also depend on the situation. Sometimes, it may seem more appropriate to hold them lightly, freely admitting that they are just tools and that other tools may be more useful in the situation.

Other times, and especially if peoples health and well-being is at stake, and we are up against folks who are in the grips of reactivity and blind beliefs, it may be more appropriate to hold our stories far more strongly. To do what is needed to protect individuals and society, meeting people in our actions and language where they are.

When we are clear, we are anything but door mats. And radical relativism can easily take a strong stand in the world, when needed.

The problem with making “radical relativism” sound suspicious and slightly sinister, as some of the strangely “anti green” folks in the integral world do, is that it may prevent us from going far enough. It may hold people back from going far enough through relativism into the truly radical relativism.

And then we just remain stuck in beliefs. We hold onto a story because we actually think it is true.

And that is just blindness.

Ban on holy dots and other silliness


I see that government officials in India are now banned from wearing the tilak, which may be another drop in the ocean of post-911 silliness. (Of course, I don’t know if there is a real connection, but it fits into a pattern of attitudes and behaviors that have turned legitimate in the world following 911.)

Some random, onesided and relatively uninformed thoughts about the banning of burkas, turbans, dots and other signs of religious (or ethnic) affiliations…

  • It serves mainly to polarize. Both sides tend to get more entrenched and oppositional.
  • It target the symbol/symptom more than anything else. If you want to target what you see as oppression and so on, do that directly rather than targeting something as silly as what people wear. (For god’s sake…!)
  • It started with the burka, in the anti-muslim frenzy following 911, and then expanded to other symbols of religion to make it appear fair. As with so much else post-911 legitimized behavior, it has also been used by different groups as an excuse to target traditional enemies.
  • Even the burka is not necessarily a symbol of, for instance, oppression of women. Many women apparently experience it as liberating, as a protection.
  • It is another example of those with a more rational/worldcentric view adopting a flawed strategy in trying to deal with the more absolutist/ethnocentric (orange vs. blue in Spiral Dynamics terms). They are confused, don’t know how to deal with it, and feel threatened, so try this silliness which only muddles and polarizes the situation further. (Or, as maybe in this case, someone wants to be seen as rational and worldcentric, so adopt this strategy without thinking too much.)
  • Finally, by adopting a strategy of banning symbols of religions affiliation, we do exactly what we say we try to remove. We ourselves act in ways experienced as intolerant and oppressive. It is OK when I do it but not when you do it, because I am right and you are wrong. How is that for teaching people tolerance and western values?

Green and beliefs

I ran into a “green” friend of mine on the bus today, and was reminded of how the different value stages – or turns of the spiral of development – can, in a very simplistic way, be seen as a collection of beliefs.

At the green level, there is a belief in values such as diversity, pluralism and care for all life, and these are included at the wider turns of the spiral. Other beliefs, such as egalitarianism, may be modified at later turns of the spiral.

My friend is very concerned about the welfare of ordinary people (and animals and ecosystems), which is beautiful. But there is also a belief in “the system” and “government” as inherently opposed to the welfare of ordinary people, at least whenever they can get away with it. And this belief clearly colors her interpretation of society and even minor (and innocent) situations, such as a bus driver accidentally driving off with a father on the bus and his kids on the sidewalk. For her, it is a confirmation that “the system” does not care about the welfare of other people. Without that belief, it is just an innocent and unfortunate accident, and we can do whatever is needed to reduce the possibility of it happening in the future without vilifying anyone.

I guess this mix of beliefs determine whether an expression of a particular level is considered “healthy” or not.

If there is some space and flexibility around it, and the beliefs are held lightly, then it is more likely to appear as healthy. If certain beliefs are rigid and tightly held onto, and in particular if they vilify certain people and blind us to other interpretations, the expression is maybe less healthy.

As we become aware of and integrate more projections, we move along the spiral, including more and more in our circle of care, compassion and concern. And our view tends to embrace more as well, being more fluid among a multitude of perspectives. We are less stuck in just one interpretation or way of seeing a situation.

From the outside, this takes the form of moving along the phases of two of the main lines of development, values/moral (heart) and cognitive (head.)

The heart is more consistently open, in more and more situations, and towards more and more beings and phenomena. And the view is more inclusive, comprehensive, differentiated, and fluid among different perspectives.

Heterosexuals: they only need more supervision

The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love heterosexuals. It’s just that they need more supervision.

Lynn Lavner

This is an Orange (and beyond) response to certain amber views, and pretty funny too.

It is clearly aimed at people already at orange+, and it can help relieve some of the tension many experience faced with these amber views, and also create a sense of community.

Bigoted against the bigots?

It is of course important to deal with homophobic views and behavior in all the many ways available to us, through speaking out, education, law against discrimination, and so on.

But there is also some questions here for mysef: Am I bigoted against those I see as bigots? Am I treating them as they are treating others?

Homophilic views may indeed be more enlightened than homophobic views, but there are certainly other areas where I am as blind and unenlightened as anything I see in them.

Homophobia at amber and elsewhere

When homophobia is set in system, through for instance certain religious views, it may mostly be amber (ethnocentric, absolutist). But homophobia certainly is alive and well elsewhere in the spiral as well.

As long as homosexual, or even remotely similar, impulses arise in me, and there is a thought that this can’t possibly be me, I will see it out there. It is, at least partially, a blind and unrecognized projection there.

And if there is an idea that these impulses are not good, for whatever reason, there is homophobia, which in turn can be rationalized any number of ways. Whenever there is a belief, there is usually no lack of evidence to find for it.

This can happen wherever we are in the spiral. It is only that at orange+, we are a little more sophisticated about it, a little less blunt.

The Work greasing the spiral?

Ken Wilber talks about meditation as greasing the spiral. Apparently, meditation is the only practice shown, in studies, to help people move faster up through the spiral of development.

I would be surprised if not The Work greases the spiral in a similar way. It would make a good research project for somebody.

There are at least two aspects to this greasing…

The Work, identity and the self-line

One is what the work does with our identity. It widens and deepens, embraces more, becomes more porous, less tightly held. Then it shifts out of the seen into the seeing itself. And eventually, or so they say, it can release into realized selflessness.

Beliefs is what our identity is created from, and by allowing beliefs to be seen and fall away, our identity also falls away, one belief at a time. What is left is wakeful space, inherently absent of any characteristics, allowing them all to come and go as part of the seen. And with no I anywhere.

So in this way, The Work greases the self-line, from identification with the seen (this human self) to the seeing, to realized selflessness.

The Work and widening circles

The Work also seems to grease any lines that tends to go from egocentric to ethnocentric to widening worldcentric, such as the cognitive (view) and empathy (ethics, circles of care, concern and compassion).

As more of what is seen out there is also seen in here, there is naturally a widening of our view and circle of care, concern and compassion. We recognize in ourselves what we see out there. Less and less out there is foreign to us. I see myself in more and more of what used to be wholly other: in more and more people, in all beings, ecosystems, the Earth, past and future generations, and eventually Existence itself beyond and including all polarities.

There is a deepening sense of recognition. What I see out there is also in here. What I see in you, I recognize from myself.

And there is a deepening sense of belonging. What used to be so completely other is not so anymore. The boundary of I and Other becomes more porous. More and more, I see the seamless whole that these boundaries are placed on top of. There is a deepening sense of belonging… to humanity, to this life, to Earth, to Existence beyond and including all polarities.

With recognition and a sense of belonging, the circles of my view and compassion naturally widen, and widen, and widen.

Nice and fuzzy aqal

In thinking about ways to present the aqal model here in our green tinted community, I have found some nice and fuzzy (nonthreathening) language.

So instead of levels and stages of development, we can say widening circles and turns of the spiral. Each widening circle is more inclusive and embraces more. And level five is then the fifth turn of the spiral.

And in talking about the different turns of the spiral, we can emphasize the gifts of each. The gifts of red, amber, orange, green and so on, and how we each can – and do – access and use the gifts of each, at least those within our current embrace. It is similar to having access to many paint buckets, using the different colors according to what the situation seems to call for.

Instead of being hierarchical and threatening, it becomes fun, embracing, spirally and colorful (!)

Hopefully without being less accurate.

Mean green, terrorism, tiers and Spiral Dynamics

I found this FAQ at, a site of “old school” Spiral Dynamics. I notice that several points on the FAQ aims at differentiating their understanding and approach from that of Ken Wilber.

For me, it was very helpful to read as it addresses a few (relatively minor) questions that has come up for me around KW’s presentation and use of Spiral Dynamics.

Mean green?

One is his focus on the mean green meme.

Meanness, however we see that, can of course be found for each color of the spiral. And this meanness can take any number of flavors and forms, each one filtered through one or more spiral levels. There is not just one mean amber, or orange, or green, meme. There are infinite versions of each. So there is a question of how useful the whole mean meme idea is.

Even if we adopt the language of mean memes, then we see that the green versions of meanness are typically relatively harmless compared to many of the other ones. I would much rather be exposed to most, if not all forms, of the mean green meme than the mean amber meme in the form of a crusade, ku klux klan or a terrorist group.

One example of where green can be quite unhelpful is if there is a blind insistence on a nonviolent resolution, when that almost certainly is suicide and a limited form of violence could prevent large scale violence. But it is difficult to see that as a “mean” expression of green, it is just a little limited, as all colors of the spiral are.

Mean green is typically among the most harmless of them all, so why single that out for attack? And why attack it in the first place? That seems among the least effective strategies for change.

The FAQ has a much fuller explorations of issues around this idea of the mean green meme.


This one is maybe not so important, but I have been puzzled when KW places terrorism at red.

Terrorism can be red if it is in the form of street gangs similar. But this is more terror or terrorizing, and not the way the word terrorism is most often used.

In the way most people use the word terrorism, it seems to refer to amber (blue in the original SD model). The amber of group loyalty, absolutism, blind adherence to ideology, and ideology set above human lives.

And again, this is what I found in the FAQ under Is terrorism red?

To be honest, it seems that terrorism is possible at just about any turn of the spiral, and maybe especially those more prone to idealism such as amber and green. Not many orange examples of terrorism comes to mind (unless you include state sponsored terrorism), but I can think of lots of amber examples, and a few – relatively innocent – green ones.

First and second tiers?

A third question that has come up for me in the way KW talks about SD is his strong emphasis on the difference between first and second tier. It seems fine and clear cut on a model level, and maybe even relatively accurate. But when I look at real life, I can’t very easily find such a clear distinction.

It seems that many of the characteristics of second tier, such as appreciation for the levels, a relative absence of fear, release from many of the survival issues and so on, can be found at many first tier turns of the spiral as well.

It seems more related to an attitude that can be found at many levels. And reversely, it seems that the opposite traits – such as a lack of appreciation of the other levels, and fear and contraction, can be found among some of those who see themselves at second tier.

So although many of these traits may be more common at second tier (which seems true), they are certainly not absent at earlier turns of the spiral, and certainly not guaranteed at second tier.

Again, here is the much more detailed FAQ on this.

Dangers of models

In writing the aqal review of local organizations, and also talking with a friend yesterday who’s very much into integral things, I am reminded of the dangers of Spiral Dynamics, and of any map, framework or model.

As with any map, or sets of ideas, it can be taken as a relative or an absolute truth, it can be used in service of shadow projections, and it can be used with more or less heart and empathy.

Relative and absolute truths

The clearest danger is in taking it as an absolute truth, to mistake the map for the terrain, to put more faith in and emphasis on what the model says rather than what the terrain is doing.

Seeing any map as a relative truth, it becomes a tool of temporary and practical value, an aid for navigating and functioning in the world. There is nothing absolute about it. Just a tool that works more or less well in any given situation. A tool with no inherent value, which can be modified and discarded as needed. It remains secondary to the terrain, to life itself.

Relative truth only: known or realized

One thing is to know this intellectually, that it is a map, a tool, a relative truth only, not absolute in any way. Another is to live from that realization.

Knowing intellectually that it is only a tool, I can still use it as a weapon. I can use it to cut others down, to affirm right and wrong views, to build up and preserve a particular identity, to see myself as right and others as wrong, to see myself as better and others as less good, to see myself as more evolved and others as less evolved, to divide the world into neat categories, to make the world into simple abstractions I can easily analyze and think I am right.

When it is realized more fully as a tool only, it becomes transparent. It becomes a thin, transparent veil of abstractions placed on top of the world. It can not so easily be used as a weapon because it is so clearly not substantial.

Shadow projections

Any map can also be used to affirm an identity. To split the world into I and Other, and us and them. To neatly divide the world into right and wrong. To build up, maintain and protect a particular identity.

Spiral Dynamics can be used to make me right and more evolved, and (some) others wrong and less evolved. It can be used to attack people who carry my shadow, such as the mean meme folks at any level.

To me, it seems that Ken Wilber does this, in particular towards the mean green meme and those he sees as living from this. He seems to have a personal hangup about them. A need to put them in place. To distance himself from them. To prove that he sees it more clearly than them. To thoroughly beat them up intellectually.

This is of course a projection from my side, because I certainly know this from myself. I did it when I wrote the aqal review of local organizations, and daily in many other ways. It is a partly blind and partly seen projection.

And my own projection is independent on whether it happens for KW as well. Acknowledging my own projection here does not say that it does or does not exist for him as well.

Still, other than seeing KWs attacks on the mean green meme as a partly blind shadow projection on his part, I cannot find any reasonable explanation for it (which does not mean that there isn’t one).

It seems that his strategy only serves to alienate folks at the green level, to push them away from any interest in an integral framework. I may be wrong here, but my limited understanding of the second tier is an ability to meet people where they are at, and using a language they understand.

Also, why focus the attack on the mean green meme, when that one is relatively harmless compared to the mean amber and blue? Again, if the purpose is to help people beyond green into second tier, then meeting them at where they are at seems far more effective. And enjoyable.

Not ready?

On a related topic:

My friend seems to think that only a handful of people locally, maybe 10 (of nearly 200,00 people!), would be interested in learning about a more integral approach, so why even bother doing any form of outreach? I guess this is based on the statistics of how many are at second tier levels.

To me, this again is an example of where attachment to a map can cloud clearer seeing. Everything becomes filtered through the model, in spite of what the world itself may tell us.

I personally find that lots of people are interested in hearing about it, because the aqal model is really just a practical tool.

And as long as there is just a little opening towards acknowledging the usefulness of the four quadrants and the levels and lines of development, then there is interest. To me, it seems that nearly everybody seem to have this opening, unless – in very rare cases, there is a strong attachment to an ideology which excludes either some of the quadrants or any idea of human development.

I know people that would be considered amber in SD, Christian fundamentalists, who would be open for it. And people at orange who are interested. And certainly lots of people at green. Anybody who wants to explore tools and maps that are practical and pragmatic would be interested, and most do.

So to me, it seems cynical to assume that the aqal model is only of interest to a very small segment of the population. It seems that as with SD itself, it can be – at least intellectually – understood and used by folks at almost any level. It can become a useful tool for just about anyone at any level.

Identification versus development

It is interesting (although pretty obvious I guess, to those exposed to KWs work and that of others) how identification and development can be seen as somewhat independent of each other.

Shifting identification and sense of self

In the previous post, I mentioned how identification – the center of gravity, the sense of self or I – shifts from unformed, via the seen – our human self, to the seeing itself, to nowhere to be found – realized selflessness.

And how one polar end is unformed and nonfunctional – as in a baby, where the other polar end – realized selflessness, can engage with and use everything explored through previous identifications.

In Spiral Dynamic terms, the identification moves up the spiral and explores a new way of functioning at each turn of the spiral, and all of these are available – and can continue to mature and develop, within realized selflessness.

Development of this human self

There is somewhat of a dependence between the development of this human self and where on the spiral the sense of identity is, and there is also somewhat of an independence between the two.

The separation of the two is most clear when there is a realized selflessness, and this human self still continues to heal, mature and develop indefinitely – as long as it is around. The sense of self remains the same, absent (!), yet the me – as this human self, continues to develop, and develop, and develop, as part of the general evolution of the world of form.

I guess this is why the sense of self is a separate line of development.

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.

Widening circles & practical versus right

A couple of things that came up in a conversation today:

Levels as widening circles and turns around the spiral

The language of levels and tiers, as we know, puts off some people. Mainly those at green level. It just sounds too hierarchical and elitist for those at green.

Another way to word it is to talk about widening and more inclusive circles.

As we move along the developmental spirals, that is what happens: our view becomes more inclusive and comprehensive, the circles embrace more.

Using this language, the first turn around the spiral is the infrared and level one, the sixth turn is green and the sixth level, and so on.

This is one way to rephrase it when talking with greens without sacrificing accuracy, and more importantly, without turning them off simply due to language. (And this, turning greens off simply due to choice of language, is what KW sometimes choose to do – maybe to get their attention, or for some other reason. In any case, it is difficult for me to understand why, and to see that it has any beneficial outcomes.)

Second and first tiers: practical or right?

And here is one way to talk about the first and second tiers, very general and rough:

At first tier, the first bundle of turns around the spiral, it is about being right. My views are right, and you need to change. Which we all know is, yes, hopeless!

At second tier, the second bundle of turns around the spiral, it is about being practical.

There is an appreciation for the other turns of the spiral, an ability to access and make use of the gifts of the first tier turns, and an ability and willingness to meet people where they are at.

In short, it is a more practical approach.

Second tier as more pragmatic

And that is how the second tier tends to come up for me, the second set of turns: It is just about being more pragmatic, informed by a more integral view such as that of quadrants and levels of development.

Red in tooth and claw

I watched the BBC documentary Walking with Prehistoric Beasts last night, about the evolution of mammals from the demise of dinosaurs and up to today.

Since I was a kid, I have enjoyed nature documentaries. And since I got into systems theories in my mid-teens, I have been aware of the discrepancy between how many of them are made and what I would like to see.

Here is a simple and very general way to look at it, using the levels of consciousness outlined in the aqal model:

First tier documentaries

Nature documentaries can be seen as inherently orange or beyond. They draw on information, views, models, findings from orange level – or beyond – science.

At the same time, nature documentaries are often presented with lots of red or below mixed in, with a dramatic and sometimes exclusive emphasis on nature red in tooth and claw, dramatic struggles, everyone for themselves, and so on. (Even some of the BBC documentaries do this… which makes it look a little silly, as if twelve year old boys were the only audience for these programs.)

What we don’t see as much yet are documentaries that take a green and beyond view: looking at cooperation, partnerships and symbiosis, at whole systems dynamics, at ecosystems and ecoregions as fluid wholes of matter, energy and patterns, of which individuals are just temporary forms, aspects and expressions.

Of course, if we look at nonhuman species, we will see a lot of the early levels (in particular infrared) as that’s where they are at, so it certainly needs to be included. But it can still be presented within orange, green and second tier frameworks. A few documentaries already do this, and it may be more common in the near future.

I wonder what a blue take on nature documentaries would look? If religious fundamentalist, it would of course conform to whatever story told within their tradition.

Second tier documentaries

A second tier take on nature documentaries seems far more interesting, probably even for many first tier folks. Second tier takes on nature have the potential to easily be rich, fluid, engaging and thoroughly entertaining.

It would include a wide range of perspectives and levels, fluidly shifting among them and weaving them together into a more integral view.

It could use current science and an integral model (for instance aqal) as the overall framework.

And then include any or all of these…

Nature red in tooth and claw. The struggle for survival. The birth, survival, procreation and death of individuals.

Views on nature from various cultures and religious traditions. How do we humans relate to and view nature, filtered through a wide range of cultures and traditions?

How has scientific methodology and views shifted over time?

Cooperation, partnership and symbiosis in nature. An emphasis on communities within and among species, rather than individuals.

The views from ecopsychology and evolutionary psychology. How can an evolutionary perspective help us understand how humans function today? What role does nature play in our sense of belonging, quality of life and health?

Where is evolution going? What can we tell from past patterns? Where are current evolutionary nudges taking us as a planet and species?

A systems and holarchical view, looking at individuals, ecosystems, the Earth, the Universe as wholes within wholes. Each as temporary expressions of their subsystems and larger systems.

And if they were really brave: all of this as Ground or Spirit, as the many manifestations of Ground, as the evolution of form within and as Ground. As the form aspect of God evolving over time into more and more complex forms and expressions of consciousness. This is all emptiness dancing, and dancing in a way that appears to itself as evolution.

This is an approach that would offer something to just about anyone, and it would also offer something to each of these levels and areas in each of us.

Meaning of life?

One of the big questions, after having the basic needs taken care of, is what is the meaning of life?

Ground inherently free from any meaning

Ground or Big Mind is inherently free from any meaning or lack of meaning, which means that any sense of meaning or lack of meaning, and any particular content of meaning, is free to arise.

What is, is the meaning

Moving a short distance into the relative, we see that what is, right now, can be seen as the meaning of life. Whatever happens right now, whatever arises as the content of awareness right now, that’s it. That is the meaning of my life, right now, just as it is. That is how Ground, Big Mind, Spirit, Brahman manifests as form, right now.

This is of course not helpful if this realization is not arising on its own, but when the realization is there – it is clear. This, as it is, is the meaning of life. That which arises right now, fresh, immediate, always new, before any ideas are put on it.

Finding one’s own meaning

And then there is of course the conventional way of looking at it, at least in contemporary western societies: life may be inherently meaningless, but find your own meaning. That is the meaning of your life, to find what is meaningful for you. I guess this is Orange and beyond, in Spiral Dynamics.

At Blue (or amber in KW’s new model), the answer tends to be given by whatever tradition one adheres to. If you are Christian, then it is salvation. If you are Buddhist, then awakening – or at least a good rebirth.

And at Green, it may be partly finding one’s own meaning, and partly to live a life good for the larger whole – for humanity as a whole, for the Earth as a whole, for future generations.

Each of these are of course completely legitimate, and can be very helpful, although they are also relative truths.

Low Life

I am reading Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York by Luc Sante, and find it a facinating story of the underbelly of New York in the 1800s and early 1900s.

It puts our contemporary western society into perspective, and is a reminder that what we see today in countries with unrest, corruption and barely functioning legal system is what was here not too long ago (and still is, to some extent, especially in the US).

It is also a reminder that Spiral Dynamics red (red in tooth and claw, power, late egocentric, here seen in gangs and organized and unorganized crime) eats Green (egalitarian, nonviolence, worldcentric, seen among sustainability folks, hippies, and political greens) for lunch, as Michael Dowd likes to point out.

Green is typically not the right tool to deal with red, and orange is barely so. As the story of New York shows, it took strong blue (law and order) to tame red. And then it can move on.

Nurturing Development

There is really no inherent reason to want to develop faster through the SD spiral, or move beyond an attachment to ideas in general and to the idea of I in particular, or include more of Other into I and us.

Yet, it is painful to experience the world through the filter of I and Other. It is painful to experience the split that comes from that filter, because it is not aligned with what is. So we are naturally motivated to move through the spiral, move up the levels, to allow what is to awaken to its own nature (of I everywhere and nowhere) while still functionally connected to this human self.

Since this motivation is as natural as anything else, we have developed a large number of strategies to either temporarily avoid the pain of the apparent split (entertainment, romance, sex, money, vacations, food) or to move towards a more radical solution (awakening to what is with no I inherent anywhere).

And if integrating projections is a big part of this process, then The Work may be one of the faster ways of nurturing development (along with more traditional approaches and other new ones such as the Big Mind process).

Second Tier

In the Spiral Dynamics model of development of value systems, they differentiate between first tier and second tier levels.

First tier is where we see our own value system level as the only right one. (This can actually includes pluralistic views if we appreciate all other views except those which themselves as exclusive.)

At the second tier, we appreciate each of the levels of value system development. We appreciate each level for itself. It is Existence exploring and manifesting itself in a unique way, adding to the overall tapestry of richness of the self-exploration of Existence. And we appreciate each level for being part of the whole sequence of development, and the overall evolution of humanity, the Earth the Universe, and the relative aspect of Existence.

We can be highly developed on the spiritual line, and yet be at either first or second tier.

If we are at first tier, there may be a lack of appreciation of the whole long evolution of the Universe, Earth, the human species, and one’s own development up until now. It may all seem as a big mistake, and the only thing that counts is liberation and Enlightenment.

At second tier, we come to deeply appreciate the long process that brought about this now – and that there is an equally long – infinite – process ahead of us as well. Each level of unfolding – of the Universe, Earth, humanity and the individual – is immensely valuable in itself. It is Existence expressing and manifesting itself, perfectly with no mistake. And it is a part of the whole and rich unfolding as well. There is no mistake. It is all beautiful – even the most terrible suffering (which doesn’t mean that we sit back and don’t work to alleviate the suffering as much as we can – this is also part of the overall picture).