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Evolving from fear to love in business and beyond

November 7, 2013

Can we really transform beyond our essentially fear-based ways of operating in business and beyond?  Is there a meaningful way for us to transform beyond the current social, economic and environmental crisis or is a painful breakdown and restart the only viable option open to us?

spiral dynamics1

Following psychological research in the 1960’s by Dr Clare Graves, Dr Don Beck and Chris Cowan developed a simple way to articulate differing worldviews held by our diverse human population: spiral dynamics.

The core principles underpinning spiral dynamics as a map of our spiralling levels of consciousness is that we are all born into the bottom of the spiral and progress as far up the spiral based on our learning and experience. No one jumps levels and everyone has access to all levels through their own learning and development. These levels are known as memes (value systems) and have colours representing them: Beige, Purple, Red, Blue, Orange, Green, Yellow and Turquoise. As Don Beck is keen to point out, these memes are not hierarchical, no one level is better than the other and different life conditions call upon different meme characteristics as part of our human repertoire. Each meme can be expressed by us in a positive or negative aspect and we may call upon such expressions in our daily lives as we traverse the ever changing landscape ahead.

spiral dynamics

There are two tiers to the spiral: Tier One (Beige through to Green) has the prime motivator as fear, and it is thought that 98% of the human population currently fall within Tier One finding it very difficult to operate beyond fear-based motives, although there is emerging evidence of an increasing shift in consciousness afoot across the globe. The second tier (Yellow and Turquoise) has the prime motivator as love. Here people find it easier to empathise, value and communicate with people on all other levels of the spiral. Let’s take a brief look at each meme (main source for this summary is ‘The Seven Stages of Authenticity’ by Neil Crofts):

Beige – Tribal:  An instinctive focus on basic needs such as food, safety and shelter. We are all born into this meme and under extreme stress may call upon this level of consciousness e.g. in the face of natural disaster. Today, Beige represents about 0.1% of the adult population with no influence on the way our global ‘society’ is run.

Purple – Mystic: During our clannish and animist history, our view of the world was essentially superstitious and full of enchantment rooted in an embodied relation with Nature. The conscious and unconscious realm (dream state and shamanic journeying) mix readily here. This may be likened to how a young child engages with life, prior to the formation of a prominent ego-consciousness. Yet, let us not fall into the trap of attempting to simplify or belittle the consciousness of animist cultures, as the inherent wisdom within many indigenous cultures is not limited to a child-like state of consciousness, quite the contrary, as the fluid interplay of ego with ‘shamanic’ consciousness is often a conscious act in itself, unlike a child (as far as ‘Western’ psychology informs us). Today, Purple represents about 10% of the adult population and 1% of the influence.

Red – Ego: While finding our place in the world during adolescence, we may become competitive, impulsive, heroic or rebellious. This stage is essentially hedonistic, self-centred and ego-driven. Immediate pleasure is focused on with scant regard for the wider consequences. A sense of separation between our conscious ‘I’ and unconscious nature de-mystifies the world for us shifting our way of attending from the animate, embodiment of self/nature witnessed in the Purple meme to the more individualistic sense of ‘self’ apart from ‘other’ of the Red meme. Today, red represents about 20% of the adult population and about 5% of the influence.

Blue – Moralistic:  The egotistical, dominator approach of Red can transform into a hierarchic way of viewing the world where things are judged as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘right or ‘wrong’, ‘excluded’ or ‘included’ and ranked in order of strict priority, for instance: plants, then animals, then foreigners, then the working class, the middle class and at the pinnacle are the elite ruling class. This accentuates and then acculturates the anthropocentric and individualistic characteristics of the Red meme, formulating them within a hierarchical societal paradigm. Dualistic ways of viewing the world become ingrained as cultural assumptions: self-other; human-nature; rich-poor; male-female, good-evil, etc..  Today, 40% of the world’s population are Blue and they hold 30% of the influence on society.

Orange – Highly competitive: Evolving out of the restrictive, polarised, elitist and essentially oppressive and exploitative nature of the Blue meme is the self-expressive and still largely individualistic nature of Orange. This is the go-getting, materialistic, competitive mentality so prevalent in today’s Western consumerist paradigm. The ego-conscious ‘I’ seeks to make its mark on the world outside itself by rationalising, defining, extracting, commercialising and then exploiting all aspects of life in the pursuit of freedom from perceived constraints. While self-starting, innovating, boundary-pushing, ‘freedom from bureaucracy’ qualities of competitive self-expressive individuals is an important aspect of our own individuation process, it comes at a cost along with an opportunity for us to learn and evolve. Neo-liberal free-market capitalism, neo-Darwinian reductionist science and materialistic consumerism become the dominant norms of this meme. Orange meme people tend towards seeing the world through threat-tinted glasses rooted in ‘dog-eat-dog’ competition which encourages excessive material wealth accumulation. The historic mix of the Blue and Red meme we find prevalent in today’s Western paradigm results in a predominantly elitist, greed-based approach where vast quantities of material wealth accumulate in the few while the many feel impelled to struggle up the lower rungs of the consumerist ladder. It is a worldview that is busily being assimilated throughout humanity. Orange represents around 30% of the adult population across the globe and about 50% of the influence exerted through business, science and politics.

‘From its basis and origin in the differentiated unity of primitive society, subjectivity has undergone a ‘progressive’ atomization and conflictual intensification with the intrusion, first of the state, then of the capitalist market, into the organic relationship between self, others, and nature. This results in the isolated, deeply problematic subject of today.’ Joel Kovel

Green – Anti-hierarchy: With the recognition of the shortfalls and inherent inequality of the Blue meme and the potential for debasement of the ethical and social aspects of human behaviour that come with the Orange meme, the Green meme of consciousness is formed. The motivation for Green meme people is of the co-existence of people at different meme levels and the abolition of hierarchical forms of exploitation. They search for a less dominator-orientated society and a more egalitarian consensus. While this meme is essentially aiming for a peaceful coexistence, it is driven by fear and anger formed by the oppression and control, and subsequent repression, of the Blue and Orange meme. Hence, it manifests by taking an anti-position e.g. anti-capitalist protests. The rise of social and environmental movements largely speaks to the Green meme, and while there are notable exceptions of ‘ecological-social innovation’ approaches which move beyond an ‘anti’ stance into ‘solution’ orientation within such movements, these exceptions are in themselves beyond Green meme consciousness.

The Green meme does a great job of pointing out the atrocities and inequities of the current prevailing paradigm, yet struggles to implement real world practical solutions or move beyond alienating people in the other memes which they are actually trying to assist. In reaction to the ‘anti’ position the Green meme takes against the Blue and Orange memes, often people within the Blue and Orange memes retrench further into their current mind-sets rather than opening up to transformation; a way forward is often blocked due to the ‘anti’ stance taken. What ‘solutions’ the Green meme may grapple with are often viewed as ‘anti’ by the dominant Blue and Orange memes and so resisted.

As we move beyond the Green meme into the second tier of consciousness, fear is replaced by love as the prime motivator which radically alters our way of catalysing scalable transformation.

[ As said at the being of this article, one needs to look beyond viewing these memes as hierarchical, with all traits being an important part of our human consciousness. There are many within social and environmental movements that operate beyond the Green meme. Those that operate within the Green meme provide important impetus for transformation through their ‘anti’ stance, which in-itself is a vital step in helping breaking through the prevailing paradigm of Blue and Red. ]

spiral dynamics4Enter the second tier consciousness: a shift from fear-based to love-motivated ways of transformation.

Yellow – Solutions: Moving beyond the ‘anti’ position of Green is a more pragmatic Yellow meme where rather than protesting about specific problems and fighting for justice in the face of adversity, our creative energy flows into working on, prototyping and implementing solutions. In being able to deeply collaborate, empathise and engage with the other memes, concerns for status or control are transcended by the opportunity to learn and further expand human consciousness. Here there is the emotional and spiritual potential to comprehend the complexity of issues we face in transforming to a sustainable future.  Here we embrace working with (rather than against) business, government, community groups, social entrepreneurs and indigenous peoples.

Yellow meme people recognise the two paths that lie ahead for us as:

1) catastrophic downsizing/revolutionary restart, with the systemic strife and potential for violence that entails, or

2) an evolutionary consensual transformation.

Today 1% of the population are Yellow and they represent 5% of the influence on global society.

Turquoise – co-creative: Complimenting and working alongside the Yellow meme is Turquoise where a deeply intuitive and spiritual (dare I say it, psychic) level of awareness plays out. Improvisational co-creativity and prototyping – rather like a musical dance of resonance – fuels the envisioning and implementing of the path ahead. Here people understand that sustainability is first and foremost a spiritual challenge. For the solutions of the Yellow meme to be lasting and ‘sustainable’ in all senses of the word, the participants become rooted in, attuned with and aligned through love. Here the individual and collective value the fundamental importance of opening up our heart soulscape and allowing our true nature (our Higher Self) to direct our rational minds and sensuous bodies.  We begin to recognise the profound sacredness of our being and becoming through each unfolding moment of reality. From this foundation, the individual and collective of humanity embarks on the true journey, the journey home: heaven on earth.

Today Turquoise represents less than 0.1% of the population and 1% of the influence, yet it is an emerging level with increasingly influence expected in the years ahead as the paradigm shift in our midst continues to unfold.spiral dynamics5

There is also a Coral meme which is emerging as we speak, this Coral meme is referred to as the Integral Holonic and is referenced by Ken Wilber and his Integral Theory (for more on this a deeper read of Ken Wilber’s work is suggested, also see here for further information on spiral dynamics).

Joanna Macy and others have stressed the importance of nurturing our spiritual foundation in facing the realities of our times. Yet any spiritual interiority needs to be balanced with an exteriority – a heartfelt resonance with our natural neighbourhood: human and more-than-human kinship.  This is importantly why eco-psychology seeks to attune our inner psyche with our embodied relation with all aspects of life, beyond the self-projected illusion of separation and dichotomist duality. It is important not to embrace any spiritual advancement as an interior prejudice, quite the contrary, any meaningful advancement in consciousness brings interior-exterior attunement.  In becoming fully realised, our inner nature flowers through its innate semi-permeability – its dynamic interfacing with its lived-in context. Our true nature becomes attuned with Nature.

‘He who is harmony with Nature hits the mark without effort and apprehends the truth without thinking.’ Confucius

In this way, all meme characteristics are individuated. Repressed aspects of our psyche or unconscious engagement with reality are allowed to flow through our consciousness.  From this heartfelt spiritual flowering, we start to understand how aspects of each meme – if embodied in a balanced way – become important contributions to our wisdom. For instance, indigenous wisdom handed down over millennia of shamanic cultures where dreamtime journeying into the depths of our human-Nature consciousness assists in opening up of the semi-permeability of our conscious-unconscious, nature-Nature soulscape.  Our animist roots can be accepted as authentic expressions even within the hi-tech, industrialised world we find ourselves in today.

To categorise the ego as corrupting, hierarchies as exploitative, materialist science as debasing, or capitalist economics as evil is to perceive with fear-based blinkers, with an ‘anti’ orientation which may fail to embody the individual and collective learning of our past and present realities.

In shifting from fear to love, we recognise the importance of the ego as assistant, of individuality within individuation and of rationalism as a tool of enquiry, while opening ourselves up to the deeper wisdom of natural inclusion beyond exclusion, where the material and spiritual attune within our authentic co-creativity.kali 7

From this place, illusory dichotomies of human-nature, self-other, ego-soul, conscious-unconscious can be transcended into the dynamic spiralling fluidity they really are.  As we open our conscious minds to our unconscious oceanic depths, and our human nature with the awesome wildness of Nature, we allow culturally-conditioned shadows of repressed psyche to come out and play.

For a deeper exploration into the second tier of consciousness see this video  which explores A Radical Review of Reality

‘And we are put on earth a little space

That we might learn to bear the beams of love’ – William Blake

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