Dec 242010
 

Stages of Consciousness and Culture

The 19th century German philosopher, Georg Hegel, noted that conflict enables transformation to higher states of organization. This idea was reinforced by research in the 20th century; particularly in Developmental Psychology. These states have developed sequentially through human history as increasingly organized world views—for both individuals and cultures.

As we develop through childhood we experience this transformation and change as our thoughts and feelings become more complex. Developmental psychology demonstrates that this kind of staged development continues through adulthood. Leading researchers have supported this concept of developmental stages: Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, Jane Loevinger, Abraham Maslow, and Robert Kegan.

Hierarchical structures seem judgmental to many and too-easily reflect a prejudicial bias toward people like themselves. Kegan concluded, and carefully defended the objectivity of a staged developmental model, which is generally now considered indisputable.

The work of American psychologist Clare W. Graves extended the concept of cross-cultural staged psychological development. He described these stages as part of a larger coherent dynamic system; a living spiral of evolutionary development, with each stage retaining a consistent set of relationships with other stages. He explained the “bio-psycho-social” stages of individual human development as a reflection of historic human cultural development. In this model, new stages do not replace each other; they transcend and include older stages.

After Clare Graves died in 1986, colleagues Don Beck and Christopher Cowan successfully applied this model to real-world political problems and popularized Grave’s work in the book Spiral Dynamics. The concept of “spiral” is used to emphasize the flowing dynamic of stage relationships. While the model is useful, the “map is not the world.” Care should be taken to not oversimplify analyses or stereotype people.

Each worldview is a “meme;” a typical way of explaining am responding to typical sets of life conditions. They promote values, loyalties, and a sense of self-identity. These are not types of people; they are types of consciousness that people may exhibit. A person’s worldview at a particular time may span several stages on this map. And, as their circumstances change, stress may trigger a reversion to earlier stages or transcendence toward new stages. Transcendence describes completing the pattern of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Transcending old ways of viewing the world and interpreting circumstances leads to greater complexity and flexibility of thought and behavior.

In Spiral Dynamics, these progressive individual and cultural memes have been given various names and assigned colors:

  • SurvivalSense / Instinctive —beige
  • KinSpirits / Clannish / Tribal—purple
  • PowerGods / Egocentric / Warrior—red
  • TruthForce / Purposeful / Traditional—blue
  • StriveDrive / Strategic / Modernist—orange
  • HumanBond / Relativistic / Postmodern—green
  • FlexFlow / Systemic / Integral—yellow
  • GlobalView / Holistic—Turquoise

Sources

Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution: How the Integral Worldview is Transforming Politics, Culture and Spirituality, Steve McIntosh, Paragon House, 2007

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