Yesterday’s blog outlined the first six stages in human development, as posited by developmental psychologists Don Beck and Christopher Cowan in their theory of Spiral Dynamics.  The final two stages outlined below represent a move into what they call “second-tier thinking.”  

Clare Graves, the psychologist upon whose work this theory is based, referred to this move as a “momentous leap,” across    “a chasm of unbelievable depth of meaning”.  In essence, Clare says, those individuals who have evolved into second-tier consciousness can think about human existence both vertically (ranking) and horizontally (linking).  

The extensive, global research of Graves, Beck, and Cowan indicates that there are at least two major waves to this second-tier integral consciousness: 

7. Yellow: Integrative.  Life is a kaleidoscope of natural hierarchies, systems and forms within which flexibility, spontaneity, and functionality have the highest priority.  In integrative thinking:

  • Differences and pluralities can be integrated into interdependent flows. 
  • Notions of equality and egalitarianism are complemented with natural degrees of ranking and excellence.
  • Knowledge and competency supersedes power, status, or group sensitivity.
  • The prevailing world order is understood to be the result of different levels of reality and inevitable patterns of movement up and down the dynamic spiral.
  • Good governance is that which facilitates the emergence of the most people through levels of increasing complexity.

Yellow accounts for 1% of the world population and holds 5% of the power. 

  • 8. Turquoise: Holistic. Universal holistic system, distinguished by holons/waves of integrative energies. Multiple levels of development are interwoven into one conscious system. There is a universal order, but in a living, self-conscious fashion, not based on external rules (blue) or group bonds (green).  Unites feeling with knowledge.   A “grand unification” [a “theory of everything”] is possible, in theory and in actuality. Sometimes involves the emergence of a new spirituality as a meshwork of all existence. Turquoise thinking: 
  • uses the entire Spiral;
  • sees multiple levels of interaction;
  • detects the harmonics, the mystical forces and the pervasive flow-states that permeate any organization.

Turquoise accounts for 0.1% of the population and  1% of the power. 

Second tier thinkers, whether yellow or turquoise, are fully and vividly aware aware of all the interior stages of development –even if they cannot articulate them in a technical way.  Thus, they appreciate the necessary role played by each of the various stages, thinking in terms of the overall spiral of existence rather than any one level.  This is what distinguishes them from first-tier thinking.

 “Where the green stage (stage 6) begins to grasp the numerous different systems and pluralistic contexts that exist in different cultures (which is why it is indeed the sensitive self, i.e., sensitive to the marginalization of others), second-tier thinking goes one step further,” says Ken Wilber in A Theory of Everything.  “It looks for the rich contexts that link and join these pluralistic systems, and thus it takes these separate systems and begins to embrace, include, and integrate them into holistic spirals and integral meshworks. Second-tier thinking, in other words, is instrumental in moving from relativism to holism, or from pluralism to integration.” 

I find this understanding of human psychology compelling and very useful in thinking about human behaviour – the chief subject of the novelist.  I am also particularly interested in how it applies to a nonfiction project I’m doing around freethinking.  

Unsurpisingly, many of those who dub themselves atheists, agnostics or freethinkers, are Stage 5, scientific thinkers.  I want to argue for freethought moving to higher levels of thinking. 

More on this next time.