FAQs > Questions About the Levels in
What do the pairs of letters (AN, BO, CP, etc.) mean?
The letter pairs were Dr. Graves's original terminology. His double-helix notion included conditions for existence in the milieu (life conditions in
the Spiral Dynamics book) as the first letter—A, B, C, D, E, F, G (or A'), H (or B'), etc. The second letter—N, O, P, Q, R, S, T (or N'), U (or O'), etc.—identified the coping systems produced by the neurobiological equipment in the brain.
To come up with the lists, he simply split the alphabet in half.
Each 'level of psychological existence' is the product of the interaction of those elements, thus
A with N such that the designations are AN, BO, CP, DQ, ER, and FS (plus either a continuation—GT,
HU, etc., or primes like A'N', B'O'), to describe the levels.
The letter pair language conveys more meaning than the colors because it conveys the interaction of the outer problems of existence outside with the inner mind/brain
system, something basic to the theory. Although Dr. Graves used numbers 1 through 8 on occasion, he relied primarily on these letter pairs. We teach this as the primary label set in certification courses, followed by colors as a
short-hand for the eight nodal states, since the alphabet labels permit discussion of
something the colors don't: the critical entering and exiting transition states—an/BO, BO/cp, bo/CP, etc.,
where the systems blend. Of particular interest right now in the world are the DQ/er, dq/ER, ER/fs and er/FS zones.
This idea of two interacting forces is essential to Gravesian theory and the foundational
'dynamic' of Spiral Dynamics. Both genetic predisposition and neuronal systems and experiences accrued in living contribute to shape who we are. The use of letter pairs (rather than colors or numbers) serves to emphasize this double-helix notion that sets this model apart from others that simply rely on typologies and traits. While there is a great deal to be done in the study in each of them, the energy of the convergence
zones is also an area deserving considerable more investigation and rigorous research.
The corresponding colors are A-N Beige,
B-O Purple, C-P Red,
D-Q Blue, E-R Orange,
F-S Green, G-T or A'-N' Yellow,
H-U or B'-O' Turquoise, then C'-P'
as Coral, then Teal,
Why are there only eight systems or colors?
There aren't just eight systems. Dr. Graves’ model is an open-ended theory with an unlimited number of
systems possible. His original research picked up eight nodal states,
and those are like the peaks of overlapping curves and represented
with the eight-color code.
But in between these archetypal nodal points are pairs of entering and exiting sub-states where most of the energy
of living lies. Overlooking that is trap of using the eight-band color code that those who are well trained in the theory avoid.
In fact, there are at least 21 distinct stages in the Graves emergent, cyclical model as it has developed so far (entering, nodal and exiting for each). For many years, seven levels sufficed to introduce the theory.
While Graves found limited evidence for it, his data were scant and B'-O'/8/Turquoise has only recently been included
widely, although it has long been talked about. The eighth now seems
to be emerging, though good research on its nature is still yet to be
conducted, and most of what's being said at this stage is guesswork
because, in theory, an eighth must arise from the success and problems
created by a seventh. We are still struggling with the sixth, much
less a wide-spread presence of A'N'.
If the theory holds, then 9th, 10th, 11th and many more levels of psychological existence lie ahead in the human repertoire. In our opinion, any attempts to describe them at this point are pure conjecture and, more often than not, based in extrapolations from DQ religion, ER self-empowerment and stretched individualism, and FS neo-spirituality. The requisite existential problems needed to activate the more elaborated mind/brain systems have not appeared with sufficient clarity or urgency, and efforts to fuse philosophical and metaphysical hierarchies into the Gravesian perspective miss the point of the levels of psychological existence theory.
Is the Spiral model hierarchical?
Yes, in several ways. Built into the theory are the notions of movement, expansion and increase in conceptual space. Each new system subsumes the ones that came before, carrying forward elements of the past and putting a new face and new mind at the forefront.
Thus, the form of a growing, expanding spiral. However, it is not a hierarchy in terms of
intelligence, temperament or many other dimensions that ebb and flow throughout the Spiral.
People don't become more or less decent, wise, or worthwhile as they
move along it; different intelligences rise and fall in importance.
"Up" is not invariably better, and "down" is not
invariably worse; the question is, what kind of thinking is congruent
with the realities at hand, and what creates satisfaction in living?
That said, the awakening of each new system opens the opportunity for inclusion of more elements, but does not guarantee it.
Each builds on what comes before, then adds a new set of priorities
and a shift in viewpoint. Although Graves frequently spoke of vertical directionality—“up” to “higher” levels—there's no reason why the model can't as easily go sideways, downward or layer
out from a middle like an onion. The preference for verticality is more a cultural leaning
("heavens above") than a theoretical factor.
This is not a sack of marbles of different colors that can be sorted by
size and tossed around willy nilly. The bag-of-marbles metaphor is
inadequate because there is a sequence in the emergent process. It becomes far too easy to see the Gravesian levels, especially when couched as vMemes, as discrete particles that can be plinked individually rather than as interconnected elements in a whole that makes up personality.
That's the typology trap. A more accurate image requires morphing—new marbles grow from old ones—and the whole group spins like a top so that all the colors begin to form an overlapping pattern as the marbles become indistinct parts of a whole. That top, of course, becomes a spiral.
Is there a timeline for systems emergence?
The Spiral model isn’t chronological or age-based. In other words, one level doesn't appear at age
2, then 3, another at 7, a third at 18 and something else at 25 or 45 or 95. Dr. Graves always deferred to Piaget and the child development theorists to understand which personality characteristics arise early on and can be correlated with developmental
stages in children. His interest was in the 'mature' human being,
though early forms of these systems certainly do show up as children
develop, and many of the principles apply.
The Spiral is a model of the mature adult personality in operation that strives to explore differences in people after the hormonal and developmental stages of infancy, childhood and puberty have finished. While there is a sequence—and some theorists maintain phases—in adulthood, the Gravesian timeline is quite fluid. Systems rise and fall as people readjust to shifting life conditions and neurology changes. It is this flexibility—the interaction between life conditions and coping means to produce coping systems—that sets Dr. Graves’ point of view apart. Thus,
two people at ages 19 and 90 might share the same coping system; or
another pair at age 32 be poles apart in how they think about things.
Dr. Graves did play with a historical sequence in the appearance of systems as they come to prominence as the leading edge in the species
Homo sapiens. Some of this was borrowed from the work of John Calhoun,
Abraham Maslow, Lewis Mumford, Gerald Heard, and others who tried to explore the emergence of humankind. Many people cite the intervals Graves discussed, though he treated them more as metaphor and curiosity than a serious aspect of theory. The approximate times for the appearance of systems through history as reported in a graphic found in his
are writings are: AN >100,000 years ago, BO 40,000; CP 10,000; DQ 4000; ER 1400; FS 80; A'-N' 30 years ago (as of 1980). Dr. Graves felt that B'-O' was just beginning to
appear in his day.
Note the apparent acceleration of change in these numbers. The time curve, if plotted, rises steeply after ER. Then comes the question whether it will continue to accelerate toward an ideal state and finish as many in the spirituo-religious community propose, or again level
off to start the slow rise in a next way, the view more congruent with Gravesian theory. Maintaining the view that human nature is an open-ended process (up to the evolutionary limits of the organism), Graves hypothesized that it would flatten with A'-N'. As a correlate of A-N, the time required for resolution of such profound survival problems of life on earth and the complexities presented by the previous six systems' coexistence that would take a while to sort out. Thus, he projected a relatively longer prominence for A'-N', somewhat shorter for B'-O', etc. Whether this is the case or not is yet to be discovered.
It is clear that twenty five years later, we are still dealing with
political scandals, genocides, aggressive wars, and terrorism, not to
mention climate change, shifts in earth's magnetic field, and an
unsustainable environment if we continue on course. Despite a lot of
talk and some good efforts, not a lot has changed since Dr. Graves's
What's the highest level? Coral?
Dr. Graves's theory and the Spiral model are open-ended processes. There is no final state or top of the
Spiral, no stage of completeness or perfection for human nature.
Turquoise is the current edge of Graves-based data, so Coral is merely
the last color picked from the paint box and open to all sorts of
This is not a Spiral toward spiritual revelation and transcendent being as some would wish. The
Spiral opens up and widens; it does not focus down to a
pinnacle or finish. The "future" from each level is the next in the
sequence; each is more expansive because it adds something to those
which come before. The future for the Spiral is the passage to more and more systems in the human repertoire. Unless we do something incredibly stupid or a cosmic accident occurs, the process will continue for a long, long time.
Successful living at each level produces the new existential problems and energy to look to the next system. Graves' letter pairs include the first tier of AN through FS; the second tier of primes A'-N' through F'-S'; the third tier of double-primes
(A''-N'', etc.) and so on.
In the color language of Spiral Dynamics , there's Yellow, then the
ever-popular Turquoise, Coral, perhaps Teal, Plum, Aubergine and a whole spectrum
of others. (Be aware that use of letter pairs is far superior to colors when describing the nuances of the theory as Graves’ Helix I and Helix II forces interact.)
The repeating pattern of 6-on-6 was a hypothesis; not a demonstrable
fact. We believe the "tier" language has become vastly overblown and distorted, and now tend to avoid it.
What do the terms "first tier" and "second tier" signify?
"Second Tier" has become a part of the central dogma of some
versions of the Spiral and a popular phrase in the Integral movement. It is a powerful meme at the core of many people's
identities (see "Integral"), and a
complimentary term for almost anything seen as positive. On the other
hand, being merely First Tier implies deficiency and lack of
understanding. Failure is often defined as not being Second Tier
enough. Success means that it must be Second Tier (a reverse of the
usual interpretations of 1st and 2nd tier categories). This is a
contagious and stick meme, and one which we don't believe has much
value. For others, it's an article of faith that must be defended
at all costs. The history of the construct is interesting.
In his original work, Dr. Graves envisioned an open-ended continuum of emergent systems, numbered one through eight, etc., or designated with letter pairs AN, BO, CP, DQ, ER,
FS, GT, HU, etc. However, later in his research, he noticed what he thought might be a
noteworthy breakpoint between the sixth and seventh levels.
Graves’s idea of six-on-six themes in human nature was only a hypothesis suggested by his
(He had also looked at four on four and five on five as possibilities
earlier on. Others who have looked at
this theory have suggested clusters of three ("triads of consciousness"), and some suggest a logarithmic progression where the transition from each level to the next is a "quantum leap" in its own right.)
Because of differences appearing in his data, Graves observed what he called an
"incredibly different kind of human being" beginning to
appear in the post-counter culture milieu of the late 1960's and early
1970's. These things
suggested to him that a great change was underway, one suggested by
other theorists who had proposed a great transformation in human
nature from a baser form to one of more compassion and virtue. The
editor titled Dr. Grave's 1974 article in The Futurist
"Human Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap" to suggest this
Dr. Graves was not totally convinced of the validity of his hypothesis, and it appears only in his later papers and manuscript as an
idea worth watching. He was certainly never so pretentious as to project what third, fourth or further tiers might be
like except in the most general terms.
This arose as more than a romantic notion because the data suggested a significant difference between FS and GT
(Green and Yellow in the color language of Spiral Dynamics). Graves
also began to see a similarity between GT being and the first level, AN,
since both look to individualistic
survival. Thus the designation, A'N' rather than GT to suggest the
possible repetition of a basic theme. On further study, Dr. Graves found a marked increase in "conceptual space," a new freedom from
entrapment by irrational fears (not fearlessness) and diminished compulsiveness,
plus an ability to learn from many sources in many ways. Rather than a focus on having and doing—subsistence issues—he found subjects in this range shifted toward a "being" approach to life with a degree of resignation to coping with the existential realities at hand. (Maslow had hypothesized a similar
phenomenon, as had others of his era.)
Graves also hypothesized a move from a sense of plenty in the first rendition of the six basic coping
themes to a concern with managing scarcity in the being levels that
next, a reverse of Maslow. Because of similarities between the first subsistence system
(survival) and the first being-level system (survival in globalized
context), and parallels between the second subsistence (tribal) and second
being (mega-tribal), he concluded that human nature might well emerge
like a symphony with these themes repeating, six-upon-six-upon six.
The the second word in the name of his theory - the emergent, cyclical,
double-helix model of adult biopsychosocial systems development -
suggests an oscillation between an inner locus and outer locus of
control, a focus on changing the world and adapting to it. Graves
hypothesized that this might relate to brain hemisphere dominance as
'right' and 'left' swapped control in a cyclic fashion. Although the
validity of this is still an open question, if we want to try
and differentiate a first phase of Homo sapiens from a second,
a factor might be a more whole-brain way of thinking rather
than heavy dominance by either left or right. This more holistic and
cross-connected brain could explain an apparent differences between
people. The tests of this hypothesis lie in the neurosciences and
relating Graves-like levels to our organismic brain.
Thus, the terminology shifted from GT and HU to primes—A'-N', B'-O', etc. The next series would be double-primes—A''-N'', B''-O'', etc. The shorthand labels, first tier and second tier, were created for the Spiral Dynamics book to describe this hypothetical jump from
what Graves had termed 'subsistence levels' to 'being levels.' It was given more than its due of attention there, an error now being exploited. Still,
it's important to note that in much of Dr. Graves' later work he looked at six basic systems—core themes—repeating at higher and higher levels. We
remain skeptical and anxious to see more data emerge.
To tier, or not to tier?
Whether the “tier” hypothesis is solid or not is yet to be
established since a great transformation in human nature was a
familiar idea in Graves's day, as it was long before and since. Thus, too much attention to first tier/second tier differences often injects more confusion than clarity into analysis. It's become something of a monster and red herring. The following remarks
from Dr. Graves in The Never Ending Quest suggest the open-ended nature of the theory:
"And finally, there is the need to distinguish conceptually between certain gross classes of levels, between the levels of the first spiral of psychosocial development and those levels that appear later in psychological time. The first six together I will call THE SUBSISTENCE LEVEL SYSTEMS. Those of the second spiral I will name BEING LEVEL I SYSTEMS. Those of later spirals, should they come to be, would be designated as BEING LEVEL II SYSTEMS, BEING LEVEL III SYSTEMS, etc."
From this it is clear that neither the Spiral model nor Graves aims for a state of "self-actualization" or completeness of
consciousness; no pointy top for the pyramid. Some people have been suggesting a "goal" for the emergent process and a finish to the process of awakening. Others see themselves as perching on higher levels and, in turn, use 'tierism' as a rather arrogant means to
look down and sort lesser mortals into
classes inferior to themselves. It has, in fact, become a meme.
All of this to say that putting much emphasis on first tier, second tier distinctions may be following a false—or
at least unimportant—trail, and that projecting future tiers is
at worst an exercise in hubris, at best something better left up to religionists. We suggest concentrating on a more functional human spiral rather than becoming
too distracted by
'tierism'. It seems that "Second Tier" is now equivalent to
a grade of A+; it's the compliment of choice. In this reversal of the
usual meaning, "First Tier" has become a pejorative.
The 'tier-anical' view assigns superiority and spiritual cleverness to the "second tier" and relegates the first tier to second-rate status, creating categories for greater and lesser mortals with the second tier nearer to transcendent being. It's an almost dichotomous perspective that is far from the intent of the
theory which grants strengths to each level because each is
appropriate and useful in its context. This over-reaching approach sometimes rings of stretched DQ (Blue) aspirations and
the search for saintliness, along with aspirational ER (Orange)
illusion of a universe revolving around
an ultimate "personal best," all couched in post-New Age lingo.
While we agree with Dr. Graves that higher levels offer more
possibilities than lower levels, and that getting higher-level
thinking into government and education is a laudable goal, that is not
to say that healthy, effective expressions of all the systems aren't
desirable, or that many problems can't be solved congruently
throughout the spiral: D with Q, E with R, F with S, etc. The caveat
is that the forms be constructive, open, and healthy.
We suggest that readers be cautious of 'tier-ants' because what is
sometimes presented as Spiral theory may well be projections and dreams that have
little to do with the
model. In our view, that is not a very constructive use of this theory and turns it from a scientific/epistemological framework into an exclusionary quasi-religion for
self-anointed elites. Because the Spiral is hierarchical and expanding, there are differences among the levels. But they're not so easy to grasp as the
tierists would have us
believe, nor as easily categorized.
And a word of practical caution: when someone displays a need to tell you
proudly that they or their organization is of "second tier"
very carefully; they probably aren't if there's a compulsion to
announce it to sound superior. One of the markers of upper-end
functioning is a fair degree of humbleness because relativism,
empathy, and uncertainty are influential in the thinking;
self-importance, much less narcissistic grandiosity, goes away. And if a True Believer
whose ego is wrapped up in being Yellow or Turquoise lambasts you for
failure to speak the sacred lingo of 'Second Tier' properly, don't
panic and be gentle. The need to proclaim as either a missionary
or a self-righteous critic offers Gravesian clues.
Being 'second tier' has become a core identity for many devout members of the virtual Church of the Spiral
who take this
stuff (and themselves) terribly seriously. Heresy is as unwelcome there as in the
inquisitors' Rome. Many are quite sincere in their belief that more
'Second Tier' thinking is imperative, and that anything which might
attenuate enthusiasm for it destructive because time is short. (Yet few seem capable of explaining
what 'Second Tier' means to them beyond the usual 'that it includes
all the previous levels and can see more clearly.' The same applies to
'integral.' Often, definitions seem
to confuse open-state thinking and open-mindedness with elevation on the Spiral,
thereby missing the characteristics which are already present at effective,
decent renditions of other levels which need to be
A suggestion is now floating around that the second tier consists of only A'-N' (Yellow) and B'-O' (Turquoise), and that C'-P' (Coral) is where the ego begins to dissolve toward grand unification with the godhead.
A whole new color scheme has appeared to explain this. It's not Graves or Spiral
Dynamics, though it shows creativity and, perhaps, some wishful thinking. Heaven help us, there's talk of awakening this "third tier" as the route to nirvana, blissful fulfillment, and meshing with the all that is all, even suggestions of dropping in on it—rather than merely
an ecstatic state—through drugs, like the 1960s psychedelic dabblers
hoped, or meditative practices.
In fact, philosopher/writer Ken Wilber has assimilated some aspects
of the Spiral model and the Graves point of view into his realm. While he has
insisted on carrying forward the term, tier, he has decided to shift
from the Gravesian notion of 6-on-6 to a 6-on-2-on-1 with the 3rd tier
of his foreshortened totem pole being a "unitive self" with
indigo, violet, ultraviolet, and 'clear light' as the pinnacle. We
wish he had been creative enough to come up with some fresh
terminology. Wilber appears to believe he sees an ultimate state much
more clearly than Dr. Graves did and, perhaps, to reflect one of Dr.
Graves's warnings about the delusion of pretending to establish what
the mature human being truly is.
Perhaps a great becoming actually is just ahead - that was the
fashion thirty years ago and remains a much hoped-for thing as Chicken
Little presides over today's world. Who knows what the future holds? But such talk is not
crucial to practical applications of the models collected under the SPIRAL
DYNAMICS® program umbrella, or the relatively optimistic perspective of
Clare Graves. It belongs in the realm of quasi-futurism, New-Age spirituality and consciousness-speak.
Think about it: the Spiral's "third tier" would be the third playing of the six basic themes—the double primes A''-N'', B''-O'', etc.—and that's a long way
off since, by and large, earth's nations are still struggling to break
from DQ and ER impasses. An evolutionary shift might well happen before
Homo sapiens gets to any third tier. If we can actually
begin to address the existential problems we know about today, and for
which we have solutions but insufficient will, ours will be a better
Where can I read about the third tier (double prime) levels—A''N'', B''O'', etc.?
As far as credible online reading about “the double primes," there is none. There's barely anything on the first two single-prime levels that we can recommend as valid. That such levels would come to be was pure conjecture on Dr. Graves’ part as he projected what might be if human nature continued on track.
While some people have produced 'inflationary' versions of the Graves theory with all sorts of metaphysical guesswork and philosophical hypothesizing, the existing data show little evidence of systems operating beyond A'N' and B'O'. Graves did not venture further and was even hesitant about those.
Are there other states of being and transcendent entities who cross dimensions of time and space like existential cockroaches scurrying about on the plane of consciousness? Who knows? The theory states that new neurobiological systems are awakened by the awareness of new, unresolved existential problems in the milieu. For a more complex level of human existence to actually be, those more complex problems of existence must be recognized and felt.
Once someone can explain those in a meaningful way and demonstrate their impact, we'll be prepared to say that human nature has gone beyond the DQ/ER/FS centralization that typifies most of our doings. Until then, there is no point in playing games with most of the single primes beyond B'O', much less a third rendition.
The Graves theory (in its last incarnation and upon which the Spiral
model is based) was of six systems layered on six. There have been cute and clever efforts by assorted gurus and pundits to shortcut that into various other forms, none of which reflect the model very accurately. Imagine, if you will, what it will take for human nature to create a world that activates even C'P' as a post-holism state, much less D'Q', E'R', F'S' in order to lead to A''N''..
We are still struggling with DQ in the mid-East, with the impacts of surging ER as corporate predators gain ownership of life and ideas, and the very beginnings of FS as collective action to address human ills is debated ad infinitum in UN forums and think tanks while masses starve and kill each other in the name or religion, greed or ethnicity.
We still hurl chunks of heavy metal toward each other at high velocities to resolve international disputes. We still lament starvation and do virtually nothing about it. We argue in this country whether health care and a decent chance at a normal lifespan is a privilege
for the rich or a right for all citizens. And nobody is quite sure what the ecology of the planet is like or what it will take to destroy or refresh it.
We humbly suggest attention to these matters of FS and the actual nature of
the A'N' that success with FS might produce. (It's still just forming and a point of centralization for a tiny fraction of human kind. What are the real, important F-level existential problems?) The underlying question is whether this species as presently actualized has a chance of surviving
until B' problems arise at a level to be seriously recognized and resolved—much less concerning ourselves with anything beyond that.
Do people move up from one level to the next, like climbing stairs?
First of all, people don't always move "up." This theory is a two-way street; people move up and down and sometimes they stabilize for a long time. You can also turn the model sideways, reverse the "high" and "low" so expansion
and growth are downward, or even construct it like an onion with concentric, expanding
shells; so movement could be "over," "up," "down," or "out."
Remember that the system of behavior is based on the combination of existential problems from outside and neurobiological equipment on the inside. Sometimes the appropriate thing to do is to shift down to a lower level that better fits the realities at hand. "Up" (or to a next system in the hierarchy) is not invariably better, only a move to a more complex and elaborated system. Dr. Graves used both "existential staircase" and "ladder of existence" in his writings, but found both inadequate to describe the emergent, cyclical double-helix.
Rather than steps and stages, this emergent point of view suggests that previous ways of thinking and behaving don't go away.
They are subsumed beneath and into more complex systems that then form clusters. The older ways don't disappear as new capacities are activated. Instead, they go into storage and, if the person is open, can be revived as necessary. This is particularly the case when people approach the A'-N' range (GT or Yellow) where they can tap into a wider behavioral repertoire. A person is not at a level as if standing on a developmental
staircase; the person functions with regard to an aspect of living in a particular way. There may be multiple subsystems at work; and the person
might change, or not.
It's also worth noting that either the life conditions (systems outside) or the neuronal system (systems inside) can shift with respect to each other so that while one "advances" or "recedes," the other does not.
The process is more akin to punctuated equilibrium than stair
climbing, with the achievement of balance and congruence as goals.
What is the “prime directive?"
Frankly, we have no idea, other than the one in the original “Star Trek” that prohibited tampering with other civilizations.
(That must not be it, since most people interested in this theory are, by nature, tamperers with the human condition.) Humans centralized at each level along the
Spiral will have a sense of priorities, so one can devise themes that might fit well with their thinking—directives to save people, control people, convert people, dominate people, grow people, know people, love people, transform people, etc.
Thus, there is a sort of prime direction toward more elaborated systems and even a prime director—the mechanism built into human nature that causes the double-helix forces to interact, evolve and grow.
We are a curious species, and the problems our curiosity creates also
moves us necessarily forward to behave and think in new ways.
Dr. Graves remarked: "I do suggest…and this I deeply believe is so, that for the overall welfare of total man's existence in this world, over the long run of time, higher levels are better than lower levels and that the prime good of any society's governing figures should be to promote human movement up the levels of human existence."
That's not the same as a "prime directive;" but the quote
does suggest that Dr. Graves believed in active facilitation of transitions toward more complex systems when appropriate and
feasible since the complexity of our problems increases with living,
and higher levels offer more degrees of freedom to choose appropriate
behaviors. (Remember, the Spiral Dynamics change process goes both ways, though.) This view, in turn, should be put in the context of Dr. Graves's own time and circumstances, since what is "prime" lies in the mind of the beholder and where it rests along the spiral. People centralized in different vMEMESs will project their own intentions onto the theory and use it in ways that fit the world in which they exist. Statements like "for the good of the whole spiral" and "so that each whorl of the spiral can be healthy and fulfilled" and "so people at each level can be the best they can within their circumstances" are all renditions of answers to the question.
The following quotation from Dr. Graves in NEQ clarifies his position on the DQ through ER transitions and the risk to human survival
continued thinking and acting in those ways entails. We’re now observing the "fallout" of 4th/5th level existence with environmental and social systems nearing collapse while individual possibilities, personal opportunities and the variety of choices are at a high point for many. Extrapolations of this are sometimes couched as "second-tier" thinking, but that is a delusion. Attacks on the next stage in the hierarchy—FS (Green)—serve to slow not accelerate this process since the door needs to be opened not closed. Despite talk of enlightenment, higher consciousness and spiritual
enrichment, most of the “leadership of man”—political, corporate and religious—rests squarely in the range Dr. Graves addresses as follows:
"No words that I shall ever pen will be more condemned or less hailed than those which I shall now commit to paper. But be that as it may they must be written for the future of mankind may rest upon man's ability to extricate himself from living within "The American Ways of Life," those states for existence which come to be when the E-R - the selfishly independent system of human behavior - begins to emerge. This statement will be heretical to some, communistic to others and anarchistic to many. But let me explain what is meant by the assertion. This world, as we all know, is full of paradoxes, but of all that exist, the most paradoxical, it seems to me, is the one which arises when man's need for independence begins to emerge. As man starts his transition from the absolutistic form for existence, the ordered, authoritarian, submissive way of life, and as man moves through the stage of independence on into the sociocentric ways for being, five definable and describable states of existence emerge one after another in our ordered hierarchical way. These five states, each of which has a strong flavor of selfish independence in them, have brought more that is good to man and more that is bad for him than all states of existence which preceded them. No states of existence, prior to these five, have given man more power over the physical universe, more verifiable knowledge or a greater increase in his material welfare than have they. But no states are more certain to pave the way for man's demise than these five unless we can move, at least the leadership of man, beyond these states where man believes that the epitome of human living lies somewhere with one or some of the E-R states of existence."
magic and strong families evidence of Purple (B-O) in operation?
Because B-O (Purple)
is unfamiliar, there are several common misconceptions around this
system. Recall that Dr. Graves drew most of what he wrote about the
second level from library studies, not field research. The depiction
of Purple in Spiral Dynamics applications varies widely, and has
changed over the years.
First off, look for
the conflation of Purple with small groups. There are many kinds of
small groups that exist for many reasons and occur at every
level. So teams and community spirit are not reliable B-O markers.
They're really not very good markers of the cool-colored deny-self
systems, for that matter, since people centralized in express-the-self
ways often form organizations. Look for reciprocity and
communal/collective thinking throughout the cool, mutuality-oriented
even numbers; individuals cooperating without fusion in the warms. It's how
people think about the group and belonging to it that's the differentiator.
Who and what does groupness serve?
Along that line,
humans begin as a pair-bonding species, and the family is as much an
instinct as a cognitive decision. It's a survival strategy that is
adapted at more elaborated levels. We shape the kind of family it is
based on Gravesian levels - expressions of family and relating to
significant others - but a family unit is not necessarily a Purple
Second, while the
Purple (B-O) world is often described as a magical place, magic is not
necessarily Purple. Magic means different things, and there's a big
difference between a mysterious world populated with invisible
mysterious spirit beings and the willful exercise of magic to
influence outcomes. Magical and mystical existence in the hands of
unseen forces that determine outcomes are more a Purple (B-O) tone,
whereas the exercise of magic from the human side to shape outcomes shifts toward Red (C-P) as wizards,
witches, and magicians go to work.
With the Purple to Red
transition, it becomes possible to master the mystery and direct the
spirits - the gods and godlings - to do one's will if one is but
powerful enough. The shaman who interprets the signs and brings the
ways of the ancestors into the present begins to take the form of a
proactive agent who exercises will by exploiting the metaphysical and
channeling the unseen energies to effect change. It is directive, not
versions of SD training and writings misspoke about Purple Chieftains.
That's not a good portrayal. If there is a chieftain in a
Purple-oriented community, it is more the role of facilitator and
interpreted of the sacred ways, often in coordination with the elders.
Sometimes it is an inherited position, sometimes chosen from the
group. In any case, at Purple if there's a chief, it's with a little
c. The Big Boss kind of Chieftain - the upper case C version - arises
with the Purple to Red transition. Now the Chieftain is a power
figure, one who can dominate and command. Reciprocity and group
process are overwhelmed by egos as rugged individualists seek to rise
above the others. These are two very different forms of chieftaincy.
It's important to see the difference.