Spiral Dynamics
the eight-stage spiral of development
from “the Never-Ending Upward Quest,” interview with Don Beck, 2002

[Note: Integral/Wilber goes higher than SD]

Second Tier “Being” value MEMES

TURQUOISE Holistic MEME – starting 30 years ago

Basic theme: Experience the wholeness of existence through mind and spirit

  • The world is a single, dynamic organism with its own collective mind
  • Self is both distinct and a blended part of a larger, compassionate whole
  • Everything connects to everything else in ecological alignments
  • Energy and information permeate the Earth’s total environment
  • Holistic, intuitive thinking and cooperative actions are to be expected

YELLOW Integrative MEME – starting 50 years ago

Basic theme: Live fully and responsibly as what you are and learn to become

  • Life is a kaleidoscope of natural hierarchies, systems and forms
  • The magnificence of existence is valued over material possessions
  • Flexible, spontaneity, and functionality have the highest priority
  • Differences can be integrated into interdependent, natural flows
  • Understands that chaos and change are natural

First Tier “Subsistence” value MEMES

GREEN Communitarian/Egalitarian MEME – starting 150 years ago

Basic theme: Seek peace within the inner self and explore, with others, the caring dimensions of community

  • The human spirit must be freed from greed, dogma, and divisiveness
  • Feelings, sensitivity, and caring superseded cold rationality
  • Spreads the Earth’s resources and opportunities equally among all
  • Reaches decisions through reconciliation and consensus processes
  • Refreshes spirituality, brings harmony, and enriches human development

ORANGE Achievist/Strategic MEME – starting 300 years ago

Basic theme: Act in your own self-interest by playing the game to win

  • Change and advancement are inherent within the scheme of things
  • Progresses by learning nature’s secrets and seeking out best solutions
  • Manipulates Earth’s resources to create and spread the abundant good life
  • Optimistic, risk-taking, and self-reliant people deserve success
  • Societies prosper through strategy, technology and competitiveness

BLUE Purposeful/Authoritarian MEME – starting 5,000 year ago

Basic theme: Life has meaning, direction, and purpose with predetermined outcomes

  • One sacrifices self to the transcendent Cause, Truth, or righteous Pathway
  • The Order enforces a code of conduct based on eternal, absolute principles
  • Righteous living produces stability now and guarantees future reward
  • Impulsivity is controlled through guilt; everybody has their proper place
  • ​Laws, regulations, and discipline build character and moral fiber

Red Impulsive/Egocentric MEME – starting 10,000 years ago

Basic theme: Be what you are and do what you want, regardless

  • The world is a jungle full of threats and predators
  • Breaks free from any domination or constraint to please self as self desires
  • Stands tall, expects attention, demands respect, and calls the shots
  • Enjoys self to the fullest right now without guilt or remorse
  • Conquers, out-foxes, and dominates other aggressive characters

Purple Magical/Animistic MEME – starting 50,000 years ago

Basic theme: Keep the spirits happy and the tribe’s nest warm and safe

  • Obeys the desires of the spirit being and mystical signs
  • Shows allegiance to chief, elders, ancestors, and the clan
  • Individual subsumed in group
  • Preserves sacred objects, places, events and memories
  • Observes rites of passage, seasonal cycles and tribal customs

Beige Instinctive/Survivalistic MEME – starting 100,000 years ago

Basic theme: Do what you must just to stay alive

  • Uses instincts and habits to survive & “live off the land”
  • Distinct self is barely awakened or sustained
  • Food, water, warmth, sex and safety have priority
  • Forms into survival bands to perpetuate life

​​​Integral / Ken Wilber

Colors of Levels

Spiral Dynamics

Colors of Levels

​(different authors use different colors)

 ​Tier 1

  • Beige - sand, foundation, savannah grasslands where early hominids lived
  • Purple - crystals, magic, royalty, chiefs
  • Red - power, blood
  • Blue - heavens above, blue-bloods, "true blue" loyalty, police, rules
  • Orange - rust, industrial-age furnaces, science
  • Green - environment, nature, green-with-envy

 Tier 2

  • Yellow - sunlight and solar energy, post-industrial new technologies; heart with head​
  • ​Turquoise - blue planet as seen from space; holistic living system; head with heart

Creating Choices

Ken Wilber's (Integral) Levels of Development
low level to high level

1st Tier:

Infrared (archaic—a proto 1st-person perspective): signifies a degree of development that is in many ways imbedded in nature, body, and the gross realm in general. Infrared Altitude exhibits an archaic worldview, physiological needs (food, water, shelter, etc.), a self-sense that is minimally differentiated from its environment, and is in nearly all ways oriented towards physical survival. Although present in infants, infrared is rarely seen in adults except in cases of famine, natural disasters, or other catastrophic events. Infrared is also used as a kind of catch-all term for all earlier evolutionary stages and drives.

Magenta (egocentric—able to take a 1st-person perspective): tends to be the home of egocentric drives, a magical worldview, and impulsiveness. It is expressed through magic/animism, kin-spirits, and such. Young children primarily operate with a magenta worldview. Magenta in any line of development is fundamental, or "square one" for any and all new tasks. Magenta emotions and cognition can be seen driving cultural phenomena such as Burning Man, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or superhero-themed comic books or movies.

Red (ego-to-ethnocentric—able to take a 1st- to 2nd-person perspective): is the marker of egocentric drives based on power, where "might makes right," where aggression rules, and where there is a limited capacity to take the role of an "other." Red impulses are classically seen in grade school and early high school, where bullying, teasing, and the like are the norm. Red motivations can be seen culturally in Ultimate Fighting contests, which have no fixed rules (fixed rules come into being at the next Altitude, amber), teenage rebellion and the movies that cater to it (The Fast and the Furious), gang dynamics (where the stronger rule the weaker), and the like.

Amber (ethnocentric—able to take a 2nd-person perspective): indicates a worldview that is mythic, and mythic worldviews are always held as absolute (often called absolutistic). Instead of "might makes right," amber ethics are more oriented to the group, but one that extends only to "my" group. Grade school and high school kids exhibit amber motivations to "fit in." Amber ethics help to control the impulsiveness and narcissism of red. Culturally, amber worldviews can be seen in fundamentalism (my God is right no matter what); extreme patriotism (my country is right no matter what); and ethnocentrism (my people are right no matter what).

Orange (worldcentric—able to take a 3rd-person perspective): the individual begins to move away from the amber conformity that reifies the views of one's religion, nation, or tribe. The orange worldview often begins to emerge in late high school, college, or adulthood. Culturally, the orange worldview realizes that "truth is not delivered; it is discovered," spurring the great advances of science and formal rationality. Orange ethics begin to embrace all people, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...." Ayn Rand's Objectivism, the US Bill of Rights, and many of the laws written to protect individual freedom all flow from an orange worldview.

Green (worldcentric—able to take a 4th-person perspective): marked by pluralism, or the ability to see that there are multiple ways of seeing reality. If orange sees universal truths ("All men are created equal"), green sees multiple universal truths—different ones for different cultures. Green ethics continue, and radically broaden, the movement to embrace all people. A green statement might read, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, regardless of race, gender, class...." Green ethics have given birth to the civil rights, feminist, and gay rights movements, as well as environmentalism.

The green worldview's multiple perspectives give it room for greater compassion, idealism, and involvement, in its healthy form. Such qualities are seen by organizations such as the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Doctors Without Borders. In its unhealthy form green worldviews can lead to extreme relativism, where all beliefs are seen as relative and equally true, which can in turn lead to the nihilism, narcissism, irony, and meaninglessness exhibited by many of today's intellectuals, academics, trend-setters, and  yet another "lost" generation in students.

2nd Tier:

Teal (worldcentric to kosmocentric—able to take a 4th/5th-person perspective): Teal Altitude marks the beginning of an integral worldview, where pluralism and relativism are transcended and included into a more systematic whole. The teal worldview honors the insights of the green worldview, but places it into a larger context that allows for healthy hierarchies, and healthy value distinctions.

Most importantly, a teal worldview begins to see the process of development itself, acknowledging that each one of the previous stages (magenta through green) has an important role to play in the human experience. Teal consciousness sees that each of the previous stages reveals an important truth, and pulls them all together and integrates them without trying to change them to “be more like me,” and without resorting to cultural relativism (“all are equal”).

Teal worldviews do more than just see all points of view (that’s a green worldview)—it can see and honor them, but also critically evaluate them.

Turquoise (kosmocentric—able to take a 5th-person perspective): Turquoise is a mature integral view, one that sees not only healthy hierarchy but also the various quadrants of humans knowledge, expression, and inquiry (at the minimum: I, we, and it).

While teal worldviews tend to be secular, turquoise is the first to begin to integrate Spirit as a living force in the world, manifested through any or all of the 3 Faces of God:

“I”—the “No self” or “witness” of Buddhism;
“we/thou”—the “great other” of Christianity, Judaism, Hindusm, Islam, etc.; 
“it”—the “Web of Life” seen in Taoism, Pantheism, etc.

Indigo (continues and deepens kosmocentric—able to take 6th-person perspective and higher): Evolution and development continues growing, and we have no reason to believe it will stop with the stage that we are at now. We have indicated all of these higher possibilities with the next color in the rainbow after turquoise, which is indigo.