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Of Components and Tiers…

Don Beck
June 2003

Spiral Dynamics co-developer Don Beck is occasionally prone to post what effectively amount to teach-ins or mini-lectures on the Spiral Dynamics e-lists. This is an extract from one such posting in 2003. You can e-mail Don or visit the Spiral Dynamics Integral website to find out more about his work.

The 3 Components
The Gravesian/Spiral Dynamics/SDi framework tracks the relationships among 3 essential components:-

  • The life conditions – both external and internal or within a person
  • The awakened vMEMETIC code that contains the complex, adaptive, contextual intelligences to deal with those specific life conditions
  • The surface level content that displays those codes, in all 4 Quadrants.

There is no guarantee that a specific set of life conditions will, automatically, activate the adaptive codes. They may overwhelm the preexisting capacities. I heard a BBC report that described a project of moving thousands of ‘Bantu speaking’ Africans in Somalia into urban centres in this country, with just a few speeches to ‘orient’ them to our life style. These projects, for the most part, have failed because, like the deep sea diver who gets the bends when ‘coming up’ too rapidly, one can most certainly get the ‘cultural bends’.

Further, to avoid the ‘Fusion Fallacy’, one must not connect codes with any specific content from the past. They are 2 different entities. Thusly, religion is not the same as the BLUE code, and ORANGE does not equate with Capitalism. And, different codes can embrace the same content. Several vMEMES would support the statement: “I don’t believe in killing.” So, we have conditions…codes…and content to deal with in our analyses.

The development of tiers
I find it difficult to speculate as to the nature of the post 8th Level (TURQUOISE) codes, at least in terms of giving them a vMEMETIC posture. We do not yet know what the world will be like after both G-T/YELLOW and H-U/TURQUOISE complete their respective life cycles. This is the reason we include the term ‘And Altered States’ on our graphics, especially on the Upper Left designations. These can occur within any of the vMEME codes, from BEIGE through TURQUOISE.

So, any conversation regarding ‘CORAL’, ‘TEEL’, ‘BURGUNDY’, etc, etc should ALWAYS begin with…. “but what are the life conditions that will spawn this specific intelligence?” If we can’t sketch in those descriptions, then we are dealing essentially with an altered state, not a vMEME code.

Finally, the use of ‘Tier’ language flows from the book, ‘Spiral Dynamic’, to indicate that each new vMEME system may not simply follow the previous sequence of ratchet-like shifts. The shift from the 6th to the 7th Code was designated by Clare W Graves (1974) a ‘momentous leap’. If the shift from the 8th to the 9th Code is yet another ‘momentous’, nonlinear jump…then the 3rd Tier could well start at the 9th Level. The number of systems necessary to comprise a tier is determined by that characteristic, rather than by any magical number of 6 unless – one takes seriously the ‘666 Mark of the Beast’!

An additional note: Graves used to point out that there have always been surprises when a new step/stage/level/wave formed, that no one could have ever predicted, which adds to the difficulty of sketching in the future vMEME stacks, even with a pencil.


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