Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

Don Beck Don Edward Beck is a teacher, geopolitical advisor, and theorist focusing on applications of large scale psychology, including social psychology, evolutionary psychology, organizational psychology and their effect on human sociocultural systems. He is the co-author of the Spiral Dynamics theory, an evolutionary human development model. He spent many years adapting the work of his mentor and colleague, developmental psychologist Clare W. Graves, Prof. Emeritus in Psychology at Union College in New York.


The Search for Cohesion
in the Age of Fragmentation

From the New World Order to the Next Global Mesh

Don Edward Beck, Ph. D.

At the beginning of Chapter 17 in our book Spiral Dynamics we noted:

"George Bush's hundred hour war in the Persian Gulf and Caesar-like triumphal parading through Washington, D. C. in l991 became his twilight's last gleaming. He never recovered from the victory. In his speech announcing Operation Desert Storm he had claimed: 'We have before us the opportunity to forge, for ourselves and for future generations, a New World Order."

The term "New World Order" itself not only became a fearful symbol of global domination by an elite few, but it also stoked paranoid fears of a new march of jack boots to the cadence of a single ideology. President Bush later softened the sentiment before the United Nations General Assembly with the words: "In short, we seek a pax universalis built upon shared understanding." The time has now come to renew the search for the global operating principle and process.

This quest for the Next Global Mesh is based on such a pax universalis, an initiative that seeks after a "shared understandings" of how we, as a people, emerge through levels of complexity. While "order" conveys the idea of closed systems and regimentation, the term "mesh" suggests a new form of social integration based on the weaving together of the rich textures of human differences and bindings of constant change. The concept of "mesh" carries with it the capacity to absorb the awesome complexities that now confront global people as we enter the next decade, century, and millennium.


Never before has the planet earth carried such a rich tapestry of human differences in the form of individuals and groups. The end of the Cold War brought the thawing of the bi-polar ice sheet that covered the entire planet as the deep ethnic cores began to bubble and boil once again. Decades of deconstructionism and egalitarianism in academic and popular cultural circles released the bent-up entities and interests that had been subdued by European-Western hierarchies of power and control. The microchip places an immense amount of influence in the choice making of single individuals. DNA analyses now make possible the specific identity of every person on the planet. Mass customization efforts are able to target each person, and even specify names on the inside of weekly magazines. It is as if the entire psychological history of our species from Day One is being replayed in real time and carried live on CNN. What an amazing time!


Most people know the story of the "Six Blind Men and the Elephant." One discovered the tail, another the trunk, while the others felt the leg, side, tusk, and ear. Each was totally convinced he had discovered the "truth" based on the direct experience. Of course, each observer was "right" about the elephant, but only about a part; none was able to sense the whole. This can also be said about the various political, economic, religious, educational, child-rearing, and technological theories of our own day. This also includes the various listings of worldviews or Weltanschauungen, or the numerous psychological packages, leadership initiatives, or managerial mandates that continue to be popular, or have been discarded in societal dust bins. The various and often heated debates heard at the United Nations, or in national assembles, senates, and parliaments, will, likewise, reflect these different views of "the elephant." Rather than continue to pit the vast array of differences against one another in an adversarial manner, or suffer the consequences when the conflicts surface in the form of belligerence or warfare, might it not be useful to find a way to construct a synthesis that can explain why each emerged, where it is useful, and how it can contribute to the total Global Mesh?

Which of these views of the elephant-world best describe you?
The World is. . .*
beige a natural milieu where humans rely on instincts to stay alive
purple a magical place alive with spirit beings and mystical signs
red a jungle where the strongest and most cunning survive
blue an ordered existence under the control of the ultimate truth
orange a market place full of possibilities and opportunities
green a human habitat in which we share life's experiences
yellow a chaotic organism forged by differences and change
turquoise an elegantly balanced system of interlocking-forces
*Question from The Values Test, NVC


One of the stated goals of the 1999 State of the World FORUM is to launch the search for the paradigm that can best handle the complexity of conditions that confront human life on this planet. Conceptual revelations take hold when the new paradigm explains more variables, accounts for more contingencies, and solves more problems than the one it will ultimately replace. But, how can any of us know when we have detected such an operating system or conceptual framework? It might help to consider just what this new global arrangement must provide that the previous worldview models failed to accomplish. Consider this possible check-list:

  1. Any new paradigm will need to be an open system rather than a closed state since conditions constantly change.
  2. Any new paradigm must be consistent with current research into the deepest functions within the human brain.
  3. Any new paradigm must subsume all previous paradigms as being legitimate for different times and circumstances.
  4. Any new paradigm must be able to penetrate all areas of human life – biology, psychology, spirituality etc.
  5. Any new paradigm must accommodate the full texture of human cultural differences as they evolve over time.
  6. Any new paradigm must contain an effective mix of political and economic models calibrated to stages of emergence.
  7. Any new paradigm should be able to anticipate different realities, future visions and contain its own sunset clause.
  8. Any new paradigm must address multiple bottom-lines on issues regarding standards of living and the quality of life.
  9. Any new paradigm should contain the DNA-like codes to reveal its assumptions in a clear, understandable manner.
  10. Any new paradigm should be equally relevant to individuals, organizational groupings, and to society-at-large.

This search for the cohesive elements that can hold so many fragmented parts together in a new, 21st Century alignment, and create the methodology and mechanisms for the continuation and enhancement of all human life on the planet, will require three essential components:

  1. Spiral Dynamics, a bio-psycho-social-spiritual conceptual system that describes how and when worldviews emerge, and how they form themselves naturally into spirals of complexity. The Spiral is not a cookie-cutter; it is a process.
  2. a Vital Signs Monitor capacity to track the critical indicators of the action of the spiral in human affairs; and
  3. an aggressive and comprehensive All Quadrants/All Levels strategy designed to address the asymmetrics and gaps in human development by mobilizing and aligning our resources in a systemic manner so none be left behind.

In short, we must discover the complex, evolutionary models that can provide the meshworks for our contemporary state of fragmentation, find a way to monitor and measure our progress, and then create new and innovative ways to address the difficult problems that continue to hinder our full emergence on the planet. No more prizes for forecasting the rain; only prizes for building the ark.

SPIRAL DYNAMICS: The New Paradigm for the Next Global Mesh

Spiral Dynamics is based on the seminal work of the late Professor Clare W. Graves, Union College, New York. He described what he called "Levels of Psychological Existence" as an emerging pattern and priority of worldviews, value systems, and complex adaptive intelligences that arise in response to Life Conditions. Thus, human nature is not finite. We are not frozen into types or traits. Cultures are not static entities, forever trapped in Flatland. As Graves explained it:

Briefly, what I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiraling process marked by progressive subordination of older, lower- order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man's existential problems change.

The human Spiral, then, consists of a coiled string of worldviews, each the product of its times and conditions. Yet, when a new worldview emerges, the older systems do not disappear. Rather, they remain subsumed in the total flow and not only add texture to the more complex ways of living, but remain "on call" in case the problems that awakened them to service reappear. So, there are systems within us, miniature worldviews each of which is calibrated for different problems of existence. Each new worldview is born out of chaos, in a nonlinear fashion, so there is no straight arrow of time back into history. Each worldview is a platform with its own unique paradigm and instructional codes for organizing society. Like a DNA script, the unique adaptive themes at each level will express themselves in terms of life-styles, economic, political, religious, and educational systems, and views of sex, marriage, working, the environment, and sports.

In our recent work we have fused the Graves Technology with the fledging science of memetics, noting that each of the worldviews is in fact a valuesMEME, a coding mechanism that inculcates every aspect of society. Graves work identified eight distinct worldviews or vMEMES, with the ninth on the horizon. Yet, all of the previously awakened systems still exist. These deep level tectonic-like psychological plates create surface level tensions as we ratchet through time.


Level Color Code Popular Name Thinking Cultural manifestations and personal displays
Level 8 Turquoise WholeView Holistic collective individualism; cosmic spirituality; earth changes
Level 7 yellow FlexFlow Ecological natural systems; self-principle; multiple realities; knowledge
Level 6 Green HumanBond Consensus egalitarian; feelings; authentic; sharing; caring; community
Level 5 Orange StriveDrive Strategic materialistic; consumerism; success; image; status; growth
Level 4 Blue TruthForce Authority meaning; discipline; traditions; morality; rules; lives for later
Level 3 Red PowerGods Egocentric gratification; glitz; conquest; action; impulsive; lives for now
Level 2 Purple KinSpirits Animistic rites; rituals; taboos; super- stitions; tribes; folk ways & lore
Level 1 Beige SurvivalSense Instinctive food; water; procreation; warmth; protection; stays alive

Here's the key idea. Different societies, cultures and subcultures, as well as entire nations are at different levels of psycho-cultural emergence, as displayed within these evolutionary levels of complexity. They have different centers of gravity. The previously awakened levels do not disappear. Rather, they stay active within the worldview stacks, thus impacting the nature and form of the more complex systems. Like the Russian dolls, there are systems within systems within systems. So, many of the same issues we confront on the West Bank (Red to Blue) can be found in South Central Los Angeles. One can experience the animistic (Purple) worldview on Bourbon Street as well as in Zaire. Matters brought before city council in Minneapolis (Orange to Green to Yellow) are not unlike the debates in front of governing bodies in the Netherlands. Countries and cultures are mosaics of multiple vMEME codes.

Third World societies are dealing, for the most part, with issues within the Level 1 through Level 3 zone, thus higher rates of violence and poverty. Staying alive, finding safety, and dealing with feudal age conditions matter most. Second World societies are characterized by authoritarian (Blue) one-party states, whether from the right or the left. Makes no difference. So called First World nations and groupings have achieved high levels of affluence, with lower birth rates, and more expansive use of technology. While centered in the strategic, free-market driven, and individual liberty focused perspective -- all traits of the Level 5 (Orange) worldview -- new vMEMETICS (Green, Yellow, and Turquoise) are emerging in the "post-modern" age. Yet, we have no language for anything beyond First World, believing that is the final state, the "end of history." Further, there is a serious question as to whether the billions of people who are now exiting Second and Third World life styles can anticipate the same level of affluence as they see on First World (Orange) television screens. Now that expectations have been raised by visiting "Paree," how do we expect to "keep them down on the farm?"

Different worldviews or vMEMES fight wars
or engage in conflict but for different reasons.
Color Political Form Deepest motivation and "bottom line" justification for aggressive behavior
Beige Survival Clans to keep a place in the survival niche, as in the movie The Quest for Fire
Purple Ethnic Tribes to protect the myths, ancestral traditions, rights of kinship, and sacred places.
Red Feudal Empires to dominate, gain the spoils, and earn the right to rape, pillage, and plunder.
Blue Ancient Nations to protect borders, homelands, hearth, preserve way of life, defend "holy" cause.
Orange Corporate States to advance economic spheres of influence, or access to raw materials and markets.
Green Value Communities to punish those who commit "crimes against humanity" and protect the victims.

VITAL SIGNS MONITORS…The Tracking of Critical Worldview Indicators

We exist, as humans, in a wash of bacteria, viruses, genes, and memes. All four appear to be impacted by nonlinear events and possess the capacity to literally re-engineer their respective codes to adapt to changing conditions in the milieu. The Vital Signs Monitor is designed to track the life forces that influence our human experiences. Consider an operations-type room, with floor to ceiling video screens, where the critical indicators are displayed and overlaid on top of each other. Such a Monitor could register the pulse of aggregates of people, both at macro and micro levels, to search for the deepest trends, major vMEME conflicts in the making, serious sink-holes in development projects, and the general health and well-being of global people. This technology could provide global-focused decision-makers with the necessary information to translate into knowledge, then formulate actions necessary in shaping each Next Global Mesh.

Such a technology is being developed by John Petersen and his Arlington Institute, located in Arlington, Virginia. The intent of the Vital Signs Monitor, displayed within the Institute's Fusion Center, is to track vMEMETIC flows and Stages of Change within the American society, with a current focus on the Y2K issue. The Arlington Institute is currently using national polling firms to detect our "EKG"-like social pulses. See for more details. The Presidio in San Francisco could well become a global center for this scanning technology as a West Coast counterpart to the United Nations, a place dedicated to the exploration of these global dynamics. Silicon Valley companies could generate the advanced high technology that would enhance the entire process.

4Q/8L SOLUTIONS. . .All Quadrants/All Levels Views and Strategies

Ken Wilber has created a powerful, imaginative, and practical template to overlay on any situation to

  1. identify the specific needs and capacities of individuals and groups, and
  2. calibrate the precise developmental or growth- related packages that fit each unique situation.

The "All Levels" piece of his framework can be explained in terms of the eight vMEME or worldview layers and levels of complexity. The "All Quadrants" component consists of: IT - Individual Brain & Organism. I -Individual Self & Consciousness ITS – Collective Social System and Environment and WE Collective Culture and WorldView. Efforts which select a single Q, or operate on a mismatched L, could make things worse. Large scale efforts, such as cultural upliftment, must be All Q and All L.

GEOPOLITICAL ANALYSIS. vMEMES lie beneath 1st through 4th world (developed and developing) cultures so if the deeper codes are set right, progress will be made on the surface economic, social, and political problems. Syndicated columnist and foreign correspondent Georgie Anne Geyer has a good grasp of this reality. She clearly spots the lack of the Blue vMEME in Russia: "After 1,000 years of absolute faiths, Russian has none." No wonder the West's attempts to force free-market economic models (Orange) into Russia, came back as Red mafia crime. A new collective orthodoxy must emerge first, one that creates a renewed sense of "good authority." Geyer lauds the wisdom of Tunisian leaders to reject the advice from USAID and pro-democracy (Green) lobbies that "insist that full democracy is a 'must' from the very beginning of a nations' life." They understand the need to ratchet through steps & stages of L by mobilizing all resources in Q, but around "authoritarian democracy" or "enlightened autocracy" models. Singapore was wise to establish a Blue authority climate to contain the hot ethnic (Purple & Red) cores. But, now, the country, while keeping a healthy Blue platform in place, will need to stress individual autonomy and achievement (Orange). Australia is trapped in an Orange vs. Green cross-fire, making it difficult to deal with the Aborigines or define a new sense of nationhood once the monarchy leaves town. Southeastern Europe continues to suffer from unresolved issues in the Purple, Red, and Blue zones, making Orange difficult to emerge. People simply cannot be until they are. And, all we can really do with an entire society is help it become what is next for it to become, so it can take yet another step toward a fuller and more comprehensive versions of "democracy." Think of this as a "stratified democracy" process.

THIRD WAY POLITICS. Traditional Republican thought in the US is classic Blue (rule of law) and Orange (free- market economy). The Democrat Party joins Purple-Red "victims" with Green "rescuers," setting up the bipolar, two party political impasse. A legitimate "third way" policy would place the Spiral right in the middle of the left-right wing political spectrum. One could then cobble elements from both wings and apply them at different levels within the developing Spiral. This is neither a centralist or compromise position, but an entirely new direction in national politics. Both Bill Clinton's "vital center" champions and George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatives" lean in that direction but without an All Quadrants/All Levels perspective, they will not get there. The political thinkers who grasp this concept will dominate for decades to come. The focus shifts from horizontal position(s) on the Spiral – they are called "whorls" -- to the "DNA" codes on the spine of the Spiral. Herein lies the essence of this Global Mesh strategy, one that deals with the the producer of worldviews, the dynamics that shape governance models, and the generator of complex, adaptive intelligences. I was asked during the South Africa's search for a new constitution whether that emerging society should be a unitary state, a federal structure, or a confederation. I said "yes." That country is the global microcosm.

DECISION-MAKING STRUCTURES. The design and implementation of successful All Quadrants/All Levels initiatives requires a new generation of decision-making formulas and processes. While each of the vMEMES has evolved its own form of problem resolution, the Yellow-Integral and Turquoise-Holistic worldviews contain the intelligences to macromanage the whole human Spiral. Ichak Adizes, in his corporate lifecycle framework, has devised what he calls CAPI – the coalescing of Authority, Power, and Influence so that all sit at the same table in sorting out complex issues. See In addition, the original Value Engineering discipline, created by Larry Miles at General Electric in the post WW II period, has now expanded into a Value Management format. Objectives are agreed upon, functions are identified, then prioritized, resulting in specific action plans. This model with various adaptations has been used successfully throughout the South African transformation, at both national and "coal-face" levels. Blue mandates, Orange win:win negotiations, and even Green consensus-driven models simply lack the complexity to handle such thorny problems in this Age of Fragmentation. A new pax universalis will require the best from within all of us.

Cometh the Time; Cometh the Thinking.

Copyright Don Edward Beck, l999

Dr. Beck can be reached at 940.383.1209, or at [email protected], and Box 797, Denton, Texas 76202 USA Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership & Change (Blackwell, l996) was co-authored with Christopher C. Cowan The Crucible: Forging South Africa's Future (New Paradigm Press, l991) was co-authored with Graham Linscott. For a description of the All Quadrants/All Levels as designed by Ken Wilber, see his Introduction to Volume 7 of the Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Shambhala, 1999. For additional information regarding Spiral Dynamics and various applications and learning opportunities world-wide, consult

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