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More essays by Ray Harris | Ray Harris' website:

More essays by Ray Harris | Ray Harris' website:
Ray Harris Ray Harris is the author of the online series "The Memes at War", a sustained reflection on the backgrounds of 9/11 from the perspectives of Spiral Dynamics and his own Temenos system, and of the related "The Blood Brotherhoods: A developmental look at terrorism from the perspective of mythos". In Rescuing the Green Meme from Boomeritis he wrestled with some of the core ideas of Wilber's novel "Boomeritis", this article provides some further clarifications. He lives in Australia. Responses can be sent to: [email protected]

Rescuing Green from Boomeritis - Part Two

Blue-Green Algae, Sublevels and Other Things

Ray Harris

In response to the first article I have been asked to elaborate on a few points. Whilst thinking about how to construct a part two around those points I realized that the best way was to create a set of notes, rather than try to 'connect the dots'.


I had forgotten that Wilber had created endnotes to 'Boomeritis'. These are published on the Shambhala site. The relevant endnote is very interesting. It says in part:

"In general, the research swings between around 60% precon and 30% postcon to around 30% precon and 60% postcon (with usually around 10% or less at con)."

Note that some studies show the majority were postconventional. Yet in both 'Boomeritis' and 'A Theory of everything' Wilber chooses to emphasise a Berkley study in which a 'vast majority' were reported to show preconventional morality. How does a roughly 50/50 position become 'vast majority' in the main argument?


In the Dissent article I mentioned the writer Denis Kenny was writing about the old issue of conservative versus progressive. He comments that the conservatives typically characterised the 'radicals' as:

"…self-indulgent anarchists, driven by unresolved Oedipal rage to destroy all the values that their parental generation stood for."

Saying that boomeritis is characterised as Green with a Red (or Purple) undertone can be read as simply another way of agreeing with the above statement. Now, let's be clear. I agree with Wilber's critique of pluralism and cultural/moral relativism. It does give undeserved equal status to preconventional behaviour.

The issue is really one of degree.

If you are inclined toward a conservative interpretation then naturally you will see more boomeritis in many so-called Green movements, you will see more 'dissing' of Blue and Orange. As a conservative your project will be to reconstruct the Blue and Orange that Green has deconstructed, and instead turn to deconstructing Green. Of course if you are a progressive you will have a different lens, you will see less boomeritis and more issues of genuine concern, you will believe that there is more of Blue and Orange that still needs to be deconstructed.

The absolutely critical issue underlying this is a clear understanding of what is 'mean' in each of the memes, what needs to be changed and what does not. The conservative will see less 'meanness' in Blue and Orange and more 'meanness' in Green. The progressive of course, will see more 'meanness' in Blue and Orange and less in Green.

If it gets really silly then the conservatives will label the progressives as 'stuck in Green' and the progressives will label the conservatives 'as still in Blue or Orange'. It's a zero sum game.

We are nowhere near reaching agreement about what is or is not 'mean' in each of the memes. This could be the single most important project of an 'integral' politics.


There is no miraculous point of agreement about these issues. The conflict between conservative and progressive doesn't dissolve when one reaches Second Tier. In fact the whole issue of Second Tier as a 'momentous leap' is itself an issue of concern.

The idea that the transition from Green to Yellow represents a 'momentous leap' comes from something one man, Graves reportedly said. Both Wilber and Beck have tended to play on this one comment. But the other developmental literature doesn't lend itself to what might easily be considered simple hyperbole. I am unaware of any other developmental psychologist marking a point in their model as a 'momentous leap'. The problem of course is that such grand statements can attract a certain narcissism and egotism. It's rather flattering to think that you are Second Tier.

However, the reality of developmental transformation is somewhat different and this is where Wilber has a lot to offer. He points out that transformation is never smooth and, more importantly, that there are different lines of development. This means that one can for instance, be cognitively at Yellow whilst still being morally or ideologically at Orange.

Unfortunately emphasising one developmental approach such as SD over others can undermine a more solid and rounded approach.


In many of my articles I have often referred to a developmental stage called Civilis, which forms a dyad with Individuus. The tension at this level is between individual expression and co-operation between individuals. The primary political landscape of developed nations is the tension and conflict between the prior authoritarian structure and the emergent culture of the individual. A society of individuals then has to balance the freedom of the individual with the reality of living in a collective of individuals. It is a simple fact that one's right to self-expression might conflict with another's right to self-expression. This introduces the need to reach compromise.

Civilis is that stage where individuals realise that co-operation is vital to the collective good. It differs from the previous dyad in that co-operation is not imposed by a higher authority. The stage of Individuus rejects claims to a religious or cultural imposition of unquestioned, absolute authority. Individuus questions everything. It relies on reason. Its narrative introduces ideas of humanism and secularism. It is, in short, the modernist project. It is a highly creative and dynamic period that releases the irrational constraints of the previous level.

The project of Civilis is to construct a 'society' of such individuals.

In many ways Green can look like Civilis, rather, let me say that Green is a sentiment or set of values that arises out of the narrative of Civilis. Civilis is much more comprehensive a concept.

If Orange is Win-Win as Don Beck suggests then Civilis is the way that Orange adapts itself so that this principle is actualised for everyone. Thus Civilis is naturally concerned about the mechanism of inequality, it is concerned to ensure that everyone has equal access to becoming a mature individual. And until balance is achieved there will be a constant tension between individual expression, individual rights and the demands of the collective. At one point the pendulum will swing too far in the direction of collectivism and at another it will swing too far toward individualism. Each of the swings contains the potential to express pathology, to express 'meanness'. Pathological individualism becomes egotism, status materialism and a 'winner/loser' culture. Pathological collectivism becomes moral relativism, groupthink and over sensitivity.

The project of the Individuus/Civilis dyad is by no means complete. Postmodernism is only the beginning of the philosophical argument. The Civilis component cannot rest until 'everyone' is included in a Win-Win scenario. It is and has always been the drive behind greater inclusiveness and will not rest until a truly global order has been achieved. In my estimation we are looking at least to another century of conflict between the old order of authoritarian inequality and stratification and the emergent modern/postmodern global culture, a conflict that must include the dyadic tension between individualism and a collectivism of individuals. There will be moments of regress and moments of progress. At the moment the balance of power in the world lays with a strongly individualistic US pursuing an authoritarian agenda. There is a counter force building arguing to empower the Civilis inspired proto-typical and experimental United Nations. The conflict of the future will be between developing nations seeking to enter their own Individuus stage combating systemic inequality and systemic privilege imposed by developed nations and between forces within various nations expressing either side of the pendulum swing of Individuus/Civilis.


I don't believe there is. In Temenos progress is made when the dyadic tension of each level is resolved. When the tension of Individuus/Civilis is resolved we enter the next stage of 'World' Mastery/Neophyte. This is a different order of challenge, a challenge between a self-oriented view of reality and trans-self view. I can perhaps explain this by asking a question, how would a group of enlightened masters make a collective decision? Perhaps they might not need to make a decision at all; perhaps they will automatically act in consort. But if there were disagreement (and in reality there is - have the Dalai and Panchen Lamas always agreed with the Karmapa?) what process would they use? I would argue they would use a similar process to that which a group of mature individuals would. They'd sit down, discuss the issues and reach a point of compromise/agreement. How else might it be done?

World Mastery incorporates both Yellow and Turquoise. The World Master acts to create a harmony of all levels, but using the political structure developed by Civilis. It is the maturation of Civilis. So, according to Temenos those who have reached Second-Tier are intimately concerned with realising the Civilis project for all levels. I should add the word Master is used here as someone who has mastered a set of skills, such as 'master craftsman' – not as in 'master/servant'.


The first part of 'Rescuing Green' was really argued from the insights of my Temenos system. Whilst it has similarities to SD it also has important differences. The deep structure of the levels takes on a different appearance depending on the questions asked and the methods used. Graves asked particular questions, Kohlberg asked other questions, and Piaget different questions again. The task of a true integral approach is to try to synthesise these differing approaches – but this can be difficult; sometimes we are simply talking apples and oranges. Temenos is a comparative approach that looks at development from a hermeneutical perspective; it is concerned with the narrative patterns that arise out of each deep structure.

One of the interesting things that Temenos reveals is a set of harmonics within the system. This is in fact typical of grand narratives in general – the various cosmologies are replete with harmonics.

The harmonic that is of importance here is the repetition of the basic pattern within each level, thus forming a set of sub-levels. These expand Wilber's idea of the sub phases, identification, differentiation and integration. This idea can also be found in SD's entering and exiting phases. Following the general system of Temenos each sub-level is the working out of an inherent tension. There are six dyadic tensions which form a total of twelve in all. The six tensions can be described as:

  1. Birth/death. The subject oscillates between the excitement and discovery of the new and the fear and unfamiliarity of the new. People at this sub-level can be somewhat bi-polar, at one time over-enthusiastic at another time in flight from the shock of the new. It is not unusual for that flight to regress to the previous level proper, and then re-enter the new level.
  2. Comfort/stability. The subject settles into the new level and begins to identify with the norms and narrative of that level. There are two distinct types: the quiet conformist and the disciplinarian/enforcer. Both link their basic identity to the group however the conformist is passive whereas the enforcer is active. The conformist is often the blind follower and the enforcer is the person who ensures that the conformists follow the norms of the group or level.
  3. Individualist/activist. The subject further identifies with the norms of the level but rather than blindly following they have so deeply internalized the norms that they identify their egoic needs as being the same as the primary level. The first phase of this is the need to stand out within the group; the second phase is to dedicate one's life to actively organizing for the group.
  4. Leader/questioner. The subject gains mastery of the primary level and most often finds themselves in a position of leadership or authority. The second stage is the beginning of differentiation where the subject begins to suspect there is more.
  5. Confusion/seeking. The subject begins to differentiate. This is first experienced as a period of confusion and is often marked by a period of wrong turns and misguided ideas. This turns to a profound period of questioning of the norms of the primary level.
  6. Breakthrough. The subject begins to see the light of the new level. This can be a period of peak experiences and profound insights. The tension here is subtle, it switches from the high of the impending shift to the loss felt with final separation. As the subject begins to enter the first sub-level of the new level proper it can seek to return to the high felt in the transition – but the high is never experienced in the same way in regression.

In Temenos I describe the various levels and sub-levels using the notation, 3A-iib. However, in such a brief set of notes it is asking way too much of the reader to familiarize themselves with the shorthand. Because many of the my readers will most likely already be proficient with SD terminology let's use that; but with this disclaimer – this is not orthodox SD, it is only to be used as an illustration of a point! So using SD terminology we might say that Green has a series of sub phases, G-bg, G-p, G-r, G-bl, G-o, G-g, G-y, G-t. The Green-blue sub-level marks a period when the subject takes the norms of Green as a kind of absolute. This is an example we will return to later….

Following from this it would seem that I agree that there is a Green-red sub-level. I am, but there is more to it. The sub-level Red corresponds to the comfort/stability dyad, which includes Blue. But how can the rebellion/narcissism of Red be considered a part of the comfort stability dyad? In Temenos the principle narrative of this level is the family. In "The Blood Brotherhoods" I explain how this level is concerned with dynamic of the good son/daughter and terrible son/daughter with the good or terrible mother/father. Here we must understand that within this narrative the ego often acts out both roles, the child can be seen as Red and the parent as Blue. Thus the rebellion of Red is akin to that of the child rebelling against the externalized and internalized parent as either actual or symbolic parent. However Red rebellion is a 'dependent' rebellion. A rebellious child can never actually be independent of the parental structure. A two year old may throw all the tantrums it wants but it is still entirely dependent on the parental matrix. Similarly, the rebellion of warlord does not lead to true developmental transformation; it leads simply to the replacement of one violent authority over another. It is merely a horizontal power shift that repeats the parental matrix. It is only at the adolescent stage of rebellion that the ego separates from the parental matrix.

So the Red sub-level of any major level is about rebellion within the narrative of primary level. But it is not only about rebellion – the good son/daughter aspect can also be, in the language of the child, the 'goody-goody' of this level. The terrible child however, stands in a position of 'dependent' rebellion. If the child cannot resolve the tension of this dyad then they may easily take on the dynamic of a permanent adolescent 'dummy-spit'. The adolescent rebels in a futile manner and never fully establishes entry into the Orange level proper. How many of the radicals actually made the transition to full independence, let alone into genuine collaboration of independent equals?

But to just state that this is Green tainted with Red (or Purple) is to simplify what was going on. In reality the radical period of the late sixties and early seventies was a combination of different rebellious impulses. The period of rebellion actually resonated with both the Red and Orange sub-levels of Blue and Orange; as well as marking a genuine and complete shift from Blue to Orange and Orange to Green proper. It might be easy to confuse the various rebellions but a Red sub-level rebellion against the Orange ethos of "Amerika" is not the same as a genuine shift from Orange to Green. The Red sub-level rebellion was often simply a dummy-spit that ended up with the rebel finally accepting the norms of Orange, that is, by merely shifting from O-r to O-bl, the Blue conformist level of Orange. As I said in part one, so many of the hangers-on simply re-joined the great Orange 'boomer' generation when they left College. After all, there were great ideological divisions in the rebellions of that time; many of the hardcore radicals were completely dismissive of "bourgeois" and part-time radicals and hippies. Much of it was pseudo-rebellion played through the narcissistic mirror of "rock and roll", as if listening to Jimi Hendrix or the Doors, having a psychedelic peace sign on your door, a picture of Che Guevara on the wall and pretending to be a rebel was a substitute for real transformation.


In Temenos the psychology of the G-r sub-level is actually quite different to that of SD's Green tinged with Red. As I said above the Red sub-level is a period of dyadic conflict within the narrative of each level in general. The subject is both dependent on and seeking approval of the norms of the level whilst at the same time struggling against the constrictions of that level, particularly if there is a pathological or terrible aspect to it. Make no mistake, the groupthink of Green can be awfully constricting and irritating. The "endless" meetings can be frustrating. It is entirely possible that a proportion of criticism of Green is in fact G-r expressing its anger. Could some of the emotional energy of the 'boomeritis' criticism be G-r?


The Red vMeme is where emotional energy can be harnessed for necessary change. It must be remembered that in the US a good portion of radicalism was directed at stopping the Vietnam War. It can be argued that the anger that was aroused was justified. Perhaps if the 'meanness' of Blue and Orange were not so clearly evident then there wouldn't need to be an angry response? Again we return to the argument about what is 'mean' and what is not; what is legitimate, conventional and postconventional anger and what is simply preconventional anger.

Therefore it can be argued there are two types of anger, the frustrated anger of the child and the rebellious anger of the teen. An angry teen can certainly regress to juvenile anger, particularly if the need for adolescent independence is thwarted by Blue. In which case there is a kind of symmetry around Blue – if post-Blue assertiveness is thwarted it can regress to pre-Blue rage.


Uproar was caused in Australia when it was reported that a Kindergarten had proposed banning Christmas celebrations and a visit from Santa Claus. It was argued that it would be 'culturally insensitive' to non-Christian children. Australians are generally skeptical of such political correctness and the public reaction restored the situation to some sanity. But in other areas the PC disease has spread. I recently heard that an amateur sportsman had been banned for several games for using the oath, "Christ" on the playing field.

What is happening here is that an incorrect view of pluralism and cultural relativism is being used as a new set of rules and regulations. This is evidence of two things; none of which is 'boomeritis' Green tinged with Red. The first is the G-bl sub-level making rules and norms, the other is the Blue level proper 'appropriating' and re-interpreting the Green level. This forms a kind of Blue-Green mush appropriately reminiscent of the blue-green algae that blocks many of Australia's inland rivers.

Somehow it always seems to be some petty official who applies PC the most rigidly. The petty official interprets the arguments of legitimate cultural tolerance and sensitivity as a set of new rules and regulations to be imposed. This is Blue speaking. Uncritical Blue has become aware of the public debate on prejudice and cultural sensitivity and has reacted by imposing a set of rules and regulations. Of course the Green impulse is to inspire awareness and attitudinal transformation from within. Blue interprets this as needing to impose it from without.

One of the major institutions in society that carries the Blue vMeme most strongly is the judiciary and the legal system. It is not surprising then that it can fall victim to making ideals into laws and then imposing them rather rigidly.

So why do 'conservatives' generally despise PC? This is actually a horizontal issue. Conservatives dislike PC rules because they differ from 'their' preferred rules. Each level can have special interest groups within that level. In this case the argument is between a set of rules that advantage 'white Christian males' as opposed to a set of rules that act to advantage other groups (women, gays, minorities) – all of it applied in a very Blue manner.


The one thing that has encouraged 'victim chic' is money. Would you bother to sue MacDonald's if there weren't the promise of a big pay out? The United States is the most affected by such frivolous lawsuits because its legal system is open to the aggressive marketing of litigation. Some US law firms have made a fortune out of suing for damages - the bigger the claim the bigger the commission. One of the prime suspects in this particular problem is the Orange aggression and opportunism of the legal profession.

In other countries the legal system is restricted in its ability to aggressively pursue clients. In Australia lawyers are not permitted to advertise. Recently there were a couple of 'victim chic' cases in Australia. One law firm in particular has begun to specialize in suing for damages. In general the public has reacted against frivolous lawsuits and legislation is now proposed to curb payouts and introduce 'self-responsibility' legislation. The case that caused the most uproar was that of a swimmer suing the Bondi council because he broke his neck diving into a wave. He claimed that the lifesavers had failed to warn him about a sand bar that had formed. New legislation will introduce the idea of self-responsibility as most Australians thought the guy was a "bloody idiot who deserved to break his bloody neck".

My point here is that 'victim chic' is pure opportunism driven by a certain style of aggressive legal action. It is not indicative of 'boomeritis'.

Ray Harris, January 2003

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