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


Spiral Dynamics in the Integral Age

Don Beck

Don BeckBeginning on January 1, 2002, Spiral Dynamics will morph itself into a new design, a fresh, bold statement, and a more comprehensive mission and methodology, all designed for the Integral Age and beyond. You will know you are experiencing and engaging this greatly expanded version of Spiral Dynamics when you see the symbol for Integral following SD – SDi.

This change, however, is not simply cosmetic in nature, nor does it merely reflect a fine-tuning of the original concepts on which it is based. It represents the second time this conceptual framework has been modified, updated, redesigned, and greatly expanded. SDi therefore, will be more expansive, more elegant, more multi-faceted, including relationships and assests which will be new to the total Spiral Dynamics community.

Although I've been offering workshops and training courses in Spiral Dynamics/Integral Technologies for the past year, it is time now to establish SDi formally, thereby distinguishing my training clearly from other versions offered in the marketplace which do not subscribe to integral, 2nd Tier design approaches.

This new initiative will place the historic Gravesian/Spiral Dynamics effort well within the mainstream of Integral thought, and it will become a key piece in the various branches of the worldwide Integral Institute as developed by Ken Wilber and associates. Consider this brief history of the evolution of my conceptual system.

Phase One: The Graves Technology – 1975 to 1995

From 1975 until 1995 I worked exclusively within a Value Systems or Gravesian perspective, based on the original work of the late Professor Clare W. Graves, from Union College, New York. I first met Graves in 1975 and we became close friends and professional colleagues until his death in 1986. The two of us designed the South African strategy that is represented in the book I wrote in 1991 entitled The Crucible: Forging South Africa's Future (with Graham Linscott). Linscott followed that same language set in his recently published book Uhuru and Renaissance: South Africa in a New Century, that I strongly recommend.

I took the lead, in the late 1970s and entire 1980s, to expose Professor Graves to a wider world by arranging joint presentations before meetings of the World Future Society and American Society for Training and Development. I brought him to the campus of the University of North Texas in 1978 for a series of lectures, and then promoted a series of three-day seminars for him in Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Dallas. He engaged with me in consulting projects with Braniff International, American Airlines, and even the New Orleans Saints. In 1980 I financed a film crew that went to his home to put him on videotape and to record, in his own words, his work and its significance. I'm well within my bounds to say that if it had not been for these efforts, his ideas would not be as popular as they are becoming in a number of different areas. Any accurate history of those days would support such a claim. He reported to me often that I was the only person providing him with financial support for his work, and his wife, Marion, often claimed that these activities kept him alive much longer. It was truly a delight to work with him and I miss him a great deal. He will always receive personal and professional credit from me in all of my activities. I'm Gravesian to the core.

Phase Two: Spiral Dynamics – 1996 to 2001

By the time the book Spiral Dynamics was published (Mastering Values, Leadership & Change, Blackwell, 1996) I felt it necessary to update and expand on the original Gravesian concept to appeal to a much wider audience. For example, I introduced the concept of "value memes/memetics" to both supplant and enhance the limited "value systems" language. I encountered a considerable amount of criticism from many in the community who disliked the new symbolic systems. Further, since Graves had very little international experience, I projected the South African "microcosm" onto a global screen in the final chapter of the book, and then compiled a long list of other sources to structure them along the Spiral scaffolding.

You will note on the back cover of the book these words: "Spiral Dynamics is an extension and elaboration of the biopsychosocial systems concept of the late Clare W. Graves; work that Canada's Maclean's Magazine called 'The Theory that Explains everything.' " The book has far exceeded Blackwell's expectation and is now in its 8th printing. The coauthor of the book was my former graduate student Christopher Cowan, who decided three years ago that he wanted to pursue his own interests, which he has done. He is not part of the Integral movement.

Phase Three: Spiral Dynamics integral – 2002 and beyond

With this announcement we are launching the third iteration of the complex material, an approach that transcends but includes the previous two phases. The best of the Graves Technology will still be amplified in this new version, as will the critical elements of the initial statement of Spiral Dynamics. SDi, however, will be an extension and elaboration of the previous two phases, and will go far beyond both in striking out new territory, in creating new strategic and systemic alliances, and in addressing academic and applied domains that are just now becoming part of the 21st Century thought structures and existence problems.
While Graves supplied the original blueprint, he cautioned me on numerous occasions to continue the research, to branch out far beyond what he could imagine, and pursue "the never ending quest."

With this brief history in mind, consider now the components of Spiral Dynamics integral… SDi.

SDi is based on a belief in the Invisible Spiral, the Prime Directive that works in human nature to continue our quest toward greater complexity. The Graves Technology is simply one wrap around the Invisible Spiral but there are many others. I believe it is the best single wraparound available. Yet, many of the empty spaces and incomplete zones can be filled in with other theories, other wraparounds. SDi continues the search for these paradigms to provide yet a fuller understanding of the working of the Spiral within our lives.

This reality led me to make contact with author/philosopher Ken Wilber, as I had been following his work since his first book publication in 1978. In The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, a massive set of books to say the least, one engages the mind of someone like Professor Graves who searched over long periods of time, and often as a lone pathfinder, to discover and reveal the mechanisms and stages that have characterized our long, evolutionary ascent from an animal-like existence. This relationship with Ken and his vast following has created a quantum leap of interest in Clare W. Graves and Spiral Dynamics and, more than any other influence, has projected this conceptual system onto the global screen. We are in debt to his efforts on our behalf and look forward in SDi to an even closer working relationship.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of SDi is the use of Wilber's All Quadrants/All Levels/All Lines model that offers a user-friendly way and methodology for integrating Spiral Dynamics into personal, organizational, and societal operations. When Wilber first began to describe such a strategy, he drew support and interest from a wide range of individuals, including President Clinton, Vice President Gore, and Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida. We have adapted this process in creating the 4Q/8L tapestry and technique in helping organizations align their efforts to produce desired results in a shorter time and with fewer resources. The 4Q/8L approach is now being used by inner city churches, school systems, and major corporations in the USA and abroad.

SDi goes much further than the first two SD phases in empowering, aligning, enhancing, and shaping other positive concepts, packages, and approaches as it works in the background and at deeper levels to influence humankind's Memetic Codes. This truly integral approach meshes many of the original SD concepts with other interests in such a way that it is never overtly recognized. In fact, this may be the arena where Spiral Dynamics is the most timely and relevant.

SDi generates a whole series of programs and projects that extend beyond both the Gravesian and the original Spiral Dynamics language and categories. At this stage the new Macro*Memetics Project, one that focuses specifically on large-scale systems change, has drawn a considerable amount of interest, and resulted in a recent presentation at the World Bank on the future of Afghanistan. Other such applications have produced meetings with White House officials, leaders in Congress, and sessions at No. 10 Downing Street in London. And, because of the global prestige of Ken Wilber, contacts come in on a daily basis from interested people around the world and from virtually every walk of life – the latest, for example, from as far as the Jammu/Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh in India, and Baltistan, Pakistan.

Further, there is growing interest in the critical importance of Vital Signs Monitors to detect, observe, and quantify the critical indicators that provide the needed information in "managing" large-scale interventions, change, and transformation. We have a close working relationship with John Petersen and the Arlington Institute (Virginia) in the design of these think tools, sophisticated decision-making technologies, and creative scenario development. We intend to literally write the book on VSM methodology in working with GIS-type software. This information will soon be displayed at

Christopher Cooke in Yorkshire has developed the PeopleSCAN capacity to take the various SDi testing systems online, from the Values Test to the Change State Indicators. Others will be available over the next few months, and in several different world languages. These can now be seen (and utilized by certified SD practitioners) at During the last few years I have been working with Dr. Ichak Adizes and his Adizes Graduate School in Santa Barabara, California. (See There is a natural synergy between the managerial precision within the Adizes Life Cycle framework and the Spiral implications for business design and executive leadership. These relationships are spelled out in my book-in-progress entitled Natural Designs: A Spiral Dynamics Integral Approach to Organizational Elegance.

In addition, we have created a not-for-profit entity entitled The Institute for Values and Culture that will provide a 501c 3 vehicle for fundraising from foundations and interested individuals. We expect this effort to grow with leaps and bounds in 2002 as we search for ways to address serious problems within our local communities, as well as reduce the alarming memetic conflicts around the planet. This entity will house a Peace & Conflict Monitor and, in addition, will provide training programs for civic, NGO, education, law enforcement, religious, and health care leaders in PCM technology.

Finally, with the launch of the Global Values Network ( we are beginning a global effort to profile every country/culture/nation on the planet from a memetic perspective. This is an ambitious undertaking, one that would surely have caused Professor Clare Graves' eyes to sparkle – since in his age, before the microchip and end of the Cold War, he could only speculate ,on what great possibilities lurked beyond the horizon.

This website is designed to provide vital services while generating needed revenue. The project is under the leadership of my long-term friend and partner Alan Tonkin, who lives in Cape Town, South Africa. If it had not been for Alan, I would have had to abandon the entire South African initiative in the mid 1980s, since he provided funding for my work through the various South African companies in which he served as a leading executive at the time.

Alan is a man of many talents, a compelling vision, and a driving spirit. When he sets his mind to something, it will get done. This Global Values Network and Monitor will become a powerful force for good on this planet.

Further, Evan Flower who lives in Australia is my current representative in the Asian-Pacific area and carries the Spiral Dynamics banner in that part of the world.

Finally, all of these activities will take place under the SDi brand and umbrella. At this stage SDi will occupy the command and control center of a MeshWorks or confederation of entities and resources – within a Second Tier flow state. Presently, the Spiral Dynamics Group is my closely held business address, and the Institute for Values & Culture is my not-for-profit organization. Shortly after the launch in January we will begin to sketch in the contours and responsibilities within the larger SDi constellation. Other entities within the Integral movement will be invited to join with the constellation to perform various functions around the world. For example, we will soon identify a number of people to spearhead our SDi Leadership Training initiative, along with others who will fill various other important roles in this truly integral movement. All within the more traditional Gravesian, Wilberian, Spiral Dynamics and related communities will be invited to join and participate. We will be aggressive, resilient, innovative, and resourceful as we look ahead to 2002 and beyond.

Don Edward Beck, Ph.D.
December 20, 2001
Denton, Texas

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