Stages of Development

Stages of Development

Ken Wilber, one of the most important living philosophers has tackled this problem by developing an “Integral Theory” that incorporates anthropology, systems theory, developmental psychology, biology and spirituality into a single comprehensive map of the territory of consciousness. Recognizing the challenges that surround the use of the word “Consciousness”, Wilber instead uses the term “Stages of Development”to grossly categorize how both individual people and entire cultures evolve. Wilber examined many philosophical models including Spiral Dynamics which postulates that we spiral our way upward on a ramp of increasing development. Wilber also incorporated Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which describes stages of development as a pyramid where each stage is built upon the stages beneath it. Wilber combined these models into a single model of stages of development which has several important characteristics:
  • Each stage has a name and associated color. The names and colors vary a bit from the corresponding names and colors used in the Spiral Dynamics model, but the meaning of each stage is quite similar.
  • Each stage is built upon the stages beneath it. As a consequence, each stage literally depends on the stages beneath it. You cannot reach any given stage without first navigating the stages that support this stage.
  • The stages form a progression of development, from primitive to highly evolved. There is a second tier that is even more advanced, but only a tiny fraction of humanity has reached this level of development.
  • There are more stones in the lower stages of the pyramid than there are in the higher stages. In fact, the highest stages have the fewest stones. If we think of these stones as people, there are more people at the lower stages than there are at the higher stages.
  • People and cultures evolve through these stages in the order in which they appear in both individuals and entire cultures. Some cultures are quite primitive, while others are more advanced.
  • The higher stages like Orange and Green have only appeared in the last few centuries.

Stages of Development Chart

The table below provides a brief description of each stage, the name of the stage and the percent of the population that is at that stage.
Colors Spiral / Integral Stage Focus Healthy / Unhealthy Aspects Origin % Pop
Turquoise Integral Kosmocentric Construct-aware  0.1%
Teal Early Integral Worldcentric Autonomous, integrating and healing community 1950 1%

↓ First Tier ↓

↑ Second Tier ↑

Green Post Modern Worldcentric Individualistic, Egalitarian, diversity, caring / Resistence to hierarchy 1875 AD 10%
Orange Modern Egocentric Independent rational thinking / Materialism, environmental destruction 1759 AD 30%
Blue / Amber Traditional Ethnocentric Conformist / fascism, religious extremism 3,000 BC 40%
Red Power Egocentric Heroism / narcissism, rage, dictators 4,000 BC 20%
Magenta Magic Egocentric Ceremonies / Superstition, gangs, ethnic warfare 50,000 BC 10%
Beige / Infrared Archaic Egocentric Instinct, Staying Alive 250,000 BC 0.1%
The most primitive levels of development are on the bottom of the chart and the highest are on the top. There are two tiers. 99% of the population of the planet lives at some stage in the first tier. The second tier is where we are (or IMHO should be) aiming for. Here is a brief description of each of these stages of development taken from a wonderful paper by Barrett C. Brown:
  • Archaic:
    • Bottom Line: Staying Alive
    • Basic Theme: Do what you must just to stay alive
    • What’s Important: food, water, warmth, sex, and safety; the use of habits and instincts for survival
    • Where Seen: the first peoples; newborn infants; senile elderly; late-stage Alzheimer’s victims; mentally ill street people; starving masses;
    • Qualities: The self is undifferentiated, meaning that it cannot take a perspective on itself and the other is seen as fused with—or not distinct from—the self. Adults at this stage are usually pre- or nonverbal and often institutionalized or completely dependent on the protection and care of others.
    • How influences others: No research available
  • Magic:
    • Bottom Line: Safety and security
    • Basic Theme: Keep the spirits happy and the ‘tribe’s’ next warm and safe
    • What’s Important: Allegiance to chief, elders, ancestors, and the clan; obeying the desires of spirit beings and mystical signs; preserving sacred objects, places, events, and memories; rites of passage, seasonal cycles, and tribal customs; kinship and lineage
    • Where Seen: Belief in voodoo-like curses and good-luck charms; family rituals; ancient grudges; magical ethnic beliefs and superstitions; strong in some less developed countries, gangs, athletic teams, and corporate ‘tribes’
    • Qualities: Often found in very young children, who are governed by their impulses; adults at this stage have an inadequate conception of the complexities of life and may easily feel confused and overwhelmed; have an expedient morality (actions are only bad if one is caught).
    • How influences others: Temper tantrums, taking (stealing) what they want, withdrawal
  • Power:
    • Bottom Line: Power and action
    • Basic Theme: Be what you are and do what you want, regardless
    • What’s Important: Power, spontaneity, heroism, immediate gratification; standing tall, calling the shots, receiving respect, and getting attention; being daring, impulsive, and enjoying oneself without regret; conquering, outsmarting, dominating
    • Where Seen: The ‘terrible twos’; rebellious youth; frontier mentalities; feudal kingdoms; epic heroes; wild rock stars; gang leaders; soldiers of fortune
    • Qualities: First step toward self-control of impulses; sense of vulnerability and guardedness; fight/flight response is very strong; very attack-oriented and win/lose in nature; short-term horizon; focus on concrete things and personal advantage; sees rules as loss of freedom; feedback heard as an attack
    • How influences others: Takes matter into own hands, coerces, wins fight
  • Traditional:
    • Bottom Line: Stability and purposeful life
    • Basic Theme: Life has meaning, direction, and purpose with predetermined outcomes
    • What’s Important: Sacrificing self for a transcendent Cause, (secular or religious) Truth, Mission, future reward; laws, regulations, and rules; discipline, character, duty, honor, justice, and moral fiber; righteous living; controlling impulsivity through guilt; following absolutistic principles of right and wrong, black and white; being faithful, maintaining order and harmony; one right way to think/do; convention, conformity
    • Where Seen: Puritan America, Confucian China, Dickensian England, Singapore discipline; totalitarianism; codes of chivalry and honor; charitable good deeds; religious fundamentalism (e.g., Christian and Islamic); “moral majority”; patriotism
    • Qualities: Emergence of capacity to see and respond to what others want; self-identity defined by relationship to group, whose values impart strong sense of “shoulds” and “oughts”; values that differ from one’s own are denigrated or avoided; conform to norms of whatever group they want to belong to (including gangs and peer-groups); avoid inner and outer conflict; think in simple terms and speak in generalities and platitudes; attend to social welfare of own group; “us vs. them” mentality; feedback heard as personal disapproval
    • How influences others: Enforces existing social norms, encourages, cajoles, requires conformity with protocol to get others to follow
  • Modern:
    • Bottom Line: Success and autonomy
    • Basic Theme: Act in your own self interest by playing the game to win
    • What’s Important: : Progress, prosperity, optimism, and self-reliance; strategy, risk-taking, and competitiveness; goals, leverage, professional development, and mastery; rationality, objectivism, demonstrated results, technology, and the power of science; use of the earth’s resources to spread the abundant “good life”; advance by learning nature’s secrets and seeking the best solutions
    • Where Seen: The Enlightenment; Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged; Wall Street; emerging middle classes around the world; colonialism, political gamesmanship; sales and marketing field; fashion and cosmetics industries; Chambers of Commerce; the Cold War; materialism; The Riviera, Rodeo Drive
    • Qualities: Primary elements of adult “conscience” are present, including long-term goals, ability for self-criticism, and a deeper sense of responsibility. Interested in causes, reasons, consequences, and the effective use of time; future-oriented and proactive; initiator rather than pawn of system; blind to subjectivity behind objectivity; feel guilt when not meeting own standards or goals; behavioral feedback accepted
    • How influences others: Provides logical argument, data, experience; makes task/goal-oriented contractual agreement
  • Post Modern:
    • Bottom Line: Community harmony and equality
    • Basic Theme: Seek peace within the inner self and explore, with others, the caring dimensions of community
    • What’s Important: Sensitivity to others and the environment; feelings and caring (in response to the cold rationality of Orange); harmony and equality; reconciliation, consensus, dialogue, participation, relationships, and networking; human development, bonding and spirituality; diversity and multiculturalism; relativism and pluralism; freeing the human spirit from greed, dogma, and divisiveness; distributing the earth’s resources and opportunities equally among all
    • Where Seen: Frequently visible in the helping professions (e.g., health care, education, and feelings-oriented business activities); John Lennon’s Imagine; Netherlands’ idealism; sensitivity training; cooperative inquiry; postmodernism; politically correct; human rights and diversity issues
    • Qualities: Makes decisions based upon their own view of reality; aware that interpreting reality “always depends on the position of the observer”; more tolerant of oneself and others due to awareness of life’s complexity and individual differences; questions old identities; more interested in personal accomplishments independent of socially sanctioned rewards; increased understanding of complexity, systemic connections, and unintended effects of actions; begins to question own assumptions and those of others; talks of interpretations rather than truth; systematic problem solving; begins to seek out and value feedbac
    • How influences others: Adapts (ignores) rules when needed, or invents new ones; discusses issues and airs differences
  • Early Integral:
    • Bottom Line: Qualities and responsibilities of being
    • Basic Theme: Live fully and responsibly as what you are and learn to become
    • What’s Important: The magnificence of existence (over material possessions); flexibility, spontaneity, and functionality; knowledge and competency (over rank, power, status); the integration of differences into interdependent, natural flows; complementing egalitarianism with natural degrees of ranking and excellence; recognition of overlapping dynamic systems and natural hierarchies in any context
    • Where Seen: Peter Senge’s organizations; W. Edward Deming’s objectives; Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time; chaos and complexity theories; eco-industrial parks (using each other’s outflows as raw materials)
    • Qualities: Comprehends multiple interconnected systems of relationships and processes; able to deal with conflicting needs and duties in constantly shifting contexts; recognizes the need for autonomy while parts of a system are interdependent; recognizes higher principles, social construction of reality, complexity and interrelationships; problem finding not just creative problem solving; aware of paradox and contradiction in system and self; sensitive to unique market niches, historical moment, larger social movements; creates “positive-sum” games; aware of own power (and perhaps tempted by it); seeks feedback from others and environment as vital for growth and making sense of world.
    • How influences others: Leads in reframing, reinterpreting situation so that decisions support overall principle, strategy, integrity, and foresight
  • Integral:
    • Bottom Line: Global order and renewal
    • Basic Theme: Experience the wholeness of existence through mind and spirit
    • What’s Important: Holistic, intuitive thinking and cooperative actions; waves of integrative energies; uniting feeling with knowledge; seeing the self as both distinct and a blended part of a larger, compassionate whole; recognition that everything connects to everything else in ecological alignments; universal order, but in a living, conscious fashion not based on external rules (amber) or group bonds (green); the possibility and actuality of a “grand unification”; the detection of harmonics, mystical forces, and the pervasive flow-states that permeate any organization
    • Where Seen: David Bohm’s theories; Rupert Sheldrake’s work on morphic fields; Gandhi’s ideas of pluralistic harmony; Mandela’s pluralistic integration; integral-holistic systems thinking
    • Qualities: Highly aware of complexity of meaning making, systemic interactions, and dynamic processes; seeks personal and spiritual transformation and supports others in their life quests; creates events that become mythical and reframe meaning of situations; may understand “ego” as a “central processing unit” that actively creates a sense of identity; increasingly sensitive to the continuous “re-storying” of who one is; may recognize ego as most serious threat to future growth; continually attend to interaction among thought, action, feeling, and perception as well as influences from and effects on individuals, institutions, history and culture; treat time and events as symbolic, analogical, metaphorical (not merely linear, digital, literal); may feel rarely understood in their complexity by others
    • How influences others: Reframes, turns inside-out, upside-down, clowning, holding up mirror to society; often works behind the scenes

Additional Resources:

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