Spiral Dynamics: Bridging the Right and Left in American Politics

Ken Wilber’s Spiral Dynamics is a model of human development and stages of human consciousness that encompasses every viewpoint without judgment. Although it’s customary to examine societies and voting patterns using nationality, ethnicity, race, sex, socio-economic status, or religion, Spiral Dynamics presents a way to analyze political affiliations outside these narrow demographic fields.

In Spiral Dynamics’ model of human consciousness, all aspects of human development are interwoven into a nested hierarchy. Spiral Dynamics explains the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, and it allows us to judge the positive and negative aspects of both.

The system has its roots in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which influenced Clare Graves to develop the Spiral Dynamics model. This theory was later developed by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan. Then Ken Wilber used it as part of his Integral philosophy, detailed in his book A Theory of Everything.

Spiral Dynamics says that individuals, as well as human societies, evolve over time through a series of hierarchical stages. It does away with the modern egalitarian notion that every society is “equal” and that all individuals are at the same level. 

Each stage of human development is called a vMEME, or value meme, since these refer to the value systems held by the person or society. Each vMEME is associated with a color for easy reference, and there are two tiers of consciousness. Only a small percentage of humans have entered second-tier consciousness.

In brief, Spiral Dynamics teaches that humans (both individually and collectively) evolve through the following levels of development (start at the bottom):

Spiral Dynamics vMEMEs

All of the first-tier vMEMEs are deficient in some way. It’s only after you jump to second-tier consciousness that you incorporate aspects of ALL of the previous first-tier levels. Interestingly, Wilber says it’s better to be at a lower level of development that’s expressing itself in a healthy way, than to be at a higher vMEME in an unhealthy way. He coined the phrase “Mean Greens” to describe progressive/SJW-types who are at the Green level but express it in a perverted way.

Spiral Dynamics: Trump vs. Bernie/Jill Stein

In the 2016 presidential election, at least in terms of public perception, Donald Trump represents the Blue meme (order and tradition), along with a bit of Orange (economics and technology). In the media, he’s portrayed as Red (egotistical), but in actuality his platform has a lot of Green (caring for others) and even second-tier Yellow (meritocracy and competence over group preference).

Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein represent the Green meme (compassion, helping the earth, multiculturalism), with a little bit of Orange (climate change science). Both, however, are very perverted manifestations of the Green meme. Rather than true racial unity, they focus on creating racial division and placing blame. Rather than policies that would actually help the environment (less immigration into high-consumption Western societies) they push for more immigration and climate change policies that won’t even counter the effects of their immigration policies. They’re against hierarchy, meaning they haven’t yet made the jump to second-tier consciousness. To use Wilber’s phrase, they’re Mean Greens.

Hillary Clinton is an archetypal Red. According to her former Secret Service agent, she throws tantrums and is abusive. She uses her political power for personal gain while causing pain to others, as evidenced by her involvement in Haiti after its earthquake. She doesn’t view herself as part of the tribe of Americans, but above them and also above the law. And she doesn’t seem to feel any regret or remorse for the pain she’s caused to others. Yet, in her public persona she tries to present policies that are both Orange (economics) and Green (helping the poor). It’s a facade that anyone who investigates beyond the mainstream media can easily see through.

How First-Tier Consciousness Mistakenly Views Second-Tier as Beneath Them

People still in a first-tier consciousness meme have a hard time understanding the viewpoints of other first-tier memes. This is why in a place like America, where there are a variety of levels represented–Red sociopaths, Blue Christians, Orange college professors, and Green environmentalists–there is so much discord. Everyone thinks their viewpoint is the “right way.”

One would think the Greens would be eager for second-tier consciousness to emerge–they claim to like holistic systems, following the natural order, and to be open-minded. But when someone at a first-tier level encounters someone who’s made the jump to second-tier Yellow, with it’s positive views of hierarchy and meritocracy, they fail to see it as a positive development. Instead, they accuse second-tier consciousness “of being authoritarian, rigidly hierarchical, patriarchal, marginalizing, oppressive, racist, and sexist.”

We need second-tier consciousness to emerge, otherwise, according to Wilber, “humanity is destined to remain victims of a global ‘autoimmune disease,’ where various memes turn on each other in an attempt to establish supremacy.”