There are different stages of development in children. Everything acknowledges that and most will be at least overall be familiar with Piaget’s ideas. However, it is by now also a generally accepted fact that adults equally act from different developmental stages or MEMEs.

The outline of this model draws especially on the the book of the same name by Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan, the protegés of Clare Graves. The findings have been carefully studied and are backed by tons of research. Although there exist today arguments about how far these models impact people and are absolute, they certainly are basically valid.

I have separated the review and the model intentionally, but it may serve as a complimentary read, especially as the book strongly focuses on the application of this model. (Link)

Spiral Dynamics tries to outline the eight major levels. Rather than developmental stages or levels Graves speaks of MEMEs which are operating in wave-like fashion stretching towards more advanced MEMEs or regressing to lower one’s. There is no inherent stability there and no person only has one MEME but rather can have different MEMEs for different activities.

However, overall there might be eight distinct zones or perspective points, as shown in the featured image. The spiral is color coded for easy reference.

These are the 8 MEMEs with their approximate and short description:

  1. BEIGE; survivalistic/instinctive: do what you must to stay alive
    1. uses instincts and habits to survive
    2. a distinct “self” is not visible
    3. prime objectives are food, water, warmth and sex
    4. forms into survivalist bands
  2. PURPLE; magical/animistic: keep the spirits happy and serve the tribe
    1. obey the spirits and shamans
    2. show allegiance to the clan and the ancestors
    3. preserve sacred objects, places and events
    4. observe tribal rites and customs
  3. RED; impulsive/dominant: do what you want and be what you are, regardless
    1. the world is a jungle of predators and threats
    2. breaks free from dominion in order to please desires
    3. conquers and dominates others through aggression
    4. expects attention, demands respect, calls the shots
  4. BLUE; purposeful/authoritarian: life has a meaning that one has to hold on to
    1. sacrifices oneself to the truth or higher cause
    2. there are rules one has to oblige to
    3. righteous living produces stability and order
    4. laws and regulations build character and morals
  5. ORANGE; achievist: act in self-interest and “play to win” 
    1. always strive to achieve and advance
    2. progress through scientific understanding
    3. live the good life through making use of earth’s resources
    4. societies prosper through strategy, technology and competition
  6. GREEN; communitarian: live in the community and seek peace and harmony
    1. free oneself from greed, dogma and divisiveness
    2. feelings and sensitivity supersede cold rationality
    3. equality among all people, all views are right
    4. reach decisions through a consensus process such as democrazy
  7. YELLOW; integrative/systemic: live fully and responsibly and learn to become
    1. magnificence of existence is valued higher than material posessions
    2. natural hierarchies have are recognized and kept healthy
    3. knowledge and competency (should) overrule status or power
    4. differences can be integrated into a bigger picture
  8. TURQUOISE; holistic: wholeness of existence in balance
    1. world is one single organism/entity that has to stay healthy
    2. self is both a whole in itself and a part of something larger
    3. holistic, intuitive thinking and cooperative action are to be expected
    4. energy and information are everywhere in the universe

The authors of this book make a distinct break between the green and yellow, grouping everything from 1-6 in First Tier and 7 & 8 in Second Tier. The separation is justified by a true leap of understanding. While 1-6 can only see its own MEME and operate from there without being conscious or caring about other MEMEs, is Yellow able to see different MEMEs and acknowledge them but also rank them on a hierarchy. Second Tier thinking is marked by an acceptance of different stages and seeing its uses and validity in certain respects but at the same time knowing that there are special places for them.

Another distinct feature about the spiral is that it always represents a flow from the individual to the collective in focus. Thus Beige, Red, Orange and Yellow are primarily focused about themselves, while Purple, Blue, Green and Turquoise care more about the group.

These are stages people go through. They cannot be skipped, while some may last longer than others, and they are universally true regardless of culture. And while they are in their complexity rather simplistic and generalizing there is a universal truth to these stages.

This is the basic framework for people’s believes and worldviews. To be aware of these stages and understand them, being able to work with them makes a lot of things more clear about the subjective realities of people and their motivations. Thus in course also about their actions and behavior. I really believe that this model brings about important understanding of human’s interiors lives.