Know thyself

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Beyond our shadows

Reportedly, Socrates proclaimed: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Our fullness is only defined by both light and shadow. Our shadows/projections—or lack of self-awareness (blindness)—hide our humanness from us. At some point our spiritual journey [to our full humanness] can go no further until we find some way to grow in self-awareness. The Jo-Hari window formalizes the ‘in-communion’ archetype. 

Stairway to Heaven?

spiral-stairs to Heaven

Light in the shadows


Mark 8.22-25 meme white



The story above provides grounding in Christian Scripture for the developmental dimension of human reality—e.g., we are made to grow in human authenticity with Jesus as our benchmark. Jesus fully exemplifies holistic (holy/non-dual) vision and the Marcan story relates how we gain our holistic sight in stages, in relation to Jesus’ full-embodiment. Holistic vision is attained when one’s sight allows one to truly see people as people—created in the image of G-d, and not merely as objects (“walking trees”).  Martin Buber described it as transformation from an I-It relationship with others to an I-Thou relationship. Our present societal zeitgeist is anathema to humanness development.


Surgical precision



Pick most any significant issue these days and I’ll show you a food fight. Compared to that, having Graves’ work and Spiral Dynamics [SD] as a tool to analyze all sides of an issue is like having a boundary-breaking laser pointer. For instance, in this blog space I’ve used the SD tool to criticize both sides of the LGBT+ debate in the United Methodist Church on the hope that anthropology can provide a means to free-up a Gamma-trapped (see Being stuck) theology/ecclesiology debate (see Do no harm).


“The map is not the territory” ~ Korzybski 


Alfred_Korzybski quote


As all rational models, SD is an expression of Orange [ER] values (here). Even though Orange is grounded in the created sphererationality, science, data,’s crucial we are self-aware with respect to ER when using any model. Orange models/maps regarding humans are largely heuristic. Further, as we learn from Green [FS] values system thinking, rationality is subjective and often vectors data. The chief difficulty in seeing holistically with an Orange developmental model is rationality tends to conflate the material and spiritual spheres. Even more problematic, ER projects the myth of progress as a shadow into the models/maps of reality it creates (e.g., perennial Tower of Babel project). 


My Destination


Log in own eye

The effect of the Integral school’s mapping of Graves’ thinking onto the Integral “AQAL” model has greatly confused the relationship between SD‘s development (in terms of evolutionary/human progressand spiritual development (seen here in terms of growing in humanness). Some have called Ken Wilber’s [KW] contribution to SDi “helpfully wrong.” True, but helpful only in the sense of revealing the mistake of confusing/conflating the spheres. In fairness, some of KW‘s thought integrates nicely with SD, e.g., principle of transcend and include, and the quadrant (pronouns/interiors/exteriors/singular/plural) model (not AQAL). 




Imagine the ocean pictured represents human life: human souls spiritually working out our humanness in/through the Beige [AN] thru Green [FS] values systems. Now, imagine the step ladder rising above the ocean is the SDi model (think periscope), and the man pictured is you on top looking down knowing the crucial importance of all the values systems in the ocean of humanness.

Integral philosophy essentially stacks spirituality on top of the material sphere. The difficulty can be visualized. So, imagine higher development in integral spirituality as an extension ladder teetering atop the step ladder. Sadly, KW‘s insistence on a unified-theory model is a recipe for disembodiment. The “Integral” model, with its Tiers Two and Three, inadvertently (via projection) actualizes the (Gnostic) mistake. 


ladder illustration

A KW disciple (unconsciously) sings the problem…


“The higher that we climb, the more the ladder sways.”

Now, that’s dangerously, existentially true for evolutionand SD, an evolutionary theory. However, it is totally untrue for spirituality.

Wedding cakes have tiers; ranks of presidential candidates have tiers; sporting cathedral seating is tiered. However, stages of human development are not tiered. Well, at least not in the way I’ve heard tiers conceived/used by many in the SDi and Integral communities. Yes, mindful use of the step ladder for perspective is prudent. However, the extension ladder going up from there is an ego-bound distraction that leads away from our aim: union. 


tiered cake


I’d suggest the SD spiral is much better visualized as:



Wisdom loop…


mobius meme final edit


My SD friend from Russia, Anatoly Balyaev, said it: “go downstairs by the ladder leading upstairs.” Precisely!

So, I and Thou. Follow Jesus. Be a Bodhisattva. 

Easter ~ Please read this very beautiful story by AnatolyVso svazano (“Connection”)



Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?

Note: This blog has outlined Spiral Dynamics. I  used a serial-approach, introduction (June 30), first in series (July 1).




6 thoughts on “Know thyself

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