1st Anniversary


A year? No way!

It’s hard for me to imagine that it’s already been a year of writing a weekly piece for this blog page. It’s been quite a journey. We’ve looked at theology, anthropology, and how the life conditions we experience effect the many ways in which people see reality. 

Special Thanks! to Gaia Orion, Michael LuenigJane Booth! Also, thanks to all the artists of the Creative Commons [CC0] for sharing their extraordinary artwork!




I’m over the return2decency URL

I have changed. My thinking has changed. So, I’ve changed the title and the address of the blog page. I’m still with WordPress as I have had a rather satisfying experience with them to date. I feel that my sentiment (#ReturnToDecency) after President Trump’s election was heart-felt and authentic, but transitory and grounded in grief. It’s really the term “Return” that has become disqualifying for me.

While we desperately need to rekindle in society our sense of grace and decency toward one another, there is no place in our history we can go back to so that we might ‘return’ to a mythical state of grace. No manner of romanticism, or nostalgic desire we may have, will enable or allow a return to the past. Sadly, our society may indeed regress, but we will not cope with twenty first century reality by making a retreat to twentieth century coping skills.




A new “second tier” of development?

For the past year I’ve been writing weekly about the first six values systems as described, initially by Clare Graves, and, subsequently, by Don Beck and Chris Cowan in Spiral Dynamics [SD]. Two weeks ago I wrote:

The author of the ‘post-truth’ piece, Aaron Z. Lewis, argues that online survivalYellow [GT]will require going meta: (here)

Wait. Hold on a minute. It’s been Beige, Purple, Red, Blue, Orange and Green, and AN, BO, CP, DQ, ER, and FS, respectively. Nope, there’s nothing about “Yellow [GT]” there!

OK, I confess, I have intentionally held back in the blog on the whole “tier two” conversation happening in most SD circles because I have generally found it confused, and, most often, misleading. I’ve written previously (here) regarding my concern over the problems and confusion created by a mashup of SD and Ken Wilber’s “Integral” project [= SDi]. 

The chief concern I have is the misdirection that seems to be catalyzed by an Orange [ER] values’ shadow, e.g., the myth of progress. In a clip from a scene in The Matrix, Morpheus and Neo meet for conversation in “the construct.” It’s a brilliant illustration of what it looks like when the “powers and principalities” completely dissociate from actual life on the ground. Well, let’s watch:



Neo’s perceptions were totally dissociated from actual earthly reality. My concern with the gnostic visual of SDi, a never ending double-helix ladder, is that it visually dissociates ‘second tier’ from the first six systems in human values development. Is there a danger that the distraction of an Orange [ER]-shadow—translated as the never-ending ascent—leaves the earth on fire while second-tier leapers ascend further up the construct? I’ve been convinced of a need for a visual correction. Instead of a never-ending leap to ascent, rather a never-ending möbius-like movement toward full humanness. 



The möbius leap visual keeps the leading edge in proximate connection with ground zero and the first six systems. I created a visualization to see the ascent to Yellow [GT] as a partnering with Beige [AN]. Yellow re-imagines Beige in light of advanced Life Conditions.


mobius meme


Announcing:  mysticalmobius.net

The new domain name (address) for my blog page is mysticalmobius.net, and the title of my blog is now a mystical möbius. I’m very pleased to be making the change, and I do find the new name far more descriptive of what I’m trying to write about over all.

The chief concern that I had in making the change was that all the links to the past year of blog posts shared by readers through social media and so forth; I feared the links would be broken with the new URL. Turns out, I kept the old URL as well, I just made it secondary to work in the background. Thankfully, all the old links still operate seamlessly. Thanks for your shares!!!


Image by esudroff || CC0

Next week

Last time we began unpacking a quadrant model designed as a mnemonic device for keeping a holistic approach top of mind when discerning meaning and veracity of media information. We’ll pick-up where we left off with the conversation regarding the homeless population in Seattle and the documentary that tries to define the problems at work there.

Your thoughts?

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

Note: The blog has outlined Spiral Dynamics, a complex developmental anthropologyIntroduction (June 30, 2018), first in series (July 1, 2018).

social media share tools meme

SD Worldview Color Key





Rule of thumb for media

Seeing well


Divining-54x161 Jane Booth
“Divining,” by Jane Booth, a painting on canvas (54″ x 161″) || Jane Booth Studio


Two weeks ago we concluded a three-part mini-series on narcissism (sin, or overreaching Red [CP]). We recalled the widespread presence of nihilism and narcissism in Western society has been the fallout from extreme-postmodernism [Xpomo]. Last week we began an examination of the ‘meta’ designation that’s been emerging in the philosophical and cultural discourse of the 20-teens. Metamodern approaches are attempting to re-animate the significance of many communal pillars deconstructed and left in ruin by Xpomoe.g., “sincerity, hope, romanticism, affect, and the potential for grand narratives and universal truths, whilst not forfeiting all that we’ve learnt from postmodernism,” wrote Luke Turner (here). I might add simple, eyes-open human decency as a characteristic of post-postmodernism. Post-postmoderns are finding ways to connect into new kinds of metamodern community, often echoing Jesus’ small-group praxis model. 


Numerous times now we’ve seen that Green [FS] naivety often overextends its sense of justice into areas in which it doesn’t have viable solutions for the complex problems involvede.g., Seattle’s homelessness problem from last week. It is a performative error due, in part, to naïve Green wanting inclusivity without giving up any of the privileges that have accrued in the ascent to FS—e.g., the blind spots around the “open borders” problem. Naïve Green undervalues much needed Blue [DQ] and Orange [ER] systems and thus sabotages justice by overlooking the sorely needed work of healing Blue and Orange .


Seattle is Dying


The “Seattle is Dying” documentary from KOMO attempts to report problems it perceives as issues of naïve Green [FS] leadership. As we discussed last week (here), conservative media  [like Sinclair Broadcast Group] tend to blindness regarding cultural and systemic societal factors. Predictably, a conservative frame sees problems as essentially caused by individuals. While the KOMO piece did finally allow for some systemic consideration, it vectored those responsibilities into solutions exclusively focused on addressing, you guessed it, individual dimensions of addiction/homelessness. It’s not that the KOMO “Seattle is Dying” piece is untrue, ‘Fake News.’ Rather, it is true, but partial.

While partial truths can be important, it’s crucial for us to have a heuristic with which to discern if a news report is holistic, or partial in some way. If not holistic, then how is it partial? We know that bias is at work whether conscious or not. The steps in our discernment heuristic are designed to expose bias and reveal meaning.  Steps from last week: 

  1. Identify the source. Proprietary interests exercise their agenda through their media products. Vigilance in identifying proprietary interests and controlling influencers is Step 1 of a media heuristic. Consult media-bias and fact-check accountability sites.
  2. Identify the key values systems being expressed. Identifying the values systems at work in any story/context is required to understand the dynamics, such as intra, and inter-values systems conflicts and competitions. The KOMO, “Seattle is Dying” story is being portrayed as a struggle between naive Green [FS] with frustrated Blue [DQ] and Orange [ER]. (here)


SD Worldview Color Key

Step 3: a mnemonic device

Philosopher Ken Wilber was the first one I know to configure some rather peculiar properties of language into a very helpful visualized frame (quadrant model). With this single model one is able to keep a holistic perspective top of mind. We’ll begin with a graphic and then we’ll begin to unpack the upper left quadrant just a bit. 


Quadrant model


Quadrant frame

I invite you to reflect for a moment upon the orange quadrant model above (I chose orange because models are the fruit of Orange [ER] values). It may, at first, seem rather simplistic.

Note: the white lettering indicates its most concise expression—left quadrants represent the interior (subjective); right quadrants reflect the exterior (objective). The upper quadrants represent the singular, one person; and the lower quadrants reflect the plural, many people.

It really is rather simple, and yet also provides a quite practical mnemonic. Wilber very helpfully noticed how pronouns can help break down human perspective into a manageable yet holistic shorthand. 

  • Upper Left [UL] marks the “I” pronoun zone. This UL quadrant denotes the interior, or subjective space of an individual. Images, feelings, thoughts and intention are the currency of the UL and the only access that others have is the report of the subject themself. Reporting is accomplished through some kind of an inter-subjective exchange of symbols, in linguistic and/or nondiscursive forms. The UL falls generally under the purview and focus of psychology, disciplines that look at subjective interiors, e.g., Freud, Jung, et al. Recall last week I wrote that both the conservatives of our times and the pharisees of Jesus’ times reduce reality’s problems to individuals [upper quadrants only].


Quadrant model 3


Looking ahead

So, June 30 will be the one year anniversary edition here on my blog.

Therefore, the first Sunday in July we’ll pick-up with the quadrant model right here where we’ve left off.

Your thoughts?

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

Note: The blog has outlined Spiral Dynamics, a complex developmental anthropologyIntroduction (June 30), first in series (July 1).


SD Worldview Color Key

Quadrant model 4

Post truth???



Assessing media

I read a thoughtful opinion piece a couple weeks back entitled: “You can handle the post-truth: a pocket guide to the surreal internet.” In the wake of extreme-postmodernism [Xpomo]a world that includes surveillance capitalism, strategic disinformation campaigns, the Russian Internet Research Agency, false-flag operations, and deep-fake videoshow are we to discern what’s real and true? It will require faithful dedication to pursuing a shared truth, and a tenacious spirit of vigilance.

Stand-alone objective formalism and the days of believing that messages are independent of the messenger (or independent of the “platform”) are over. That meaning requires context, and that producers and platforms have agendas, are now a known given. The author of the ‘post-truth’ piece, Aaron Z. Lewis, argues that online survivalYellow [GT]will require going meta:

To go meta is to study the way history has been (and is) written. It’s trying to understand the story of the stories we’ve told about ourselves. There’s no one narrative that rules them all, no one way to connect the dots from the past to the present. The “meta” stance inspires humble curiosity and peace-of-mind amidst the many versions of reality we face in 2019.

‘To go meta?’

I feel we used to call this critical thinking through a pluralist frame? I enjoy neologisms and ‘meta’ does add nuance and specificity (introductory article). A definition of ‘metamodern’ (or post-postmodern) I find quite hopeful:

“Whereas postmodernism [Xpomo] was characterised by deconstruction, irony, pastiche, relativism, nihilism, and the rejection of grand narratives (to caricature it somewhat), the discourse surrounding metamodernism engages with the resurgence of sincerity, hope, romanticism, affect, and the potential for grand narratives and universal truths, whilst not forfeiting all that we’ve learnt from postmodernism. (here)”

Meaning is nested

Having a way to check contextthe story (or stories) the story under consideration is embedded withinwill be crucial in discerning meaning and determining veracity. You’ll need some time to watch this video. Then we’ll tip-toe into some ‘meta’ analysis of this disturbing documentary from Seattle ABC news outlet, KOMO. The heart-breaking problems raised here are not unique to Seattle—e.g., San Francisco; Los Angeles; San Diego; Denver; as well as East Coast cities.

Seattle is Dying?



Harsh title.

Difficult issues.

Fair portrayal?

A story comes to mind (here).

We’ll need a heuristic to assess media. 

Let’s try ‘metamodern’ analysis…

At first, it seems a bit like a right-wing hit piece. But isn’t this a reputable ABC news outlet in Seattle? Thankfully, the story does balance out a bit as the narrative continues. The overarching need is realizing that issues of this gravity cannot be dismissed simply because of reporting bias (whether liberal or conservative).


Step one
Image by Mabel Amber, still incognito… || CC0

STEP 1: Identify the source. Just as we are mindful of who is publishing the books we read, analyzing journalistic content begins with knowing who produced the work. Knowing Sinclair Broadcasting Group owns the media outlet producing the piece offers important insight. A quick check at media bias fact check .com reveals Sinclair is biased significantly to the “Right,”—so, presumptions tend to attribute ultimate responsibility to the individual, and thus are (at best) half correct. I note, this reflects the error of the pharisees in Jesus’ time, e.g., to pharisees, (and conservatives today) at the heart of all problems are sin and sinners, it comes down to individuals, to personal issues.


SD Worldview Color Key


STEP 2: Identify the key values systems being expressed. Presented from a conservative perspective, the video describes the same dynamics going on in Seattle that I’ve been writing about in this blog. The same dynamics are at work in the United Methodist Church [UMC] divide. That is, the oft occurring struggle between two values systems: Blue [DQ] (order) and Green [FS] (justice/inclusion).


Image by Rusty Gouveia || CC0


There are 12,000 homeless people in King County, Washington. In Seattle, the video asserts, Green [inclusion] has tossed Blue [order] overboard with no real solution to manage/transform the problematic aspects of inclusion (in other words, the city council is expressing naïve Green).

This is a microcosm of the “border problem” that nearly all nations of privilege are reckoning with as increasingly mobile poor populations are being globally driven by economic and climate disruption.

Challenge at the crossroads?

Could a truly connectional church somehow effect this? How could the UMC work collaboratively to end this problem in Seattle [and elsewhere]?

Looking ahead

Next week, we’ll explore other values and shadows at work in Seattle/the video, and look at Step 3: a mnemonic device to aid us in doing the crucial work of assessing information for meaning and veracity.

Your thoughts?

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

Note: The blog has outlined Spiral Dynamics, a complex developmental anthropologyIntroduction (June 30), first in series (July 1).

social media share tools meme

SD Worldview Color Key

Seattle is Dying



Stairway to Heaven?

Narcissism [conclusion]


spiral-stairs to Heaven

Spiritual narcissism

Christ’s love is a gracious check on any dualistic projection of sacred and profane. Jesus faithfully overturns categories that overreaching-power uses to privilege, or persecute. 

In April, I wrote (Know Thyself) regarding concerns of spiritual narcissism confusing the nature of the developmental spiral that Spiral Dynamics [SD] describes. Not only the SDi project (SD ‘integral’), but much of Evangelical Christianity [EC] has been corrupted by spiritual narcissism—in the conservative EC community, spirituality is essentially a ‘sacred parachute for me!’ Ironic, to be sure, as Christ’s Incarnation is a sublime correction to the mistaken Platonic bifurcation of matter and spirit. 


Universally, people pull what they consider to be reality over their own eyes. This brings to mind a film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Recall the scene when the 700 year old knight guarding the chalice room containing the Holy Grail tells the Nazi archaeologist to, “Choose wisely.” It also makes me think of Orwell’s 1984, and the dangers of authoritarian overreach by a strongman, or a corrupt collective, in gaslighting the public to create reality for the individuals of a given society. We’ve previously taken into account the presence of confirmation bias and its place in bending reality as we perceive it.


Image by MBatty || CC0

Pattern recognition 

Development is the key that allows the ambiguity of human perspectives to fit together into a coherent picture. Life, death, and resurrection is the developmental pattern that’s woven into the fabric of reality. Hegel described this triune relationship as: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. In a recent meditation, Friar Richard Rohr wrote:

“Walter Brueggemann, one of my favorite Scripture scholars, brilliantly connects the development of the Hebrew Scriptures with the development of human consciousness.” (here)


Torah - Tallit



Rohr points to how Brueggemann describes three movements in scripture, and of development:

  • Torah – a (guided) natural narcissism stage we talked about in part 1 (here), e.g., the healthy building of an individual in community (healthy Red [CP] ego-driven worldview formed/shaped, in this case, by Jewish Blue [DQ] community), through Torahthe Law as defined in the Pentateuch or first five books of the Bible. 
  • Prophets – necessary suffering, stumbling stones, and other features of our life experience that lead us to the journey of the second half of life (not a chronological time thing, more like not being ready to encounter Kabbalah till around age 40). Now that our exclusive identification with our ego container is dislodged sufficientlyoften through some kind of serious loss of control—, we gain the capacity to see into our own shadow: our wounds, darkness, hidden drivers, and limitations. Friar Rohr writes, “It begins to break down either/or, dualistic thinking as you realize all things are both good and bad.”
  • Wisdom – through accepting our true belovedness to G-d, and through the gift of self-awareness (we see G-d’s Love for us as an individual, warts and all), we gain an openness to, and appreciation of, mystery, paradox, and being able to hold opposing perspectives in tension. This step allows us to experience the seamless nature of reality, the non-duality of spirit and matter. Hebrew Bible texts expressing wisdom include: Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job, Proverbs, and Psalms.

Friar Rohr’s book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life is an excellent resource for how our human development unfolds, practically and spiritually, in two grand movements.


Falling Upward


Jesus and John Wesley

Many see Jesus as model reconciler/redeemer of the agency and communion relationshipjustice for the one and the manyand regard him as the embodiment of wisdom. John Wesley also dealt with the problem of duality in our spirituality, and offered the antidote to narcissism—both material and spiritual—in very practical terms. Wesley instructed/encouraged those he led to work the dynamics of their spirituality out in a praxis community. Friar Rohr’s “Center for Action and Contemplation” [CAC] is a model of a spiritual praxis community focused in the area of spiritual teaching. 



A very practical balance

Missing the mark spiritually results whenever we focus only on sin (individual narcissism) to the neglect of original sin (social, structural residue of earlier sin). John Wesley struck a fine balance on a both/and, holistic level. Wesley taught and encouraged a practice that included both personal and social holiness (wholeness, not-two). In other words, Wesley taught (personal) spiritual disciplines (e.g., prayer; fasting; reading/reflecting upon Scripture and G-d’s Word [Jesus]; and worship) to prepare the ground for the interior work of healing and forming healthy Red [CP], as well as the (social) spiritual disciplines (e.g., service to others; participation in a praxis group; and growing in compassion and generosity) to effect the exterior work of healing our society and G-d’s world. 


balance 1
Image by Quang Nguyen vinh || CC0

Your thoughts?

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

Note: The blog has outlined Spiral Dynamics, a complex developmental anthropologyIntroduction (June 30), first in series (July 1).

social media share tools meme

SD Worldview Color Key

balance 1


“The hard way.”

Narcissism [part 2]


perfect storm


On July 1, 2018, my first blog post in this anthropology series, I took the old-school control technology of shame directly to task when I called it a ‘perennial failure of the leading edge.’ I’m not clear if the intuition flows from her Christianity, or elsewhere, however, in dare to lead, Brené Brown identifies what I feel is a profound insight when she writes, “I define narcissism as a shame-based fear of being ordinary.” Brown’s definition resonates (by extension) with my experience, and I’ll come back to that. First, five weeks ago I wrote:

“If the top two characteristics society is imprinting on its population right now are narcissism and nihilism, then many ‘wounded healers’ will be required for the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.”

Last week I confessed ‘it takes one to know one,’ and indicated that on the narcissism issue I’m writing as a ‘wounded healer.’ So, now let’s turn to the ubiquitous nature of narcissism and nihilism in our society right now. 


Sin Red meme 3
dysfunctional narcissism


Going new school

Problematic zeitgeist…

I argued early in this blog series (all hierarchies are bad) (flatland) (no truth) that narcissism and nihilism are the unintended consequences of the drip, drip, drip of extreme-postmodernism [Xpomo] beginning in the last quarter of the twentieth century. In the three posts regarding Xpomo linked above, I used memes like;


postmodernism meme
the “performative error” in Xpomo

The ‘performative error’ the meme illustrates marks the foundational problem with many of the Xpomo projects that have been taken-up in the name of justice. I wrote about how this works a couple of weeks ago in a piece examining a cartoon by Michael Leunig, “Warning.”

And here is another Xpomo poison pill for society:


overreaching deconstruction

Xpomo‘s indiscriminate deconstruction of all hierarchy conflated dominator hierarchies (Red overreach, e.g., ‘sin’ or ‘original sin’) with natural growth and complexity hierarchies. This leads to a relativism (virtual nihilism) of “no one’s view is any better than anyone else’s view.” I’ve noted previously, the relativism fallacy is also grounded in the conflation of ‘intrinsic’ and ‘instrumental’ values. As we see, it has formed an environment in which false moral equivalencies rise to dominance, e.g., “fine people on both sides” [of a dispute between those who espouse bigotry, hatred, and discriminatory injustice and those who stand in protest to hatred and work to promote peace through justice].

Nothing did more damage than this misconstrual of postmodernism, and the Xpomo overreach it spawned:


No truth meme



Past and present conjoined 

Snyder nails the sad irony found at the crossroads of Xpomo claims and the unintended consequences they’ve created. Nearly every social justice cause in the struggle against unjust power chose to embrace Xpomo deconstruction tools as the means to achieving their ends. It turned out that Xpomo tools cut both ways. They worked both to put unjust, dominant hierarchies in check, but also to create a cultural zeitgeist of narcissism and nihilism. The overreach of Xpomo has effectively crippled our sense of shared meaning and with it many of our institutions of social cohesion (social capital).


Creative Commons || CC0

Data indicators of ‘top two characteristics’ claim?


Steve Jobs certainly recognized early the effects of Xpomo seeping into the zeitgeist. His fateful response was to leverage/capitalize on it: iPod (and ear buds); iPhone; iTunes; iPad; iMac; iCloud. Apple is one of the largest technology companies in the world, also one of the most valuable. In August 2018, Apple became the first public U.S. company to be valued at over $1 trillion.


Image by Pexels from Pixabay || CC0

Robert Putnam recognized the phenomenon in his 2001 book, Bowling AlonePutnam noticed  that while people were bowling as much as ever, they were often doing it alone and not as part of a league, or a community (of competitors).

Hyper-individualism is an innocent enough sounding designation, but isn’t it really a not-so-subtle manifestation/indication of narcissism? In 2014 Tim Henderson writes in the Washington Post:


living alone increasing


This is not happening because those who dwell alone do so as an indication of lack or being economically sorted-out. Making the choice to live alone in the Manhattan or Washington markets, for instance, is definitely one of serious financial privilege. So, does affluence, then, indicate, aggravate, and/or exacerbate narcissism?

Hyper-consumerism doesn’t seem so terrible sounding, but, again, isn’t it really a not-so-subtle manifestation/indication of narcissism? Huge homes aren’t large enough to hold all of our things now, so the self-storage industry is growing at a very quick and steady pace.

Going old school


old school
Creative Commons || CC0

Raised that way

In 1999 I happened to take an abnormal psychology course as an elective I needed to finish my undergrad degree so that I could attend seminary. The professor lectured on ‘perfectionism’ on one occasion and confessed that she was a bit of a perfectionist herself. After the class period I asked her, “Were you raised as a Methodist?”

“Why, yes. however did you know?” was her reply.

I could have responded, “The hard way.”

“Perfectionist,’ is often a polite term for ‘control freak.’


Lowman Methodist
original Lowman Methodist Church building

Nearly every week in the original Lowman Hill Methodist Church, God said we are to strive, struggle, and go on to perfection. Quite significant, and, to a child (me), the added feature that failure meant eternal damnation seemed closely tangential to this perfection dictum. And we wonder why and how many emotions and natural behaviors often get repressed to a harmful result?

An additional contributing factor was the home training that often went along with this. As a youngster I hadn’t differentiated the spiritual and material subtleties regarding ‘grace’/’perfection.’ Apparently, it was all too much for my developing Red [CP]. This is where Brown’s insight really implicates the methodology many unconsciously used to unintentionally create narcissiststhose who, like me, have ‘a shame-based fear of being ordinary.’ Often, I’ve found, not a helpful unconscious ‘driver.’

With regard to home training, my dad, along with many others in those days, wanted to train his kids for excellence. So, how was that done? If I did something 90% right, all I’d ever hear about was the 10% that I didn’t get right. Implication: if it’s not perfect, well, it’s just not good enough.

‘Perfect’ storm


perfect storm

The (1950s) Methodist church meant well. I was just too young to apply nuance to the idea of Wesleyan sanctification. And, dad meant well, but apparently he hadn’t applied the appropriate nuance either, perhaps because he’d been raised by the very same formula (only even more harshly) through the 19-teen’s/twenties in the Saffordville Methodist Church.

Most all this, and the arrogance of thinking I could define ‘perfect’ in any given circumstance, remained in my shadow for much of my life. I feel my control need is rooted in internalized shame, that whatever is not right is my fault. Yep, you’re welcome. You’re off the hook, it’s all my fault. It’s a kind of narcissism/internalized-need-for-control that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Somehow, I intuitively channeled my overreaching Red into an addiction, e.g., I feel a need to influence others (probably because if anything fails, then, it’s my fault). I’ve somehow channeled this addiction through what is often an appropriate face of healthy CP, e.g., expressionas an artist, and preacher.

Recovery is ongoing for my overreaching Red [CP]and the coping-addiction (messiah complex?) that, in my case, attends it. I’ve been experimenting-with/doing various kinds of social-media fasts.

Next week, more on ‘spiritual narcissism.’

Your thoughts?

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

Note: The blog has outlined Spiral DynamicsIntroduction (June 30), first in series (July 1).

social media share tools meme

SD Worldview Color Key



Narcissism: material/spiritual

Body/mind (material realm)


monkey selfie
Image by Lothar Dieterich from Pixabay || CC0

Natural narcissism

Narcissism is both a natural step in everyone’s human development, and a way of indicating a particular kind of dysfunction some [many?] express. This natural narcissism is the ordinary process of ego development. The Red [CP] values system comes online in direct correspondence with ego development. Natural narcissism is the process of developing the individual self. Mature, healthy CP forms a personal container, the boundary that binds an individual together into a healthy, ego-driven worldview. This ego, this personal container, is a necessary but insufficient aspect of human development. We’ve talked before (Know thyselfabout Martin Buber’s I-It relationshipit’s native to mature, healthy Red. Arrested or Closed CP embodies, “No one tells me what to do!”

Values associated with Red, the third values system include:

…power; ego-centered; decisiveness; control; passion; independence; testing self against others for dominance; winning; exploitive; I-centered; expression; tyranny; instinct; champion; self-referential; self-preserving; emotional; and impulsive values


Dysfunctional narcissism

Pathological narcissism describes a continuing over-emphasis on the self, an overreach of Red [CP] in post-Red contexts—e.g., Blue [DQ]; Orange [ER]; etc. I feel this pathological narcissism is always a matter of degree, variously expressed, and dynamic in relation to Life Conditions [LCs]. Every self truly begins as a narcissist, and even those who grow a sturdy, healthy ego must vigilantly maintain an appropriately balanced relationship with self in the midst of new opportunities, challenges, and changing LCsrecall the confirmation bias.


Sin || Red [CP] overreach || pathological narcissism 

You may choose your preferred designation, or framesinRed [CP] overreach | pathological narcissism, but, I feel we’re talking about the same thing. We make note that designating the expression of a particular value system as ‘naïve’ is not an indictment of pathology because naïve expression simply betrays an immature, underdeveloped relationship with the mature version of any particular values system. So, it’s important that we remember that ‘naïve expression’ is not intrinsically sinful.


Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay 

‘Made to grow’

We are made to grow into the fullness of Christ [Ephesians 4.15], however, being underdeveloped is not a sin. Trauma, and other factors, may make development difficult or problematic. Perhaps it would be helpful here to offer Strong’s definition of what ‘sin’ means in the biblical context. The ancient Greek term ἁμαρτία, hamartia: a sin, failure (in an ethical sense), means a loss, or failure, e.g., to have no-share for missing the mark or not hitting the target. Biblically, and in Wesleyan terms, sin is a dysfunctional emphasis on, and relationship with, one’s own self. Missing the mark in favoring the self with regard to balancing the relationship of self and community—justice for both the many and the one


Sin Red meme 3


Soul (spiritual realm)


Wisely, in On Loving God, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) begins his four degrees of love where we all begin, the love of self for one’s own sake. Again, trauma can effect this as we all know of people who do not appear to love themselves. At the very least, Bernard’s developmental schema declares that love of self is the beginning and basis of growth in Love. The first degree is a gift from G-dotherwise how could we experientially know how generous, faithful, gracious, encouraging, and hopeful ‘Love’ is? Bernard’s first degree of Love identifies a mystical reference point that scripture had previously leveraged, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Leviticus 19:18; Matt 22:37—39]


Eucharist 1

Remedial work (healing)

As control is a lynch pin of the Red [CP] values system, it’s also a tell on the dysfunctional narcissism of overreaching Red. The spiritual dimension of healing the overreach of CP has been likened to Falling Upward. The ‘control’ dimension of one’s overreaching Red can make healing feel about like this:



Providence often reveals the necessity of our losing controland it feeling like jumping/flying off a cliff and getting our stuffing knocked out on the way down. In my life, having life-threatening cancer served a good example of this.

Discovering the gifts in our shadow

Some Christian expressions of Blue [DQ] values project sin, or overreaching Red [CP], as a ‘demon’a control spirit. In an enumeration of the gifts handed out by the “one Spirit,” Saint Paul writes, “…to another the discernment of spirits, …” (1 Corinthians 12:10). In my experience, that’s like saying, “It takes one to know one.” A few months back I wrote about widespread ‘demon possession’ in The United Methodist Church [UMC]. [Being a Wounded Healer…] I argued that persons, leaders, and groups on all sides of UMC divisions were expressing the demon possession of a ‘control spirit.’

Empathy only comes the hard way sometimes. Next week, more overreaching Red.

Your thoughts?

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

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

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Luenig warning cartoon
“Warning,” by Michael Leunig || used with permission, grateful to Leunig Studio

Social discontents…

Descriptors I’ve heard: ‘age of outrage;’ ‘tribal age;’ ‘age of political correctness;’ ‘dominance of elitists;’ ‘everyone living in silos/bubbles;’ ‘chaos;’ ‘tyranny;’ ‘smoldering populist nationalism;’ ‘a polarized society;’ ‘a hateful nation;’ ‘binary vs plural;’ ‘tribal rage;’ ‘age of anxiety,’ to name a few. There’s a grain of truth in each if examined. “Warning” seems an apt header for most any announcement in our broken times (article).


Creative Commons || CC0

The cause?

The truth that encompasses this for me is straightforward, and it’s certainly not new. These days most people/groups have little difficulty spotting the flaws in the other [Matthew 7.3-5]. The difficulty is our hyper-individualism and, with it, a widespread lack of self-awareness [Luke 6.41-2]. If I’m steeped in confirmation bias and caught-up in a partisan frenzy, then chances are I feel I’m able to correctly discern all the flaws in any opposing views. However, it’s equally likely that I have no clue about the flaws in my own/groups view. We’ve talked before about how cynical politicians and corporate media interests have exploited, exacerbated, and plundered our polarized society for power and profit. All this conspires against reconciliation, especially with confirmation bias at work. 


bells will be ringing

Double ring…

I’m seeing a pattern, resources that reflect the ability to serve as a gray screen of sorts. Last week I focused the blog (The ‘confirmation bias’) on a double-ring video created by an association of university educators (HxA). By, ‘double-ring,’ I mean resources that reflect/reveal shadow material (blind spots) from both sides of a polarized issue. My post treated ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘confirmation bias,’ and the way HxA is addressing them—e.g., through community, and viewpoint diversity.

The video sparked defensive reactions from both ends of the political spectrum. Obviously, ‘conservatives’ are about protecting orthodoxy and threatened by any notion that is unorthodox. The subtle advantages of heterodoxy, and the more nuanced understandings that attend it, are invisible to most conservatives. Conversely, ‘liberals’ have no problem declaring religious orthodoxy by conservatives an overreach—e.g., denial of LGBT+ rights. However, ‘liberals’ often have great difficulty seeing the frequent overreach of their orthodoxy, both in ideological terms and in forms of extreme political correctness, e.g., shouting/shamming others down.


head to head


Inter vs Intra

The HxA video exposed an inter-values systems debate between the Blue [DQ] values coalition and the Green [FS] values alliance regarding ‘___doxy’ (e.g., orthodox; unorthodox; and heterodox are contested). The video raises uncomfortable aspects of both systems.

This week’s focus is a cartoon illustration by Australian Michael Leunig whose distinctive work is widely recognized. His “Warning” cartoon was just recently published (May 11, 2019) and it exposes an uncomfortable intra-values system tension within the Green [FS] values system. It reveals potential maturation and processing capacity differences of a person/group expressing Green valuese.g., a naïve, or mature relationship with FS. First, we’ll briefly examine Leunig’s cartoon and the rip in Green it depicts. Then, we’ll look at a practical example of a healthy inter-values system’s reconciliation of intra-values system tensions in leading edge FS.

inter vs intra


Every person is a story that belongs within the human communion, and needs to be so recognized. I feel this is the deep code of Green [FS] and the existential ground of the Green value of inclusivity. Without inclusivity it just wouldn’t be FS, it’s non-negotiable. This creates some performative problems that reside in naïve Green’s shadow. In terms of inclusivity, ‘open borders’ reflect a fully realized expression of Green values. However, to think that any open borders policy is practically attainable within present Life Conditions [LC] betrays a naïve, absolutist, simplistic relationship with inclusivity/ FS. Leunig’s cartoon pokes directly at the border and orthodoxy issues. It also tangentially confronts the performative errors that naïve Green is caught in on the border, free-speech, and, by extension, other debates that reflect LC readiness factors.




Mature, healthy Green [FS]: Inclusivity with nuance

Leunig’s cartoon represents a gamma trap that can prevent naïve Green [er/FS] from becoming healthy Green [FS]. Healthy Green has a correction for this. For example, inclusive local churches have overcome the obvious impossibility of naïvely including a registered child sex offender in the life of a congregation. Orange [ER] strategies create additional Blue [DQ] protocols (e.g., constant accompaniment by another adult who serves an accountability and compliance function) that make it possible for a congregation to fully include a pedophile in their love and care. Healthy Blue [DQ] arrangements provide that any protocol violation initiates a process leading to exclusion from full inclusionnote: healthy congregations find ways to safely maintain connection and ministry even if prison becomes a person’s ruling LC.


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).

social media share tools meme

SD Worldview Color Key

Luenig warning cartoon