How does one move up the Spiral? And evolve in general



When I listened to the “Thinking Integrally” Ken Show recently, and heard KW suggest introducing “small bits of integral into micro issues” as a way to target younger generations (millenials in particular), with the integral message/theory, I thought of your post here as a great example of doing just that. Even before I listened to that program, I had intended to comment on your post, as the work you did with your friend as you reported it here, was impressive. Kudos!

Do you have one integral informed friend in your neighborhood?

@LaWanna Thank you! I’m glad some of that was interesting or useful. I wanted to write a little follow up to this post, and share more of my “Integral street research” with everyone.

The technique of asking people to rate their moral impulses on a numeric scale comes from a counseling technique called “scaling.” However, I discovered scaling from a great book called “A Manuel for Creating Atheists” by Peter Boghossian. Atheists ask theists to rate their confidence in their belief in God from a scale of 0-100, 100 being absolute confidence, and then asking how to move a few points down. He calls his method “street epistemology” - how do people know what they know? I like to think of the Integral approach as a “street ontology” - uncovering the nature or structure of their consciousness as it relates to developmental stages.

I was also inspired by Jonathan Haidt’s moral research, but he asked people moral questions in a right vs. wrong paradigm (if a man buys a chicken, has sex with it, then cooks and eats it, is that morally wrong?), but when I asked people questions as such, they usually responded by saying its odd, but not necessarily morally wrong. So I preferred the numerical scale as it made for more nuance.

I was also inspired by the work of communitarian philosopher Michael Sandel, who’s wonderful books “Justice” and “What Money Can’t Buy” explore different scenarios in which the moral values of a community are hijacked by economic or political concerns. Should we pay kids to get good grades in school? Or allow ticket scalping? Selling your kidney on an organs market? Pay citizens to vote? Should consensual cannibalism be allowed (my favorite!)?
I then took many of Sandel’s moral scenarios and combined it with Rudolf Steiner’s social three folding, which explores the moral relationship between the cultural, political, and economic spheres of society. For Steiner, it is immoral if one sphere oversteps its boundary and hijacks another sphere (cultural/religion hijacks government=theocracy, political hijacking economic and cultural=totalitarian communism, economics hijacking politics=corruption i.e. Nigeria), which is similar to Ken’s “Quadrant absolutism.”

So I compiled a list of hypothetical questions for each of the spheres, and polled everyone I could. This is what I found:

People at Amber/blue tended not to care if the cultural sphere of religion invaded other sectors (school prayer, teaching intelligent design in biology class, union of church and state, abstinence eduction), had mixed responses with economic invasions (paying kids to read or citizens to vote, paying to cut in line, etc…), and hated government intrusions (South Korea banning kids playing video games from 12-6 am, California restricting soda from kids at restaurants) unless it was for a religious reason (abortion, gay marriage,Texas masturbation tax). I called this group the traditional conservatives.

People at Orange, as you probably guessed, didn’t care at all about economic issues invading other spheres (private prisons, postoffice, privatizing schools and other public goods, price gouging during Hurricane Katrina, paying to kill an endangered animal to incentive their private preservation), absolutely hated most forms of government intervention, and tended not to care as much about cultural/religious incursions, unless it was through the government. This group=Libertarians.

People at Green didn’t mind government intrusions as much (banning hate speech, regulations to protect individuals health like the New York soda size limit, and other “nanny state” issues), had plenty of dislike for religious invasions, but didn’t mind other cultural invasions if they were “multicultural” (Sikh’s in London exempt from bike helmet laws, multicultural education in schools, etc… ), and absolutely detested economic and monetary incursions that prompted perverse incentives (for profit prisons, running schools like businesses, privatizing public lands, etc). This group=typical progressives.

After recording their numerical rankings, I then asked these follow up questions:
What’s one issue you are willing to change your mind on, and move from a -7 to a -5? Now from a -7 to a -9? How about from a +3 to a +5? +3 to a +1?
What would it take for you to move a number, up or down? Statistics? A good philosophical argument? A personal experience? A conversation with someone with different life experiences (a trans person, an ex convict from a for profit prison, a Katrina escapee who was price gouged at a store, etc)? I didn’t find any strong correlation between stage of development and what would change their mind, other than that amber was the toughest to change as everything was based on values and principles, so their moral intuitions were less malleable to facts and rational arguments. Green was definitely the most flexible and easiest to talk to, unless they were undercover amber or red. Some at orange were very dogmatic about no government, while others responded strongly to facts and rational arguments. Orange cared less about a priori principles and more about consequences, which I found interesting.

Another fun question was: What are your top 3 concerns for the future of America? For the planet and human race? And for your own personal life?
I also came up with 20 or so issues, each generally correlating with a stage (from abortion to climate change) and asked them to rank them in order of importance. This revealed their COG pretty quickly. I then asked what it would take for them to reshuffle their order of concerns. If climate changed ranked all the way back at 19 and abortion was #1, how could we move it to 18? All this is doing is gently playing with peoples moral intuitions, and discovering subtle ways that they can be shifted. Once the person provided me with some hints, I tried my best to provide them with the resources that would facilitate their own transformation.

One flaw with my research were obvious generational gaps: Amber was almost all old timers, Green were mostly millennials, and Orange were mainly Gen X and older. So it could be more of a generational correlation than a stage correlation.
Also, almost everyone polled lives in the Portland area or Hawaii, so I’m sure things would look different had it been in Alabama or Tokyo Japan.

If you made it this far, then God bless you :wink: What I discovered from this exercise is that there is more nuance to the spiral than I thought, and that an entire spectrum of development lies within each level. I used to think that the goal was to rush everyone to 2nd tier, but now I am more inclined to help people ascend to the highest manifestation of their stage, wherever it may be. Maybe then it would be easier to go to the next one. Again, I would love any comments, feedback or suggestions on how to tweak or improve the test. I’m doing this on my own without backing from a university or formal polling institution, so unfortunately my resources are limited for really delivering precise results. But I’ll do my best :smile:



I would hope that if we’re going to have cannibalism, it is indeed consensual…:slightly_smiling_face:

The question that came to my mind is, how did you determine who was amber, orange, and green?


You mean you’re not a fan of non-consensual cannibalism? :rofl:

Great question.

  1. Many of the people I interviewed I had known for much of my life, so I already had a pretty good idea of their COG from interacting with them. For example, I’m from a Buddhist temple in Hawaii, with plenty of old, traditional, Japanese coffee farmers bursting with amber values, so in that case it was pretty obvious.
  2. For people I did not know, it did my best to infer their COG from what triggered their moral sentiments, and how they ranked them. For example, if people said they are +10 for gender equality, climate action, money out of politics, and LGBTQ rights, then one could make a relatively safe inference they posses much Green. Same goes for ratings on other issues, like school prayers, sex before marriage, abortion, gay marriage, etc…

Of course I can never know for sure, since I don’t spend every waking moment with those people. Also this is a horrible answer, but much of the time, I think we can just “feel it.” A friend of mine who is very knowledgeable about IT said its like sensing if someone is a meditator. Maybe instead of a “gaydar” we have a “stagedar” :laughing:


I really enjpyed reading this thread.

@withiniswithout thank you for sharing those painful moments with us. I think all of us here have or had various degrees of pain or suffering and are all on a search to find release from those experiences and find love. In that spirit I express love for you (with these words on a screen) as a fellow human just trying to live each day somewhat better than yesterday. I don’t have the references and quotes that some other amazing people here have but I’d like to express what I feel in the hope that it contributes to the sense of a compassionate fellowshipping community. These fledgeling organisations certainly need to care for and resource their own first as part of their strategy for growth. Hang on to their people. If there is anything we or I can do to be of further help if you need you can message privately if you click on our profile.

@LaWanna @HawaiianRyan you both display encyclopaedic knowledge of IT. Being new here, Perhaps in 10 years and 40 more books I might even be able to keep up with you. I learn so much reading your posts. Keep up the great work.


Thanks for the compliment, hearteveryonePeter. Very kind of you.


Best way to move up is to meditate and/or do whatever is hardest for you.


The topic of turning points has been bugging me since the start of getting into IT, although Ken has detailed it to some extent, it can be clearer.
The comments helped me a good deal. Thanks, guys.
I had not considered it as an expansion of epistemology/information quality (which makes a lot of sense), rather than initially an expansion of compassion (the breadth of beings one can manage to/or imagine to feel in touch with). Both make sense to me, each in its own line. This could indicate that stage change points explored per line.

I enjoy a structured approach by directly giving people the cognitive tools to get a hold at a higher stage (then taking them out of a routine) and see if I can talk people through it right away. If they resist, then where, how and why. It’s not a gentle approach, but can work fast epistemically if one addresses and one-ups deepest held beliefs (while maintaining an authority/credibility).
One way can be to showcasing how an integral approach gets better conversation results (more people on board and confirming being understood as in NVC), and weakening the fighting impulses between stages, e.g., stressing the total knowledge gain. To be listened to, one might have to use the credibility markers per stage (e.g., speaking position of power for amber-red) as a shared language.
After having a foot in the door that the approach may work for me (but not for them), part two is overcoming resistance and attempts to discard the higher complexity (and becoming ‘magnetic’) - still exploring ways to do that (e.g., trainer position).

Looking at motivation to grow up at all, we may aim for strengthening in people their intrinsic motivation to go to a higher stage. (@HawaiianRyan, I love the psychometric approach, thanks for pulling this off by yourself. This might be one of the bigger challenges for using the scale to teach change though, just moving them up a few hypothetical numerical notches is extrinsically motivated and not very consequential (but this is also good, since no commitment is non-threatening). You asked them to. Ideally they might become more relaxed, but it does not guarantee they will see the benefit in that and they may go back to their prior level after you part ways. What will make them want to change stages? - Forcing or inviting a different position on political issues, especially with a loaded history, in front of a stranger, in public, might make things more difficult than necessary, as the specific issues are not needed to progress.

  • If you have to, Haidt has a great point of how to start the conversation by admitting a weakness of one’s own side.)

This said, I’d be interested in what the transition points between stages could be (as @jasoncstone already talked about to a good degree), what would make them appealing to reach for people (only pain with current level or also some appeal?), and what do higher-stages and transition points look like from a lower stage.

  • “Mental illness” is a great hint, thanks Ryan. :smiley:
    I have the intuition that, much as Rapid Transformational Therapy by therapist Marissa Peer works (fast), so might leveling up in stages.
    Four challenges I see with rapid growing up, even for interested people, are that the subsequent stage often looks like an antithesis to one’s current one (resistance), and that the mental structures first need to be build to sustain thinking at a higher stage (uncertainty), reluctance to give up a seemingly functional part of one’s identity (self-preservation), and miss out on experience - imagine the fear of skipping the reproductive period of life (FOMO). So, a rapid growth approach might need to address these.
    Meditation can help, particularly for integration, shadow work, reinvention, but again, I see no guarantee that people are able to develop the necessary cognitive faculties and mental models or have had the experience that will allow them to empathize (which seems necessary for the Integral stage). In addition, meditation alone lacks the social validation aspect that comes with seeing someone else at a higher level. This said, integrated with course-work I think it can work well. In contrast


I’ve been doing some additional thinking about this subject and I’ve posted a couple things you might find helpful.

  1. Perhaps one reason people move up to higher stages is to avoid involuntary suffering in environments that include larger numbers and more diverse instances of individuals and communities.

Involuntary Suffering

  1. Perhaps in order to move up a stage one has to re-budget one’s energy in a way that maintains the necessary parts of prior stages and the novel parts of the new stage one is moving into.

Energy Level Freudianism

I encourage you to continue to think about developmental theories of compassion, since this also seems like an important line of stage development!



this is a good topic to frame, How?

Over the last 5 years I’ve delved individually into each of the Models of Development Ken has layed down in The Spectrum. As a quick reference guide, I’ve found Robert Keegan from Harvard’s a core frame. In particular, his thesis from “Immunity to Change”. His model of “Comlexity” (which is the result of actual Development by Envelopment) is a good basic way to ‘Place’ yourself on the Spectrum. Are you a ‘Socialised Mind’, ‘Self-Authoring Mind’ or ‘Self-Transforming Mind’ (& one he hasn’t included from Tier 2, ‘Self- Evolving Mind’). These cover the various examples from the comments, & conform basically to “Agency”(personal Effect). ie, Co-Dependent, Independent & Interdependent. Or, How much can you ‘Think’ for Yourself?

Part of thinking for yourself is the ability to evaluate the Relative merits of a personal belief or point of view. It helps to have a way to Process that, but there aren’t any, so i’ve designed one (NLP & Clean Language Developer & Teacher here). Heterarchical development is required to Transcend a Stage or Level. ie, BOTH Polarities of an issue need to be attended to in real time so that they can be compared & contrasted, & a common point of Synthesis discovered (which acts as the Interface point between the 2 neurophysiological States thar tbe conflict generates internally as Subjective Experience). It is the Conflicts between these two polarities at any stage of development or BETWEEN stages that prevents Inclusion & levelling up. When ‘This’ & ‘That’ are not Integrated, people propulsive noticed tend to flip between one and the other in various contexts, incongruence & contradiction result which prevents the integration & levelling up. So, HOW do you do a developmental or Psychotherapuetic process to integrate Polarities at any particular level?

The IL 1,2,3 shadow work is a remnant from the 70’s & Gestalt. Currently, there are much more effective Process oriented Protocols in a field called “Clean Language” developed by a guy called David Grove, from which I’ve designed a Protocol to do this. It’s not in any other system or Psychotherapuetic method, if it was, i would have used it. But a method hadn’t existed before & i realised that Polarities have to be integrated heterarchically at each Stage otherwise you just stay stuck there so someone who knows How needed to designed one.

I’ve used this Protocol to solve the puzzle between the “Absolute” & “Relative” (which Ken states in a video on the topic that he nor no one he knows has been able to do (yet)). Once you solve that puzzle, all your other Conflicts which are the result of Unintegrated RELATIVE Truths tend to clear & clean THEMSELVES up. And that is a hallmark of David Grove’s approach, Self-organisation (Autopoetics). It shouldn’t take Will Power or discomfort to evolve & change, it is a matter of using “Awareness” & Modelling Out the structure of the Bind so that the logic of the organisation can be Known, & the relationships between the structures Known (Hint: all of what Ken calls 'Objects of Consciousness are METAPHOR, & Clean Language has Protocols to work WITH this natural thinking process & resolve issues) Turning Subjective into Objective (Internal to External), exploring the nature of the Thing (Location in Space, Attributes (size, shape, substance etc), what it knows, outs relationship to other elements in tbe structure & turning that Learning from Object back into Subject, or the Embodiment or ‘Download’ phase.

I have experienced and observed, that without a clear representation of the Absolute, people get bogged down in confusion evaluating Relative Truths regardless if what stage or level. I saw this in attending AA (Alcoholoics Anonymous) meetings for research. It is Step 2 & 3 which deal with clarifying & then relating to your personal version of a “Higher Power” or, The Absolute. It is thus that provides a Standard by which Relative stuff can be evaluated. But as we know, your State is interpreted through your Stage. So having direct experience of The Absolute is the key component if you want to Evolve Up.
Fortunately for me, & unlike most here & whom I’ve met, i had the full spectrum of States of Concsiousness in an experience i had in 1969 aged 4. From Gross to Non-Dual & a Level or Order outside/above this, direct experience of The Void (Pure Consciousness, without Sensory Experience[which is real, but not in Ken’s Model), so i have a good idea about the Difference between the Relative & the Absolute, which has made it easy for me to evaluate Ken’s info.

Anyhow, cheers✌


I updated the list to include orange and a little more detail on green.

Best Regards,