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.