Individual vs. Collective Stages of Consciousness


I’ve been doing some thinking lately about the Spiral and how different stages of consciousness present themselves, particularly how stages express individually vs. collectively, and how they express internally vs. externally.

For example, if a group of individuals who predominantly are at Orange interact with the world, what is the stage of consciousness expressed by the group? One might be inclined to say Orange, because they’re all at Orange, but I think that’s an error, and here’s why: while one may have evolved a particular stage of consciousness individually, from a collective point of view, the collective consciousness expressed is fully dependent on the quality of interactions inside the collective organism.

Take, for example, organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. We can probably safely say that many members of this group will be at Orange, expressing their entrepreneurial genius. However, when we see the CoC interacting with the world, we actually see it expressing in ways much more aligned with Amber/Blue on the Spiral. They fight only for the good of their organization’s members, and frequently their interactions with other groups (like Greenpeace and other environmental groups that would seek to regulate their activities) expresses as “us vs. them,” which we all know is very much Amber/Blue. This isn’t just the case with the CoC–we see this with how many collective organizations interact with the world.

That gets me thinking… as a collective, will the predominant individual stage of consciousness in that group regress a level when the group has to act as an individual organism? Group interactions are inherently more difficult given there are so many moving parts that need to align for the group to speak with one voice. That means that it will be very tempting for a group to regress to a stage of consciousness that is familiar and easy… certainly not the cutting edge. So a Green group, when speaking as a collective, will fall back to Orange science (Green groups, when the speaking about climate change, universal health care, etc, tend to focus on the logic and reason, which is very Orange). A Blue group, such as many alt-right groups, will fall back to Red when acting as a group.

Looking at internal interactions within a group, however, I think we will see those mostly at the predominate level of the individual members. There is less cognitive dissonance and more trust, and so therefore it becomes far easier to communicate at the same level as your peers, and therefore less likely to regress a stage. The exception might be a group without a truly predominant stage, or that is unhealthy; the Republicans and Democrats come to mind, as they are a mix of Amber & Orange and Green & Orange, respectively, and we frequently see internal conflicts within those groups that lead to an external paralysis of communications and actions, and certainly a “least common denominator” output from these conflicts. For example, the Green Democrats try to use their Green egalitarianism to make their Orange members happy… remember the Public Option and how it died during the Obamacare debate?

Am I off base here? Has anyone else noticed this? It seems like it is important given how many disparate groups are vying for attention and power these days. If this is the case, this knowledge could be very helpful for easing the communications between seemingly conflicting groups, like the Democrats and the Republicans, since we will know how to translate to the group’s level rather than the individuals in that group.


I don’t have too much to say, as it would probably take quite some research to comment intelligently, but just from what little experience and research I do have:

  1. I like your question. It does appear to capture some truth, in that often organizations clearly seem to act from different levels than the majority of their individual members.

  2. It seems that often the level the collective is acting from, is indeed regressed a level from the center of gravity of most individuals. Although: I have certainly experienced groups whose individuals mostly expressed Green and the collective was strongly gravitating to Amber (so 2 levels lower), so it could also be that Amber just has a very strong “gravity” as far as larger collectives are concerned.

  3. I am wondering if it isn’t also possible–if counterintuitive–for a collective to express a higher level than the center of gravity of its individuals. I can’t say for certain, but I do feel that I may have experienced this (if for short times and only in specific circumstances). I am also thinking here around the group intelligence that is described in “Crowdocracy - The end of Politics” and other related research: For example, groups that included non-experts in a certain field found more intelligent solutions for questions in that field, than groups made up only of experts (under certain conditions). While being an expert does not really say anything about altitude (which we are talking about here), it did seem to me that some examples were pointing to the possibility of higher group intelligence emerging, which could also include higher altitude.


I have been thinking about this post and never really understood what you were talking about (at least I think) until a few days ago. This is really a brilliant observation, and I would be surprised if there isn’t some existing literature on this topic out there already (seems like a very Spiral Dynamics sort of thing).

Carl Jung said that a group consciousness is always lower than an individual consciousness - its more difficult for groups to act from “individuated” consciousness than individuals, because the shadow is almost always mobilized to give the group an identity, which instantly creates an “us vs them” mentality. So this Amber instinct certainly helps to create group solidarity, with its penchant towards group think, tribalism, etc…

I’ve noticed this particularly with Green. In my experience, talking to people at Green individually tends to go well, as their opinions and thoughts are more nuanced and thoughtful. But once in a group of other Greens, it can quickly degenerate into a mob like mentality (MGM). It’s almost as if certain levels are more incompatible with group consciousness than others, as their inherent traits tend to manifest more crudely in a group context. When talking to Green’s individually, I can ask specific questions - why is equality important, what is systemic oppression, etc… but I usually just end up getting yelled at and am told I need to “educate myself” when I ask it to a group. Of course this is probably true for every stage but living in Portland has mostly exposed me to Green groups.

As for @Mbohu question #3, that is really an excellent point. I think that is the power and beauty of the Integral framework, and why its imperative to install Teal systems and structures, whether it be in politics (Crowdocracy) or organizations (Reinventing Organizations). Every successful sports team, whether its the Golden State Warriors, New England Patriots, or Alabama Crimson Tide, understand the crucial role that culture plays in uplifting individual players consciousness away from Diva type selfishness into cooperation, while promoting a strong work ethic and winning mentality. How this is done specifically I’m not really sure, but a healthy culture is certainly key for a sustainable and flourishing system.


This question resonates with me as I’ve been looking at that very question as regards the dynamics of my mediation sessions. Let’s say there are four of us: two co-mediators and two participants. There is no dominant monad, thus no “I” as such. So, I guess, there is no “I” looking out. We can then look at the other three quadrants. There are the bodies and the room, chairs, table etc. There is the structure of the communication that takes place and the content of the communication that takes place. What is the consequence to those “I”'s inside the group of those interactions. Then, of importance to those of us outside the group, what is the consequence to the outside world of those interactions.
I suppose my answer to the question is that a collective stage of consciousness is either not possible - no dominant monad to have a stage of consciousness - or it depends on why you’re asking the question, as that will determine the perspective you will use to carry the questions you are asking.