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Spiral Dynamics Theory-Development of Mankind

Updated on July 16, 2014
This is the outline of the stages based on colors. More details will come later
This is the outline of the stages based on colors. More details will come later | Source


Spiral Dynamics is a complex theory which breaks down the history of mankind into developmental stages quite like the many individual developmental stage theories. This theory however looks through all of mankind to make a detailed analysis of where humans are leading to.How does the theory do this? The theory uses a variety of colors to mark each stage of mankind development from the times when just the survival needs were being met to the current which is a more cognitive based type of living.

What Does the Theory Suggest?

Spiral Dynamics (Levels of Psychological Existence Theory), lays out a pattern of human diversity and a trajectory for change (NVC Consulting 2006). Spiral Dynamics looks at the past to set a development model and lays out a pattern for the present. The reason why it is considered a spiral is that it is coiling or developing around an axis in a constantly changing series of planes (America Heritage Dictionary Stedman's Medical Dictionary 2002). Dynamics is used in a sense of it having a force that produces change in a system or field (Collins English Dictionary 2009). Put them together and it is the force that makes a change in the size of the spiral. In other words, dynamics has enough force to make the spiral enlarge as it continues to spin. In regard to this theory, the force of nature throughout history is what made the human race keep evolving cognitively. Simply as life became more intricate, man’s mental (intelligence, emotional, thinking processes) abilities had to increase in complexity.

Who are the Founders?

The Spiral Dynamics Theory has two founders Don E. Beck and Christopher C. Cowan. Beck and Cowen used two existing theories and combined them into one. They used Clare W. Graves’ Value Systems Theory of ‘Levels of Human Experience’ and Biologist Richard Dawkins’ Concept of ‘memes’ (Rosado 2003). What is a meme (Figure one)? According to a meme is: a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes ( 2010). The Spiral Dynamic Theory is the study of Memetics which is: study of ideas and their transmission (Rosado 2003).



Developmental Stages

There are currently eight stages although the theory is left open-ended for future evolution for mankind. The stages are set in colors and starts from Beige, Purple, Red, Blue, Orange, Green, Yellow, and Turquoise (NVC Consulting 2006). Beige is the most primitive state while Turquoise is the most advanced state. There are two conditions that are needed to be looked at in both stages, one is life conditions and the other one is brain/mind coping abilities as seen on the chart to the right.

Bringing It Back Down to Individual Level

The theory which was founded on human evolving (cognitive) in history can also be used to describe what people seek out in life. The ultimate goal is to pass on genes (Beige), strong family bonds and protection from harm (Purple), power and control (red), stability and order (blue), autonomy and opportunities/ success (orange), sense of belonging (green), self-worth and independence (yellow), and consciousness (turquoise).


Fixed or Fluid?

This pattern of developmental stages are not fixed but rather allow there to be room for changes. After all, people move in and out of stages countless times throughout individual lives so it makes sense that mankind have done the same (NVC Consulting 2006).This is seen from the picture on the right which has overlapping of colors or the spread of colors to other areas.


This theory describes the thought patterns throughout history and in an individual’s lifetime in regard to nature, society, and inner-self. At last, there is a great quote from Spiral Dynamics psychologist Clare W. Graves, “Briefly, what I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiraling process, marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man’s existential problems change (RSS 2010).


Dynamics. (2009). Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved October 13, 2010, from website:

Memes. (2010). Unabridged. Retrieved October 13, 2010, from website:

NVC Consulting (2006). Spiral Dynamics: Overview. Spiral Dynamics.

Rosado, Caleb (2003). Spiral Dynamics. Rosado Consulting For Change in Human Systems.

RSS (2010). About Spiral Dynamics Integral. Spiral Dynamics Integral: the Theory That Describes Everything.

Spiral. (2002). The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary. Retrieved October 13, 2010, from website:

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