Spiral dynamics - the evolution of human cultures


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I have recently come across the concept of spiral dynamics, a model of eight levels of increasingly complex human value systems (or vMemes) consisting of sets of world views, preferences, and purposes. Each level represent a new evolution in the way people interact within a society.

The archaic level (beige) can be said to be the one we have in common with animals.

From around 40,000 years ago, human tribes of hunter-gatherers moved into the second level (purple), that of magic, rituals and animism.

Ancient civilisations developed the third rung of the spiral (red), the cult of heroes, based on conquest, elite dominance and egocentric exploitation of others through slavery. This was the case of Bronze Age and Iron Age societies, including civilisations such as the Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Celts...

As a reaction to the unfairness of this system, new moralistic religions emerged like Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This led to the development of the blue meme, the belief in rules imposed from a higher power for the good of society, absolute morals and a strict hierarchy based on divine power. This system emerged in the Late Antiquity and continued to mature until the Renaissance, culminating with Louis XIV's absolutism and the divine right of kings.

In reaction to that came the 18th-century Enlightenment, with its emphasis of critical thought, rationalism and the emergence of a new society based on science, industry, capitalism and individual achievements. Meritocracy replaced the old order of hereditary aristocracy, while science and progress overtook the dogma of religion. That's the orange meme.

The excesses of capitalism, with the huge disparities in wealth caused by unbridled individualism, but also the destruction of the Earth for the sake of profit brought about a reactionary current of egalitarianism and ecology, accompanied by relativism, pluralism and multiculturalism (green meme).

The extreme egalitarianism and pluralistic fairness of the green meme fails to recognise or accept the presence of other memes in the hierarchy. This leads to complacency and encourages people at lower levels of development to remain stuck where they are, rather than seeking to evolve. The green will assert 'I do my thing, you do yours', failing to integrate all people in society into a coherent whole. This is where the yellow meme comes in, with its systemic, integrative approach. It is the first to understand and accept all stages of development in human nature and to try to find a place for everyone in society and encourage development towards higher rungs of the spiral.



Here are two articles that explain spiral dynamics:

- The Next Evolution : Spiral Dynamics

- Medium : Using Spiral Dynamics to understand development

Here is a summary from Ken Wilber's book A Theory of Everything. It is the part of the book available as a free sample on Kindle, so I believe it is fine to share it here.

1. Beige: Archaic-Instinctual. The level of basic survival; food, water, warmth, sex, and safety have priority. Uses habits and instincts just to survive. Distinct self is barely awakened or sustained. Forms into survival bands to perpetuate life.
  • Where seen: First human societies, newborn infants, senile elderly, late-stage Alzheimer’s victims, mentally ill street people, starving masses, shell shock. Approximately 0.1 percent of the adult population, 0 percent power.

2. Purple: Magical-Animistic. Thinking is animistic; magical spirits, good and bad, swarm the earth leaving blessings, curses, and spells which determine events. Forms into ethnic tribes. The spirits exist in ancestors and bond the tribe. Kinship and lineage establish political links. Sounds “holistic” but is actually atomistic: “There is a name for each bend in the river but no name for the river.”
  • Where seen: Belief in voodoo-like curses, blood oaths, ancient grudges, good-luck charms, family rituals, magical ethnic beliefs and superstitions; strong in third-world settings, gangs, athletic teams, and corporate “tribes.” 10 percent of the population, 1 percent of the power.

3. Red: Power Gods. First emergence of a self distinct from the tribe; powerful, impulsive, egocentric, heroic. Magical-mythic spirits, dragons, beasts, and powerful people. Archetypal gods and goddesses, powerful beings, forces to be reckoned with, both good and bad. Feudal lords protect underlings in exchange for obedience and labor. The basis of feudal empires—power and glory. The world is a jungle full of threats and predators. Conquers, outfoxes, and dominates; enjoys self to the fullest without regret or remorse; be here now.
  • Where seen: The “terrible twos,” rebellious youth, frontier mentalities, feudal kingdoms, epic heroes, James Bond villains, gang leaders, soldiers of fortune, New-Age narcissism, wild rock stars, Attila the Hun, Lord of the Flies. 20 percent of the population, 5 percent of the power.

4. Blue: Mythic Order. Life has meaning, direction, and purpose, with outcomes determined by an all-powerful Other or Order. This righteous Order enforces a code of conduct based on absolutist and unvarying principles of “right” and “wrong.” Violating the code or rules has severe, perhaps everlasting repercussions. Following the code yields rewards for the faithful. Basis of ancient nations. Rigid social hierarchies; paternalistic; one right way and only one right way to think about everything. Law and order; impulsivity controlled through guilt; concrete-literal and fundamentalist belief; obedience to the rule of Order; strongly conventional and conformist. Often “religious” or “mythic” [in the mythic-membership sense; Graves and Beck refer to it as the “saintly/absolutistic” level], but can be secular or atheistic Order or Mission.
  • Where seen: Puritan America, Confucian China, Dickensian England, Singapore discipline, totalitarianism, codes of chivalry and honor, charitable good deeds, religious fundamentalism (e.g., Christian and Islamic), Boy and Girl Scouts, “moral majority,” patriotism. 40 percent of the population, 30 percent of the power.

5. Orange: Scientific Achievement. At this wave, the self “escapes” from the “herd mentality” of blue, and seeks truth and meaning in individualistic terms—hypothetico-deductive, experimental, objective, mechanistic, operational—“scientific” in the typical sense. The world is a rational and well-oiled machine with natural laws that can be learned, mastered, and manipulated for one’s own purposes. Highly achievement oriented, especially (in America) toward materialistic gains. The laws of science rule politics, the economy, and human events. The world is a chessboard on which games are played as winners gain preeminence and perks over losers. Marketplace alliances; manipulate earth’s resources for one’s strategic gains. Basis of corporate states.
  • Where seen: The Enlightenment, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Wall Street, emerging middle classes around the world, cosmetics industry, trophy hunting, colonialism, the Cold War, fashion industry, materialism, secular humanism, liberal self-interest. 30 percent of the population, 50 percent of the power.

6. Green: The Sensitive Self. Communitarian, human bonding, ecological sensitivity, networking. The human spirit must be freed from greed, dogma, and divisiveness; feelings and caring supersede cold rationality; cherishing of the earth, Gaia, life. Against hierarchy; establishes lateral bonding and linking. Permeable self, relational self, group intermeshing. Emphasis on dialogue, relationships. Basis of value communities (i.e., freely chosen affiliations based on shared sentiments). Reaches decisions through reconciliation and consensus (downside: interminable “processing” and incapacity to reach decisions). Refresh spirituality, bring harmony, enrich human potential. Strongly egalitarian, anti-herarchy, pluralistic values, social construction of reality, diversity, multiculturalism, relativistic value systems; this worldview is often called pluralistic relativism. Subjective, nonlinear thinking; shows a greater degree of affective warmth, sensitivity, and caring, for earth and all its inhabitants.
  • Where seen: Deep ecology, postmodernism, Netherlands idealism, Rogerian counseling, Canadian health care, humanistic psychology, liberation theology, cooperative inquiry, World Council of Churches, Greenpeace, animal rights, ecofeminism, post-colonialism, Foucault/Derrida, politically correct, diversity movements, human rights issues, ecopsychology. 10 percent of the population, 15 percent of the power.

With the completion of the green meme, human consciousness is poised for a quantum jump into “second-tier thinking.” Clare Graves referred to this as a “momentous leap,” where “a chasm of unbelievable depth of meaning is crossed.” In essence, with second-tier consciousness, one can think both vertically and horizontally, using both hierarchies and heterarchies (both ranking and linking). One can therefore, for the first time, vividly grasp the entire spectrum of interior development, and thus see that each level, each meme, each wave is crucially important for the health of the overall Spiral. As I would word it, each wave is “transcend and include.” That is, each wave goes beyond (or transcends) its predecessor, and yet it includes or embraces it in its own makeup. For example, a cell transcends but includes molecules, which transcend but include atoms. To say that a molecule goes beyond an atom is not to say that molecules hate atoms, but that they love them: they embrace them in their own makeup; they include them, they don’t marginalize them. Just so, each wave of existence is a fundamental ingredient of all subsequent waves, and thus each is to be cherished and embraced.

Moreover, each wave can itself be activated or reactivated as life circumstances warrant. In emergency situations, we can activate red power drives; in response to chaos, we might need to activate blue order; in looking for a new job, we might need orange achievement drives; in marriage and with friends, close green bonding. All of these memes have something important to contribute. But what none of the first-tier memes can do, on their own, is fully appreciate the existence of the other memes. Each of the first-tier memes thinks that its worldview is the correct or best perspective. It reacts negatively if challenged; it lashes out, using its own tools, whenever it is threatened. Blue order is very uncomfortable with both red impulsiveness and orange individualism. Orange individualism thinks blue order is for suckers and green egalitarianism is weak and woo-woo. Green egalitarianism cannot easily abide excellence and value rankings, big pictures, hierarchies, or anything that appears authoritarian, and thus green reacts strongly to blue, orange, and anything post-green.

All of that begins to change with second-tier thinking. Because second-tier consciousness is fully aware of the interior stages of development—even if it cannot articulate them in a technical fashion—it steps back and grasps the big picture, and thus second-tier thinking appreciates the necessary role that all of the various memes play. Second-tier awareness thinks in terms of the overall spiral of existence, and not merely in the terms of any one level. Where the green meme begins to grasp the numerous different systems and pluralistic contexts that exist in different cultures (which is why it is indeed the sensitive self, i.e., sensitive to the marginalization of others), second-tier thinking goes one step further. It looks for the rich contexts that link and join these pluralistic systems, and thus it takes these separate systems and begins to embrace, include, and integrate them into holistic spirals and integral meshworks. second-tier thinking, in other words, is instrumental in moving from relativism to holism, or from pluralism to integralism. The extensive research of Graves, Beck, and Cowan indicates that there are at least two major waves to this second-tier integral consciousness:

7. Yellow: Integrative. Life is a kaleidoscope of natural hierarchies [holarchies], systems, and forms. Flexibility, spontaneity, and functionality have the highest priority. Differences and pluralities can be integrated into interdependent, natural flows. Egalitarianism is complemented with natural degrees of ranking and excellence. Knowledge and competency should supersede power, status, or group sensitivity. The prevailing world order is the result of the existence of different levels of reality (memes) and the inevitable patterns of movement up and down the dynamic spiral. Good governance facilitates the emergence of entities through the levels of increasing complexity (nested hierarchy). 1 percent of the population, 5 percent of the power.

8. Turquoise: Holistic. Universal holistic system, holons/waves of integrative energies; unites feeling with knowledge; multiple levels interwoven into one conscious system. Universal order, but in a living, conscious fashion, not based on external rules (blue) or group bonds (green). A “grand unification” [T.O.E.] is possible, in theory and in actuality. Sometimes involves the emergence of a new spirituality as a meshwork of all existence. Turquoise thinking uses the entire Spiral; sees multiple levels of interaction; detects harmonics, the mystical forces, and the pervasive flow-states that permeate any organization. 0.1 percent of the population, 1 percent of the power.
Spiral dynamics within a person's life

It is important to understand that, even though societies have evolved historically as I explained above, individuals evolve at their own independent pace. All babies are born in the first instinctive stage (beige). Small children then start to believe in the supernatural (anything from ghosts to Santa Claus), a world that appears magic and irrational to them (purple).

Then kids start to assert their dominance on others during power plays on the playground and choose leaders (red). They compete and want to be stronger, better than others, to be the first of their class, the best at sports or video games. It's an egocentric stage where the feelings and needs or others don't matter much.

Older children start to learn the rules of society and that they can't do everything they want and must respect others, obey teachers, moral rules and laws, and must conform to the expectations of society as a whole (blue).

Late teens and young adults typically reach the orange stage if they crave individual recognition and success in life. These are people who work hard to succeed and want to show it off with material goods, be it a big house, a nice car, expensive clothes or whatever.

It's only once people are better off that they start caring about the welfare of society as a whole and about the environment (green). Very few people today have reached the yellow or turquoise stage.

Spiral dynamics within modern countries

Even in developed countries, many people are stuck in the red, blue or orange stage. The red is more common in disadvantaged communities, poor people with low education and marginalised from mainstream society. They are found in street gangs and mafias, but also in people wishing to become 'sports heroes' (usually football/soccer, but could be basketball, baseball or any other major sport where top players are adulated).

One of the main difference between red states and blue states in the US is that red/Republican states have (ironically) far more people stuck in the blue meme (religion, law & order), while blue/Democrat states have a higher proportion of people in the orange (capitalism, individualism) and green (multicultural, egalitarian, ecological) stages.

The countries with the highest proportion of people in the green wave are, IMO, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Scandinavians combine an egalitarian society with pluralism and a deep care for ecology and humanitarian aid. Shortly behind are the Netherlands and Finland. They are followed by Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Austria. These countries perform well for the ecology, but have problems either with egalitarianism and multiculturalism. Britain and France come next. In the USA California is among the greenest states.

The most orange countries are the USA, Canada, Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, China... Overall though, the USA, Japan and China are more a combination of orange + blue, while the UK is more orange + green (like most of western and northern Europe, although in varying proportions of green to orange).

In East Asia, the blue meme is represented almost exclusively by the government (law & order, paternalistic state, rigid and absolute rules) and the rules of the collectivist culture, rather than by religion (although it could be argued that it is the heritage of Confucianism that infuses the collectivist code of conduct).

Latin America is also a blend of blue + orange (with substantial red zones in places like northwest Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela and Brazilian slums).

The Muslim world is still overwhelmingly in the blue meme (like the Bible Belt in the USA).
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I guess in Europe we're stuck in the green circle for the moment.
We need to get to the next stage, but I'm afraid that is still wishfull thinking.
To mainy people feel just fine in the green circle without acknowledging its limitations.
IMO it will lead to a standstill and lack of opportunities.
It is this feeling that made Trump president of America, but he didn't offer any viable alternative.
Instead of inventing the next stage, he proposes to go back to earlier stages.
I forgot to mention that in the concept of spiral dynamics each level of existence transcends and includes the previous ones. When, depending on living conditions, a new level of existence is being put in place, it is built on the contributions of previous levels. Within an individual, a company or an organisation, several levels coexist at a given time.

Spiral dynamics is a holarchic system. A holon is an integral part of a whole. The typical analogy is a body cell, which is functional on its own, but contain molecules, which are themselves composed of atoms. The body is made of organs, each containing cells. So the body is a holon, but so are organs, cells, molecules and atoms. One of the consequences of the principle "transcends and includes" is that if a level of holarchy is destroyed, all the levels above it disappear, while those which are located below continue to operate. If the cells of the body were suddenly annihilated, there would be no more organs or bodies, but the chemical molecules constituting the cells could very well survive. To use another analogy, if the ability to make sentences disappeared, there would be no more book or library, but the words would still exist and keep the same meaning.

In terms of spiral dynamics, this means that it is impossible to eliminate or skip a level of existence (a meme). If a level has not been set up, the foundations necessary for the following levels are missing and these cannot function.


Not only do the various stages of development remain within us as adults, but we also feel the occasional urge to feed them.

The 1st level (beige) is easy to satisfy: just eat and sleep (sex is also probably part of that level).

The 2nd level (purple) involves magic and superstitions. This is when we like watching Harry Potter or Lord or the Rings, but also when some people are interested in astrology, horoscopes, paranormal phenomena, get superstitious about the number 13 (or 4 in East Asia), think they have a real chance to win the lottery or that homeopathy works... The need of recognition from the inner group (family, tribe, company) is rooted in the purple meme. It is what makes us feel good about receiving medals or prizes.

We re-awaken the 3rd level (red) in us when we watch movies or series about the Vikings, Spartan warriors, samurai or any other cult of the warrior unperturbed by death and more willing to die than to feel the shame of losing or being seen as weak. The red meme make us play violent video games or fantasise about being a Roman emperor. Red is not always violent. It is rooted in immediate gratification and enjoying the now without thinking of the consequences (for ourselves or others). Being in the red meme is also wild partying, dancing, getting drunk, smoking, taking drugs...

The 4th level (blue) is all about self-control, obedience and respect for rules. Historically this has often been enforced by moralistic religions. But at work living the blue meme often just mean being in a hierarchy, following orders and enforcing the rules. That can be a government bureaucracy, being a regular employee in a big company, working in a hospital, or being in the police or in the army. A big part of the population in developed countries won't go further than this level. For those higher up, fantasising back about the blue level could just be watch police procedural and legal dramas.

The 5th level (orange) is about personal success and progress. We activate it by learning about science, trying to developing new businesses and technologies, investing in the capitalist economy, getting rich and buying the material goods that these markets offer. Even people in higher levels of the spiral still feel those needs.

The 6th level (green) seeks harmony with Nature and within human societies. It is relativistic, fair and egalitarian. We activate it when we start working less to improve our quality of life and the time spent with family and friends, when we are interested in other cultures and points of views, when we recycle and try to reduce our carbon footprint, when we encourage cooperatives, give our time/knowledge for the public good through peer production (e.g. Wikipedia), developing free software (e.g. Linux), or working on mass collaboration projects, when we encourage sustainable investments, buy Fairtrade products...

Wikipedia is an interesting example of how people behave according to their meme. The whole free, collaborative approach is rooted in the green meme. But that does not prevent people belonging to other memes to edit the content to satisfy their own ethos. People dominated by the red meme are the trolls who have fun deleting articles or writing nonsense. Those centred in the blue meme try to impose theirbeliefs by modifying articles that challenge it. People in the orange meme rewrite articles to advertise their own businesses or to give themselves a competitive advantage.

The 7th level (yellow) is defined by perpetual learning and self-improvement. But unlike the orange stage, it does not do it in order to gain financial profit from it. The aim is to share their knowledge with the world and make the world a better place. The individuals of the yellow meme have a flexible mind and use the tools of all the previous levels when they are appropriate. They share the idealism of the green, but with the more down-to-earth, decisive and efficient approach of the orange. Their quest for truth may remind of the blue meme, but their are conscient of their limit and that of others. A yellow-meme individual will admit that he/she doesn't known everything and will refrain from expressing opinions on topics where that knowledge is deficient. The world is humanocentric instead of ethnocentric or egocentric.
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Very interesting hypothesis. As any didactic scheme like this it's perhaps guilty of some over-simplification, particularly because it's still kind of unable to get rid of the "cartesian" - very useful, no doubt, but ultimately a bit restrictive to one's thought - classification-mania, putting concepts into neatly defined and clearly separate concepts and hierarchies (notice it assumes, not totally unlikely the historic materialism of Marx et al., a sort of definite and necessary evolution in stages, each relying on the gradual changes enacted since the mature stage of the former).

That small caveat aside, I think it's a very curious and credible hypothesis that makes one ponder more about it, and it can also help explain and especially express in a clearer language the challenges and contrasts that we saw in certain historic periods and we're seeing today in different forms (probably because, as you say, societies are in different stages of that spiral).

For instance, it caught my attention that you claim the USA is mostly a mix of blue + orange, which is exactly what is also observed (probably, I'd say, in much more "hardcore" versions of both the blue and the orange memes, I mean, blue or orange on steroids) in Latin America and in Brazil above all. And that's particularly interesting for me now because I have more and more often noticed a striking parallel between the news about the USA and what I see here in Brazil, and which increasingly confirm to me that both are deeply divided nations as if two totally different "ethnos" coexisted in the same territory, almost as if you had suddenly brought two populations from completely different parts of the world and made them live together. Both sides think the other has gone absolutely crazy or is always lying, because they can't be so naive and delusional as to believe they are really the good guys and the righteous ones, you just can't reason with the "other side" because it's almost like you're speaking a different language, you're coming from a wholly different set of values and perceptions of reality and deontology (that is, what society and life should be). So I'm coming to the conclusion that it's not just a matter of politics, of distinct opinions about how to achieve what people want: it's a matter of an increasing shock of two completely different mindsets vying for the conquest of the upper hand in the one nation they have to share.
For instance, it caught my attention that you claim the USA is mostly a mix of blue + orange, which is exactly what is also observed (probably, I'd say, in much more "hardcore" versions of both the blue and the orange memes, I mean, blue or orange on steroids) in Latin America and in Brazil above all. And that's particularly interesting for me now because I have more and more often noticed a striking parallel between the news about the USA and what I see here in Brazil, and which increasingly confirm to me that both are deeply divided nations as if two totally different "ethnos" coexisted in the same territory, almost as if you had suddenly brought two populations from completely different parts of the world and made them live together. Both sides think the other has gone absolutely crazy or is always lying, because they can't be so naive and delusional as to believe they are really the good guys and the righteous ones, you just can't reason with the "other side" because it's almost like you're speaking a different language, you're coming from a wholly different set of values and perceptions of reality and deontology (that is, what society and life should be). So I'm coming to the conclusion that it's not just a matter of politics, of distinct opinions about how to achieve what people want: it's a matter of an increasing shock of two completely different mindsets vying for the conquest of the upper hand in the one nation they have to share.

You are entirely right. People belonging to different memes (levels of development) cannot understand or accept the ethos of people at other levels. This is one of the most common sources of conflicts within societies or between group of countries at very different levels (e.g. places like Yemen or Afghanistan are still dominated by the red meme, which would have made them easy to understand to our ancient ancestors 2000 years ago, but feels completely alien to us in the Western world today). It is only from the 7th stage of development, the yellow meme, that individuals start to recognise that all the previous levels of development exist and that they are essential to the development of societies and cultures. The 7th level is called Integral because it aims at integrating people from all level and resolving conflicts between them. The 8th (turquoise) level is basically the same, but the approach is collectivist instead of individualistic - not just understanding the whole spiral, but acting to solve the conflicts as a network on the global level.
One thing I really like about the concept fo spiral dynamics is that people and societies evolve along the spiral, and because of this can be in intermediary stages between two levels. A spiral is a continuous line, even if seen from a fixed angle it appears to have levels. Here are some historical examples.

During the Republic, the ancient Romans were on a segment ranging from the 2nd (purple) to the 3rd (red) levels. They were very superstitious and close to nature, reading omens in the flight of birds, practising divination from the entrails of sacrificed animals, carrying amulets (like the famous phallic symbol representing life force that wards off evil spirits). They were also very traditional, with strong gender roles and a council of elders (the Senate) ruling over the city. All this is typical of the purple meme. Yet they were also brave warriors with a sense of honour for which they felt it was worth fighting to death to maintain or avenge. Toward the end of the Republic and the early Principate, the red meme became dominant over the purple one. Male patricians in particular became the epitome of the red meme, seeking honour, glory, wealth and instant gratification without worrying about the consequences.

Augustus attempted to change Roman society by making creating an administration based on loyalty to the emperor. He established a new cult of personality and a new set of values with clearer and fairer laws and rules to prevent the abuses of the upper classes toward the rest of society. There would be more power to the people, just like Julius Caesar's party of the Populares had wanted. That was the first step toward the blue meme (well, actually the Gracchi brothers could be seen as the first step, but that led to civil war, and its uncontested implementation was under Augustus). The Five Goof Emperors (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius) all worked to strengthen the blue meme. They brought morality and humanity to Roman society. Antoninus made it illegal to kill or mistreat domestic slaves and introduced the notion of presumption of innocence. He and Marcus Aurelius both made it easier to affranchise slaves.

During the Principate phase of the Roman Empire, society was on a segment between red and blue. Blue only became dominant around the late 3rd century, with the establishment of the Dominate and when Romans adopted more centralised, absolutist deities like Mithra and Sol Invictus (especially from the reign Aurelian), followed by the adoption of Christianity under Constantine. The new religions brought absolute rules imposed by God himself. The blue meme was to last throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, until the Enlightenment started moving toward the orange meme. Countries lie France, Britain, Germany and the USA were the first to transition from blue to orange. Even though the process started in the 18th century, it isn't completed yet. Nevertheless it can be said that orange became dominant over blue in the 1960's in these countries, except perhaps in the American Deep South (Bible Belt) where blue is more resistant.
Japan is a particularly interesting example of a country working on different segments of the spiral at the same time. In my article The Six Faces of Japanese Religion, I explained how various religions deal with different aspects of spirituality.

The oldest in Shintoism, a typical form of animism showing a deep reverence to the mystical "spirits of nature", where animals, trees and even things (rocks, waterfalls, dolls and other objects) have a spirit. This a pure form of the purple meme.

Taoism was imported from China as part of the "Chinese cultural package", along with Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese characters, during the late Yamato period (250-710). Although Japan does not have any Taoist temples, its culture is deeply influenced by its philosophy and can still be seen in many anime. Taoism, with its superstitious or supernatural beliefs, is also an expression of the purple meme.

In medieval times, the cult of the warrior emerged with the development of samurai ethos later enshrined in the Bushidō. The samurai moved away from the purple meme toward the red meme, in which life is dedicated to heroism and glorious death in war. Surprisingly, the religion of choice of the samurai was Buddhism, and above all Zen Buddhism - one of the most individual and ascetic schools of Japanese Buddhism. Some writers have classified Buddhism as part of the blue meme, while others see it as green, yellow or even turquoise. It's simply cannot be blue because Buddhism is individualistic and lacks dogmatic moral rules. It's all the opposite of blue. It also cannot be green or above as society had not reached even the orange level in ancient times. There was no concept of science, progress and capitalism, let alone the green values of ecology, social fairness and pluralism. Buddhism is not even pacific (there were terrifying warrior monks in medieval Japan and China). The core teaching of Buddhism is how to escape the numerous sufferings of the world through some sort of heroic individual salvation. Those values fit very well within the red meme.

Buddhism even influenced Shintoism and brought human-like deities into it, like the Sun Goddess Amaterasu and Inari, the Goddess of Fertility and Agriculture. The cult of heroes brought deification of some emperors, such as Emperor Ōjin who became the God of War Hachiman. That's the red meme trying to convert a purple religion to its values.

Japan is a collectivist society and its social interactions are still deeply rooted in Confucianism. It provides the moral rules, the system that hold the society together and regulates the place of every individual. It is the blue meme.

In 1868, during the Meiji Restoration, the government changed again the status of Shintoism with the creation of State Shinto, in which the emperor became a living god, a supreme being to be revered by the whole population. Shintoism was effectively converted to the blue meme, a centralised, authoritarian state in which obedience and conformity are required from the population. Buddhism was cast aside as red gave way to blue, and as the selfish, honour-seeking regional daimyos were replaced by a cohesive, orderly and hierarchical national military dedicated to the cult of the emperor. Patriotism was born. With it came the Japanese expansion into East Asia and WWII.

Upon their defeat in 1945 and the dissolution of the cult of the emperor, Japanese society moved further up the spiral. Orange now became dominant over blue, although Confucian values held firm in the new liberalised democratic system. Japanese society is therefore still transitioning from blue to orange, but closer to orange.
Any person, organisation or company is deeply involved in his/her/its dominant meme. They think it's a valid solution for the problems of existence and are convinced of the correctness of their values and worldview. As long as this belief is absolute, there is no possibility of change from one level to the next. In fact, each meme is adapted to specific living conditions of a society. The purple meme is perfect for tribes of hunter-gatherers or Neolithic farmers. Trying to impose a modern orange meme on such societies is doomed to failure. There have been many attempts by Western countries (especially the United States) to impose an orange system on countries that simply weren't ready for it. The US was lucky that Japan was already in the blue and started transitioning toward the orange during the early 20th century, so that it could establish its own system on Japan during the postwar occupation period (1945-1952). This success led American politicians to believe that they could reproduce the same scenario in other countries like Iraq or Afghanistan. Unfortunately these countries were still mostly in the red and early stages of blue and were not mature enough to adopt an orange set of values.

The same thing happened in Turkey when Mustafa Kemal imposed a secular system, forced the Westernisation of society (clothes, alphabet, calendar, measuring units), and reformed the country's institutions under the French, German, Swiss and Italian models. Turkish society was still deeply anchored in the blue meme, and in more rural areas even in the red. Some educated Turks in big cities adopted the new system, but the majority of the population was not ready for the changes and the state remained a centralised and authoritarian blue. Secular values reverted to more traditional religious values in accordance with the development stage of the mainstream population.
Spiral Dynamics

Maciamo, I want to point out that Canada is actually very green - perhaps more green than the Scandinavian
Maciamo, I want to point out that Canada is actually very green - perhaps more green than the Scandinavian

That's not what the data says. Canadians don't recycle much, have a very high CO² consumption per capita (almost as high as Americans), and don't buy a lot of Fairtrade products.
I have written a proper article on spiral dynamics by organising the ideas in this thread.

It is interesting to compare the World Values Survey with the 8 levels of the Spiral Dynamics (SD). The World Value Survey charts below (2015 and 2019) plot countries based on two variables:

1) Traditional values vs Secular-Rational values. In terms of SD, traditional values are those expressed by the purple, red and blue vMemes. Secular-Rational values are all those above (orange, green, yellow, turquoise).

2) Survival values vs Self-expression values. Survival values are especially those of the beige and purple vMemes. Self-expression is most closely associated with the individualistic red, orange and yellow vMemes. The blue vMeme (inflexible moralistic rules, strict discipline, absolute authority, guilt...) strongly restrains self-expression.

In the top-right corner (Protestant Europe) we find cultures with strong secular-rational and self-expression values. Those are countries where the orange, green and yellow vMemes are dominant.

In the bottom left corner (African/Islamic) are countries where the purple and blue vMemes are most expressed (purple in African countries practising traditional animistic religions, blue in Muslim countries).

Apparently Orthodox Christianity is as restrictive on self-expression as Islam, while Catholic Christianity is (a bit) more tolerant and flexible (on a par with Confucian societies). Orthodox and Baltic countries have low self-expression combined with high secular-rational values. It's an unusual combination, most certainly the result of decades of communism pushing toward more secularism and rationality. Nevertheless communism is strongly blue like Christianity and Islam and the fact that self-expression hasn't flourished confirms that these countries remain mainly rooted in the blue vMeme, although a transition to orange should be faster than in Muslim countries.

The Confucian countries of East Asia have the discipline, self-restraint and collectivism of the blue vMeme, but as Confucianism is an atheistic religion (or rather a set of rules governing human relations in society), it is highly compatible with secular and rational values. These countries uniquely blend blue with orange.

Ireland, Canada and the United States are interesting outliers. They value self-expression, but are stuck in between traditional/Christian values and secular/rational ones. In the US this is obviously a reflection of the high polarisation of society between liberals and conservatives. If they were evaluated separately, many religious conservatives (such as southern Baptists and Evangelists) would fit closer to the Muslim and Latin American countries. Conversely the most liberal Americans (think Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Boston...) would fit within Protestant Europe.


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