Understanding and Resolving Conflict With Value Systems (Don Beck)

Don Beck’s Talk on Spiral Dynamics


The satisfaction of one level means the following level opens up with new and greater opportunities and challenges, but one level is not better than the other. Each level has trouble understanding the other levels. Levels below the one we are at remain within us to a degree and levels above us lie dormant. The levels alternate between individualistic and collective interests.

Beige – Animal Life – Survival Bands – 0 to 18 months

Needs: Survive at any cost (food, shelter, etc.)

Means: Instinct

Problem: Incessant danger

Examples: Animals, hunter-gatherers and people set back to this stage as in Castaway


Purple – 50,000 Years Ago – Tribal Life – 18 to 36 Months

Needs: Safety

Means: Survival in a tightly knit tribe, power in the world through a animistic-mythological understanding of the world

Danger: Restriction of individual capacity

Example: Amazon tribes, worship of ancestors, magic medicine men or women, belief in spirits, children attributing life to objects or places


Red – 15,000 Years Ago – Heroic Life – 3 to 6 Years of Age

Needs: Development of individual power and capacity

Means: Physical strength, dominion

Danger: A chaotic and violent lifestyle

Examples: Conquerors, battle heroes, boxers, gangs, child-play of battle, eye-for-eye mentality, Greek gods


Blue – 5,000 Years Ago – Rule Based Society – 6 to 13 Years of Age

Needs: Create order and safety from evil and aggressive human drives

Means: Religion, rules, system of law and justice

Danger: Suffocation and oppression from one-size fits all rules

Examples: Puritan New England, contemporary Iran, emergence of absolute and abstract moral codes, 20th Century communist states, Victorian England, Newtonian mathematical physics and determinism


Orange – 500 Years Ago – Achieving Individual – 13 to 30 Years of Age

Needs: Satisfaction of self-interest

Means: Goal setting, innovation, strategy and planning

Danger: Damage to self and to others through narrow vision of success

Examples: Renaissance man, capitalism, entrepreneurship, competitive games and sports, search for fame and prestige, expensive sports cars, Ayn Rand


Green – 250 Years Ago – Sensitive Self – 30 t0 50 Years of Age

Needs: Harmony and unity

Means: Search for equality in multiple realms and mending of damages caused by orange self-interest

Danger: Paralysis or ineffectiveness due to relativism, concern for all views

Examples: Environmentalism, social-support systems, civil rights activism, hippies and New Age, United Nations, multiculturalism, humanism, charities, liberal democracy, post-modernism, French Revolution


Yellow – 100 Years Ago – Complex Cognition – 50 to 70 Years of Age

Needs: Mental survival in complex world through integration and organization of vast quantities of views and information

Means: Use of intellect and technology with awareness of feelings and subjective qualities

Dangers: Anxiety and inability to cope with complexity and paradox

Examples: Complexity and chaos theory, quantum physics, Whitehead and David Bohm, Clare Graves & Spiral Dynamics, trans-modernism, consciousness and mind-brain interaction studies, Madhyamaka Buddhism, biocentrism



Yellow is still emergent, so it is even harder to understand Turquoise. Following the previous alternations, Turquoise, being an odd-numbered level, should be more collective than individualistic yellow. Perhaps a post-globalization society with colonies beyond Earth and interactions with non-human intelligence?


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