The conversations across today’s world are failing to provide solutions to the multiple known problems, with the effect that we witness a continuous down-shift in the people’s responses. There is more fear and anxiety which shows up at the personal level in unhealthy coping strategies and at the socio-political level in regressive and toxic populism. This is not to say that the solutions are not visible; in many cases they are. But they are fragmented and piecemeal and even in their individual areas of focus, the will, vision, energy and capacity to implement them are failing to break through.
Change States and Change Variations (Please skip italicised sections if you are not familiar with Spiral Dynamics change theory)
If we were to look at our situation from a Graves and SD change states model we might describe the world as being in high Beta stress and Gamma trap conditions. We might also consider that among the Change variations options it is partly in CV4 down-stretch and regress to cope, and partly in CV5 up-stretch or progress to deal. If we take it as implicit that the “momentous leap” is inevitably calling for 2nd order change, it becomes obvious that we do not yet have all that we need.
2nd order change brings three options – to break out and attack the barriers (CV6), to up-shift to the next stage (CV7), or the rather scary-sounding CV8 “quantum change of epochal proportions”. For the sake of what follows I will assume the need for elements of all 3, and that if the “momentous leap” isn’t epochal, then one might ask – what is?
What are the elements of a future that sees and feels differently about existence and which might have the energy to bring about something different?
The SD model also looks at what is required for systemic change to happen and gives six conditions.
- Potential in the collective mind. I suggest that this is present but not sufficiently widespread. One way of looking at the “regress to cope” energy is that it is also a time of gathering, of charging the batteries for break-out. We would have to ask whether there is sufficient yet.
- Solutions at the current level. This too is patchy, but the world does have spare resources. Arguably it has a lot, if it were to stop applying them dysfunctionally or ineffectively.
- Dissonance about conditions. No shortage of that.
- Insight into alternative forms and means. As stated earlier many of the elements of possible solutions are visible but a joined-up picture is still lacking.
- Barriers to change identified and managed. Many are perhaps identified, but there is a major task in view to know how to manage them, or to have the will to do so.
- Consolidation and support in transition. It is clearly too soon for this.
What follows focuses almost exclusively on the first condition. Until we raise the potential, the remaining conditions cannot be brought into action. We don’t have the energy to move from Beta into Flex. For as long as we are predominantly in downshift we can’t raise the energy from Delta to overcome barriers.
Our current planetary existence traps us in two first-tier modalities and constrains our potential for change. Firstly, there is widespread fear – fear of losing what we have, fear that we cannot cope, fear that we may not survive. Secondly our Western attitude to the planet rests in highly mechanistic views of how the world functions, and over-intellectualised, westernised, masculine and head-based ways of seeking solutions. They emphasise alienation and separation, divide the world into pieces, detach humanity from Gaia, fail to balance competition with collaboration and cannot create sustainability or wholeness.
If this statement of the challenge is accepted, then the nature of required change is clearly implied. It calls for the following elements of shift:-
- From fear and hostility to empowerment, belief, hope and joy
- From scarcity and lack to abundance
- From Head towards Embodiment and Heart
- From Masculine towards Feminine, from knowledge toward feeling.
- From a mechanical and material Earth run on hard data towards a living systems Earth filled with contexts, relationships and warm data
- To a blend of I and We, of empowered individuals in collaborative co-existence
- From Northern and Western hemispheres into Africa, the South and the Orient
THE FUTURE: A new narrative
I am indebted to my Global Centres for Human Emergence colleagues, Anne-Marie Vorhooeve, Michael Keller and Ben Levi for a recent conversation where we began to explore this territory.
Some core themes emerged, which I develop below.
Those operating primarily in first-tier mind-sets will see through the lens of their values stage and may often be closed or arrested in the stage concerned. Since we know that we cannot expect people to change who they are or where they are on the spiral map, we will have to find ways to support them to function in healthy and new ways that meet the priorities of those stage mind-sets.
NLP tells us that the majority of people are motivated by “away from” ways of thinking. That is, their first response to anything new is to protect themselves from negative consequences. Only a minority are motivated by “towards” thinking. Since we know that much of the world is already in fear, the primary implied questions for many will be “how do I avoid loss and what do I get from any change?”
Few people are working on such questions at a cognitive or analytical level. In general only those in ORANGE systems and above have the capacity for internal self-examination. BLUE may examine and judge its behaviour, but rarely its interior generation. Even the later systems may have the capacity, but not necessarily any interest. When working with individuals or groups, we may be able to generate an attitude of curiosity in which some people can explore with a sense of “what if?” that opens them up to new potential responses and to greater awareness of others’ choices. But such openings are in most cases temporary; the stance of curiosity is not ongoing. Nor is it scalable.
Since such change cannot be effected cognitively, we must ask what else is possible. Jean Houston would say “Don’t pathologise: Mythologise.” Mythologies are not encountered through analytical cognition. They are stories, metaphors, analogies and emotional experiences. They may be arrived at by embodied encounter and connection to creative exploration, by which is meant exploration of the things that we know, but don’t know that we know. They show up in Hellinger constellations, inner journeys, imaginative explorations, collaborative art. They are received and imbibed from our culture and collective context and may be transmitted to us through shared immersion.
Whatever change is possible, it can only come from within. Ben referred to a quote from Peter Senge:- “You cannot change people, you can only provide them with a space in which they no longer have to stay where they are”.
At root, all that we are discussing here is in the Zeitgeist. Today’s mythos is one of evil and potentially imminent destruction; it is not surprising that we are inclined to see it as pathological. Our attention is drawn to Trump, Putin, Brexit and refugees. A minority see the threats on more distant climatic and ecological horizons. The majority live in an experience of deficit. Whether materially or psychologically, they don’t feel their needs are being met. One element of that mythology is the generalised feeling, a deep unconscious belief, that someone else is responsible for meeting those needs. That may be projected onto parents, lovers, gods, governments or money systems. It may be sublimated into addictions and compulsions. Only a minority have filled that inner gap. It is considered to be “the human condition”, and to conform to Hobbes’ description of life as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.
One thing is clear. Whatever the unreality of this definition of human existence and whatever sway it holds over the creation of humanity’s future, it will not change by telling people it is all in their minds and that they have got it all wrong. We cannot change that paradigm. As Buckminster Fuller advised, we can only build a new one that makes it obsolete.
Generating a new mythology
The new mythos must provide a feeling of hope. It is required to feed people deeply at the level of soul and spirit, countering the felt-sense of deficit. Somehow we have to become ENOUGH. Irrespective of our personal histories, our parenting, our wounds we need to know that we are alive and that in our very being, we have all that we need.
We need to know that as individuals, and we need to know it even more as collectives – to know that we have what each other need, and that when we come together with the mind-set of ENOUGH, we can share without fear.
The sun shines every day. It supplies our planet with more than the energy we need in order to thrive. It always has. Hafiz captured this:-
Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth, “You owe Me.”
Look what happens with a love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky.
A core notion of abundance also underpins the Judaeo-Christian religion. There is no deficit in the Garden of Eden. And notably, only in this religion have we been expelled from paradise. Even then, the Christian message is one of ENOUGH. There has been one sacrifice, and no others are called for.
I am not suggesting that the world needs more in the way of a religious image; I merely wish to convey that tomorrow’s mythology is not fundamentally new and that the new mythology will need to be redemptive.
Our problems with ecology, climate, economy and politics are all trapped in the lower first tier systems, ones that see the world as hard to survive in, unsafe and beyond our power. However, in the PURPLE stage at its healthiest there has been an experience of full embeddedness in the natural world, not only in a material sense, but through the direct relationship with spirit, with the “God in all things”. This is progressively eroded in RED where the power is projected out into nature-gods, and in BLUE and ORANGE where humans are first separated from the Divine by judgement systems and priesthoods, and then more completely by the materialist point of view. The culmination of that separation has seen our attempt hubristically to usurp the wisdom of natural systems and to take scientific power over our planet.
GREEN begins to reverse that trend and to re-connect humans. But it is mainly oriented to our connection with each other, and to our core selves. Even ecological “green” is looking for behavioural or material fixes to our relationship with the planet. It is SD GREEN in its anger with corporatism, but often has not escaped ORANGE in the instrumentality of its thinking. Its solutions are often at the level of the thinking that created them.
The new, redemptive, hopeful, empowered, earth-sensing, connective shift will have to be multi- dimensional. In looking to move up-spiral, our roots will have to go deeper into ourselves and into the Earth. We will need to re-awaken the intuitive, instinctive connection to our embodied existence that is present in the BEIGE systemi. We will need to rebuild the human connection to the planet as a living system with its own intelligence and its own “spiritual” field of information.
All the required elements are present in the human system. Informed by our root intelligences (not just IQ, but also EQ, SQ, WE-Q and more), we have the possibility to reframe the subsequent stages of RED through GREEN and bring them into healthy and balanced functionality.
- We replace power with empowerment, “power over” with “power to”.
- Instead of believing that human nature is flawed inherently sinful and must be told what to do, we bring out the inherent capacity for heroism.
- In place of rules and “right ways” we develop ordering systems that are flexible and responsive, capable of simultaneously supporting and constraining the ORANGE thrust
- These systems must be capable too, of being operated by GREEN humans with self- knowledge, not subjugated to arbitrary authorities.
All of the systems that we need are present in humanity as part of its first tier incarnation. As the Father of Consciousness meets the Mother of Form through the fully awakened capacities of the Spiral, we have what we need. We have to reclaim our original innocence and our right to share in the abundance of existence.
In the words of the Whole Earth Catalogue, printed beneath that first image of the Earth seen from space, “we can’t get it together; it is together”. It was what Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell saw and recognised as he orbited. And n the words of Joni Mitchell (“Woodstock”) from that same time- frame “We are stardust, we are golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
The new mythology is a journey to remember who we truly are.
Jon Freeman October 2018
i I have explored this in greater depth in my paper “Out of Africa” http://www.academia.edu/30503553/Out_of_Africa_The_Biological_Ground_of_our_Being