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Coronavirus and the rise of Turquoise
A Spiral Dynamics viewpoint (prior knowledge assumed[i])
The Coronavirus life conditions.
In a matter of months Planet Earth has been waking up to a fuller appreciation – a quite visceral recognition – of what it has known conceptually since the Earthrise picture. As astronaut Edgar Mitchell said at the time “We are stardust and we are all one, in that sense”.
A virus knows no boundaries and when it is as potent as Covid-19 its spread is unstoppable. It is already destined to become endemic in the population. Containment is temporary. Only the rate of spread can be influenced. It is as if perfectly designed for the purpose of delivering that message, combining a long incubation during which people are contagious but symptom-free with a large enough death rate to scare us all into paying attention. Indeed, right now much of the world is in lockdown and there is attention for almost nothing else. It is also evident that this will not be over any time soon.
A stage perspective
Looked at from within the Spiral Dynamics paradigm it is possible to see this from an ORANGE-GREEN transition perspective. Our scientific response is powerful, but insufficient. A vaccine will come, but too late. Tests will be rolled out, but not fast enough to alter the conditions. The choices have already been made to press pause on the economy and in many countries to take previously unimaginable steps to protect people from the financial consequences. In some countries the focus is on how to reduce the death-toll by mobilising healthcare, without thought to the cost. Military personnel are doing emergency tasks and building field hospitals.
This global simultaneity would not have been possible before. Cholera in the 1800’s claimed millions of lives and eventually led to the understanding of the need for effective sanitation systems and clean water. But the pandemic took years to spread, and while there were a few hospitals offering palliative care, none had a cure. The main function the authorities could perform was disposal of the dead. As with any affliction of that period, support was confined to the limited capacities of charities.
Band-Aid and Live-Aid (1984/5) were earlier indicators that humans do have a capacity for global response and care. But that was affluent Western individuals caring for the poor of Africa. Now we are required to care for each other and are aware at the same time of the whole planet. Although there is some significant polarisation in this response, with a lot of fear and protection, there is at the other end a mass recognition for the bravery of those who are on the front lines of exposure, from supermarket checkouts to hospital staff. Historically, many of the occupations involved have been economically undervalued. Perceptions of priorities are being challenged.
This is driving a Green breakthrough wave that will reverberate. The US bail-out is happening through the gritted teeth of those who are deeply opposed to activity from the state which might resemble what they imagine to be “socialism”. Meanwhile at the individual level, many people are volunteering, shopping for the elderly and shifting into community responses to do what governments and municipalities are not resourced for. Such care for one another will not discriminate. It will not enquire on the religion or sexual preferences of those helped. In addition, the care is not simply for physical survival. We are asking about the emotional effects of isolation and the effects on those who are emotionally vulnerable. Blue would deliver such care from duty and obligation. These responses are driven by compassion and empathy, a simple desire to help. They are Green communal mind-sets
The I and the We
This is a shift in the societal centre of gravity – a tipping point in the Orange-Green transition. That has been held back for decades by the fear that too much Green care would be detrimental to our individual prosperity, our economic growth imperatives and our Western lifestyles. The pressure has increased, the systemic downsides visible in growing inequality and societal breakdowns such as opiate addiction and higher suicide rates, but the increase was not so great as to produce a fundamental change. The Orange system was more important than other possible threats such as climate change, ecological collapse and political instability. Now, the fear of collapse and its individual consequences are past relevance because collapse is happening. The fear is now that we will all be taken down. It is a massive movement in Gravesian terms from “I” to “We” focus.
So, what of Turquoise?
The title of this article will have led you to expect something more than Orange-Green.
This may be the moment for those of you to stop reading who are content that the above is all that really matters and / or are seriously allergic to any mention of Turquoise, who think that Consciousness is an unacceptable topic of discussion or who want me to present a lot of hard data and evidence. If you want data and evidence, read my book[ii]. Here, I will assume its conclusions as a basis for the exploration to follow.
Co-emergence of stages
I want to deal first with the basic SD question and the reluctance of many knowledgeable people to allow that Turquoise could be arising when humans are self-evidently not well established in the Yellow system.
If you know Graves you will have seen his graph / timeline with overlapping curves of stage emergence. Or you will have seen this diagram showing how each stage begins to show up as the prior stage reaches its peak, knowing that we are not in or near peak Yellow.
Such diagrams are simplifications. They indicate flows but they are not accurate maps of the territory. In addition I would remind you that the timescales are not linear. Each new stage has come after a shorter interval than the one before. If you look at that compression it is entirely feasible that Turquoise would be showing up now, potentially beginning the inclusion of all that has gone before.
I also suggest that we should pay attention to the resonance of 2nd with first tier. We are aware of Purple. We know some of the perceptions that exist there and that we should anticipate that in our integration of all prior stages a re-evaluation of Purple is called for, most particularly because the world at large has rejected its perceptual systems as primitive and superstitious. That rejection is already demanding our attention.
We are now moving into times beyond those which Graves so brilliantly foresaw and described in 1974. As with the mediaeval maps which at their edges said “here be dragons”, we are exploring uncharted territories. But Graves is as much a compass and a map-making algorithm as an actual map. I invite us all to recognise and trust this.
So I want to start this journey by asking how open you are to question the accepted reality? Do you believe that material-oriented science is the only true descriptor of our existence. Do you accept that there is something else besides that, an arena that we have used words like “spiritual” and “consciousness” to describe.
Let me use an example from one pioneer of such explorations – medical intuitive and spiritual teacher Caroline Myss. She describes the way in which following the 1929 collapse, the world described itself as “crippled”. What then followed was the outbreak of polio and not long after that, the election of an American President in a wheelchair.
Our SD conversations about value systems are inevitably couched in psychological terms. We are looking at inner, psychological responses to outer, material life conditions. The life conditions may extend to the societal, and to shared perceptions, so we are dealing with perceived tensions between the “I” and the “WE” perspectives. But the exteriors, the artefacts are the objects or the systems that we have set up in the world. We do not engage with the question of consciousness in its widest sense. We do not generally discuss how consciousness may be seen in both exterior and interior terms, still less what the boundaries are or how these aspects relate to each other. We might talk about spirituality in terms of how different stages frame that. It is not yet part of the theory to see consciousness as something more.
My book “The Science of Possibility” describes that “something more” and presents the evidence for it. Its conclusion is that our current scientific model fails to recognise, indeed it methodologically rules out, the reality that consciousness and information is the driving force of the universe. Energy is shaped into matter according to the information that the Universe holds about how that process can work. Physical reality is not the cause of consciousness. Instead, it is the effect of what the universe has learned about itself. And human reality is the result of what we have created, as an active conscious component shaping that information field. This is science, Jim, but not as you know it.
Consciousness and connection
The equivalent of the “Polio” context given above is that humans have been denying the reality of our conscious connectedness. We walked away from the (Blue) religious notion of God and our projection of creator-consciousness onto an external and separate entity. God is a delusion, for an Orange world in which we are all separate and without any reason beyond random accident for existing at all. Being separate, we console ourselves, by caring for one another as advanced animals. For Green, the spirit is only human spirit.
If we accept the reality that there is something beyond the material, and something beyond the description of consciousness as only a human construct, a mere side-effect of an over-complex brain with the capacity to imagine, then we require a new frame for the ability of humans to connect to a universe of consciousness. That frame only becomes possible when we refuse to accept the restrictions of a data-driven, purely analytical determination to be “objective”. Perversely, that determination and the restrictions involved, were a subjective choice. It is not a law of nature.
Subjectively this is not new, since Purple knows its connectedness to spirit in nature and most Blue systems accepted the concept of spirit and a higher consciousness that might be connected with through prayer or, for the few, mysticism. To return to such connectedness in Yellow and Turquoise does no more than swing the pendulum back from its materialist extreme.
Something is new, however. Purple and Blue accepted the existence of the exterior consciousness, but neither were in any sense empowered. The conceptual shift in recent decades has been towards direct human empowerment.
There are many labels under which this has come forward – creative visualisation, the Secret and What the Bleep? and Law of Attraction are a few of the prominent ones. Making the best use that they can of quantum physics concepts and bolting these on to a number of older and more traditional metaphysical ways of thinking, they have encouraged much interest. Scientifically there has been a small amount of support from the PEAR laboratory, a multitude of “healing” stories and some fascinating books but thus far it might easily be felt that if this is the new reality, it is not showing up with much clarity. Nevertheless, there are many who are persisting, and many more who believe in principle that our emergent future is one in which humans are conscious co-creators.
We have reached the point where this choice is now hard to ignore and approaching a binary one. It begins with whether you believe that this is possible or you do not. But the binary element is more than belief, because while you can sit in the middle and wait for belief, your choices are either aligned with the old reality or the new one. You are a conscious co-creator of the future or you are making the best of the remaining options. It makes a difference which you go with.
Breakdown or Breakthrough
The Coronavirus crisis brings this choice forward and faces us with some stark realities to confront. The collective consciousness faces new conditions. There is a tension between breakdown and breakthrough. Each of us is faced with a choice of emotional trajectory.
Green and below can downshift to deeper survival responses and unhealthy versions of stages (see my paper on downshift for details[iii]) in expectation of breakdown. By doing so they may be seen as making breakdown more likely if you perceive that those who are not part of the solution are part of the problem. Alternatively they can seek the higher ground, the helicopter overview of Yellow and beyond, or even within earlier stages, more constructive or even heroic response options in search of breakthrough.
However there is potentially more in the breakthrough than Yellow. Certainly Yellow is being called for and in my view is evident in some of the conversations and government briefings that I hear. There is a new acknowledgement of the complexity of the problem, the multitude of factors involved and the number of unknowns in the data. These are the VUCA conditions that so many of us have spoken of, that Graves described (prior to that acronym existing) in “The Momentous Leap” and that were the life conditions that he saw as the birthing pool for second tier. These conversations are expanding the public space and making it more obvious than ever before that simple solutions won’t do. Projecting trajectories and talk of “flattening the curve” present a level of complexity that normally we simply don’t see outside of the elite and intellectual spaces. So while Orange is being dragged toward Green, Green is being dragged towards Yellow.
What then of Turquoise? To experienced SDi folk it is nothing new to recognise that Green often comes with Turquoise aspirations. It is not only the Wilber-inspired folks who see that on the horizon; the “enlightenment” folk typically have it as a higher priority and are more inclined to wrestle with the paradoxes of non-dual existence. But we can see it in all of the “New Age” expressions of the Green system, that oneness has been in their sights.
Such unity remains aspirational in Green, because holism can only show up in limited forms prior to an embrace of the systemic awareness of Yellow. The most conspicuous place where it does show up in Green is internally to the personal biological frame. That is to say, it is prominent in the expansion of holistic medicine, in the ability to explore the way that human health is joined up in the context of mind body and spirit, and to recognise that there are multiple systems involved in affecting that biology. Outside of the body, Orange has major capacity to see functional systems and to draw entity relationship diagrams and flow charts for organisational dynamics and process functions. The foundations for Yellow are under construction. But it is with Yellow that a fuller awareness kicks in.
Yellow stimulates those coming from Orange to engage with the parts of the system that are hard to diagram, the non-material, the people variables (taking Green on board), the contextual dynamics and the sheer complexity that calls us to sense the patterns of connectedness when they are too fluid to draw. As Yellow meets with volatility we learn that the drawing is outdated before it can even be put through the photocopier.
Green in turn has been stimulated to raise its sights beyond the perspective where “only people matter”. As it moves to Yellow it has to re-evaluate its awareness of Orange and the intelligent management of the material world – resources, ecologies and economies – in order to address the functional questions of sustainability.
So Green has to get Yellow under its belt before Turquoise holism can be anything more than vapourware. Nor is enlightenment enough for genuine holism, because engaging with oneness as an experience will not fix the problems. Aspiration is not enough. You cannot deliver the UN SDG’s only by getting enlightened. Actions are required.
Actions for breakthrough
What kind of actions are required? When we stay with the functional thread through Orange to Yellow we see the components. Using the parallel to holistic medicine, that gives us the Body. When we stay with the people thread from Green we get the Mind. We see the attitudes and the mind-sets. Both are required, but we will remain blocked in this progression if we do not also have the Spirit.
As indicated previously, this cannot be done while we are pinioned by the “only matter matters” and “objective data-driven” view of reality which denies the existence of any frame for non-human consciousness. There is a call to step up. It leads us to the big, huge questions of what that frame truly is and what it means to take action in this realm. Action in the spiritual realm is INTENTIONAL co-creation.
The emphasis on the word “intentional” is critical. When the whole universe is a product of an emergent consciousness, an auto-poetic or self-generating field of information, we need a word that is beyond the conventional “conscious”. We are short of vocabulary in this new arena for discussion. The word consciousness itself is used in many ways and often without definition – human consciousness, god-consciousness, the act of being conscious, the awareness of our own thoughts – you can come up with more, no doubt.
While we are talking of vocabulary, let’s deal with the underlying viewpoint for co-creation that “you create your own reality”. This can be interpreted in two ways. One is that your choice of attitude determines the way that you experience reality; it is not the events that determine your experience, it is your response to those events. This is a purely psychological frame of reference and is easy for most people to accept.
The other interpretation is literal. It means that you actually influence what physically happens and the way that the emergent world takes shape. This is harder to accept, not only because we are schooled to believe otherwise but because we cannot see it happening. The concept of a butterfly in Hawaii affecting a tsunami in Tokyo is very hard for us to compute. So is the notion of a human thought nudging the fractal unfolding of physical reality. Even when it happens we cannot prove it and may well doubt in any specific instance that it is real. But this is not just some leap of faith. The patterns of evidence are there, if you are willing to see them.
Recognise however, that it is our collective co-creation that is significant here, much more than our individual capability. Some things take a lot of nudges. If the field of information, the spirit-mind, the universal consciousness or the mind of God are at the causational root of everything that exists, then humanity has always been a part of that co-creation. Co-creation is not a new option but an ongoing reality. It is only our awareness of the option that is new.
Once again I must ask that you suspend any disbelief that you may have and step into an alternative world, try it on for size, engage your curiosity to explore what this might mean if it were true.
I opened the article with the context of this crisis. As I write this we are in the third month of the pandemic. I write from lockdown, forbidden to do more than shop or walk around my block. We are experiencing the responses that the collective is engaging in.
The conventional view of this crisis is that a genetic event has occurred, producing a new viral organism that by chance turns out to be more infectious than most, with higher mortality than any flu for a century and with incubation times that made containment very difficult. This particular cookie crumbled in the worst of ways. Our only available choices are in how we deal with it and you can engage with that view by turning on your favourite news channel.
Here’s the unconventional view, the one seen from the perspective of co-creative consciousness. Here I pick up the thread of the earlier polio example from Caroline Myss, who is one of many thinkers and practitioners who are informing this new view. Here’s my version of the story as it looks today.
We have been living in a world that even as it became year by year more interconnected materially and technologically was focused more and more on individuality and celebrity, increasingly unequal and in recent years more and more susceptible to nationalistic boundaries and self-interest. This all took place in a world where fewer people have a faith system and where many of the conflicts are caused by those who still have them. Separation and separateness are themes.
We have been living in a world that since 1945 has been at least subliminally aware of a human capacity to destroy planetary life, an awareness that more recently become more visceral as it extended into arenas of climate, ecology, pollution and health. We narrowly avoided an economic collapse just a decade ago and for many people whose existence had been steadily improving since WW2, that progress has been halted. We are scared for our future and the future of our children. Fear and Anxiety are themes
We have been living in a world where our house is no longer in order. We are polluters and destroyers, creators of an unclean world, plastic-littered and atmospherically toxic. We have diseases of consumption such as widespread obesity and diabetes. Cleanliness and order are themes
We have been living in a world that has become steadily more overwhelming at the same time that we appeared to be more and more in control. We were required routinely to adapt to rates of change that would have been unimaginable even 50 years ago. Our technology is phenomenal and as life-spans extended we could believe more and more that we would conquer death itself with surgery and pharmacology. We could speak of cures for cancer. Overwhelm, control and fear of death are themes.
The most fundamental law of all in nature, in living systems and (therefore) at the centre of Spiral Dynamics principles is the requirement for balance. This principle is inbuilt to all of creation, to any aspect of creator consciousness. Dynamic movement is an essential part of life, but for existence to be sustainable extremes cannot persist.
Since consciousness has this requirement built in, it would be expected that planetary consciousness, and in particular the portion of it that reflects living sentience and the 7 billion human components of that collective, would bring imbalance to the surface for correction. We, the collective, would create an event for that purpose.
In this story, it is possible, but not necessary that the collective would cause a new virus to exist. Even without that step, the story works. If we did not physically or metaphysically cause it to happen, we would respond to it from our unbalanced state. And that is what we have done, and how we are working with the themes.
Oneness and separation
The way that Covid-19 has shown up has heightened our awareness that this is a single planet and we are dealing in very visible ways with the way that we draw boundaries. We are enforcing degrees of physical separation while simultaneously invoking the call to work together, with volunteer groups filling functional gap and people on doorsteps and balconies applauding those on the front line. There is a fresh view of the collective and of one planet, even while we self-isolate and lock down. Almost spontaneously and without even a UN decree, the world took a decision to restrict air travel that it was previously unable to even contemplate as a response to climate emergency.
Fear and Anxiety
The levels of fear that have been generated require no emphasis. While they vary by individual or culture, panic was everywhere, from the most basic and almost bizarre hoarding of toilet paper to the obsessive media release of daily death statistics. These have no frame of reference, no comparison with, say, the number of heart attacks, suicides or cancer fatalities. 90% of the media coverage is (nothing new here) oriented to what is still going wrong, be it with protective equipment or shortage of nurses or economic knock-on effects. Meanwhile, the usual distractions are also taken off the menu. No sport, no bars, no cinemas. It will not take long, with studios closed, before most TV is repeats. We still have bread, but the circuses are closed.
Cleanliness and Order
This too is obvious. We have had to be taught to wash our hands. There is a less obvious demand for restraint in our behaviour as we obey the new rules for what we must do. And we are also being pushed towards a re-evaluation of our life priorities and to be more conscious of the impact individual actions have on the collective. We will see more of this.
Overwhelm, fear of death and desire to control
VUCA conditions were generating stress long before Covid-19. For a short time, the economic pause button of the lock-down diverts our attention. It is not possible to predict what exit from lock-down will look like, but a major slow-down is probable. Overwhelm is very visible in healthcare systems and has become the major driver of responses, and behind that drive is the fear of death itself. Much has changed in 100 years. The numbers of casualties from the pandemic are dwarfed by the daily death tolls on WW1 battlefields. Nor do they yet compare with the Spanish Flu of 1919. The change is both in our fear or non-acceptance of death and in our collective response that this must be controlled. While we control Covid-19, we are delaying other operations, unable to treat normal conditions, increasing the pressure on other potential causes of death. There is more to resolve.
Human thinking and adaptation
The story is merely a story, but it is not just my invention. It reflects the points of view by others whom I observe to be applying holistic and consciousness-oriented ways of thinking. They see this form of adaptation as the priority code which is now expressing itself in response to today’s life conditions.
This is a central question for those who are looking for an explanation that fits with the Spiral Dynamics perspective on evolution. Said Dawlabani’s recent article[iv] explores the background to this in a way that runs parallel to what I am writing. Early responses to that article are tending to polarise between the Orange “random mutation” viewpoint and those that are open to some deeper possibility that might go deeper into the mystery. I urge that we embrace the latter and expand the Graves paradigm to become a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual framework. 50 years have passed since his research. He was detecting Yellow and Turquoise back then, well before they were manifest. It is now time that we have sufficient courage that we stop saying that it is unrealistic or premature to talk about Turquoise and even Coral. That stance insults both the fundamental notions and the visible timeline of the Never-Ending Quest. It is time to look towards them, not to avert our gaze.
Said says this:- “The Coronavirus cannot be about the failure of one value system or a specific culture. This is about the Universe reaching out from 5 billion years of evolution to remind us of our origins. We have repeatedly ignored messages from less threatening, defenceless sources about the damage we are causing to the totality of life that emerged since the universe came into existence. We became the most complex virus that was quietly killing everything around us.”
In the background to this are a few scientific essentials, namely
1) that strands of DNA evolved before everything else
2) that viruses are part of the genetic communications system, active in how genes express in practice and
3) that the science of epigenetics is showing that genes do not have fixed outcomes but are responsive to environmental influences – i.e. that they are adaptive not only in the long-term generational timescale but in the short-term that is within a lifetime
4) that Elisabet Sahtouris (“Earthdance”[v]) has laid out clearly how the cycle of collaboration and competition expresses itself in the evolution of an ecology and
5) that in “The biology of Belief[vi]” Bruce Lipton has described how our emotions and our genetic responses are linked and
6) that Candace Pert has described some of the mechanisms for this in “Molecules of Emotion”[vii].
Thus what I have presented as a story of spiritual consciousness is not happening in some disconnected realm. It is time for us to rise above the notion that all this is “woo-woo”. It is mediated by physical, chemical and biological events. The choice to see those events as random is just that. It is a choice that borders on cowardice. In the context of the coronavirus it amounts to desertion in the face of the enemy.
Beyond that choice lie implications for our choices of action.
Choices of action
If you operate only in the realms of First Tier concepts then your choices are limited to the ones that humans are currently making, such as hand-washing and physical distancing. I am in favour of these and practice them too. This is not a call for us to abandon the knowledge that science offers; it is a call to add to it.
Where I may differ from Said Dawlabani is that he is speaking of the sixth global extinction, and while I don’t dispute that this is a possibility, I do believe that our adaptive ability may profoundly influence the likelihood of that outcome. We have a choice. If this new science is real and correct, with its metaphysical (i.e. above physics) perspective and its viewpoint on the influence that the information field has on the emergent future then we have a new set of tools at our disposal. This is what I have written about in “The Science of Possibility” and what I am propelling in practice through my “Access to Possibility” work. I mention the last because the detail of how these actions are applied are being presented there and they are beyond the scope of this article. At the same time I should emphasise that many practitioners in our own fields who are using constellations, social presencing, theory U and other such toolsets are already engaged in the connected conscious reality, whether or not that is explicit, or recognised, or scientifically understood .
Put briefly, the choices that are available are in the application of the science of co-creator consciousness. What might we be able to do if we approached our world as a living system that we can influence? What would be possible if we stepped away from the polarisation between on the one hand finding ourselves powerless victims to events that are meaningless and random and on the other, a hubristic and well discredited belief that we can dominate and control? Such steps would be the direct application of the holistic perspective which Turquoise describes, not just as a passive interpretation of our exterior world, but as in active and integrated application of our connectedness to a field that humans have always expressed knowledge of. This is the octave shift of a modern shamanism, a post-scientific shamanism that understands our potential to influence and co-create in a way that was not accessible to our ancestors or to many of their remaining tribal descendants. This is what happens when magical thinking becomes a scientific endeavour.
It is for these reasons that I put forward the possibility that Coronavirus is more even than a wake-up call from planet Earth. It is a direct reflection of human collective consciousness in action. It is an expression of the way that we are in an embedded, active and co-evolutionary relationship with the emergent reality.
What will you choose to do?
March 31st 2020
[i] An introductory video can be found here Spiral Dynamics Intro
[iii] Downshift: http://www.spiralfutures.com/index.php/major-articles/stress-fear-and-dysfunctional-leadership
[v] Earthdance: https://www.amazon.co.uk/EarthDance-Systems-Evolution-Elisabet-Sahtouris/dp/0595130674
[vi] Lipton Biology of Belief: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Biology-Belief-10th-Anniversary-ebook/dp/B011AE5OY6
[vii] Pert: Molecules of Emotion: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Candace-Pert-Molecules-Emotion-Feel/dp/B00NBCZHDO