In a recent email I asked “What does ‘the Spiral’ have to say about 2023?”
Here, I am extending the answer I gave. It’s a big and critical question.
While the dynamics are not predictive and always uncertain, I want to play in the tree-top horizon-scanning role of a wizard using the Z template.
Even though evident complexity and turbulence mean the crystal ball is cloudy, it is in the nature of living systems to respond adaptively and Graves was clear both about the general trajectory and about the fact that in human thinking systems, adaptation has always happened. Eventually.
We have been on the cusp for some while. The Orange systems of materialistic science and mechanistic economics have been challenged by new evidence and by visible outcomes alike. Orange’s own practical failures, unforeseen consequences and delusions of human control have shown that it is internally inadequate in both theory and intention. It has been under external pressure from Blue which it has undermined, from the Green stage push to value humans and from Yellow perspectives to acknowledge and engage with the complexity itself and with the planet as a system.
We are on that cusp because of resistance. Some of that resistance is in the exteriors. Barriers to change (Gamma states) show up because of embedded and rigid structures such as corporate economics, hierarchical elitism and political power blocs. Blue-Orange mindsets are fearful that Green will turn control into chaos. For centuries we have been educated that linear thinking and cause-and-effect mechanisms can provide prediction and control. However, these methods are incapable of dealing with multiple interwoven strands and complex systems. This applies equally at the global, national, societal and corporate scales and is even true of our personal operating system.
Sooner or later these life conditions cannot be maintained; breakdown becomes inevitable. I am suggesting that 2023 is likely to be the year in which we see matters come to a head. Given the nature of the complexity, the form in which breakdown occurs is not predictable, but when so many interlinked subsystems form this house of cards, it hardly matters which of them topples first. When the collapse comes, we will be forced to recognise that “predict and control” was a failed strategy and does not offer genuine solutions. While there will be those who capitalise on fear and try to impose old ways of militarism and dictatorship, they will soon fail.
Some of the most crucial resistance is in our interiors, though. I have various images in my thoughts. We are like the cells inside a pupa, preparing to become butterflies yet meanwhile we are still thinking like caterpillars and unwilling to let go of our old ways. We will have to let ourselves melt down more. While faced with Graves’ prediction, offered in the language of a “leap”, we shuffle forward. We cannot take off to cross the gulf because we are keeping one foot firmly anchored to the ground on this side.
We speak, quite correctly, of the reality that there is no Second Tier existence in isolation. Tier 2 exists as an integration of the Tier 1 systems. We still need our deep identity, our personal empowerment, ordering systems, strategic creativity and collective humanity. That is not the whole picture, however. We cannot move forward if we try to hold on to the forms in which we previously expressed those priorities. If we do, they become our anchors and we cannot fly. In more mundane language, we are attempting to solve problems using the mindsets that created them. Greater fluidity and agility are needed. New Blue, New Orange, New Green.
Those old mindsets have not only created the systems and structures that are breaking down. We have also embedded them in our individual habits of thinking and behaving as well as in our shared cultures and contexts for dialogue. They have become as invisible to us as our gravitational field or as the water is to the goldfish. They define our reality and our fields of possibility. We are entrapped until we question and challenge them, until we redefine our relationship to all that surrounds us.
So is there a viable alternative? What do we need to do?
The answers are present in the coming stages if we are willing to take the adaptive leap. Therefore, this is not a leap into the unknown because as far back as Graves’ time, we have baseline data and we have expanded on our knowledge over five decades since then.
I say stages, plural, because even the spiral needs to be looked at without too much linearity. Yellow and Turquoise are already co-emerging and even Coral may be glimpsed in the distance by those whose eyes and minds are open but not trying to bend the concepts out of shape. To see them clearly, we need to look in new ways and not through our habitual lenses. Then we need to embrace and apply them in our choices.
Stages are sets of priority codes for what we consider to be important to our survival. We can’t force others to change their priorities but we have the ability to choose our own, to give them more attention and intention and to change our behaviours. Here is a short list of some options that I have found valuable in my own development and that meet the adaptive needs described above. I will start with Green, because many of us may be hovering on that edge.
- From Green: Develop awareness of the value that is present in earlier stages in order to widen the bandwidth of understanding and create a more integrated worldview by
- discovering more regarding earlier stages whose contributory value may have been rejected or overlooked
- engaging with the ways that all priority codes can express in both healthy and unhealthy ways and recognise that great value is often found in improving the balance within that stage rather than moving to the next one
- developing the ability to engage with uncertainty and paradox as inherent features of existence which require us to relinquish the illusion and intention of control
- relinquishing the hangovers of Blue and Orange presentations of scientific or spiritual reality and letting go of their flawed conceptions of, or proofs for, what is real.
- From Yellow: Intentionally engage to understand the dynamics of complexity, most particularly in relation to living human systems. Engage with the underlying Spiral principles:
- balance of individual and collective needs
- how the interrelationship between interior mindsets and exterior artefacts or systems blends change and stability (homeodynamics rather than homeostasis)
- that the building blocks from lower-level systems become the foundational components for higher levels in a hierarchy of complexity
- that because of c., systems are built both bottom-up and top-down and living systems are emergent, not directed
- that organisational and societal structures must leverage the perceptions and intelligences from all levels in order to respond with the most complete adaptive awareness
- that the Orange scientific perspective is dysfunctional and not equipped to deliver the bandwidth of knowledge that these principles demand
- that even the view of who and what you are as an individual human may need to change in order to encompass the above
- From Turquoise: Intentionally engage with more holistic perspectives and the relationship between the human world and the planet itself as a living system. That includes
- learning and leveraging the perspectives of Purple to revise our assumptions about our identity and bonding (familial, tribal-ancestral and social boundary-holding)
- embracing and developing the capacities for connection in the non-material realms with deeper awareness of cultural habits and contexts as well as “modern shaman” techniques for intuition, psychic connection, field awareness and “constellation”- sensing modalities.
- discovering the required blend of structural support and behavioural principles that are required to produce flexible relationship between the needs of the one and the health of the whole
- (Potentially) from Coral: Beginning to engage with the question of how our personal empowerment and need to express our full being operates within the interconnectedness of the whole, so as to deliver maximum personal expression and leadership as a contribution to the movement of the whole.
I don’t believe that this adaptive shift is optional anymore, especially among those who are leaders, influencers and facilitators. We have passed the point where we can meet our challenges adequately with our old mindsets. Hunkering down or regressing to cope won’t cut it. When in chaos, stasis is death. I will say more in another article.
What am I doing about any of this?
A reminder that the Level 2 OD training (“organisations as living systems”) that begins on January 30th is still open (just) for last-minute applications. It’s a great route into this new way of thinking.
Experiencing the Spiral
Advance notice, trailer for April or thereabouts. I will say something more definite soon, but I plan to offer an “Experience the Stages” program series. This is a unique opportunity to engage with the stages from the inside and discover more about what is happening for you in the space of each of them. It is an opportunity for exploration and self-knowledge.
What it will NOT be is an intentional developmental ladder. If you wish to use it for choosing your own changes, that is great, but there is no agenda from me to “raise your consciousness” or change who you choose to be. This will not have a certification “level” or carry any pre-requisite training requirements. However, if you have previously taken the Level 2 Individual Development training, some of what we do would be familiar.
The School of Relational Being: Living As If You’re Completely Connected
This is my big new project – possibly a never-ending one since it is quite profound in its content and implications. It will take the conceptual perspectives of my “Science of Possibility” book, now ten years since publication, and turn it more and more into a full-spectrum framework for existence. Thus, it addresses a lot of the adaptive shifts and developmental advances that are now needed, offering multiple perspectives and lenses on practice. Some of those lenses will come from other people who have relevant expertise and will be a form of meshwork. How that collaboration looks will emerge over time.
The Spiral Experience is one gateway to this territory and will be offered from within the School, but while SDi sits within all my work, this new arena is not primarily about the Spiral itself. The Relational Intelligence framework itself will be explained and illustrated in a series of articles and other output that will appear, starting quite soon, on Medium, LinkedIn, Substack, spiralfutures.com and the accesstopossibility Facebook group. If you are not already connected to me in one or more of those locations, I invite you to find me, and I provide some links below. If you p/m me, we can add you to our regular mailing list.