Evolution of Humanity

“When man is finally able to see himself and the world around him with clear cognition, he finds a picture far more pleasant. Visible in unmistakable clarity and devastating detail is man’s failure to be what he might be and his misuse of his world. This revelation causes him to leap out in search of a way of life and system of values which will enable him to be more than he has been. He seeks a foundation of self-respect, which will have value system rooted in knowledge and cosmic reality where he expresses himself so that all others, all beings can continue to exist. His values now are of a different order from those at previous levels: They arise not from selfish interest but from the recognition of the magnificence of existence and the desire that it shall continue to be.”
Clare W. Graves

Human Nature Prepares for a
Momentous Leap

by Clare W. Graves

1. excerpt from the writing:"Human Nature Prepares for a
Momentous Leap"

Human Progress Can Be Arrested

At this point it might be good to take a closer look at what happens when man changes levels of existence. The process itself is similar to some very basic phenomena in quantum mechanics and brain physiology, suggesting that it may in fact derive from the same laws of hierarchical organization. Basically, man must solve certain hierarchically ordered existential problems which are crucial to him in his existence. The solution of his current problem frees energy in his system and creates in turn new existential problems. (For instance, both the self-centering and other-awareness of the F-S state are necessary if the G-T problems of how life can survive are to be posted.) When new problems arise, higher order dynamic neurological systems are biochemically activated to solve them.

Will man inevitably progress, both as an individual and as a species, to higher levels of existence? Or can he become fixed at some level, even regress? The answer is that man can indeed become fixed at one level, and he can regress. A frightening example of cultural regression to the most primitive level of existence is that of the Ik tribe of Uganda which, after losing its lands, degenerated past any recognizable sign of humanity. (See anthropologist Colin Turnbull's book, The Mountain People.) Many tribes of American Indians at the end of the last century shared a like fate. Despite this, we must remember that the tendency for man to grow to higher states is always present, and may be likened to the force that enables a tree to crack boulders so that each year it can add another ring to its heartwood. Like the tree, man is most often stunted in his growth by external circumstance: poverty, helplessness, social disapproval and the like. Often, the full expression of the level of existence at which man finds himself is simply not possible. Few people, for instance, have the opportunity of fully indulging their E-R values by attempting to conquer man and nature. Consequently, man often is halted at this level and develops the ‘lust for power’ which is so frequently believed to be universal in man.

Man, the species, must fully realize each level of existence if he is to rise to the next higher level, because only by pursuing his values to their limits can he recognize the higher-order existential problem that these particular values do not apply to. E-R man had to become powerful over nature in order to see that beyond the problem of power was the problem of knowing the inner self: the F-S level. He could not very well coerce or manipulate his neighbor into knowing himself. Therefore, his useless E-R values inevitably began to disintegrate as a way of life. Thus it seems that a moral ‘breakdown’ regularly accompanies the transition from one level of existence to another. Man drops his current way of perceiving and behaving, and searches his cast-off levels for a way of behaving that will solve his new problem. In his frustration, E-R man may protest that he sacrificed for what he got (D-Q level) or make an appeal to law and order (C-P level) to end the demonstrations against him. All this will be to no avail because, naturally, no lower level behavior will solve his new higher-order problem. E-R man will be forced to take the first steps towards a new way of perceiving and behaving: the F-S system. With his first step he becomes F-S man, both because he is now understanding and respectful of the inner self of others rather than being powerful and manipulation, but because the greater part of his energy is now devoted to the problem of how to achieve community through personal and interpersonal experiencing.

We can therefore see that our time at each level of existence is divided between an embryonic period of identifying the values needed to solve the new existential problem, a period of implementing the values toward the solution of the problem, and a period of values breakdown following the successful solving of the problem. It is this final phase of break-down which causes such periodic dismay in society, but dissolution is necessary so that man can be free to recognize new existential problems. There is, in addition, an appearance of breakdown which results from the realization of the new values themselves, because these new values are so often the exact antithesis of the old. In that sense, the new values do represent the ultimate breakdown of the current basis of society, or of the individual's way of life.

Finally, there is a singular empirical fact associated with man's transitions from one level of existence to another. As our species moves up each step on each ladder of existence, it spends less and less time at each new level. It took literally millions of years for our ancestors to become tribalistic B-O man, while in the technologically advanced nations today man is moving from the E-R level through F-S to G-T in a scant twenty years. There is every reason to expect we will remain for a long time at the G-T level, then a shorter time at the H-U and other second ladder levels. At the G-T level, man will begin the task of subsistence again but in a new and higher order form (the survival of the human race), assuming, of course, that no external circumstances, such as a major war or other catastrophe, intervene to arrest our growth.


Levels of Existence

First Subsistence Level (A-N): Man at this level is motivated only by imperative periodic physiological needs. He seeks to stabilize his individual body functions. This level of existence is perfectly adequate to preserve the species, but it is seldom seen today except in rare instances, as in the Tasaday tribe, or in pathological cases.

Second Subsistence Level (B-O):  At this level, man seeks social (tribal) stability. He strongly defends a life he does not understand. He believes that his tribal ways are inherent in the nature of things, and resolutely holds to them. He lives by totems and taboos.

Third Subsistence Level (C-P): Raw, self-assertive individualism comes to the fore at this level, and the term ‘Machiavellian’ may be used. This is the level where “might makes right” thinking prevails. There is an aggressive expression of man’s lusts, openly and unabashedly by the ‘haves,’ more covertly and deviously by the ‘have nots.’ Anyone dealing with the C-P type must resort to the threat of sheer naked force to get him to do anything.

Fourth Subsistence Level (D-Q): At this level, man perceives that living in this world does not bring ultimate pleasure, and also sees that rules are prescribed for each class of people. Obedience to these rules is the price that one must pay for more lasting life. D-Q people generally subscribe to some dogmatic system, typically a religion. These are the people who believe in 'living by the Ten Commandments,' obeying the letter of the law, etc. They work best within a rigid set of rules, such as army regulations. 

Fifth Subsistence Level (E-R): People at the E-R level want to attain mastery of the world by learning its secrets rather than through brute force (as at the C-P level). They believe that the man who comes out on top in life fully deserves his good fortune, and those who fail are ordained to submit to the chosen few. E-R people tend to be somewhat dogmatic, but they are pragmatic, too, and when they find something that works better they’ll change their beliefs.

Sixth Subsistence Level (F-S): Relating self to other human selves and to his inner self is central to man at the F-S level. Unlike the E-R people, F-S man cares less for material gain or power than he does for being liked by other people. He's ready to go along with whatever everyone else thinks is best. He likes being in groups; the danger is that he gets so wrapped up in group decision-making that little work gets done.

 First Being Level (G-T): The first being level is tremendously different from the earlier subsistence levels, says Graves. Here as man, in his never-ending spiral, turns to focus once again on the external world and his use of power in relation to it, the compulsiveness and anxiousness of the subsistence ways of being are gone. Here man has a basic confidence that he, through a burgeoning intellect freed of the constriction of lower level anxieties, can put the world back together again. If not today, then tomorrow. Here he becomes truly a cooperative individual and ceases being a competitive one. Here he truly sees our interdependence with all things of this universe. And here he uses the knowledge garnered through his first-ladder trek in efforts to put his world together again, systemically.

 Second Being Level (H-U):  People operating in an H-U fashion have been rare in Graves's studies. Almost all of Graves’s subjects who so behaved have been in their late fifties and beyond. What typifies them is a ‘peculiar’ paradoxical exploration of their inner world. They treat it as a new toy with which to play. But even though playing with it, they are fully aware that they will never know what their inner selves are all about. Graves says this idea is best illustrated by a poem of D. H. Lawrence, “Terra Incognita.”


Outline Description and Characteristics

1. Beige

reactive image

An inwardly pointing worldview, dependent on outside support for its survival. Today only seen in babies and very young children, and those people suffering from a severe degenerative condition (such as Alzheimer’s) or extreme drug dependency.
2. Purple

tribal image

Very ‘tribal’ in its approach. The individual follows a strong leader or symbol. In today’s society it is seen in a somewhat more diluted form with some family units, football supporters, highly competitive corporate teams. Core values include safety and security.
3. Red

egocentric image

A highly individualistic level, often with a lot of anger in it.Can be seen in the ‘terrible two’s’ and rebellious teenage behaviour. Also evident in macho street violence later in life. Core values here include power, immediate gratification, escaping from being controlled, being respected and avoiding shame. Some evidence that a high proportion of UK prison population is at this level shown by lack of consequence awareness.
4. Blue

absolutist image

A community oriented level with strong “moving away from” motivation.Strong sense of right vs. wrong, good vs. bad and the need for order in society. In cultural terms, judicial systems develop at this level. Fundamentalist religious beliefs are seen here too. Core values include justice, security and morality. Also a desire to control impulsivity and “evil” deeds. Can be seen in movements such as “right to life” and “moral majority”.
5. Orange

materialist image

An individualistic level with a strong personal drive and high energy operating from a “moving towards” motivation strategy. Very aspirational, keen to succeed and responds well to the trappings of success. Much of creative science emerges as a means to control human destiny at this level. Core values around success, creativity and achievement. Likes to be popular and enjoys winning. Can be seen in modern industrial nations and the upwardly mobile.
6. Green

personalistic image

Focus on involvement and gaining consensus/agreement. Seeks peace with inner self and to gain contact with the inner self of others. Core values around fairness and equality with the desire to free the human spirit from exploitation. Has generated the women’s movement and the civil rights movement in the last century. Wishes to eliminate poverty, racism, chauvinism and other forms of divisiveness.
7. Yellow

systemic image

An individually oriented ‘systems’ viewpoint. Sees the world as being in danger of collapse because of misuse of resources. Sees life as diverse and paradoxical. Has the pursuit of knowledge as a major driver but without the need to demonstrate his/her own ego. Can often see the bigger picture and be willing to take a position that is contrary to popular opinion. However, may get frustrated if others are not able to see their point.
8. Turquoise

holistic image

Sees a world in danger of geo-political collapse as a result of adopting short term strategies. Seeks spirituality and unity in living systems. Strives to eliminate war, poverty, disease, hunger and political oppression. Recognises the potential need to sacrifice self and others as may be required for the overall survival of life. Thinks and acts globally.

Estimates of world population and power:

Note: This table is intended as a guide only because it was based on estimates and may include some double-counting, probably as a result of exiting/entering phases)

LevelPopulation %Power %
1.) BeigeN/A0
2.) Purple101
3.) Red205
4.) Blue4030
5.) Orange3050
6.) Green1015
7.) Yellow15
8.) Turquoise0.11

Sources: Dr Wyatt Woodsmall – Integral Change Technology TM
Don Edward Beck/Christopher C. Cowan – Spiral Dynamics

Note: Our ability to influence each level requires both willingness and personal flexibility. It will be heavily influenced by the system or systems within which you currently sit. As Graves suggested, the more evolved levels do offer significantly more choice of action so anything you can do to move yourself, and your team, further into Level 7 thinking will be very helpful at both an individual and organisational level.

Graphical Summary of Graves’ Values Levels

Purpose: To illustrate how each level is a ‘holon’ and is encapsulated within each subsequently emerging level.

“There is something in us that keeps us where we find ourselves. I think this is the most awful thing of all.”
P.D. Ouspensky

Essential stimulus for development

“Besides, all evil is relative. Something that is evil at one level of evolution can be good at an earlier stage because it provides the essential stimulus for development. But you want to judge everything by your own standards. You have reached a comparatively high level and so you see what you fight against as evil. Just think of the others, those who are at an earlier stage of development. Do not bar them from the path toward progress and evolution.”
P.D. Ouspensky