Third Generation Gravesians

The Wisdom of Prof. Clare W. Graves (1914-1986), Applied

Implications for Education

Based on the

Worldviews of Teachers


Kirk B. Coleman


A Paper

Presented to City University

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements

For the Degree of Master of Education

December 2008


Table of Contents

Abstract-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5

CHAPTER 1: STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM------------------------------------------- 6

Statement of the Problem---------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6

Limitations---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6

Organization of Paper--------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 7

Definition of Terms----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 8

Summary ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 9


CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW-------------------------------------------------------- 9

Description of Worldviews-------------------------------------------------------------------------- 10

Definition-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 10

What you think – you do------------------------------------------------------------------- 10

Theoretical framework of Worldviews-------------------------------------------------- 11

Worldviews are subject to change-------------------------------------------------------- 12


Graves’ model------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 12

What is it to be human? -------------------------------------------------------------------- 12

Defining the Problem------------------------------------------------------------------------ 13

Graves’ point of view----------------------------------------------------------------------- 15


Eight levels---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 16

Environment affects world view---------------------------------------------------------- 16

Brain Size-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 17

We see what we choose to----------------------------------------------------------------- 18


Gathering and Organizing the Data---------------------------------------------------------------- 20


Eight levels---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 22

Transition between first and second tier------------------------------------------------ 28


Implications of the Research of Graves----------------------------------------------------------- 33

Peak vs. Transition--------------------------------------------------------------------------- 33

Open/Closed/Arrested---------------------------------------------------------------------- 33

Increasing complexity----------------------------------------------------------------------- 34

Education and Worldviews---------------------------------------------------------------- 35

Application of the Theory---------------------------------------------------------------------------- 35

Leadership------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 35

Older view of leadership --------------------------------------------------------- 35

Different levels require different forms---------------------------------------- 36

Other forms of leadership through Spiral Dynamics perspective--------- 37


Graves, levels and leadership-------------------------------------------------------------- 40


Curriculum---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 46

Other points of view------------------------------------------------------------------------- 46

Different levels for different stakeholders---------------------------------------------- 47

Social Growth--------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 48

Learning Systems and Levels-------------------------------------------------------------- 50


Conclusion---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 54


CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY-------------------------- 55

CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS OF THE STUDY--------------------------------------------------- 57

Interpretation of the Data---------------------------------------------------------------------------- 60

Transition from FS to A’N’-------------------------------------------------------------------------- 67



Summary of the Study-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 68

Conclusions--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 68

Recommendations------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 69

Areas for further Research--------------------------------------------------------------------------- 71

References----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 72

Appendix A--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 77

Appendix B--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 80

Appendix C--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 81


Figure Captions

Figure 1. Most like me with world averages----------------------------------------------------- 58

Figure 2. Least like me with world averages---------------------------------------------------- 59

Figure 3. School Group Spiral Dynamic Chart-------------------------------------------------- 60




This paper looks at some of the implications for education found in the work of Clare W. Graves. The paper begins by defining the concept of worldview as related to this topic; it explores the connections between the work of other people writing in this area and the work of Graves. A brief explanation of the application of the work of Graves, as used in Spiral Dynamics, is given. Finally, the worldview of a small group of teachers is identified and the implication their worldview has on their interaction with students, peers and management is considered. This paper suggests that there are significant implications for education in the work of Graves and that research in this area should be pursued.



 Statement of the Problem

             People view the world from their own unique perspective. How they see the world colours their experiences, their relations with others and everything they do. Some see the world as a wonderful place; an exciting adventure to explore and enjoy and learn from. Others see it as a harsh and unforgiving place where every gain must be fought for and only the strongest survive. These views and many others shape how teachers interact in a school setting.

Understanding the worldview of an individual or group helps to explain why they behave the way they do.  Understanding the worldview of teachers can lead to insights into the way they teach in their class, interact with colleagues, and relate to administration. There have been many people who have attempted to explain or define the correct worldview for humans. This paper will focus on the work of Clare W. Graves. Dr. Graves created a theory that explores levels of human development and a set of descriptors of those levels that have significant implications for education. The intent of this paper is to explore the implications for education in the work of Dr. Graves making use of material gathered in an elementary school with a focus on teachers working in grades four through seven. In particular the worldview of a group of teachers will be measured and identified and Graves’s theory will be used to explore how that worldview affects the relationship between the teachers, the administration and their students.



This study has several limitations. Graves wrote little himself (Rosado, 1996) and not much has been published by others related to his ideas. Most of the development related to the work of Graves has been in the field of management and little has been applied to education. The tools that are being used to measure worldviews are still in early stages of development and at best, give a rough idea of the levels that people use to see the world. This study makes use of a small sample of teachers with the analysis applied to just part of one school.  Some division can be found in the ranks of those who follow the work of Graves. One group is centered on Chris Cowan and the other around Don Beck both worked with and were friends of Graves. Beck’s group has blended some of the work of Ken Wilbur, an American philosopher into the work of Graves. Cowan’s group believe that they have the true version of Graves’ work. Both groups agree on the importance of the work that Graves did but argue about the interpretations of his work.


Organization of Paper

This paper will begin with a literature review of some of the important contributions in defining worldviews made by other researchers. It will then give an overview of the work of Graves and the general implications that the theory holds for education. The literature review will look at the relationship of Graves’ theory to current ideas in education related to leadership and emerging ideas about our understanding of the world as well as the work of others who have applied the work of Graves to education.

In Chapter three the paper will look at the data collected from five teachers and the principal at an elementary school. This data will then be analyzed using Graves’ theory on human development. In Chapter four the findings of the study will be described and analyzed.  Finally, in the last chapter, a summary of the study along with conclusions and recommendations will be discussed. Suggestions for further study will also be made in this section.


Definition of Terms


In describing what I will refer to as worldviews and Graves refers to levels of human development, Harvey (1986) states that theories and beliefs are "a set of conceptual representations which signify to its holder a reality or given state of affairs of sufficient validity, truth or trustworthiness to warrant reliance upon it as a guide to personal thought and action" (p. 660).


The term vMeme, as used in Spiral Dynamics, refers to the concept of value meme. Value memes are the labels given to the eight levels of existence or worldviews as described by Graves. The term was never used by Graves himself but was coined by Beck and Cowan in their book Spiral Dynamics. They blended the concept of memes, from the work of Richard Dawkins and Mihaly Csikszentmihaly with the value structures set out by Graves.

Letter pairs such as AN, BO, CP

Graves used pairs of letter to describe the levels of human development or vMemes. In his terminology the first letter represented the problems or life conditions present at the time. The second letter represents the dynamic neurological system present in the brain which is activated by the life conditions.

vMeme colours –  such as Beige, Purple, Red

Graves did not use colour codes when he wrote, colour codes were created later by Beck and Cowan in order to simplify and to some extent to remove the hierocracy inherent in using letters. The colours themselves have no special significance and merely serve to name the states.


The spiral

The spiral represents the metaphor created by Beck and Cowan to help explain Graves’ theory. A spiral was chosen because as each level of development progresses it encompasses the previous one and builds on it. It also represents the never ending aspect of the theory that was so important to Graves.



In summary, I intend to explore the implications for education that can be seen by taking into account the worldview of teachers.




            The purpose of this literature review is to explore material written by and about Clare Graves and his theory of how a person’s worldview impacts their life. In particular I intend to explore the implications that this theory holds for education. Specific topics covered will include the concept of worldviews as seen by others, the eight major world views as defined by Graves, the theory behind Graves’ ideas on worldviews, and the implications for education based on Graves’ theory.



A Description of Worldviews

Definitions of Worldview

Fang (1996) quotes Clark and Peterson when he says that teaching involves two major domains, thought processes and actions. Early research involved looking at teacher actions. He goes on to say that later research focused on teachers thinking. He points out that teacher’s thoughts have been categorized into three types, the first is planning, the second is interactive thoughts and decisions and finally theories and beliefs. In describing what I will refer to as worldviews and what Graves refers to levels of human development. Harvey (1986) states that theories and beliefs are "a set of conceptual representations which signify to its holder a reality or given state of affairs of sufficient validity, truth or trustworthiness to warrant reliance upon it as a guide to personal thought and action" (p. 660).  Yalaki (2004) defines worldviews as “the complex organization of fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the world and life in general. Worldview provides a framework for people’s behaviors and actions, how they deal with problems in their lives, and how they prioritize their beliefs” (p.2).


What you think - you do

Fang goes on to point out that more research is being focused on the effect of what teachers think has on what they do. He states that a National Institute of Education report in 1975 found that teacher behavior "is directed in no small measure by what they think" (p. 51). An issue that he brings up is the problems that teachers face when the “reality of teaching in a classroom goes counter to their beliefs” (p. 59). Graves addresses this issue in his work.

Yalaki  references Blake and Pajares when he states that the beliefs of teachers guide what they do (2004). Yalaki’s paper explores the effect of a teacher’s worldview and the implications of that worldview for the possibility of making changes in how science teachers teach and how reform can be made within the system. He also points out the value to the individual teacher from understanding his or her own worldview.  He states that “a lot of the research that focused on teacher beliefs look at the issue from a certain angle while the worldview perspective tries to capture a more complete picture of people’s belief systems, i.e. worldviews” (p.2).  One of the questions that he asks in his paper is how can worldview be characterized? He refers to the work of six scholars who have created theoretical frameworks to explore worldviews.


Theoretical framework of Worldviews

            Yalaki describes the work of Phil Washburn (1997) who defines worldview in this way   “‘A worldview is a set of answers to questions about the most general features of the world and our experience of it’ (p. 6)” (p. 10). Yalaki states that Washburn “views worldview as a dynamic concept, which can be purposefully changed through questioning and learning, if a person has the desire” (p.11-12). This idea of changeable worldview is an important idea that is one of the core concepts that Graves discusses in his work. The idea of changing worldview will be considered at length later in this paper.

            Yalaki also looks at the work of Michael Kearney (1984) who “defines human worldview as a collection of basic images and assumptions that an individual or a society has about reality, which provide a more or less coherent but not necessarily accurate way of thinking about the world” (p.13). Kearney states that inconsistencies in worldviews can “lead to discomfort or stress and changes in the structure of the worldview” (p.17). Again we see an important point that Graves also makes. He points out that mismatches between the worldview and the life conditions lead to change in the worldview (Graves, 2005).


Worldviews are subject to change

            Yalaki goes on to explore the work of William Coburn when he says “Coburn (1996) suggests, ‘worldview provides a non-rational foundation for thought, emotion, and behavior’ (p. 584). He argues that the presuppositions that constitute worldviews are subject to change with experience, however, because of their fundamental nature, presuppositions tend to be stable” (p.18). Again it can be seen that worldviews underlie behavior and although they are potentially changeable they tend to remain stable, at least as long as the presuppositions about how the world is remain the same.


Graves’s Model


What is it to be human?

Clare Graves, late professor of psychology at Union College in New York, developed a model of worldviews which was then carried on by Don Beck and Chris Cowan. In the book The Never Ending Quest, Graves describes how he arrived at his model.

Graves spent 30 years trying to find the answer to a particular question. He asked “What is human life about and what is it meant to be?" (Graves, 2005, p. vii). He did not claim that he found the answer to this question (Graves, 2005).  In fact, Graves insisted no final state exists that humans are developing towards; the growth is open ended.


Defining the Problem

Graves identified the problem that he set out to solve; he said people were in despair about the state of the world. Where ever they looked they saw chaos, fear and moral breakdown. He said  his search for an answer "started  when  I  surmised  that  some  of  our  adult  problems  exist  because  our  means  for  managing  them  are  based  on  erroneous  conceptions  of:  1)  the  psychological  development  of  the  adult  human  being;  and  2)  the  psychological  development  of  the  species  Homo  sapiens" (Graves, 2005, p. 33).

The psychologists of the day had three major ways of answering the question about adult problems. Graves referred to the three points of view as “behaviorist, psychoanalytic and humanistic” (2005, p. 16). He found each of the points of view to have limitations. The behaviorist point of view would be represented by the work of Skinner and Bandura, the psychoanalytic by Freud and humanistic or third way by Erikson, Maslow and Rogers.  

Graves disagreed with Maslow's hierarchy as being too limited. The same goes with the stages of development of Erik Erikson, Lawrence Kohlberg, Carl Rogers, Jane Loevinger, James Fowler, and Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi. Graves saw their understanding of human development as limited and closed. (Rosado, 1996, para. 4)  

However, Graves references David Elkind when he points out that each of the theories carries a "certain measure of truth” (Graves, 2005, p. 31). Like Graves, Maslow looked at what humans could become "he moved beyond a human psychology that was confined to the study of the normal and the subnormal (pathological). Instead he asked what a fully functioning human being might be" (Bugental, 2004, p. 118). Like Graves, Maslow also felt “that when basic survival needs are met, other ‘higher order’ needs are brought into play. These are seekings toward what he termed ‘self-actualization’” (Bugental, 2004, p. 118).

 Graves also believed that humans moved up levels from lower to higher awareness and those moves were dictated by the life conditions faced. However, a significant difference between Maslow and Graves and a source of much discussion between the two was Graves’ idea that there was no final state to which people can aspire. Maslow’s final stage of self-actualization was just one more level as far as Graves was concerned. Graves states that "We [Maslow and Graves] finally, after fighting this over for eight or more years, came to a final agreement along this line" (Graves, 2002, p. 52).

Graves, like Maslow, used a method of research which consisted of gathering data in the form of interviews, some formal some informal, observations, and much reading. After gathering this data Maslow would then sift through the information to look for some organizing feature or implications (Bugental, 2004).

Like Graves, Erikson also identified eight levels of development; he believed that they were a hierarchy in that each stage had to be dealt with in a positive way before the next stage could be successfully concluded. They were in agreement that forces outside the person were responsible for the movement from stage to stage. Erikson’s eight stages are as follows:


1. Trust vs. Mistrust, a stage that occurs in infancy

2. Autonomy vs. Shame, occurring in early childhood

3. Initiative vs. Guilt, which occurs in middle childhood

4. Accomplishment vs. inferiority that occurs between early school days and puberty

5. Identity vs. Confusion which happens during adolescence.

6. Intimacy vs. Isolation occurring after identity is functionally established but not yet fixed.

7. Generativity vs. Stagnation occurs during adulthood

8. Integrity vs. Despair which happens in old age.

 (Gage & Berliner, 1979)


Graves’ point of view

            However, all the theories fell short of answering the question posed by Graves and he went on to state his own point of view that "the mature person tends to change his psychology continuously as the conditions of his existence change" (Graves, 2005, p. 29).   "Clare Graves in 1952 launched into a 30-year research career seeking answer to one question: 'What are the conceptions of psychological health extent in the minds of biologically mature human beings'" (Rosado, 1996, para. 3)?  A key issue to understanding what Graves had to say is this.

The most central of all my propositions for understanding adult human behavior-the proposition that it is not what a person thinks that reveals his or her psychology but it is how a person thinks that provides the central material for understanding a person. (Graves, 2005, p. 68)

            Like many others Maslow, Bandura, Ericson, Gebser and more, Graves identified a structure or organization to the worldviews that people develop. He suggests that eight worldviews or levels are currently open to people with the possibility of an endless number of other stages yet to unfold.

Graves summarized his points of view like this.


1. Human nature is not static, nor is it finite. Human nature changes as the conditions of existence change, thus forging new systems. Yet, the older systems stay with us.

2. When a new system or level is activated, we change our psychology and rules for living to adapt to those new conditions.

3. We live in a potentially open system of values with an infinite number of modes of living available to us. There is no final state to which we must all aspire.

4. An individual, a company, or an entire society can respond positively only to those managerial principles, motivational appeals, educational formulas, and legal or ethical codes that are appropriate to the current level of human existence. (1996, p. 29)


Eight Levels


Environment Affects Worldview

Graves was unhappy with the approaches for dealing with adult behavior in current use at his time. He chose to search for another "conception of the psychological development of the adult individual other than the systematized conceptions then in existence" (Graves, 2005, p. 33). He believed that current research had overlooked several important aspects of adult psychology. One of these was the idea that "psychological development is a process which does not plateau or cease" (Graves, p. 36).  Another was the issue that behavior is a mix of both neurological and psychological aspects. A recent study has shown the effect of culture (worldview) on the brain.

Clara Moskowitz states that scientists say culture impacts the hard-wiring of the brain. Neuroscientists Trey Hedden and John Gabrieli of MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research explain that "research shows that people from different cultures use their brains differently to solve basic perceptual tasks" (Moskowitz, 2008, para. 1).   Susan Greenfield a neuroscientist at Oxford put the same thought this way; "the surrounding environment has a huge impact both on the way our brains develop and how that brain is transformed into a unique human mind" (Greenfield, 2008, p. 2). Mariotti points out that not only does the environment transform the human mind; the human mind transforms the environment in a process he refers to as structural coupling.  (Mariotti, n.d.)

Graves also believed that there needed to be a hierarchical aspect to understanding to adult development. As early as 1959 Graves was turning to General Systems Theory as an organizing framework for this theory. In a paper on the Emergent Theory of Ethical Behavior he wrote "this way of thinking seemed to correspond with my observations and with my thinking in respect to ethical behavior, it was natural that the model presented should be developed within General Systems Theory" (Graves, 2001, Criteria for a Model section, para. 4).


Brain Size

 Finally, Graves wondered why the human brain seemed to be so much larger than it needed to be for simple survival of the species in a Darwinian sense (Graves, 2001).   A possible answer to the questions of the size of the human brain is put forward by V.S. Ramachandran. Like Graves he wonders about this issue. "Why the sudden explosion (often called the ‘great leap’ ) in technological sophistication, widespread cave art, clothes, stereotyped dwellings, etc. around 40 thousand years ago, even though the brain had achieved its present ‘modern’ size almost a million years earlier" (Ramachandran, 2000, para. 4)?

 Ramachandran suggests that the answer to this question lay in the mirror neurons in the brain. These neurons are activated when people perform an action, they also are activated when we watch someone else perform an action. He states that "certain critical environmental triggers acted on a brain that had already become big for some other reason and was therefore 'pre-adapted' for those cultural innovations that make us uniquely human. (One of the key pre adaptations being mirror neurons.)" (Ramachandran, p. 3)

The mirror neurons discovered by Ramachandran provide a possible explanation for the biology behind the process but not the reason for human awareness being organized into levels that are common to all. Margaret Wheatley in her book Leadership and the New Science provides a possible answer to this question.


We See What We Choose To

In her book, Wheatley looks at the work of Ilya Prigogine on dissipative structures. Wheatley describes "how the dissipative activity of loss was necessary to create new order…. It did not lead to death but was a process which the system let go of its present form so that it could reorganize in a form better suited to the demand of its changed environment" (Wheatley, 2006, p. 21).

A possible reason for the creation of the different levels can be found in this statement, "A living system can maintain its identity, it can self organize to a high level of complexity, a new form of itself that can deal better with the present" (Wheatley, 2006, p. 21). If we consider that humans, either as individuals or as groups are living systems then the idea that they self-organize into higher levels of complexity make sense. Each of the levels is more complex and more open.  This is similar to the concept of C.D. Broad’s emergent properties. Capra describes this concept as "different levels of complexity with different laws operating at each level…at each level of complexity the observed phenomena exhibit properties that do not exist at lower levels" (Capra, 1996, p. 28).

Capra developed a point of view which could be applied to explain the rise of and increasing complexity of Graves’s levels. He states:

In living systems the instabilities come from the catalytic cycles of the metabolic process. They form both self-balancing and self –amplifying feedback loops which push the system farther away from equilibrium until it reaches a threshold of stability. This is a ‘bifurcations point’.  It is a point of instability at which new forms of order may spontaneously emerge resulting in development and evolution. (Capra, 1996, p. 171)


Graves pointed out the difficulty the less complex levels have in understanding or even being aware of the points of view of other more complex levels. Wheatley’s description of the way that quantum mechanics portray the world provides a possible explanation for this lack of awareness. She states that we see what we expect to see because "all the worlds many events are potentially present, able to be, but not actually seen or felt until one of us see or feels" (Wheatley, 2006, p. 63).   She goes on to state that "the information that comes forth from the measurement depends on what we decide to measure.  But at the same time eliminates the opportunity to gather other data" (Wheatley, p. 65).  She puts the point clearly when she says, "no one simply observes the world and simply takes in what it offers. We all construct the world through lenses of our own making and use them to filter and select. We each actively participate in creating our worlds" (Wheatley, p. 65). 

Her work also gives a possible explanation for movement both up and down the spiral as life conditions change.  She states that "self organizing systems are Process Structures, reorganizing into different forms to preserve and maintain their identity. It is not locked into any one structure it is capable of organizing into whatever form it determines best suite the present situation" (Wheatley, 2006, p. 69). Wheatley points out that because humans, as individual and as groups, are self-organizing they are also therefore, self-referring and that "when change happens it always happen in ways that are consistent with itself…ie. Self-referent" (Wheatley, p. 85).   The consistency of the worldviews as stated by Graves possibly derives from this self-referring.

In the end, Wheatley states "scientists cannot find any independent reality that exists without our observations. We create reality through our acts of observation, what we perceive becomes true for us and this version of reality becomes the lens through which we interpret events" (Wheatley, 2006, p. 170).  Interestingly, Wheatley  "wonders if the spiral may be the basic shape of the wholeness within nature, the order and simplicity chance and predictability that lie in the interlocking and unfolding of things" (Wheatley, p. 88).


Gathering and organizing the Data


In order to gather data Graves made use of the students in the classes that he taught on Normal Personality. He gathered the data over the course of 9 years with supplementary studies over the course of another 12. His students came from mixed backgrounds and spanned a variety of ages with a mix of both male and females. As an assignment in the class he asked his students to write a "personal conception of psychologically mature behavior" (Graves, 2005, p. 45).  The papers were then returned to the students and they presented them to their peers. After they heard what others had to say about their papers they could change it or stand by what they had written. This second paper was then turned in as well. The students would then study current concepts of adult psychology and have a final opportunity to change or stand by their papers. The papers that were generated by his students formed the raw data that Graves used to develop his ideas.

The next stage consisted of sorting the data into categories. This was done using independent judges "who knew nothing of the project" (Graves, 2005, p. 46). They were instructed to sort the material into the fewest possible categories but not to force any into categories if they did not seem to fit. Graves was also able to gather data on the students who wrote the papers as many of them also took further classes. He was able to group students together that had ended up in the same category. He looked at a number of behaviors including how they solved problems, how they interacted with each other, how well they solved problems and how they performed on standard psychological tests (Graves, 2005).

The first category that Graves was able to divide his research findings into was the split between sacrifice-self and express-self. Each of the groups of people who worked with the data that Graves collected noted that it could be split into these two main categories. Each level oscillates between these two basic points of view. This idea has been noted by others as well.  In his book the Evolving Self, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi states "Social scientists (Abraham Maslow, Lawrence Kohlberg, Jane Loevinger, and James Fowler) describe a dialectical motion between differentiation and integration, between turning attention inward and then outward, between valuing the self and then the larger community" (1993, p. 235).

Graves then went on to look at the categories and to see what could be said about them. As he progressed in his studies he found first four then five differing categories. He also concluded that there was a previous category that did not show up in his data, one that would represent an earlier stage of human development which no longer existed. At first much of the data was confusing and difficult to sort out but in the end Graves decided "that eight central ways of being have emerged from within the nature of man in his time on earth, and that eight basic conceptions of mature personality are related thereto" (Graves, 2005, p. 128).  These eight levels (see Appendix B) of being  "were 'systems in' people, ways of thinking that determined human behavior, not types of people or personality traits, or fixed categories" (Rosado, 1996, para. 3).


The Eight Levels



Graves referred to this level as the Autistic, Automatic, Reactive Existential State. The theme is described as "Express self as if just another animal according to the dictates of one’s imperative periodic physiological needs" (Graves, 2005, p. 199).  Graves suggests that this level was the one that all people lived at up to about 40 000 years ago. The conditions for living must have satisfied the needs of the humans of the time. They were able to fill their needs by automatically sensing, processing and reacting to the environment. Once basic needs such as shelter, food or safety are dealt with no further energy is expended. Graves suggests that humans at this level are not in possession of self-awareness. That is, no "self as separate and distinct from the other animals" (Graves, p. 201).

 Gebser also writes of this lack of self-awareness, he describes it as a state "in which the holder of consciousness is perhaps only minimally aware of himself or his relationship to the world around him" (Mahood, 1996, Archaic section, para. 1).

There is no concept of God or the gods, the universe or the like. This person lives as a herd, a herd of 12 to 15 human beings in a group. They make no organized planned work effort. They show no concept of leadership….There is no formal organization or management of people who operate at this level. (Graves, 2005, p. 201)

Questions have risen about exactly when humans developed self-consciousness. Paleoanthropologist Curtis Marean states that "they are less certain about when those humans first developed the potential for symbolic thought, including language. Up for debate: whether modern cognitive abilities occurred gradually or in one fell swoop, perhaps after a sudden structural alteration of the brain" (Minkel, 2007, para. 4).



The second level is referred to as the2nd Subsistence Level or Animistic Existence. The theme:  "Sacrifice self to the way of your elders, tradition and ancestors" (Graves, p. 215).  The act of being successful in the first level led to problems that only can be solved by living at the next level. Or it may have been changes in the environment that forced people to make changes in how they lived (Graves, 2005).

Maurice Bloch writing for the Royal Society about human development states "at this time, our ancestors developed the necessary neural architecture to imagine before or around 40-50,000 years ago, at a time called the Upper Palaeological Revolution, the final sub-division of the Stone Age" (as cited in Coghlan, 2008, para. 6).   "Individuals at this stage have progressed beyond a bare physiological existence" (Graves, 2005, p. 216).  Graves states that people at this level have a "full inner life, one which is full of indwelling spirits" (Graves, p. 216). They don’t see the difference between themselves and the world around them. Gebser makes the same point when he states, "Man, at this time, does not really distinguish himself apart from nature. He is a part of all that surrounds him; in the earliest stages it is hard to conceive that he views himself apart from his environment" (Mahood, 1996, Magic Structure section, para. 2).

 Magic and superstition are the basis of life. They live in a world that they don’t truly understand and so try to make meaning by invoking rituals that have always worked in the past. They turn to the ancestors for ways to solve problems. They believe that "tribal ways are inherent in the nature of things" (Graves, 2005, p. 217).  At this level man’s need is for stability and safety, he seeks to continue a "way of life that he does not understand but strongly defends" (Graves, p. 217).  The survival of the family and tribe are the most important aspect of life. This is achieved by following the will of the spirits and the ways of the past.  "The prime end value at this level is safety" (Graves, p. 219).  

Graves suggests that sometimes the very success of a system leads to its need to change. In this level, the change could come from outside in the form of environmental change but it also could come from inside the tribe. People living at this level are very rigid in the way do things. They follow the ways of the ancestors, ways which have always worked in the past. The very success of those ways can lead to issues such as overpopulation which put pressure on the food sources or other raw materials. Continued reliance on those sources without change could lead to using them up. Another possibility that may cause change is that along with an increase in population also comes an increase in the number of young people who have not had to live through difficult times. The natural restlessness and boredom of the young may lead them to question the reason for doing things as they have always been done.  (Graves, 2005)

These are some of the possibilities that may lead people to move on to the next level of existence.



Graves referred to the 3rd Subsistence Level as Egocentric Existence. The theme of this level is "to express self, to hell with the consequences, lest one suffer the torment of unbearable shame" (Graves, 2005, p. 225).  

             "The egocentric existential state arises when the achievement of relative safety and security" (Graves, p. 226) produces the next set of problems. Those problems may stem from living in an "unchanging, elder-dominated, ‘shaman-controlled’" (Graves, p. 227) society. Graves states that as awareness of self develops so does the possibility of shame when the self, now starting to be seen as distinct from the tribe, does not measure up or is called into question.

Gebser points out that at this time in the development of human consciousness, "the 'I' of man is not yet fully developed, to be sure, but it has developed to that point that it recognizes and demands a separation from nature, from its environment. We can take this as evidence of an increasing crystallization of the ego" (Mahood, 1996, Mythic Structure section, para. 5).   At this level humans no longer just seek to deal with gaining food and shelter or safety for the tribe but now "develops a need to foster individual survival" (Graves, p. 226). The world is now seen as a hierarchy with the strongest at the top. People see themselves as fitting into two groups, haves or have-nots. Those who can, go out and do battle to achieve or to die trying.  "In time this attitude leads to the absolute rights of kings, the unassailable prerogatives of management" (Graves, p. 227) and "eventually solidifies into a stable feudal way of life" (Graves, p. 227). 



The 4th level of Subsistence also called the Absolutistic Existence has a theme of "sacrifice self now in order to receive reward later" (Graves, 2005, p. 251).  The focus of this stage is to adjust to the world as "he has come to perceive it to be" (Graves, p. 253). This stage brings the awakening of the inner self. Greenfield relates the same idea this way:

Our notions of human identity were vastly simpler: we were defined by the family we were born into and our position within that family. Social advancement was nigh on impossible and the concept of "individuality" took a back seat. That only arrived with the Industrial Revolution, which for the first time offered rewards for initiative, ingenuity and ambition. Suddenly, people had their own life stories - ones which could be shaped by their own thoughts and actions. For the first time, individuals had a real sense of self. (Greenfield, 2008, p. 2)

 During this time people started asking question such as, why am I am here and what is the purpose of it all? Those with the power had a better life but still had to face these questions and those without the power had a terrible life and wondered why? Humans looked beyond themselves to a ‘higher’ power for reasons for their existence and in this higher power found stability and an ordered plan. The world made sense, there was a reason and a purpose to life and as long as one followed the rules all would be well later. Life was a sort of test to see if one was ‘good enough’ to pass into a better state.  (Graves, 2005)  

This system emerges when basic needs are met but the world is still full of "predatory" (Graves, 2005, p. 253) men and animals. People see themselves in a world they do not understand or control and so through denial of the inner self and acceptance of the world and their place in it they try to find safety and security. The need for absolute control leads them to look for and "divine the immutable laws of living and submit to and obey them, and once having found them, let no change take place" (Graves, p. 255).  Everyone has a proper place or class and one’s job is to be the best one can in whatever role they are in. This level gave "birth to the great monotheistic religions of the day" (p. 255).

Gebser agrees with Graves when he states that about this time in human development "monotheism almost universally replaces the plethora of gods of bygone days" (Mahood, 1996, Mental Structure section, para. 1).  A.C. Grayling backs Graves point of view on this topic. Grayling points out the differences between today’s concepts of religion compared to older ideas that were common in the BO or CP levels. He states that "what a Roman or Greek of the classical period believed was quite different. For the Romans, religion was a matter of public social cohesion rather than personal spirituality" (2008, para. 5).



The 5th Subsistence Level also know as the Multiplistic Existence has a theme of  " express self for what self desires, but in a fashion calculated not to bring down the wrath of others" (Graves, 2005, p. 307).  When the fourth level of existence has improved his state of being man asks himself why he should not have some enjoyment now. Graves suggests that when humans start to question the powers that be or the Power, then they start to think that they may know something too.

A key point here is that in this level humans see many ways to think about something but only one good way. This allows humans to try to take control of their existence by understanding the world around them and to make use of that knowledge to get ahead. (Graves, 2005) A key idea in this point of view is that the individual arrived at the place that they did by his or her own efforts and therefore, they are "destined to lead, not by Divine plan but by proven superiority." (Graves, p. 310)



The 6th Subsistence Level called the Relativistic Existence has a theme "of sacrifice now in order to get acceptance now" (Graves, 2005, p. 337).  The previous level of existence immeasurably improves man’s existence. "His life is safe and it is relatively assured….though expression of self and outer material existence, does not bring the happiness expected" (Graves, p. 338).  This leads to a desire to "belong to the community of man, rather than to go it alone" (Graves, p. 339).  Graves points out two aspects of the sixth level of values. One is the emphasis of commonality over differential classification and the other is a return to religiousness but not in the form of previous systems but in the form of a spiritual attitude.

 In this system "getting along with is more valued than getting ahead of" (Graves, p. 339). People at this level make their decisions based on feelings rather than logic or knowledge. Aggressiveness seems to be downplayed in this level and a desire to follow the dictates of the group rather than act on their own is an indicator of this level.


Transition between First and Second Tier.

The transition between the FS level and the A’N’ level is an area of contention between the two main camps of Spiral Dynamics. Cowan and Todorovic contend that there may not be as big of a gap between the first tier, consisting of the first six levels and the second tier so far consisting of two more levels and possible more. The followers of Don Beck and those of Ken Wilber are quite clear in identifying a significant difference between the two tiers. Graves believed that there was a major difference here. He said:

as man moves from the sixth level, the level of being with other men, the sociocentric level, to the seventh level, the level of freedom to know and to do, the cognitive level of existence, a chasm of unbelievable depth of meaning is being crossed. (Graves, 2005, p. 362)

Jean Gebser in his work The Ever-Present Origin has similar points of view to Graves. "The fundamental premise of Gebser's work is that we are on the threshold of a new structure of consciousness" (Mahood, 1996, The Approach section, para. 2). This idea reflects Graves point that the change from FS to AN represented a significant change in how humans see the world. Gebser organizes his theory into five different levels, Archaic, Magical, Mythical, Mental, and Integral. They are "fundamentally different ways of experiencing reality" (Mahood, The Approach section, para. 1). 

Alvin Toffler in his book Powershift notices similar changes in the world. Toffler points out that a significant but largely unnoticed shift of power is taking place in the intimate everyday world we inhabit.  Power shifts are transforming finance politics and the media, together creating a now radically different society. Battles are raging that pit new style workers against old style bosses creating a deepening split between the ‘fast’ and the ‘slow’ (Toffler, 1990).

For Graves the idea of what it means to be human is different from what many of us might think, he would reply that the reason for this difference had to do with the worldview that people used to think about this concept. For him the move to A’N’ was a significant change as described in the following passage.

Thus far, man has been just another animal, a pawn in the hand of the spirit world, a sacrificer of self, an attacker of the world and other men, and a social automaton; but man has never been himself. Here we step over the line which separates those needs that man has in common with other animals and those needs which are distinctly human. (Graves, 2005, p. 367)

This idea that the second tier worldviews are different from the previous ones also stems from Graves’ idea that the worldviews repeat themselves in groups of six he states,

the cyclic aspect of human behavior is not just in the systems cycling as you go from the sacrifice-self to the express-self to the sacrifice-self, and so on; but there is cyclic aspect in the overall system. It appears there are six basic systems of human behavior. (Graves, 2005, p. 368)

Graves believed that the first six levels of the spiral repeat in a more expanded form and that in many ways the A’N’ level was like the AN level of prehistoric people. The difference was that now humans at the A’N’ level were able to access all the other levels and their ability to problem solve and levels of freedom and awareness were much beyond the lower level. Graves refers to it as "the beginning of human life all over again on a new and different basis" (Graves, 2005, p. 366). Graves believed that once humans had dealt with the problems of basic survival then their energy would be freed and they would be able to look at the world around them through a "value system truly rooted in knowledge and reality, not in the delusions brought on by animal-like needs" (Graves, p. 366).  



Graves referred to A’N’ as the 1st Being level or the Systemic Existence. This level has a theme "of express self for what self desires, but never at the expense of others and in a manner that all life, not just my life will profit" (Graves, 2005, p. 365).  Part of Graves’ theory is that the successful progression through each level produces the problems that require the next level to solve. The A’N’ level is triggered by the threat to all life brought on by the previous levels, the need to substitute for depleted resources and overpopulation (Graves, 2005).

Another aspect of the theory is that each successive level frees up greater levels of energy which Graves describes in this fashion, "With his energies free for cognitive activation, man focuses upon his self and his world" (Graves, 2005, p. 366). Here he describes the widening awareness that each level brings. Graves describes the worldview of A’N’ as seeking “a foundation for self respect which will have a firm base in existential reality" (Graves, 2005, p. 366).  He carries on by stating that man "chooses to be not dependent, not independent, but interdependent" (Graves, 2005, p. 366).  This idea of interdependence is becoming more common in current literature and popular culture as seen, for example, in the work of Steven Covey. Capra makes reference to Deep Ecology founded by Arne Naess. Capra’s description of Deep Ecology shows that it does not separate humans from nature. His concept is based on the belief that all things fundamentally are interconnected and interdependent and all life has an intrinsic value.  (Capra, 1996)

In describing how the seventh worldview sees the world he said, "When man transforms into the seventh level thinking he values the enjoyment of this life over and above obeisance to authority. He strongly rejects non-dignified, non-human ways of living" (Graves, 2005, p. 368).  Again he restates his idea of the early levels as being less than fully human, still in some ways partaking in an animal-like nature.

Graves spoke about systems thinking and was aware of the early writers in this area when he states that “A’N’ thinking is about the systemic whole, and thought is about the different wholes in many different ways. It strives to ascertain which way of thinking or which combination of ways fits the extant set of conditions” (Graves, 2005, p. 368). Authority is seen as situational; as centered in whoever has the capacity or knowledge to act in the given situation.  "It is not derived from age, status, blood etc." (Graves, 2005, p. 368).  "Seventh-level values come not from selfish interest but from the recognition of the magnificence of existence and from the desire to see that it shall continue" (Graves, 2005, p. 369).



The 2nd Being Level is also called the Intuitive Existence and has a theme "of sacrifice the idea that one will ever know what life all about and adjust to this as the existential reality of existence" (Graves, 2005, p. 395).  Graves did not attempt to summarize this state as his data was so sparse; the quotes from his work which follow represent a superficial understanding of the eighth level, one which is still emerging (Graves, 2005).

Graves found in the course of his studies and small number of individuals who did not fit into the previous levels. They thought in different ways which Graves referred to as "a higher order magical [superstition]" (Graves, 2005, p. 396).  At that time other researchers in the field such as Maslow, Blake and Mouton believed the A’N’ level was the "epitome of the way of thinking about human behavior" (Graves, p. 396) but Graves felt he had found a level beyond that.

 A key point about the world view of the people at this level is that they truly understand there is "much they will never know about existence" (Graves, p. 397).  At this level man fashions a life that  "honors and respects all the different levels of human being….He values wonder, awe, reverence, humility, fusion, integration, unity, simplicity, the poetic perception of reality" (Graves, p. 398). In summary Graves states man at this level values "adjusting to the world as he senses it to be" (Graves, p. 398). 

It was the awareness of this level that led Graves to suggest that no final state exists that humans will eventually achieve. He holds that psychological maturity cannot be "considered an achievable state, even in theory" (Graves, 2005, p. 400).


Implications of the Research of Graves


Peak vs. Transitional

            Graves, and later Don Beck and Chris Cowan explored the theory that the research implied. Their theory is a complex and detailed point of view. However, a basic understanding of the implications of the theory can be expressed. The eight levels described by Graves represent the "peak states" (Yalaki, 2004, p. 20) of each level whereas in fact, few people ever are totally centered at any give state. Gebser puts it this way "all structures are co-present (and co- active)" (Mahood, 1996, Systasis and Synairesis section, para. 8). Most people exhibit a mix of the various levels and different levels may be more prominent in differing parts of their life. For example, a person may exhibit an ER worldview at work as a salesman but be much more CP when they play sports on the weekend. However, Graves did point out that people tend to be centralized with about 50% of their worldview in one of the levels and that level tends to define all the things that they experience.



            People can and do change levels based on the life conditions they find themselves living in and how open they are to change.  "Even though worldviews form in long time periods and are resistant to change, people do modify their worldviews in the face of changing life conditions" (Yalaki, 2004, p. 208). Beck and Cowan explain in detail the conditions necessary for change to occur. They describe people as either open, arrested or closed. These three states represent the ease with which people can make transitions from one state to another. The open state represents people who although centralized in a level can move freely in either direction into new or older levels as life conditions change. The arrested state represents movement that is blocked from advancing to the next level but can access previous levels. Finally the closed state is that of psychological blindness which restricts a person from seeing alternatives at other levels of being.  (Beck & Cowan, 1996)


Increasing complexity.

            The higher up the spiral the more open and complex a persons understanding of their world becomes. As people progress up the spiral they also have more energy available to them to deal with the increasing complexity of the life situation that they find themselves in. Graves himself puts it this way:

I am not saying in this conception of adult behavior that one style of being, one form of human existence is inevitably and in all circumstances superior to or better than another form of human existence, another style of being. What I am saying is that when one form of being is more congruent with the realities of existence, then it is the better form of living for those realities. And what I am saying is that when one form of existence ceases to be functional for the realities of existence then some other form, either higher or lower in the hierarchy, is the better form of living. I do suggest, however, and this I deeply believe is so, that for the overall welfare of total man's existence in this world, over the long run of time, higher levels are better than lower levels and that the prime good of any society's governing figures should be to promote human movement up the levels of human existence. (Graves, 2001, para. 2)


Education and Worldviews

An important point that is often misunderstood is that the differing levels cannot be identified by looking at what people do or what they say. The key to understanding the level is the reason behind what they say. "Each [level] contains its own framework for religion, politics, family life, education, mental health, work and management, social order, and law" (Yalaki, 2004, p. 22).  Graves puts it like this, as a person’s psychology or worldview changes, they will best respond to forms of education "congruent with that state" (Graves, 2005, p. 30). (See Appendix C) The reference to education in the previous quotation is central to this paper as it points to the fact that different levels will respond to education in different ways. This affects both how teachers teach and how students learn.  "Every time people move from one level to the next, they undergo a major paradigm shift, a different window through which to look out on the world, a transformation of their basic system of beliefs and values" (Rosado, 1996, A Value System Framework section, para. 4).  


Application of the Theory



            Older view of Leadership

The essence of what Graves had to say about leadership can be summed up in this way; different levels require different forms of leadership. Much of what has been written about leadership has been related to either specific levels or has to do with the transition between levels. Leadership theory that was once considered the correct way for leaders to function later was found to be less effective. Graves explained that no one style of leadership will fit the variety of situations found in organizations.

 Reicher, Platow and Haslam, discuss the changing ideas about leadership in their article. They state that "in the past, leadership scholars considered charisma, intelligence and other personality traits to be the key to effective leadership" (2007, p. 1). This idea of personality as a key to leadership was mentioned by Max Weber more than 100 years ago. Since then many other ideas have been explored. For example, Fred Fiedler in the 1960s and 1970s suggested that "the secret of good leadership lies in discovering the “perfect match” between the individual and the leadership challenge he or she confronts " (Reicher, et al., 2007, p. 2).  Later people like "James MacGregor Burns’s work on transformational leadership in the late 1970s rekindled the view that only a figure with a specific and rare set of attributes is able to bring about necessary transformations in the structure of organizations and society" (Reicher, et al., p. 2).  The work of Tajfel and Turner, who coined the phrase social identity, explored the idea that the leader most in tune with the group and most representative of the group will be the most effective leader.  (Reicher, et al.)  Peter F. Drucker wrote, among other things, about how “very high salaries at the top … disrupt the team. They make … people in the company see their own top management as adversaries rather than as colleagues” (as cited in Reicher, et al., p. 2).


Differing levels require differing forms

An important part of successful leadership is the ability to be aware of and understand the worldview of the people being led. Currently this idea of worldview is starting to emerge in leadership practices. Hersey and Blanchard developed the concept of situational leadership that states that "managers must use different leadership styles depending on the situation" ("Situational", 2008, p. 1). Hersey and Blanchard also note that the style of leadership must match the development level of the follower. Other writers about leadership have similar ideas.

McGregor developed two theories related to worker motivation, Theory X and Theory Y. He saw these as two extremes with a wide range of options between them. His description of Theory X and Y workers fit well into Gravesian theory. For example,

Theory X workers could be described as follows:

- Individuals who dislike work and avoid it where possible

- Individuals who lack ambition, dislike responsibility and prefer to be led

- Individuals who desire security " (McGregor, n.d., p. 1)

In Graves’s theory this description reflects the CP and DQ states. Workers, who are best described by Theory Y, tend to fit better into the FS or A’N’ levels.


Other forms of leadership through Spiral Dynamics Perspective

According to Graves each of the ideas of leadership listed above would in fact, be suitable for people at different levels. The charismatic leader works well in a CP workplace. They are sure of themselves, they reward but do not punish and they show themselves to be competent. The concept of the leader being part of the group fits well in a FS organization. In FS the key issue is belonging. In an FS organization "an effective change agent is a peer- never authority" (Graves, 2005, p. 355).  Graves points out that the correct style of management for this level is the group process. The manager must be "open to the group’s values and become a group member" (Graves, p. 355).  The idea that "effective leaders must work to understand the values and opinions of their followers" (Reicher, Platow, & Haslam, 2007, p. 2) fits clearly with leadership in an FS organization but in the hands of an astute leader could well be applied to any situation.

Speaking the language of the group and understanding the worldview of the group creates a close fit between the leader and the group to be led. In an interview with Nick Drummond, Henrik Bjornstorp, an environmental development consultant put it this way when speaking about working in countries centralized at different levels, "Sometimes a problem is the language bandwidth we use. What we say needs to be recodified" (Drummond, June 2004, p. 10).

 Currently a growing awareness is developing that the workers coming into the system are different compared to those who have previously been employed. Many organizations are now giving workshops to their managers on the difference between Gen X and Gen Y and the Baby Boomer groups of employees. Often these differences are attributed to age or the culture in which the groups were raised.  (Hickman, 2008; Kaye, Scheef, & Thielfoldt, 2003)  However, the descriptions given in many of these articles of the differing generational groups fit very closely with the levels that Graves described. The Baby Boomers fit well in DQ, Gen X descriptions resemble ER to FS and the Gen Y group fit the change between FS and A’N’.  An example of these similarities between generational descriptors and Graves’s levels can be found in the description of Gen Y workers in the article by Hickman, she writes,

They are saying, “My whole life is not going to be my job.”… This group wants challenging, exciting work, an opportunity to learn and to be mentored. It wants face-to-face discussions, flexible hours, and fair pay. Money isn’t No.1. This generation, she adds, does not have the same understanding of “boss” as their older colleagues….If you don’t deliver warns Duxbury, the 20-year-old will leave. (Hickman, "Generation Y" section, para. 4)

Blake and Mouton explored leadership styles and came up with a managerial grid which graphed different styles of leadership fit. The scale has two axis, concern for people and concern for production. Five extreme styles of leadership can be defined which correspond closely with Graves levels. For example, in 9.1 Authority-Obedience Management "managers make decisions - subordinates carry them out.  The manager should run the show, and disagreement is likely to be seen as the next thing to insubordination" (Blake & Mouton, 1985, para. 3). This corresponds to the DQ level where a statement such as "people work best when they are told how to do things the right way" (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 8) describes the point of view of the manager.

An important aspect of leadership is making change in organizations in ways that positively affect the organization. Leaders as change agents are the subject of much work. Steven Covey points out that effective change must go beyond the individual making small surface changes. He states that "to try to change our attitudes and behaviors does very little good in the long run if we fail to examine the basic paradigms from which these attitudes and behaviors flow" (1998, p. 28).   Rosado goes on to define another important aspect of leadership, vision. He states vision "is the bifocal ability to see what lies ahead (farsightedness), as well

as the various impediments in the present (nearsightedness), and how to avoid them in order to arrive at the future" (Need for Vision section, para. 2).  He goes on to say that education needs a new way of seeing, schools need to be aware of the direction of change in the society at large in order to remain viable. He defines the difference between vision and mission statements and relates the importance of the two related to change. Rosado’s premise is that in organizations with diverse populations a clear mission and vision statement keeps everyone focused on the reason they are working together. He quotes Lewis Coser when he states "such a coalition, if it is not to fall apart, must attempt to keep close to the purposes for which it was formed" (as cited in Rosado, 1996, The four crucial questions section, para. 6).   

Rosado continues to comment on the importance of paradigms in the change process. His point that true and lasting change comes from changes in our paradigms, is well stated in his quotation from Max DuPree who writes "'We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.'" (as cited in Rosado, 1996, "Crisis or Foresight Management?" section, para. 4)


Graves Levels and Leadership

Gravesian theory suggests each level has an appropriate style of leadership. This appropriate style takes into account the level of the leader as well as the level of the followers.  A quick overview of this idea is provided by Cooper in his study of value levels in healthcare practices.



Because of the focus on simply staying alive, people at this level are not involved as leaders or followers.



Management structure at Level 2 typically consists of a Chief, a shaman who interprets omens and conducts healing and ceremonial roles, and in larger tribes possibly a council of elders. Members of the group comply with the dictates of the leaders. There is no collective decision making. Tribal members will not acknowledge authority from anyone else in the tribe or outside the tribe. (Cooper, 2002, Tribal Level section, para. 4)



Management or training of Level 3's [CP] must focus on immediate gratification for approved behavior, and immediate punishment for incorrect behavior. In gatherings of Level 3's, it is “every man for himself” and team activities will not work well unless teams are placed into situations of intense competition involving physical contact and harm. The management structure for Level 3 is an empire or monarchy. There is one supreme authority, the “top dog” in a two-tier dominance hierarchy. (Cooper, 2002, Egocentric section, para. 4)



The person with positional power makes decisions, often with the input of his constituents. Frequently there is a power hierarchy. The organizational chart of a corporation shows the allocation of power and who holds authority over whom…. Teaching and training in Level 4 systems make use of corporal punishment for wrong answers or noncompliance. Indoctrination is moralistic. Participants believe that they will be rewarded when they complete the process, often in the form of income, a better job, or getting into a better school. Use of guilt and punishment to control students or trainees is standard procedure. The concept of goal setting emerges in Level 4, as group members can see what senior members have obtained or become through hard work, sacrifice, and delayed gratification. (Cooper, 2002, Systems Level section, para. 4)




The Level 5 management system is an active hierarchy. Individuals in a Level 5 system can communicate with people above them for the first time. Decisions are made by the person with delegated authority (not positional authority as in Level 4). Delegation is possible for the first time…. Education and trainings at Level 5 will express the love of expensive and up-to-date technology. Level 5 students will be attracted to high-status technology, competition with other students, and expectations that learning will help them in their personal goal fulfillment. They are consumers of books, tapes, and trainings about selling techniques, motivation, goal setting, business success strategies, manipulation and influence over others.  (Cooper, 2002, Entrepreneur Level section, para. 3)



Level 6 organizations adopted consensus decision making and employee ownership in business. Communication occurs in all directions, and in the 1980's numerous small and large corporations attempted to flatten the organizational charts to create consensus decisions and team approaches in the workplace…. Too much concern for group bonding and maintenance shifted energy away from business goals and toward personal affiliation dynamics…. Trainings involving Level 6 participants must provide time for exploring their feelings, touch, and interpersonal interaction. Group activities and experiential learning appeal to Level 6's. They like to learn from each other, extend their network of associates, establish bonds and profit from each others' wisdom. (Cooper, 2002, Groups and Causes section, para. 6) In an educational setting FS sees others as primary "but the others must accept the worldview that is the consensus of the community" (Rosado, 2000, Value Systems section, para. 7). Thus from a leadership perspective in schools an administrator must be seen to be part of the group, of sharing the same perspective, or else their ability to lead will be marginalized.



Rosado points out that only at this level can real change in the educational system take place. His premise is that until leaders in the system are thinking from this point of view there will be nothing but surface changes. He states

YELLOW [A’N’] is the first system to listen to and to accept another human being's worldview simply because the other human being's worldview is important to the other human being. This constitutes a major shift in the way human beings interact with each other-a valuing of the other in a manner that we have not historically seen. (Rosado, 2000, Value Systems section, para. 8)

This means as a leader a person centralized at A’N’  "is a person who is able to see the whole spiral of human differences and knows how to speak the 'psychological languages' of people at their respective levels of existence" (Rosado, 2000, Value Systems section, para. 10).


Management at Level 7 is a matrix. The most competent person is in charge and makes decisions. Management serves mainly a supportive function for project-centered activity. Communication is only as needed. 7's hate unnecessary meetings and phone calls. They prefer to work alone or in small groups with each participant having a unique essential role….Training for 7's involves giving them lots of information and they compulsively seek out information. They can learn by themselves from books, people, models, or the internet. (Cooper, 2002, Existential Level section, para. 3)

Chris Cowan describes A’N’ employees this way -

Employees working through this yellow range have little loyalty to the organization or work group, only the work. They do not respond to threats, coercive power, competition, illogical rules, authoritarianism, or the usual incentives. They do not tolerate fools for long. Authority matters only if it is accompanied by competence. Status symbols do not impress. (Cowan & Todorovic, 2000, p. 9)

In looking at leadership issues Wheatley discusses a change in how organizations need to think about the world. She suggests that taking into account a different scientific premise than the older Newtonian view of the world is a more realistic and practical point of view for organizations. Interestingly, her description of this new view matches Graves’s description of second tier levels. She states that  "the problems with communication are that we have treated information as a thing….in the new view information is a dynamic, changing element" (Wheatley, 2006, p. 93).  She points out that in older views "the role of management is to suppress and control information" (Wheatley, p. 97).  This is similar to CP through ER points of view and in some cases that of FS. She points out that organizations "are dense networks of relationships, not separate parts that make up a whole" (Wheatley, p. 141).  She goes on to say that "this is a world that knows how to organize itself without command control or charisma…[and that] the basic building blocks are relationships not individuals " (Wheatley, p. 170).  She is clearly describing a second tier point of view. Beck and Cowan list some of the leadership assumptions of the second tier below.


Turquoise [B’O’]

·                      Work must be meaningful to the overall health of all life

·                      Organizations are responsible for the impact of their activities

·                      The universe is a single entity of elegantly balanced, interlocking forces

·                      Experiencing feelings and information together enhances both

Yellow [A’N’]

·                      People enjoy doing that work which fits who they are naturally

·                      Workers need free access to information, tools, and materials

·                      Organizations are only transitory states because change happens

·                      Learning and understanding motivate people, not payoffs or punishment

 (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 131)



 "The [person at this level] insists on an atmosphere of trust and respect to be integrated into the organization. He resists coercion and restrictions in a quiet, personal way- never in an exhibitionistic manner" (Graves, 2005, p. 399). 








Other Points of view

The application of Spiral Dynamics theory to education has many implications.  "The challenges facing education stem from the fact that administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents, and constituencies may be at different levels of existence, each with conflicting and clashing Value Systems" (Rosado, 2004, Implications section, para. 1). Older viewpoints don’t reflect this understanding.

In looking at education Graves first explored common view points as to what education was about. He sums up his findings in this way: "Education is the task of inculcating into the learner that which, in the judgment of the educator, is good for the student to know. And the problem of education is to find the best way to do this" (Graves, 2003, para. 11). He sees this point of view as problematic and states that learning systems are " too narrowly conceived, too limited in their applicability because of their narrowness, too apt to promote the status quo, too little prone to encourage change and new thinking" (Graves, para. 15). 

Tom Peters has a similar view of the problems facing education today. He points out that the system is designed to crush creativity and that everything else is changing except the thing that should the most, education. He states that the most significant problem is irrelevance; he describes education as an old system designed for an old world (Peters, 2003).


Different levels for different stakeholders

Graves states that:

if we are going to be optimally effective in developing programmed learning systems, then the systems that we develop must:

(a)   Contain internal consistency, i.e. we must develop our systems so that the ways of thinking required, the type of learning methodology used and the means of motivating the learner are congruent, they must stem from the same level." (Graves, 2003, para. 3)

The key issue for education is stated by Graves as this;  "when a particular system dominates a person’s psychological operation he prefers to learn a certain way and prefers not to learn in other ways, he is activatable by certain stimuli and not by other stimuli" (Graves, para. 17).  Graves goes on to point out the important aspects of a learner’s point of view depending on the level in which they are centralized.

Rosado states that many of the problems currently plaguing the educational system are actually the result of conflict between the differing spiral levels found in the school system. Much of the effort by educators to deal with problems such as bullying and racism are doomed because they only deal with the surface manifestations of the problems not the deeper issues of conflicting worldviews.  (Rosado, 2000.)  Rosado goes on to say

depending on their operative Value System different students respond to learning in different ways, and the “spiral educator” as a multimemetic person will recognize this and employ different methods of instruction suitable to the different learning styles at the level of existence of the student." (Rosado, "Implications" section, para. 6)

A further significant point is that people view the world through their own worldview and that influences how they deal with others.  "Most teachers and administrators, tend to reflect BLUE [BO], ORANGE [ER], and GREEN [FS] Value Systems" (Rosado, 2000, Implications section, para. 4).  At any given level people can be Open, Arrested or Closed. People who are open in whichever level they are centralized at still can take in ideas and information from nearby levels. Those who are arrested will only accept information from their own level or those below. In a closed state only information that is congruent with the current level will be accepted.

Rosado points out the value of Graves’ theory when he states:

A grasp of Spiral Dynamics also enables teachers to recognize the diversity of learning styles and thus the different approaches to teaching …. Depending on their operative Value System different students respond to learning in different ways, and the "spiral educator" will recognize this and employ different methods of instruction suitable to the different learning styles at the level of existence of the student." (Rosado, "Implications" section, para. 4)


Social Growth

Drummond and Edin in their book, Order and Structure in the School, make use of Spiral Dynamics in order to promote social growth in students.

A central theme in the book is that if teachers wish to encourage a child in its social development, they will need to apply a different style of leadership depending on how far that child has come so far. Another important theme is that only through the teacher’s professional and conscious leadership can the classroom and school become a "greenhouse" for social development - in short: the necessary order and structure are created through the teacher's leadership. (Drummond & Edin, 2006, p. 2)

The premise of the book by Drummond and Edin is that in a society centralized in FS, which "celebrates each person's individuality, perspective, personal freedoms and rights" (Drummond & Edin, 2006, p. 5) there has been a loss of the necessary CP and DQ order. A further point is that in order to deal with this problem a more advanced worldview is needed; one in which individuals must take responsibility for the choices that they make. In their work they refer to the five stages of moral development as put forward by Gilligan and Kohlberg. Drummond and Edin state that "the task for education is to ensure the upward movement between the different stages of consciousness" (Drummond & Edin, p. 8).

They point out that when “teachers at a stage three [FS] (Everyone is right. Everything is relative) give free choice to students at a stage one [CP] (Might is right! My truth! "Me!") the result is a very volatile, chaotic and destructive classroom situation for everyone" (Drummond & Edin, 2006, p. 9). A more important issue for the teachers at stage three is the fact that "there is no developmental perspective offering a prospect that consciousness might develop" (Drummond & Edin, p. 9). In their book Drummond and Edin note two main blockages to development. The first is for students between CP and DQ. The second is for teachers between FS and A’N’. The key to solving this problem lies in treating individuals as is needed based on the level they are centralized in. A second aspect to solving the problem lies in encouraging the movement upward of all the players. In order to facilitate this movement Drummond and Edin make use of Spiral Dynamics as a framework to better understand the needs and direction the education system must move toward.  (Drummond & Edin)



Learning systems and levels



 "There is no call for the development of learning systems when man’s psychology is centralized at the first, the A-N level of human existence" (Graves, 2003, para. 18).



            According to Graves, "learning in the B-O state takes place through the classical conditioning method, a method that is rather unwieldy when considered for practical teaching purposes because of the complexity of Pavlovian conditioning" ( 2003, para. 19).  People at this level live in fear of others, those not of their own group. For these people almost all others are outside their group. A key issue for teaching students at this level is to ensure their perceptions of safety, honor rituals and not break any taboo.  (Rosado, 2000)   Don Beck, in an interview with Nick Drummond, also pointed out the importance of "PURPLE [BO] bonding which answers the question: Am I going to be okay here? Because the first issue is safety and security and if that’s not established in the children’s focus then it’s difficult to begin learning" (Drummond, 2004, Acquiring layers and levels of complexity section, para. 1).



Because those centralized at CP trust no one but themselves, they won’t listen to what others have to say unless they see it as a way to increase their personal power or to better survive in the world that they see as full of ‘haves and have-nots’.  "What these students need is tough love (BLUE responsibility, respect for authority, and order), with immediate consequences and sanctions. Make no threats, only promises" (Rosado, 2000, Value Systems section, para. 4).

Don Beck points out that students centralized at CP are exploring who they are. They are developing self-esteem and trying to find out how powerful they can be.  "Do I have a sense of self that is unique from being part of the family or even a class or whatever?" (Drummond, 2004, Acquiring layers and levels of complexity section, para. 1) A difficulty that Beck raises is that this is an important phase for students to go through but a common response is either too much control applied by the system or too little control. In the first case students are  "instantly punished because of the Order or nuns with rulers" (Drummond, Acquiring layers and levels of complexity section, para. 1) In the second case, often due to the FS orientation of many teachers, CP  "runs loose, runs amuck" (Drummond, Acquiring layers and levels of complexity section, para. 1).

Thus, if one is to develop learning system effective for those centralized in the C-P state of existence one must get the learner into a specific drive state, induce or wait for the desired activity, reward that activity with a drive relevant stimulus immediately or very shortly after the desired activity has taken place. In other words the developer of learning systems for those centralized in the C-P state must master the shaping principles of the Harvard psychologist, B. F. Skinner. (Graves, 2003, para. 20)



People centralized at DQ only listen to the ‘right’ authority. In this black and white worldview people see only one correct way to do things. This is often seen in students who go home and say to their parents that’s not the way my teacher told me to do it! This point of view can cause problems when a school has "administrators, teachers, and staff who operate with a 'flatland' perspective-one-size-fits-all approach" (Rosado, 2000, Value Systems section, para. 5).

 "When this state is central, no punishment seems to mean no learning, too much punishment produces rigid, most difficult to change, learning and the wrong punishment seems to leave the person unaffected or to produce negative hostile learning" (Graves, 2003, para. 24). 

Beck points out that "much of education is around the BLUE [DQ] system; the teaching of truth and knowledge is critical and unless this capacity is awakened in children then the more complex systems are seriously compromised" (Drummond, 2004, Emergence of BLUE section, para. 1).  

The key issue for teachers in dealing with DQ is to introduce "the idea of learning discipline, responsibility and accountability" (Drummond, Emergence of BLUE section, para. 1).  Beck goes on to say that due to the fear of litigation schools often are reluctant to impose discipline in reasonable forms and therefore, have imposed zero-tolerance models which impose the same consequence for all no mater what the circumstances.  (Drummond)



"At this level the patterning of stimulation, changing and challenging ideational content and the degree to which outcomes meet the person’s expectations are the major motivating factors… The keystones are the opportunity to learn through his own efforts, the presence of mild risk, the individual’s experience and much variety in the learning experience" (Graves, 2003, para. 25).

To them [ER] there may be many answers to a problem but there is one best answer. They think in terms of analyzing, and wanting to comprehend in an impersonal, objective, distant, rational positivistic manner. They see life and thus learning as a game that has precise rules that if mastered will enable them to win the game. They think in terms of breaking things into parts, and they prefer to add up their own conception of the parts. (Graves, 2003, para. 24)

 "Faculty, administrators, parents, and students at this level are only concerned with themselves, and what is in their best interest. Image is indeed everything, as well as status" (Rosado, 2000, Value Systems section, para. 6).

            When students are concerned "the fifth level system [is] where the RED [CP] sense of self together with the BLUE [DQ] sense of order and responsibility matures into an ORANGE [ER] sense of self-direction and an autonomous ability to navigate" (Drummond, 2004, Emergence of ORANGE section, para. 1).



The learning system associated with it has been variously called the vicarious, the modeling or the observational learning system. All of these refer to an individual’s acquisition of new knowledge and potential behavior through observation without receiving any direct external reinforcement for his own acts or without even making the observed response…. people who should attend particularly to the work of Bandura and Walters if they wish to develop learning programs for those centralized in the F-S existential state. (Graves, 2003, para. 26)

In the FS state, people can start to accept the views of others as long as those views don’t produce behavior that is in conflict with the view of the group.  "Here the concern is with equity and everyone being treated the same. It therefore strongly conflicts with closed BLUE [DQ]" (Rosado, 2000, Value Systems section, para. 7).



The thinking at the G-T [A’N’] level is still another form. To them - knowledge exists in specific settings. The settings differ and so do the knowers. Several interpretations of any phenomenon are always legitimate depending on the person, his point of view and his purpose. So to them, the teacher’s job is to pose problems, help provide ways to see them but to leave the person to his own conclusion as to what answers to accept. (Graves, 2003, para. 31)



The ideas and theory of Dr. Clare Graves are being widely rediscovered by many other people in many differing fields. Because Graves published little, few references to him are found in the literature. However, many of his ideas are being described by others, particularly in the field of leadership where much of his work was applied. Questions have been raised about his ideas related to the biology of the brain based on current research as much more knowledge available now compared to when he was writing. Current writing shows people are becoming aware of the significant change in how people see the world. The use of post-Newtonian science as a framework for describing leadership evokes much of what Graves had to say. His ideas about levels of human awareness hold up well to current understanding and provide a usable framework for many fields that deal with human interaction.

The implications for education are profound. They revolve around two main areas. The first is the idea that the worldview that a person is centralized in is describable and affects both how they learn and in the case of teachers how they teach.  The second is the suggestion that there should be a refocusing of the educational system to enhance the movement through the different levels of awareness. This movement starts with the idea that there exist observable levels that all humans have access to and the concept that in general the farther advanced in levels of consciousness a society is the better for that society.




A basic premise of the work of Graves is that there are a limited number of worldviews developed so far and that they are common to all people. Each of the eight worldviews identified so far are describable and have implications related to education. A person or group of people can be described by a blend of the eight worldviews but will be centralized in one of the eight or in a transition between levels. Beck and Cowan referred to a person’s position in the levels as entering, peak or exiting.  Entering would have a blend of the previous stage being predominate and a lesser degree of the new stage in the mixture. Peak represents being centralized in one of the eight levels and exiting is described as a blend of the previous level with a smaller mix of the next.  (Beck & Cowan, 1996)  The blend of worldviews can be measured, to some degree, and the results of the measurement are predictive as to why people behave the way they do.

The purpose of this study is to identify and describe the worldview of a group of teachers making use of Spiral Dynamics theory, then using the theory, exploring the implications for education based on the identified worldview.

The research subjects were five intermediate teachers and the principal of an elementary school in School District 68 in British Columbia. There were two male teachers and three female teachers as well as a female principal. The teachers have been teaching for a variety of years. Some are in the early stages of their careers others at the middle and two near the end. Three teachers had been working at the same school for more than eight years, one had been there for three years and one was new to the school that year. The principal was in her second year at the school.

The subjects were asked to take an online survey which gave the results both in a numerical form and as a graph showing the levels in which they scored either most like me or least like me.  Afterward, the researcher interviewed each subject and compared the analysis of his or her results with how they perceived themselves. In each case the individual subjects agreed that the analysis was accurate in describing his or her worldview. The results of each individual were then combined to create a group chart which represents the worldview of the school group. Again, as a group they agreed that the analysis of the group was a representative description of their worldview. In this way the researcher was able to cross reference and find agreement in what the theory suggested that the results of the measurement tool were with what the subjects actually believed to be the case.

The measurement tool used was an online questionnaire called the Discover from the National Values Center in Santa Barbara California. The Discover provides information related to the relative strength of six of the eight levels of human development as described by Graves, Beck and Cowan. The tool does not measure the first or AN level or the eighth level B’O’ as few if any people currently are centralized in these levels. The questionnaire asks 20 questions and gives seven possible answers to choose from each based on one of the seven levels as described by Graves. 15 possible points are then distributed among the seven answers to represent the strength that the answers correspond with a person’s beliefs. 10 of questions are written as most like me statements and the final 10 are written as least like me.

The Discover also overlays a person’s or group’s score over the averages of all the scores that have been complied so far. This allows a comparison of the group with a much larger sample collected over decades. In asking about the sample size and nature of the compiled averages for the Discover the researcher received this answer:

The DSC [Discover] averages were compiled back in the 80's and really haven't changed much…. The n was about 4500 people in varying levels from the shop floor to the executive suite within organizations in the US, Europe, South Africa, etc. Our current database has a much wider and more diverse range of people in it as it includes more countries and more languages than the earlier one AND the averages haven't changed. (N. Todorovic, Personal Communication, March 31, 2008)

The data from the school group was used to generate a chart from which an analysis of the group was possible making use of the theory of Dr. Graves.



            Traditionally, results from the Discover are presented in graphic form rather than in numbers. Each of the levels is shown relative to the others allowing an overview of the person or group’s profile. The data below is presented in two ways. The first shows a comparison of the school group and a much larger sample representing the average of all people who have taken the Discover. The second shows the school group’s profile combining both the ‘most like me’ and the ‘least like me’ scores. An interpretation of the graphs follows, reviewing briefly the worldview of each level as well as how indicative that level is for the school group.



Most Like Me

Figure 1.

Figure 1 shows a comparison of the average scores of the teacher group in the worldview colours, compared to the average of all people who have taken the Discover so far, shown in black. This figure shows the results from the most like me component of the measurement tool. Figure 1 shows that the scores of the teacher group are much different from the average with the most significant differences in the higher scores in the Green (FS) and Yellow (A’N’) levels.









Least Like Me

Figure 2.

Figure 2 shows the school group compared to the all others using the data from the least like me component of the Discover. Again the black shows the average scores of all others who have taken the Discover compared to the school group scores which are shown in the colours. Of particular interest is the high negative score in CP/Red compared to all others.

            To better understand the information as presented, keep in mind that the data shown represents the average choices that the school group made in identifying statements that they felt most described how they see the world, how they felt it to be. They also identified statements that describe how they are not. Often, but not always, a high positive score in one colour is reflected in a low negative score in that same colour and vice versa.





School Group

Figure 3.

The data from the Discover is usually displayed as in figure 3. This shows the most like me responses on the right hand/positive side of the chart and the least like me on the left hand /negative side of the chart.


Interpretation of the Data

The BO or purple level is the tribal level. When this level is at its peak people see the world as a frightening mysterious place. This is a worldview where family and kinship are the key binding elements in relations. People in the BO level feel an intense emotional connection to places and things. Spirits, spells and magic explain the natural world of earthquakes and eclipses. The focus is on survival of the tribe and the traditional ways of doing things is the only way to ensure survival.

This was rejected fairly strongly by the group. For the school group, survival is not a key issue and much of what is truth to the BO worldview would be seen as superstition.

            The CP or red level is the egocentric level. People at this level they see the world as full of danger and therefore, strive for personal power. The use of charisma, intimidation and force are part of the tools that people at this level rely on. Guilt does not affect people at this level but shame or loss of face does. At this level people tend to focus on the now, immediate gratification is of the essence. Very little in the way of restraint is shown. To be the ‘top dog’ or die trying is what life is about because the world is a jungle. The school group indicated a very strong reject of this worldview. Clearly the negative aspects of the CP worldview run counter to how the school group sees the world and themselves.

            The DQ or blue level is the purposeful level. In this worldview order and structure exist.  People in this level see right and wrong ways of living enforced by a higher power which is often religious but not necessarily so. Authority is to be followed, with a clear hierarchy leading from the top to the bottom. The DQ level has developed an awareness of guilt along with a reason or purpose for living. Here responsibility, order and discipline are seen as important traits. The school group has a nearly balanced like me/not like me response to DQ, with neither being very predominate. The school group did identify with some components of this worldview. Components of the DQ level such as responsibility, order and awareness would fit with the school group’s view of the world. However, due to the very high FS score, authority based on hierarchy rather than group membership is the likely cause of the negative score. This balance of positive and negative is referred to as a blind spot which means that it does not show up or affect the group in a significant way.

            The ER or orange level is the strategic level. In this level people strive for autonomy and independence and seek the good life. Again the importance of the individual is brought to the fore but now tempered by the transition through DQ. At its peak, ER sees the world as changeable as opposed to the permanence seen in DQ. Competition is the way that people can get ahead and if one understands the rules then they can be manipulated to win. The having and holding of nice things is proof a success in ER. The world is seen as understandable; there for the use of anyone with the skill to take it. Science has taken over from religion as the keeper of the truth. For the school group, the ER level is seen as having good points and bad points. Some of the components of this worldview that fit with how the school group sees the world would be the view that the world is knowable and that hard work can help an individual to achieve his or her goals. Aspects of the ER worldview that run counter to the school group would be that all decisions should be made based on the bottom line and that having the ‘newest, biggest and the best’ is the way to live life. A further aspect that would cause a negative response would be the point of view that the world is there to be used by humans as in natural resources. The not like me component is somewhat stronger than the like me but neither of them are greatly significant in the make up of the group’s worldview.

            The FS or green level is the relativistic level. In this level "‘feelings’ begin to replace the need for ‘achievements’" (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 262). This level has an enhanced awareness of ecology and the effect of the ER use of the natural world. The FS level is egalitarian and consensual with a focus on building community. People at this level experience a return to spirituality as opposed to religion. At this level being part of the group and following the dictates of the group is paramount. This level sees the world as relative; hierarchy is looked down upon as in this view all people are equal. Self-worth is related to acceptance in the group. The school group scored very highly in FS and is likely centralized at this level but may be in the transition to A’N’.

The A’N’ or yellow level is the systemic level. This level steps over to the second tier of Graves’s theory. At this level people are starting to become aware of the value and points of view of other worldviews. According to the theory, this is the level that is needed to deal with the problems that the previous levels have caused but cannot fix due to their limited points of view.

At the A’N’ level "acceptance and harmony are peripheral to happiness" (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 275). Here interdependence allows one to choose to be part of the group or work on their own as they deem necessary. They are comfortable with uncertainty and look for the system behind the details. People centralized in this level act "from an inner-directed core" (Beck & Cowan, p. 278) rather than the group point of view of the previous level. They can access knowledge from a variety of sources on multiple levels and combine a sense of awe and playful delight with all that they do. The A’N’ level allows people to access each of the previous levels as needed and will focus on what is necessary and naturally next.  Authority is seen as contextual with whoever is best able to lead in a given situation given the role of leader for that moment. They are concerned with "the long run of time rather than his or her own life span" (Beck & Cowan, p. 282).  The school group scored quite high in A’N’ and may be in the entering phase of A’N’.

            The two major components of the school group are the very high score in FS (green) in most like me and the high reject of CP (red) in the least like me. Along with these two significant scores is the high A’N’ (yellow) score. However, questions as to the accuracy of the A’N’ score have been raised. Cowan and Todorovic speculate that use of the Discover tool can lead to false positive scores in the A’N’ level because many of the statements that are representative of this level can also be seen as agreeable to other levels especially the FS level. (C. Cowan & N. Todorovic, Personal conversation, February, 2008) The combination of these scores allow a description of the group based on the theory of Dr. Graves and a look at the implications for education based on that theory.

            What are the implications for a group of people who see the world through the filter of FS? This group will be very cohesive; they will be very sensitized to the feelings of others in the group and go out of their way to help. They will "redistribute resources so those in need will never go without" (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 265).  In many ways, acceptance by the group is significant to the self-worth of the members. Because "GREEN [FS] is susceptible to group-think, the pressures to be supportive of collective decisions and actions can be extreme. The need to fit in and feel accepted may overwhelm the person’s willingness to disagree" (Beck & Cowan, p. 266).  Therefore, members of the group will go along with decisions made by the group, even if they personally believe that the decision is wrong, as long as they have had their say in the matter. All members of the staff are seen as part of the group no matter that they are educational assistants, janitors, or teachers. Little distinction is made between members based on the kind of work they do at the school. Each person is free to teach in the way that best suits their needs and the often very different styles are all accepted equally. (Graves, 2005)

            Administration, whether local or provincially, is seen as not part of the group and therefore, is more often seen as the enemy than a leader. Rules or directives sent down ‘from above’ are ignored or are often referred to as ‘hoops to jump’ because they come from outside the group and often do not reflect the values of the group. Their  "thinking shows an almost radical almost compulsive emphasis on seeing everything from a relativistic, subjective frame of reference as [they] revolt against notions of quantity and [are] rigidly against rigidity, judgmental about judgmentalism" (Graves, 2005, p. 346-347). In particular the Ministry of Education’s push for quantitative measurement of students and schools is seen in a negative light. It goes against a basic premise of FS which is that all people are equal and measuring people, thus making some better than others is inherently wrong.   

            If the assumption is made that many people tend to teach the way they learn best then looking at how people in FS tend to learn will give an indications of how they teach. Learning "occurs when FS man observes the consequences that other people obtain when they behave one way or another without even engaging in the behavior he observes" (Graves, 2005, p. 350). Therefore, teachers expect that students will learn from what happens to others in the class.   "Those who think in an FS way are unhappy over the absence of personal relevance in any abstractions that are a part of learning" (Graves, p. 350). Therefore, building relevance to the student into the lessons is an important part of the teaching of this group.  Further, because "they tend to refuse to deal with anything that analyzes or breaks down a learning experience" (Graves, p. 350) the use of themes to integrate a number of subjects fits well with their teaching style. Effectively making use of limited time and resources can be an issue for this group.

The great GREEN [FS] delusion that each human can develop to the fullest, can maximize their being, and reach a state of completeness much akin to Maslow’s self-actualization….In this drive to grow people, GREEN often invests finite resources on underdogs and ‘losing’ causes. (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 269)

      As a result of the caring component of the group "extremes of GREEN lead to ‘burnout’" (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 267) often because the members of the group find themselves powerless to give help or find a solution to problems of others. A related component is that "guilt appears during reductions in the [work] force when the community is being split apart. These times are as painful for those who stay as those who go" (Beck & Cowan, p. 267).  

The school group also identified CP as least like them. This would indicate a worldview that clashes most with the way they see the world. Like all the levels there are both positive and negative aspects to CP. The negative aspects of CP are most likely to disturb FS. FS is very much other and feeling oriented. The CP orientation is to a world consisting "of a few dominate haves and many have-nots" (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 225) and runs counter to the FS worldview. For those who see the world from a CP worldview, the use of "intimidation, charisma, and physical force to impose his/her will without guilt or compunction" (Beck & Cowan, p. 216) makes perfect sense. This behavior is difficult for those with a FS point of view that works toward consensus and the meeting of the needs of the entire group, not just the powerful. FS rejects that fact that anyone in the group has more power or rights than anyone else. 

From a CP perspective "society consists of a few dominate haves and many have-nots" (Beck & Cowan, p. 224) therefore "the many accept the ‘might is right’ of the few because by such acceptance they are assured survival" (Graves, 2005, p. 231). Those who are not among the powerful are often "clandestine and devious" (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 224) this runs counter to the FS idea that truth is the most critical aspect of interpersonal interaction.

When a group of people centralized in FS have to deal with students or parents centralized in CP they find it very difficult. The rules of the CP world are very different from those of a FS world. FS sees the behavior of those in CP as very rude or even as a breakdown in moral structure and often tries to reason with them. Reasoning, however, is seen as a sign of weakness and therefore, can be dismissed by CP. Further problems occur when FS, taken to extremes, "fosters excessive permissiveness and the absence of limits" (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 271). This simply leads to CP taking more of what they want: power and control. In a classroom a powerful CP student or students can have total control if the teacher follows their FS feelings and tries to reason with them or give them more freedom to be themselves. Parents can easily bully teachers using anger and intimidation. This can lead to choices being made that are not based on sound educational thinking but rather on the need to appease the parent. 

From a FS point of view people care about each other and consider the feelings of others in the group. In a CP world, no one cares about others; no guilt is felt about how they are treated. The only the rule is that of the jungle, kill or be killed. FS teachers are often baffled by the behavior of students or parents who behave in this way. They are put in a very stressful situation because the tools that they use to deal with the problem are not effective.


Transition from FS to A’N’

Although questions as to the A’N’ score on the Discover have been raised, some transition between FS and A’N’ is likely. A growing awareness of the problems that affect the world rather than those that affect themselves or their group is a marker of this transition. Graves states that the problems that will move people from FS to A’N’ will be "the ecological crisis, the energy crisis, the population crisis, limits to growth, or any other such thing which is enough of a disturbance to awaken FS man" (Graves, 2005, p. 359).  People at this stage "value the enjoyment of this life over and above obeisance to authority…it [A’N’] values all and self, not just the select few" (Graves, p. 368).

The value structure of the A’N’ group is different from the FS. In FS values are derived from the group. In A’M’  "several sets of values are legitimate, depending on the thinker and his/her conditions of and for existence" (Graves, 2005, p. 370). As the conditions for existence change so do the values that go with it. Above all other considerations their "ethics are based on the best possible evidence to what will benefit all-the majority, the needy, or the desiring is not enough" (Graves, p. 370). 

On a personal level, people at this level see that "the activity is more important than any acclaim that may result" (Graves, 2005, p. 381).  Furthermore, "two of the prime characteristics of this system [are]: lack of compulsiveness and absence of fear" (Graves, p. 374).        






Summary of the Study



            The literature review found that the work of Clare W. Graves was insightful in building a framework that encompassed the work of many of the psychologists of his time as well as those currently in the field. Much of what Graves had to say has been stated using other terms by many other researchers. His theory remains valid and useful. The use of worldviews to describe teachers is accurate and allows the positioning of teachers in the larger framework developed by Graves. The use of this framework then gives insight as to why teachers interact with those they come into contact in the way they do. Their interactions are congruent with their worldview.



The implications for education in the work of Graves have not been explored in any detail but clearly his work has important applications. In particular this study has shown that the worldviews of a group of teachers can be identified making use of the theory of Graves and the description of that worldview can be validated by reference to the teachers themselves. In the particular group studied in this paper, their worldview showed a high acceptance component for FS and a high reject component for CP. This particular mix has implications for the relationships found within the school system. Some of the aspects of this worldview are the ideas that everything is relative, hierarchy is bad, and feelings are more important than facts. In particular, the negative view of hierarchies tends to limit the growth of those at this level. This negative view makes it difficult to achieve the next level which would allow them to apply new thinking strategies to deal with the problems that they face. Wilber refers to problem when he states, "in green’s admirable attempt to go postconventional- it has often inadvertently embraced anything nonconventional, and this includes much that is frankly preconventional, regressive, and narcissistic" (Wilber, 2000, p. 27).  This refusal to accept hierarchies, even though they were responsible for the development of the FS worldview, prevents the movement to the next stage. 

Another aspect of this point of view is the difficulty in dealing with others who are centralized in CP. Thus, students, parents or others who display a lack of empathy or an ego-based drive for personal power with little thought for the feelings or needs of others are seen as people without morals or values.     



            Einstein pointed out that problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created the problems in the first place. This is true of Graves’s point of view as well. In order to deal with the problems facing the educational system today a different point of view is necessary. If, as this study has shown, teachers are centralized at the FS level, then the problems that they deal with can best be solved by movement farther along the spiral to A’N’ levels of thinking. The first step in achieving growth in this direction is awareness of somewhere further to go.  Thus, making those in the educational system aware of the work of Dr. Graves is a first step to making changes in the system.

            In dealing with those people, in particular students, who are centralized in CP, several suggestions from the work of Graves are of value. The theory suggests that "the failure to resolve the most basic PURPLE problems- ‘A positive somebody care about me and I have a safe place to be’ –contributes to the escalation of RED on the streets of major cities around the world" (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 218). Furthermore,

alternative PURPLE nests- sports teams, surrogate families, effective child care, and good nutrition begins the process. Then carefully managed programs converting unhealthy RED can be introduced – the discipline of martial arts, Outward Bound-type adventures, and cleaning up trashed neighborhoods to make them safe." (Beck & Cowan, p. 218)

It is important to remember that Graves pointed out that each of the levels is of value, none is better or worse than the others. Teachers perceive CP in a negative light but CP is critically important. By focusing on its positive components teachers can enhance the development of this important phase of human development.  "Strong positive RED examples abound in cartoons, legends and myths-[such as] Paul Bunyan, [and] John Henry (the Steel Driving Man)" (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 218). Part of the value of the CP level is that "in breaking with ‘the system,’ it produces innovations that would be impossible within the bound of PURPLE customs or BLUE mandates" (Beck & Cowan, p. 225). Finally without a fully developed CP in their worldview people have difficulty learning how to "deal with obstacles, manage personal power, and confront life’s monsters" (Beck & Cowan, p. 217-218).


Areas for further Research

            Numerous areas requiring more study can be found in the implication for education in the work of Dr. Graves. A significant area is the gap in the material available to identify the worldview of children. All the work that Dr. Graves did was with adults and the measurement tools currently available were also designed for adults. The ability to establish the level of the students a teacher is working with, either as individuals or as classes would be useful information for lesson design. It would also be useful in matching teachers and classes so that there continued to be movement upward in the development of the students and eventually in society as a whole.





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Copyright Tom Christensen 2015