Let’s look at what is perhaps the least discussed Spiral Dynamics stage: Stage Turquoise.
By way of reminder, Stage Turquoise is the eighth psychological system in Spiral Dynamics. It’s the next stage on from Yellow. It’s also considered a 2nd-tier system, meaning (among other things) that it sees the validity and necessity of all the 1st-tier systems, 1-6.
Turquoise takes Yellow’s ability to zoom out and integrate many different perspectives to a new level. Since it is an even-numbered stage, it’s also outward-oriented. And this collective focus has its own special flavour at Turquoise. Its key characteristic is its holistic, global, cosmic outlook.
We’ll look at when Turquoise emerges in individuals and collectives. Then we’ll touch on the worldview we adopt when this is our dominant stage, as well as our psychology, values, and behaviour.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, I want to touch on the issues with talking about this stage of Spiral Dynamics.
The Difficulties With Spiral Dynamics Turquoise
It turns out that Turquoise is a little tricky to talk about. Why is that?
Well, the problem resides in the scarcity of this stage. As Beck and Cowan remark in their landmark book Spiral Dynamics: Leadership, Values, and Change : “At our present stage in human development, Turquoise is at an embryonic stage.”
The Life Conditions underpinning Turquoise are as yet barely visible, meaning this stage hasn’t emerged to any significant degree.
So few people embody this stage that even the Spiral Dynamics literature on Turquoise is a little sparse compared to the other stages. It’s much more fleshed out than it is in Graves’ original findings, but there’s still work to be done. We don’t have a sure grasp of what Turquoise looks like in individuals. Forget trying to understand how it would look for a society or extended group to embody this stage.
Its scarcity also means that it’s significantly more difficult to identity people and groups embodying Turquoise compared to the other levels.
For this reason, many people skip over Turquoise in their coverage of Spiral Dynamics. But I think there’s enough information out there to give a fairly detailed, albeit speculative, profile of this stage. So let’s get to it.
When does Turquoise emerge?
All levels of the human being – no matter what aspect of the human we’re looking at – build on previous levels and go beyond their weaknesses. The same is true of the Turquoise level from Spiral Dynamics.
On an individual level, Turquoise comes online when we become aware of the limits of the prior stage, Yellow.
Yellow provides us with systemic thinking, an abundance mindset, an evolutionary worldview, a new level of flexibility, and many other traits. But it has its limitations.
Its individualistic character means we can become isolated. We create complex theories and maps and models, and love philosophising, but may lack the network required to implement the change for humankind that we intuit.
Yellow thinks in terms of systems, their interconnections, and the chaos caused by their faultiness. But it lacks the capacity to see the wisdom and structure that’s under the surface. With Turquoise comes a more holistic, spiritual and embodied view.
Let’s first look at how we see the world at Turquoise – this is quite different to the view from Yellow.
Spiral Dynamics Turquoise: Worldview
The big leap we take at Turquoise is to see the unity and holism of all of existence. We see the world as a single organism and life as a living entity. And in our concern we include all creatures, all species, and all human beings. They’re all part of this one global, living, breathing system.
There is a focus on the planet and the wellbeing of all its systems. Our vantage point is now the planet itself.
This universal perspective reaches right from the big scale to the small scale, across ethnic groups, nations and penetrating across classes. This is the “Global Village” that the Spiral Dynamics literature describes. Everything is seen as part of the global order.
Remember, we still preserve Yellow’s perception of the entire Spiral and the need to attend to each and every part of it, but this is reframed in a new global, holistic context.
We see ourselves, though we preserve our sense of individuality, as part of this larger whole, more so than we do at Yellow.
And beyond transforming how we view humanity, Turquoise also adds another layer of complexity onto our view of the world and its systems.
Turquoise views a world of interlinked causes and effects, interacting fields of energy, andDon Beck and Christopher Cowan
levels of bonding and communicating most of us have yet to uncover.
We now view systems as being much more liquid- and fractal-like, flowing, blending and overlapping. The world is seen as a collection of groups, fields and waves. This is a much more embodied and holistic view, where we see that everything is organically connected to everything else. For the good of the world, we realise the need to delicately balance all these interlocking forces.
We’re much more conscious now of energy fields and the holographic nature of all of life. We see the universal forces that underlie all forms of existence.
There is also a sense, more so than with any other stage, that there is more than we will ever know about life. We are, therefore, much more open to not-knowing.
Let’s now look at how this worldview then brings about the set of unique Turquoise values.
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The holistic, planetary, interconnected worldview we download at Turquoise brings about certain predictable value shifts.
We have a newfound respect for the holistic wisdom baked into living systems, and we now value their preservation and flourishing to a new level.
We value the needs of the planet and its systems, life itself, and the entire human developmental spiral. This now becomes the main driver of our actions: “How will this project influence the delicately balanced global order?” Life itself takes priority over anything else.
This expansion also means we value cooperative effort much more than we did at Yellow. With the complexity and sheer scale of the systems we engage in, collective global teamwork is now crucial.
And just as mentioned, all creatures, all animals, all humans at all levels, and all systems, are now part of our concern.
We also value both feelings and information – they aren’t siloed and split apart, but brought together for mutual enhancement, to a level that the Yellow stage can’t touch.
Let’s now look at the psychology of Turquoise – what does this OS look and feel like on the inside?
The Psychology Of Turquoise
A key component of this level is the reintegration of emotions and the intellect. Green tends to favour emotions; Yellow tends to favour the intellect.
Now we add a new connection to the right brain and to our intuition, body sensations and instinct to our intellectual capacities, leading to a more embodied awareness. We now see sensations as guides and sources of wisdom.
There is also a deeper resonance with the First-tier levels. While Yellow can “Flex Flow” between different First-tier levels, Turquoise reactivates and reignites them, bringing awareness to them in the first person. It’s much more visceral, embodied and immediate. They are now all online, present in our awareness, and active for use whenever we need them.
We now think holistically, allowing us to perceive the order that’s beneath the chaos.
Now it’s time for the behavioural characteristics of Turquoise.
All Spiral Dynamics stages are either predominantly me-oriented or other-oriented. And Turquoise is no different. It’s an other-oriented stage, meaning our prime concern is outside ourselves. It also means we adjust to the realities of the world rather than attempting to change it. Turquoise has its own way of expressing that other-focus.
At Turquoise, we strive to address large-scale problems through cooperative action. The “other” we sacrifice for is the entire planet. We act towards the wellbeing of the planet and the full human spiral.
At Yellow, we sense the problems. At Turquoise, we get to work solving them.
As alluded to earlier, we also relax the need to know all the facts, research and data surrounding a subject. We can know more simply by being more present with whatever it is we’re trying to understand.
While we readily admit having partial knowledge, our holistic worldview still allows for the possibility of a grand unification of all knowledge.
Let’s now step from the individual to the collective. What does a Turquoise collective look like?
Spiral Dynamics Turquoise Organisations
There are few Turquoise collectives around for empirical analysis, but there is some consensus on what Turquoise groups will look like. Whether this will hold up in practice as and when Turquoise becomes more visible remains to be seen.
Turquoise groups will be global in nature – their actions directed towards improving the whole planet. This involves global networking as different competencies, fields and specialties come together.
Unlike Green, where consensus drives the group’s decision-making and conflict is avoided, Turquoise collectives are underpinned by a clear intent to drive important change and solve serious world problems.
Second-tier capabilities go global and bring about the action required to restore and promote the health of the global human spiral.
Let me issue a few warnings.
As mentioned earlier in the article, Turquoise is barely online in human beings at this stage in the game. So take any work describing the features of Turquoise with some scepticism. And take with a pinch of salt any predictions about what humanity will be like when we do download Turquoise to a significant level.
The best approach here is to push your consciousness into Turquoise and meet others who have done so – then you’ll know from first-hand experience what’s it’s like.
And beyond the issues with theorising about the psychology, values, worldview and behaviour of individuals embodying Turquoise, I have another warning!
Stage Turquoise is not the end.
The Spiral Dynamics literature itself does roughly speculate what the next level beyond Turquoise will be like (Stage Coral), but doesn’t give any reliable details.
But other models, like Ken Wilber’s altitudes model and Cook-Greuter’s ego development model, go further than Turquoise. Even if you download Turquoise, there’s still more to download.
And really, how could we ever speculate a theoretical endpoint for human growth? Only 12,000 years ago, which is a mere blip on the cosmological timeline, we were roaming the savannah and tundra in hunter-gatherer groups. Who knows what another 200 years of evolution will bring, let alone another 12,000?
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