Friday, July 13, 2007

Don Beck on Spiral Dynamics and AQAL

This question and reply were posted in the SDi Yahoo group. There has been quite the falling out between Don Beck and Ken Wilber in the past few years, which I think is sad -- they both have a lot to offer in creating a well-rounded integral theory. It would be nice if the intellectual leaders of integral theory didn't feel themselves to be in competition, but rather working toward a shared goal -- a more comprehensive view of human beings.

Anyway, here is the question and answer:

Steve McDonald: Wilber refers to Graves' research as measuring a line of development called the 'values line'. In my opinion the values line overlaps with other lines though (the lines are really a continuum it seems, which we divide up just as we divide the continuum between hot and cold into various degrees).

I find it very useful to think about lines of development when I'm working with clients. For example I recently came across a manager who showed up solidly Green in a CultureSCAN, yet her observed behaviour (I know her quite well) is very much strive/drive Orange. I've also come across many people in the SDi community who seem to be able think at Yellow, but the way they live their life is very much first tier and characterised by struggle. These paradoxes can be explained by using lines of development. Someone may be intellectually attracted to, and capable of thinking (cognitive line) at Green or Yellow, yet at an emotional level (emotional line) they may still be Orange (for example) and living in a strive/drive way. It seems that we need to reach a certain vmeme across more than one line of development before that vmeme becomes the dominant driver of our way of being.

One of Wilber's criticisms of Spiral Dynamics is that it's not an all encompassing way of measuring development (as some claim it to be). While it may be useful for measuring and understanding a number of different lines, including values, there are some lines that it doesn't address. For example, to the best of my knowledge, you can't use SDi to measure someone's development in musical/rhythmic intelligence, visual/spatial intelligence or bodily/kinaesthetic intelligence. If someone can demonstrate otherwise, I'm all ears!

Don Beck: The "lines" you mentioned at the bottom belong in the areas of IQ, EQ, and temperament,which are independent variables, quite separate from the Complex Adaptive Intelligences that Graves revealed and we have documented. These are defined operationally in the l996 book and in presentations. In the 1978 lecture at UNT Graves clearly said that "values" are but a derivative of his larger work, and most certainly not the whole ball of wax. I should think that Graves would be in a better position to define his work than anybody else.

The emerging spiral belongs right at the core of the quadrants -- Graves called them bio-psycho-social domains long before Wilber "invented" his four quadrants. Clearly, there is a need for "spirals of maturity" of various mental functions, which do not fit the Gravesian Double Helix model. A friend in German just designed a wonderful, vertical model of how the spiral lifts up, in a three-dimensional fashion, to shape the movements of individuals and groupings. I would encourage Ken and his supporters to stop using any of the Spiral Dynamics symbols, language, examples, colors etc. when explaining their work, because they do not belong within the SD family. Same goes for any reference to "Third Tier" which exploits the "tier" language as copyrighted in Spiral Dynamics. This is what happens when someone simply attempts to align different theoretical models rather than allow each to stand on its own. It also happens with concept builders who do no original research themselves. Nothing is "just like" anything else.

In Gravesian language these are not types of people but ways of thinking about something, which means one can think in different levels (memetic codes) in different areas of one's life. Yet, too much stress on different "lines" can be misleading. One can make a pretty good case, as we used to do in our Ph. D work at the University of Oklahoma in the mid l960s, for showing that "cognitive" and "emotions" flow together. And, my Ph.D dissertation on the causes of the American Civil War developed an "integral" viewpoint of politics, religion, historicity, psychology, sociology etc in setting the stage for l861. I guess I was early with "integral."

Wilber has his own agenda for misrepresenting this work. He has a right to his opinion, but, also, the ethical responsibility to be accurate. We all do. He rightly named it "The Theory that Explains everything" in his recent book. I believe in an "invisible spiral" and support any wrapping around it, and avoid making any statement regarding other such models. We need them all, rather than put them in competition. Just let Gravesian/Spiral Dynamics be what it is and let people decide what works best for them. The real content of Spiral Dynamics, however, is not about the eight or nine levels, but how human systems emerge from the interaction of people with their life conditions. Otherwise, one is trapped with a Calvinistic, pre-determined roll out, maybe like reincarnation. Different developmental theorists will, of course, see different wrappings, because of who they are, how they do research, who is in their studies, with what data-gathering technologies. The essence of Spiral Dynamics is this Double-Helix effect. I would like to know the source of the "levels" or "types" generated by other developmental theorists and research groups. These differences must come from somewhere.

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