Spiral Dynamics® is a way of thinking about human nature. Its intent is to make living better for individuals, groups, and even societies by increasing understanding of why we do as we do, and then to broaden our conception of choices about what we might do next. 

This framework is based in the original research and theory of developmental scholar Dr. Clare W. Graves. It explores what makes us different and alike at levels deeper than the demographics of age or gender, economics or ethnicities. With these insights, it is possible to build education, business, and governance systems which fit who people are better, and to help diverse people to find contexts of best fit. In addition, it offers a trajectory for change, both progressive and regressive in our search for congruence and fit.

Spiral Dynamics is a way of thinking about the differences and complexities of human existence. It brings some order, predictability and understanding to the apparent chaos of human affairs.

Sometimes called levels of psychological existence theory, this work lays out a pattern of human diversity and a trajectory for change. It addresses why we have unique perspectives on living, and how our own senses of what the “real world" is like can vary.

More than that, Spiral Dynamics offers concrete tools for communicating, managing, organizing, teaching and learning to understand who people are and who they will be next—why humans do and think what they do.


Integral theory seeks a comprehensive understanding of humans and the universe by combining scientific and spiritual insights. According to the Integral Transformative Practice website, integral means "dealing with the body, mind, heart, and soul."

Integral theory flows into everything, but its genesis and basis is ultimately an attempt to overcome the drawbacks introduced by the advent of rationalism. Rationalism, through Descartes' dualism, split mind (and by implication, spirit) from body. This freed science from religious control and enabled vast advances in our understanding of the physical world. But in doing so it subordinated, then ignored, then denied the existence of an ineffable realm. Scientism makes the error of thinking that its method is universally applicable, even in the face of mathematical proofs of the Incompleteness theorem and the Uncertainty principle which show that it, too, has its limits. Integral theory begins by acknowledging and validating mystical experience, rather than denying its reality. These experiences have occurred to humans in all cultures in all eras, and are accepted as valuable and not pathological. Integral theory claims that both science and mysticism (or spirituality) are necessary for complete understanding of humans and the universe.

Ken Wilber is the most visible and popular integral theorist in the world today. Wilber's books include: Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, Integral Psychology, and Boomeritis. His major ideas include: AQAL, Integral ecology, Integral politics, and Vision-logic. Founder of the Integral Institute, Integral Naked, and Integral University.

Theory of truth

Wilber argues that there are multiple aspects to existence, and that each has its own truth-standard, or test for validity, as follows

  1. 1.Exterior individual/3rd person - "We check to see if the proposition corresponds with or fits the facts, if the map accurately reflects the real [exterior] territory... if we cannot disprove it we may assume it is accurate enough. But the essential idea is that... my statement somehow refers to an objective state of affairs, and it fairly accurately somehow corresponds with those objects or processes or affairs. [...] All of which is fair enough and important enough, and I in no way deny the general importance of empirical representation. It's just not the whole story..."

  2. 2.Interior individual/1st person - "If we look at the actual interior of an individual [entity], then we have an entirely different type of validity claim. The question here is not, is it raining outside? The question here is, When I tell you it is raining outside, am I telling you the truth or am I lying? You see, here it is not so much a question of whether the map matches the objective territory, but whether the mapmaker can be trusted.... you can always check and see if it's raining... Interior events are located in states of consciousness, not in objective states of affairs, and so you can't empirically nail them down with simple consensus location. I might lie to you. I might lie to myself. I might misrepresent and not know it."

  3. 3.Interior collective/2nd person - "The subjective world is situated in an intersubjective space, a cultural space... without this cultural background... I wouldn't have the tools to interpret my own thoughts to myself. So here the validity claim is not so much objective propositional truth, or subjective truthfulness, but intersubjective fit. This cultural background provides the common context against which my own interior thoughts and beliefs will have some sort of meaning, and so the validity criteria here involves the "cultural fit" [of a statement] within this background... What is so remarkable about common understanding is not that I can take a simple word like "dog" and point to a real dog and say "I mean that." What is so remarkable is that you know what I mean by that. [So it is] a matter of how we arrange collectively, our ethics, morals, laws, culture, group or collective identities, background contexts..."

  4. 4.Exterior collective/3rd person - "The main validity claim is functional fit, how entities fit together in a system... So in systems theory you will find nothing about ethical standards, values, morals, mutual understanding, truthfulness, sincerity, depth, integrity, aesthetics... It describes the system in purely objective exterior terms, from without. It doesn't want to know how collective values are intersubjectively shared in mutual understanding. Rather, it looks at how their objective correlates functionally fit in the overall system."

"All four of these are valid forms of knowledge, because they are grounded in the realities of the nature of every holon. And therefore all four of these truth claims can be confirmed or rejected by a community of the adequate [those competent in that knowledge]. They each have a different validity claim which carefully guides us, through checks and balances, on our knowledge quest. They are all falsifiable within their own domains, which means false claims can be dislodged by further evidence ...."[

The Pre/Trans Fallacy

quoted from SEX, ECOLOGY, SPIRITUALITY by Ken Wilber.

© 1995, 2000 by Ken Wilber. By arrangement with

Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston,

Ever since I began writing on the distinctions between prerational (or prepersonal) states of awareness and transrational (or transpersonal) states - what I called the pre/trans fallacy - I have become more convinced than ever that this understanding is absolutely crucial for grasping the nature of higher (or deeper) or truly spiritual states of consciousness.

The essence of the pre/trans fallacy is itself fairly simple: since both prerational states and transrational states are, in their own ways, nonrational, they appear similar or even identical to the untutored eye. And once pre and trans are confused, then one of two fallacies occurs:

In the first, all higher and transrational states are reduced to lower and prerational states. Genuine mystical or contemplative experiences, for example, are seen as a regression or throwback to infantile states of narcissism, oceanic adualism, indissociation, and even primitive autism. This is, for example, precisely the route taken by Freud in The Future of an Illusion.

In these reductionistic accounts, rationality is the great and final omega point of individual and collective development, the high-water mark of all evolution. No deeper or wider or higher context is thought to exist. Thus, life is to be lived either rationally, or neurotically (Freud's concept of neurosis is basically anything that derails the emergence of rational perception - true enough as far as it goes, which is just not all that far). Since no higher context is thought to be real, or to actually exist, then whenever any genuinely transrational occasion occurs, it is immediately explained as a regression to prerational structures (since they are the only nonrational structures allowed, and thus the only ones to accept an explanatory hypothesis). The superconscious is reduced to the subconscious, the transpersonal is collapsed to the prepersonal, the emergence of the higher is reinterpreted as an irruption from the lower. All breathe a sigh of relief, and the rational worldspace is not fundamentally shaken (by "the black tide of the mud of occultism!" as Freud so quaintly explained it to Jung).

On the other hand, if one is sympathetic with higher or mystical states, but one still confuses pre and trans, then one will elevate all prerational states to some sort of transrational glory (the infantile primary narcissism, for example, is seen as an unconscious slumbering in the mystico unio). Jung and his followers, of course, often take this route, and are forced to read a deeply transpersonal and spiritual status into states that are merely indissociated and undifferentiated and actually lacking any sort of integration at all.

In the elevationist position, the transpersonal and transrational mystical union is seen as the ultimate omega point, and since egoic-rationality does indeed tend to deny this higher state, then egoic-rationality is pictured as the low point of human possibilities, as a debasement, as the cause of sin and separation and alienation. When rationality is seen as the anti-omega point, so to speak, as the great Anti-Christ, then anything nonrational gets swept up and indiscriminately glorified as a direct route to the Divine, including much that is infantile and regressive and prerational: anything to get rid of that nasty and skeptical rationality. "I believe because it is absurd" (Tertullian) - there is the battle cry of the elevationist (a strand that runs deeply through Romanticism of any sort).

Freud was a reductionist, Jung an elevationist - the two sides of the pre/trans fallacy. And the point is that they are both half right and half wrong. A good deal of neurosis is indeed a fixation/regression to prerational states, states that are not to be glorified. On the other hand, mystical states do indeed exist, beyond (not beneath) rationality, and those states are not to be reduced.

For most of the recent modern era, and certainly since Freud (and Marx and Ludwig Feuerbach), the reductionist stance toward spirituality has prevailed - all spiritual experiences, no matter how highly developed they might in fact be, were simply interpreted as regressions to primitive and infantile modes of thought. However, as if in overreaction to all that, we are now, and have been since the sixties, in the throes of various forms of elevationism (exemplified by, but by no means confined to, the New Age movement). All sorts of endeavors, of no matter what origin or of what authenticity, are simply elevated to transrational and spiritual glory, and the only qualification for this wonderful promotion is that the endeavor be nonrational. Anything rational is wrong; anything nonrational is spiritual.

Spirit is indeed nonrational; but it is trans, not pre. It transcends but includes reason; it does not regress and exclude it. Reason, like any particular stage of evolution, has its own (and often devastating) limitations, repressions, and distortions. But as we have seen, the inherent problems of one level are solved (or "defused") only at the next level of development; they are not solved by regressing to a previous level where the problem can be merely ignored. And so it is with the wonders and the terrors of reason: it brings enormous new capacities and new solutions, while introducing its own specific problems, problems solved only by a transcendence to the higher and transrational realms.

Many of the elevationist movements, alas, are not beyond reason but beneath it. They think they are, and they announce themselves to be, climbing the Mountain of Truth; whereas, it seems to me, they have merely slipped and fallen and are sliding rapidly down it, and the exhilarating rush of skidding uncontrollably down evolution's slope they call "following your bliss." As the earth comes rushing up at them at terminal velocity, they are bold enough to offer this collision course with ground zero as a new paradigm for the coming world transformation, and they feel oh-so-sorry for those who watch their coming crash with the same fascination as one watches a twenty-car pileup on the highway, and they sadly nod as we decline to join in that particular adventure. True spiritual bliss, in infinite measure, lies up that hill, not down it.

[Note: A more detailed description of the pre/trans fallacy can be found in Eye to Eye.]

Integral Methodological Pluralism -

A spiritual and integral view that reality is composed of 8 fundamental and apparently irreducible methodologies, injunctions, or paradigms for gaining reproducible knowledge (or verifiably repeatable experiences). The fundamental claim of AQAL Integral Theory is that any approach that leaves out any of these 8 paradigms is a less-than-adequate approach according to available and reliable human knowledge at this time.

The fundamental irreducible phenomena/event is conceived of as a "holon".

This holon can be conceived of as being perceived by the inside/outside, in the 4 different quadrants.

The 8 perspectives of which to view a holon, and thus the 8 different methodologies of investigation of internal and external phenomena.


For a more detailed overview of The Integral Theory

please click


About Spiral Dynamics

People think in different ways. A brother and sister, husband and wife, manager and employee, corporation and stakeholder, agency and client might have very different world views and values. People in adjoining cubicles or families living right next door to each other sometimes don’t seem to be dwelling in the same psychological neighborhood. Colleagues in an organization have wide ranging ideas about vision, mission, and purpose; most are doing their best. Countries sharing one planet often seem to be in totally different worlds with their policies while talking of peace, prosperity and freedom. Why?

Spiral Dynamics is concerned with why we cooperate, collaborate and come to conflict over differences in values and the deeper value systems that form them. It’s a map to the emerging nature of human nature.  SD is a point of view and a way of thinking that provides a way to chart differences in leadership, learning, management, social structures, economics—and virtually every other area where human thinking has an impact. Moreover, it suggests how to cope with those differences more effectively.

"Spiral" captures how people develop diverse worldviews and the characteristics of those views. It’s a metaphor for the emergent, cyclical double-helix form envisioned by Dr. Clare W. Graves, the scholar whose elegant work forms the foundation of SD. 

"Dynamics" explores the process of human emergence and how living systems evolve, grow and change. Graves called his a bio-psycho-social systems view; all four of those elements is a process.

Together, Spiral with Dynamics provides a framework for tracking the evolution of worldviews and a scaffold on which to stand while analyzing situations and planning the most appropriate actions. It allows us both to differentiate the things that make us diverse and to integrate the things which draw us together, thereby creating a fuller picture of who we, Homo sapiens, are as active participants in our world.

All levels, all quadrants, all lines, all states, all types.


Same event, different point of view. What is real? Einstein or Merilyn?What Makes things “real”?


Enzo Zen Ken
Integral Humor

Dr. Clare W. Graves

"The psychology of the mature human being is an emerging, unfolding, oscillating, spiraling process marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man's existential problems change."

Clare W. Graves, the "creator" of Spiral Dynamics (although he did not give it that name) says -- and it's supposed to be well known -- that S.D., or vertical movement through stages is NOT typography. System does not separate people. We do. Our buy into it does it when we recognize the system as an authority and mistakingly think that it is real, when in fact it's only a "map not the territory". Depending on the situation and different "lines" one can at any moment be at any one of the levels one has reached so far. So, to put people in the slots as integral, post modern and so on is not the way to go, it's a common trap. Yes, we are all generally centered in a certain stage, but it in no way defines us. Context is decisive. When I say "There is no God", yes, it is definitely modern. And to say "there is God" is clearly traditional. To say that all the religions were right in their own way is post modern reasoning. So, it all depends who you are talking to, what the circumstances are, which quadrant you are addressing, how strong feelings run, how much I want to be right etc. Integral accepts no authority from one entity. Integral authority is the one that serves the purpose and gives the best solution at the moment. That's why the integral way of thinking navigates chaos the best. Therefore, in one conversation authority may jump from person to person to books to newspapers to youtube, God and back. That's why by operating from the integral level people can solve the problems more effectively and efficiently that all the previous stages put together. So now, is the "Higher Power" or "Universal Principle" an "authority"? Do not answer it. Just keep asking. I don't know.

Hazelton quoted Graves: "Briefly, what I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating spiraling process marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as an individual's existential problems change. Each successive stage, wave, or level of existence is a state through which people pass on their way to other states of being. When the human is centralized in one state of existence, he or she has a psychology which is particular to that state. His or her feelings, motivations, ethics and values, biochemistry, degree of neurological activation, learning system, belief systems, conception  of mental health, ideas as to what mental illness is and how it should be treated, conceptions of and preferences for management, education, economics, and political theory and practice are all appropriate to that state."

  1. C.Graves,

"Summary Statement: The Emergent, Cyclical, Double-Helix Model of the Adult Human Biopsychosocial Systems,"

The Emergent, Cyclical, Double-Helix Model

of the Adult Human Biopsychosocial Systems

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The Integral movement is based upon principles of compassion, clarity, and inclusiveness.  A willingness to step beyond our personal and cultural points of view while remaining true to our own unique perspective; to sanctify the common ground between different sciences and different spiritual traditions while fully honoring and celebrating the differences between them; to hold all the contradictions and paradoxes of knowledge gently in one hand while cutting through the confusion and fragmentation with the other—these are precisely the sorts of qualities that define the Integral movement as a whole.

The Integral movement is already beginning to sweep across the world.  Though it is no longer just a revolution of the mind (ours is a revolution of the “body, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and nature”) and though it is still in its very early stages of emergence, its influence is rapidly beginning to gain traction, right now at this very second. The very same currents of growth and development that set the initial stage for the sixties revolution—vertical and horizontal growth through stages and states of consciousness—have begun to flow together once again, creating an upswell of consciousness, care, and creative novelty that has not been seen in decades.

The Integral Revolution: the result of an unstoppable force meeting an unmovable subject.