Mystical = Experiential

“Grace is the consummate threat to all self-hatred” ~ Friar Richard Rohr

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Note: Calling an audible as we take a one-off break from our serial string.


Last month in this space I offered a riddle. Several folks asked what I meant and I promised I would spell out my thinking after others had ample opportunity to express their answers to my little puzzle. There were a couple of observations on it, and thanks for those! I’m circling around now to offer my answer to this:


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Mark 10.46, a Christmas story. Wait. What?

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.10.46

That is the (nrsv) text we find at Mark 10.46. There’s no sign of Mary, the baby Jesus, a stable, barn animals, a manger, shepherds, magi, or any of the familiar images we are accustomed to finding in the “Christmas” stories of the Bible.

I’ll explain further in a moment, however, what I’m suggesting is that with only seven words, “Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar,” the evangelist known as Mark tells a brief Christmas story in the context of this one verse. Additionally, in so doing, they launch a fierce polemic against the ascendant, dominant cosmology of Jesus’ (and our) time. So, what makes 10.46or any narrativea Christmas story?


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Christ Comforted by the Angel by Rembrandt 


What makes a ‘Christmas story?’

The essence, meaning, or point of any Christmas story is that G-d is ‘Emmanuel.’ G-d is not some infinitely distant abstraction, e.g., deism. G-d is not of some entirely different and separate order. G-d is with us. Matthew and Luke narrate this doctrine in mythic terms through the very human motif of child birth. What had sometimes been portrayed as distant, or separate, was now being seen in a new way.  Christmas transforms our way of seeing the Divine in relation to existence. The Christmas storyin any form, iterationis a mythic narration of G-d’s Presence in existence/reality (G-d’s Immanence). “Acts” declares it in even more stark, emphatic terms: “in G-d we live and move and have our being” [see Acts 17.28]. Sounds pretty intimate. No wonder that Saint Augustine said you are closer to G-d than you are to yourself.


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The task of any Christmas story is to proclaim G-d’s Immanence. In Paul’s theological terms:

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”Ephesians 4.4-6

Through all and in all,” writes Saint Paul. To be clear, the apostle is saying that G-d [the Divine] is through all and in all. Any bifurcation of spirit and matter is categorically denied here. Christmas integrates ‘the profane’ and ‘the sacred,’ ‘the material’ and ‘non-material.’ Like Jesus’ cloak, matter and spirit are seamless, Reality is One. The Christmas story (in any form) narrates the transcendence of any dualistic cosmological structure.

Here’s a Christmas revelation from an extracanonical source. Jesus fully identifies himself with the Christ Mystery:


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Hebrew background…

The history of the Jewish people had been one of seeking to be in relation to G-d seeking to understand, even locate G-d in relation to the people of Israel. Early on they made provision for G-d to travel along with the people and be present in the Tabernacle, secure within the curtains delineating the ‘holy of holies.’ Later, after Solomon’s Temple was constructed, the people believed G-d’s Presence moved to reside with the people in the ‘holy of holies’ within the Temple. The legacy of the people of Israel had always been to nurture the intuition that G-d was in some way proximate to creation/humanity and not distant or disconnected from it.


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Mysticism…another word for experience

As mystics, Jesus and later Paul, related what they had experienced [re Jesus see John 3.11, Matthew 7.29Mark 1.22]. They made what seemed to tradition like a wildly creative move. They located G-d’s Presence where they themselves had experienced it, within the human heart. G-d’s Incarnation. G-d is not just present in Jesus, G-d is present in you, and in everything.

I’m suggesting the author (“Mark”) knew exactly what they were doing when they offered the name of the blind beggar (“Bartimaeus”) that Jesus encountered stranded ‘on the way’ [Truth, Life].


So, Plato’s philosophy sought Truthor, Reality. He found viewing/describing express existence could not be reduced beneath three frames: the good, the true, and the beautiful. However, Plato’s paradigm bifurcated Reality. He laid out his dualistic cosmology in what was, even then, a very famous dialog: Timaeus. Plato’s conception of Reality needs no Christmas because spirit and matter are intrinsically separate from each other. For Plato, Reality is forever divided into two realmsmatter [express existence] versus spirit [ideal forms].

In Plato’s Timaeus, Reality is dualistic, that is, two spheres: matter and spirit. To me, the 10.46 image is stark/plain. The evangelist is severely ranking Plato’s notion of the structure of reality as, “blind.” In 10.46 ‘Mark’ asserts that the ‘son’offspring, result, product, fruitof Plato’s manner of seeing (as proclaimed in Timaeus) is found blind there beside the way. Timaeus is found (and outed) as seriously wanting by the evangelist. Critique through biting humor, perhaps?

Enlightenment Westerners still tend to bifurcate Reality into matter vs spirit, splitting existence into sacred and profane. Christmas still makes a fine correction to that.

Finally, a couple of disclosures.

Consulting orthodoxy…


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The books on the bottom shelf above are all commentaries on The Gospel According to Mark. I have twenty-seven of themincluding the two forward-facing editions on the top shelf. Only two suggest even the hint of a possibility of traveling the hermenuetic path I’m on here. The other twenty-five make no attempt to recognize this connection whatsoever, so, the following quotes are exhaustive regarding my take on 10.46.

In the notes concerning verse 46, John R. Donahue and Daniel J. Harrington discount and all but out-rightly dismiss the germ of my mystical take when in Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Mark they write:

“The Aramaic word for ‘son’ is bar, and so, ‘the son of Timaeus’ is the explanation of the name. The name ‘Timaeus’ is harder to explain; a connection with the figure in the Platonic dialogue seems unlikely, yet it is difficult to find a Semitic name that might have generated the name Timaeus.” (page 317)

In, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to Mark, James R. Edwards writes:

“On the way out of Jericho a blind beggar calls to Jesus. His Aramaic name, Bartimaeus, means ‘son of Timaeus,’ a translation that Mark may have added for the benefit of his Gentile readers.” [cf. note 70]

(n. 70) “B.M.F. van Iersel and J. Nuchelmans, … advance the intriguing though speculative thesis that the ‘son of Timaeus’ recalls the name of the principle speaker in the then best known dialogue of PlatoTimaeus; and that Mark’s use of the term symbolizes the conversion and discipleship of the Greco-Roman world to Jesus.” (page 329)


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Dots ObsessionLove Transformed into Dots by Yayoi Kusama

That’s my story…

So, van Iersal and Nuchelmans notwithstanding, that’s my take on Mark 10.46 as fierce polemic in the guise of a Christmas story. While my mystical explanation for the puzzle the evangelist presents in their naming of a blind beggar seems to be largely overlooked by orthodox tradition and the commentaries, I’m sticking to it, for now.


Next week we’ll return to our regular approach and continue our look at the five stages/phases of change through a Spiral Dynamics lens [developmental anthropology]. Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).

Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?


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Turn the page

dots obsession—love transformed into dots
Dots ObsessionLove Transformed into Dots by Yayoi Kusama

The open road…

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).


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Well, as I write these words it’s two days after Christmas. My post for this coming Sunday, “Year end” [12/30] is all but done, and so I’m writing ahead on my January 6 piece because I’m out next week on a trip to visit my daughter in Georgia. So, while it’s easy enough, and even reasonable, to imagine that next week’s current events will be driven by some kind of corruption or chaos (our new Gilded Age <–click), from here I don’t know specifically what might lead the decency/lack-of-decency news. Therefore, current events tie-ins and attending applications of our anthropology topics, will hopefully return next time.

With just a dollop of imagination we can see ‘barriers’ as a current events topic right now, and likely extending into next week, perhaps beyond, what with the (partial) federal government shut-down. We have a work stoppage over a disagreement concerning the WALL that (first candidate, and then) President Trump has promised to build on our Southern border. One key feature of candidate Trump’s nearly daily claim was that the WALL would be built with Mexico’s money. While the claim has persisted at rallies well into the presidency, the money from Mexico has not been forthcoming, so now the president is asking taxpayers to pay for his WALL. ‘Barriers’ of all kinds in those ‘current events.’ David Frum on the present shutdown, “There’s only one way this ends, Trump backs down, no wall.” [CNN on 12/28] 


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Change Condition 5: BARRIERS

So, ‘Change Condition 2: SOLUTIONS’ really needs to include the means to transcend the  obstacles and barriers it faces as part of meeting its obligations. Change Condition 5: BARRIERS is a check on the reality that our obstacles must be known, and acknowledged as such, if we are to have any hope of change/growththe ‘INSIGHT’ of Condition 4 needs to include ‘BARRIERS.’ For instance, the formal discipline of Blue [DQ] ‘order‘ (law/social conformity) values reigns-in the impulsive nature of Red [CP] ‘power‘ (ego) values. While that is a good and necessary thing, the law of unintended consequences weighs in as it is wont to do. Turns out, stifling our impulses has the unintended consequence of disconnecting each of us from our own emotions. We’ve talked about ‘shadows’ (and projection) in earlier posts in this series. This ‘stifling’ is a prime way that our shadows are created. So, the same Blue energy that allows us to transcend Red dominance, also fuels the unintended creation of barriers (e.g., shadows/blind spots) to DQ movement to Orange [ER], thus inhibiting clean transcendence of Blue




In their book Spiral Dynamics, Beck and Cowan write:

Condition 5 – BARRIERS … to Change Identified and Overcome. Barriers can make change difficult, if not impossible. They must be recognized (no more denial) and identified concretely (name names), and then (a) eliminated, (b) bypassed, (c) neutralized, or (d) reframed into something else. These barriers are first identified as part of the external field and the Life Conditions, then later purged from the mindset of the person or group.

In step one, the recognition phase, barriers are usually seen to be external. ‘It’s their fault!’ ‘We are oppressed and they will pay!’ ‘If it were not for you (management, spouse, children), I could be a real person!’ ‘The bloody establishment holds us down.’ As the barriers are identified concretely in step two, the reasons they are effective obstacles shows up in one’s self as well as the external environment. The greatest barriers are often those of our own making… (page 84)


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Change Condition 6: CONSOLIDATION 

Bringing all the constituencies of the change into sufficient alignment regarding the new paradigm is the final condition that must be met for clean transcendence to the next level of values [vMEME]. 

Beck and Cowan write:

As in the Parable of the Sower, the seeds of change often fall on thin or hostile soil, infested with weeds and difficulties. Lacking a supporting culture, the new vMEMEs barely germinate much less bloom. Even when they do, new awakenings are usually characterized by high-energy but also high-klutziness.  Exciting discoveries have not yet become mature expressions and so appear half-baked and clumsy. It takes a while for the new systems to blend into the profile. This period of adjustment is volatile and takes some shaking-out. After all, the individual brain is reconnecting itself and the corporate brain is making new acquaintances. 

When significant change occurs, you can expect a period of confusion, false starts, long learning curves, and awkward assimilation. Those who changeeither as individuals or organisationsmay be punished by those who do not understand what is happening and now find themselves left out, misaligned and threatened. Old barriers may be rebuilt in the form of punitive rules, turf battles, and power tests. New obstacles might be set up. Sometimes, you will have to go around, let the bridge burn and not look back.

Six Conditions for Change… a review

“When all Six Conditions are met, new vMEMEs may awaken and movement along the Spiral may occur. … Consider the Six as you observe everything from national politics to discussion of global ecology to schisms within religious movements. The Spiral principles are the same.” ~ Beck and Cowan (page 85)


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Illustration of Spiral Growth, vMEME transcendence

Stages/phases of vertical change – brief intro

  • Phase 1: The ALPHA Fit ~ A honeymoon period as Life Conditions and awakened vMEMEs are in relative harmony and life appears to be good, at least on the surface. As life is dynamic, we do well to recall Einstein’s admonition, paraphrased: solutions to our present problems are the seeds of our future problems.
  • Phase 2: The BETA Condition ~ The harmony of the ALPHA Fit begins to give way to dissonancea time of uncertainty, questioning, and frustration. Old ways are not matching present needs as before. 
  • Phase 3: The GAMMA Trap ~ When the situation deteriorates enough the person or organization moves down the path toward the GAMMA Trap. The intuitive sense of the BETA Condition gives way to the concrete apprehension of obstacles and barriers that seem insurmountable. Deep GAMMA is a hope killer as it seems as if there’s no power in hand to do anything about it. Fortunately full-on GAMMA Trap is not a requisite for growth as the ‘revision’ by-pass is available to the astute strategist-leader. Entering GAMMA is really the point of no return as the old-ALPHA ways have now lost their appeal.
  • Phase 4: The DELTA Surge ~ When the GAMMA is unbunged at last and the crippling BETA barriers are finally breached, a DELTA Surge is triggered. Excitement and energy abound as the future opens in the new-found flexibility of the present, a new present in which the past has finally lost its iron grip. This can often be a perilous time as well.
  • Phase 5: The New ALPHA Fit ~ Consolidation has now pulled all the ideas, discoveries, and insights gained in phases 2, 3, & 4 into cohesive alignment. The energies of the person or organization have now coalesced around the new paradigm and formed a new state of equilibrium between values systems and Life Conditions. The New ALPHA Fit assumes the role of official worldview, that  is, until we top the hill, or round the bend to greet a new BETA Condition.


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Next time we’ll dig a bit further into these stages/phases of changeespecially the BETA Condition and the GAMMA Trapand take a closer look at the Red [CP] vMEME. 

May 2019 be the year we come to better understand our values and in so doing learn to be a little more kind. 

Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?



Year end

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).


loading 2019


You’ve nearly made it through this yearyou know, the one designated 2018.

I wish for you purpose and peace in the coming year.

I pray Divine Presence finds a warm welcome in your daily, ordinary participation in this wonder we call life.


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This blog’s journey thus far…

Thank you for coming along this past six months! The intuitive, Life Conditions [LCs] (e.g., current events) sensitive method I’ve engaged to structure my presentation of a developmental anthropology drawn from Spiral Dynamics [SD] has assured we would meander a good bit on our way to a basic, shared understanding. We did. I’ll remind you of a quote I used in the introductory post:

“Here goes, and bear with me if at first I seem irrelevant.” ~ Ernest Everhard

My efforts to writeand, even more importantly, your efforts to readhere each week have finally paid off. This, in the sense that the shared language we’ve already managed to establish, is sufficient to allow taking up very polarized issues without (necessarily) getting caught immediately in the tribalism attending nearly every issue. By treating issues in terms of values, rather than buzz-words or talking-points, we open possibilities for new solutions and alternative pathways forward.


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This journey continues…

So, beginning with Change Conditions 5 & 6; Five Stages/Phases in Change; Seven Change Variations; more on the vMEMEs; and many other jewels of SD wisdom, I believe there is still a good bit more to share from the wisdom of Graves and SD and I plan to continue writing here weekly on that and hopefully in relation to aspects of current events.

My hope is that my musings here have already sparked your interest and action to read the Spiral Dynamics book. Short of that, below I have placed links to all my posts in this #ReturnToDecency series and I would recommend reading all the entries published here  from the past six months (all five-minute-reads). I have mostly written in a serial format, although my hope has always been that each piece could stand alone sans the SD language and inputs. Sometimes I’ve been successful at that, sometimes a major fail on all counts. In any case, reading them in any order is OK, the SD information/language is cumulative. 


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Headed to ATL || CC0

I’m headed to Atlanta…

I’ll be traveling to Georgia this week. First, an afternoon and evening in Atlanta with a dear old friend from high school that I have not seen in many years. It will be real good to catch up a bit! The following day my daughter ‘E’ and her partner ‘H’ will pick me up to begin our exciting adventure. I can hardly wait to see them! Top priority is a visit to Atlanta’s High Museum to experience a major exhibit making its final stop on its North American tour. Seeing this exhibit was the original inspiration for the trip as this is my daughter’s favorite artist. The artist is world renowned, Yayoi Kusama, from Japan. 


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“Dots and Pumpkins Infinity Mirror” Yayoi Kusama ||CC0

Very excited as Kusuma’s latest exhibition, Infinity Mirrors, spans her prolific, seven-decade career and is currently finishing a tour of six North American cities. Sold-out tickets have reportedly been very hard to acquire. Kusama has been likened to a rock star of the art universeprops and gratitude to my old friend in Atlanta for getting us tickets as the exhibit sold out in a matter of hours…Thanks J! The exhibition includes installations, sculptures and a series of paintings that have never been shown before in the U.S.


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The High Museum: Exhibitions <–click

After we experience the exhibitand anything else my daughter or H wants me to see/do in Atlantawe’ll head to their place down Valdosta-way to hang out for a few days. Early next Sunday we’ll head over to Jacksonville, Florida to experience the ocean, other sights, and so forth over there for the day, and then I fly back home out of JAX that evening.

Next time…

Next time we’ll finish our look at the Six Change Conditions with conditions 5 & 6, and, if space allows, we’ll take a brief look at the five stages/phases of deep change. In the meantime I do encourage you to read through the series (links below) to fill-in any holes or missing language you may have in the Spiral Dynamics narrative space that we are creating.

Hopes and New Year wishes…


Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?



“Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box” by the Arbinger Institute

“Anatomy of Peace” by the Arbinger Institute

“Spiral Dynamics” by Donald Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan


‘Decency/Spiral Dynamics’ series:

Link: Introduction: The Journey Begins #ReturnToDecency for June 30, 2018

Link: Perennial Leading Edge Failure #ReturnToDecency for July 1, 2018

Link: Empathy Window Opens #ReturnToDecency for July 8, 2018

Link: Being “Naïve” Green (et al.) #ReturnToDecency for July 15, 2018

Link: Flatland #ReturnToDecency for July 22, 2018

Link: There is no Truth!  #ReturnToDecency for July 29, 2018

Link: Shadows and self awareness  #ReturnToDecency for August 5, 2018

Link: Who’s higher than whom?  #ReturnToDecency for August 12, 2018

Link: Like a rainbow  #ReturnToDecency for August 19, 2018

Link: Greed and naïve Orange [ER]  #ReturnToDecency for August 26, 2018

Link: Seeing above and below  #ReturnToDecency for September 2, 2018

Link: Visibility #ReturnToDecency for September 9, 2018

Link: Humility: prudent and helpful #ReturnToDecency for September 16, 2018

Link: A double helix  #ReturnToDecency for September 23, 2018

Link: Dystopian fulfillment? #ReturnToDecency for September 30, 2018

Link: a (values/politics) mashup #ReturnToDecency for October 7, 2018

Link: Following Jesus is political #ReturnToDecency for October 14, 2018

Link: Facts are facts, right?  #ReturnToDecency for October 21, 2018

Link: Beauty and protest #ReturnToDecency for October 28, 2018

Link: He took a knee #ReturnToDecency for November 4, 2018

Link: Will Blue hold? #ReturnToDecency for November 11, 2018

Link: Who’s Blue? Whose Blue? #ReturnToDecency for November 18, 2018

Link: Change seems impossible? #ReturnToDecency for November 25, 2018

Link: Greeting change gladly? #ReturnToDecency for December 2, 2018

Link: Spiral synergy? #ReturnToDecency for December 9, 2018

Link: Solutions || Dissonance #ReturnToDecency for December 16, 2018

Link: Change Condition 4: INSIGHT #ReturnToDecency for December 23, 2018

Year end #ReturnToDecency for December 30, 2018


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Change Condition 4: INSIGHT

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).




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I hope you are ready. Especially since it’s only two days until Christmas. For those who stand in the mystical stream of Christian traditions, Christmas is a feast/celebration of the high holy One/high holy day of the annual Christian calendar. So, as we are on the cusp of Christmas once more, the time seems right to share something that might strike you as a misprint. It’s no misprint. It is, in fact, my favorite Christmas story from the Bibleand I do seriously doubt that you’ve ever heard  this verse identified as a Christmas story. So, I mean it to be something of a koan for you. A Christmas riddle if you will: 

My favorite Christmas story is Mark 10.46. <– click

Granted, it’s an obscure Christmas riddle. Everyone knows the Christmas stories are found in Matthew and Luke, so what is up with this? Leonard Sweet has recently introduced a new term that really applies here. He’s made a mash-up of two terms, Christ and Mystery: ‘Chrystery.’ Herefrom (an extracanonical text) The Gospel of Thomasis a strong hint as to why I find Mark 10.46 to be a Christmas story:


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Gospel of Thomas – Saying 77 || Image CC0


Potential for R.o.I. finally accrues …

Last week’s blog post in this space marked the beginning of the potential for a return on investment for my writing, and your reading, of these five-minute-posts here weekly this past six months. Finally, enough shared Spiral Dynamics [SD] language has been established in the blog to allow us to take both sides of a polarized issue to task within the same paragraph. In the 12/16 blog, “Solutions || Dissonance,” I challenged both sides of the immigration argument. I’m working on doing this because binary discourse is going nowhere. I hope in doing so that I was able to allude to how the same values are at work in many of today’s polarized, broken divisionse.g.,conflicts between different values stages, or vMEMEs.


Change Condition 4… INSIGHT


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“World Peace” by Gaia Orion ||

The fourth necessary condition for deep change is:

“INSIGHT … into probable causes and viable alternatives. By ‘insight’ we mean there is an understanding of (1) what went wrong with the previous system and why, as well as (2) what resources are now available to handle the problems better. Unless people have a rationale for understanding why the prior system was embraced initially and why it was eventually undermined, lasting change into the next order is fitful. Insight keeps the old problems in focus and clarifies the new ones. 

Different patterns and models, as well as step-by-step processes for implementing them, are essential to moving into a new system. These alternative scenarios must be active in the collective consciousness before they can be considered. Too often, they are guarded in the minds of an elite few ‘planners’ or ‘decision makers.’ People need mental pictures of what things might be like for them in their own real Life Conditions, …” ~ SD, Beck and Cowan, page 83


Beck and Cowan continue: “Some ways to initiate change in patterns and models include:

  • Greater insight into how systems form, decline, and reformparticularly one’s own. People must accept the possibility of change as well as the means.
  • Put a stop to wasteful regressive searches into out-modded answers from the past which simply cannot address greater complexity of the present.
  • Consider optional scenarios, fresh models, and experiences from applicable sources. Scout the competition and demonstrate concretely what alternatives look like.
  • Quickly recognize the appearance of new Life Conditions and the vMEMEs required to shift into congruence. Custom tailor for best fit.” (page 83)


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Current events…

OK, from a decency standpoint, it’s difficult to know where to begin when it comes to the many events of this past week. Given all our discussion of Blue [DQ] ‘ordervalues and the rule of law in the past few posts, let’s take a troubling news item of the week. The Trump travel ban was in the news again this week. The mother of a dying toddlera U.S. citizen receiving medical care in San Franciscowho had been blocked to travel from Yemen to visit her child, was finally granted a waiver. From a CNN story (here):

Shaima Swileh, whose 2-year-old is on life support in an Oakland hospital, had been restricted from traveling to the United States under the White House travel ban until the US State Department granted her a travel waiver earlier this week.

Swileh spent over a year trying to get a waiver that would let her join Hassan and their son, Abdullah, as they sought medical care in the US, the family’s attorneys said.

Attorney Banan Al-Akhras, with the Nimer Law firm that represents the family, said Swileh was told she would be considered for a waiver over a year ago.

Since then, the family reached out to the US Embassy in Cairo 28 times but only received automated responses, Al-Akhras said.


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We recall: Blue [DQ] is conventional…

A major benefit of law is that it creates clarity of authority. If Red [CP] ‘power‘ values occupy leading-edge ascendancy, then every relational situation is an opportunity to rehearse a power struggle to determine authority and direction. Even Kindergartners are experientially building an intuitive sense that rules free us from an endless power struggle and create ordinary order. We learn to acquiesce our personal power to the common good [e.g., the Blue conventions] and ascent/submit to the order of rules. Not having to work out all the Red power issues every time we make a move among others is helpful, and, as we discover and learn by experience, rules beneficially aid in getting us to recess and lunch more promptly and efficiently. While we must grant rules/laws are very short on agility and have little to no flexibility, we also must recognize that ordinary order is not possible without them.




We recall: Blue [DQ] is a blunt force instrument

A major downside of law is that it creates clarity of authority. We see here one of the often underappreciated limitations of Blue [DQ] ‘order‘ values, e.g., DQ‘s lack of agility (and, thus, lack of mercy). A mother barred from visiting her dying toddleryes, that’s our government Blue in its present iteration at work on our behalfstrikes us as horrifying. Very few people, upon learning about this story, fail to immediately object to this situation, and most find it completely unacceptable, full stop. And yet, the obvious problem is that the rule of law creates very limited authority to deviate from the letter of the law for those who are responsible to administer them. We have judges who have authority to interpret available discretion in the law, but, obviously, we cannot station a judge in every local instance of the law being applied to people and situations. DQ application can often be obviously inappropriate and yet it regularly requires a cumbersome if not impossible process to rectify. Creative solutions to this problematic dimension of Blue are needed. 


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I’m wishing you a very Cool Yule, and a double dose of Hope in 2019!!!

Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?


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Solutions || Dissonance

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).


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Not so fast…

Sometimes it’s actually a monkey wrench that we need to help us create change. We’ll look at the third condition for change in just a minute. First, development in human beings is seen in two forms. In terms of growth, we often discount or overlook the hard work we do to improve and fine-tune existing features of ourselves, and our organizations. The tendency to overlook or downplay growth as improvement of what-is likely comes from the dominant system in the U.S.A., Orange [ER], and its proclivity to seeing in bottom-line terms and growth primarily as an upward increase. We do well to remember that change can be both horizontal [healing, improving, scaling, refining what is] and vertical [developmental movement up Spiralthat is, greater complexity and inclusion]. 


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Growth from one vMEME to the next vMEME.

The illustration above depicts growth as movement into a more expansive spacesignifying greater complexity/inclusion. We’ve been talking, of late, about the possibility of change in our values systems. We have seen that first of all change demands the ‘POTENTIAL’ (capacities) for change, e.g., it requires an ‘OPEN State’ of readiness [here].


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The second Change Condition, SOLUTIONS, can be a time-release drag on change. Our present Life Conditions [LCs] reflect precisely this because of a long-term failure of Green [FS] to provide agreeable, viable, sustainable solutions to many Blue [DQ] and Orange [ER] generated problems. Naïve Green [FS] has been excellent at deconstructing unjust social systems/institutions. As to re-constructing just, sustainable social systems, not so much. While examples are plentiful we’ll consider an issue central in today’s current events. We need look no further than the immigration/refugee issue to find a clear example of SOLUTIONS failure by the Green [FS], leading edge values systems’ efforts to effect social justice and change.


Beeraj Patel || CC0

Spiral Dynamics practitioners agree that leading edge growth is possible for those within a step and a half of the changelike, Green [FS] is able to reach Orange/green [ER/fs], half step; Orange [ER], one step; and blue/Orange [dq/ER], a step and a half. Beyond a step and a half above is largely invisible to any particular vMEME system. Here is where Graves’ insight about the relationship between our values systems and Life Conditions [LCs] deserves great credit for its elegant explanatory power and its currency in just discernment. Understanding vMEME dynamics is a distinct advantage in thinking about the problem of migrating populations. Beige [AN] survival values/needs are largely instinctual and mostly uninfluenced by Blue [DQ] lawsBlue is pragmatically invisible from Beige as survival values are not a discretionary matter.

adaptation sized


Those who are privileged to have never experienced life and death circumstances beyond their control bearing down on the lives of their children and families may have difficulty relating to/understanding the dynamics and values driving these perilous pilgrimages we see on our parlor screens. To the privileged American “the law is the law.” In that parochialism one might even be tempted to blame the victims for risking the perilous journey toward asylum, as if it were a discretionary matter. As Saint Paul alluded, the law, while necessary, is a rather blunt instrument. So, Blue [DQ] is a necessary, yet far less than agile, instrument that U.S. society is expecting to manage the intersection of our Southern border and the global movement of populations. Blue is clumsy, Beige is necessarily determined (it’s survival), and this creates great difficulty for the status quo arrangements. President Trump’s strategy to make dealing with our Blue [DQ] more and more miserable so as to more adequately speak in Beige [AN] terms directly to Beige driven people is beyond cynical. It’s totally heartless.


dandelion sized

U.S. constitutional Blue rule of law has failed the asylum/immigration problem for its lack of agility and compassion. Worldwide Green [FS] has failed the asylum/immigration problem for its lack of solutions. Green is quick and fierce to shout outrage at the injustice it sees resulting from present law and policy. Quick with shame and condemnation for Blue‘s efforts to engage it’s responsibility, yet Green is without any real solutions to the problem of how to more compassionately cope with present LCs and global population movements. Green [FS] is quite sure it values compassion and justice from it’s perspective, but may miss how that works from Blue‘s more pragmatic one. So we see Green‘s failure to meet Change Condition 2 and provide adequate SOLUTIONS for healthy changee.g.compassionate border control. 


“He Awakens” by Gaia Orion ||

Institutions are being ghosted by U.S. society…

Last week I raised a situation in which there was a disconnect between troubling facts and people to care about it. Let’s take that another step. In his book, The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis makes a fascinating observation about government service work. First, Lewis introduces the reader to Max Stier and describes him as something of a genius, talent-developing, organizational turn-around agent for the federal governmenthis organization, “Partnership for Public Service.” After Lewis recounts several of Max’s heart-warming, hopeful, success stories of government workers doing amazing, phenomenal workand lamenting the sad fact that these success stories are seldom if ever told to the nationhe writes:

He’d [Max] detected a pattern: a surprising number of the people responsible for them [the successes] were first-generation Americans who had come from places without well functioning governments. People who had lived without government were more likely to find meaning in it. On the other hand, people who had never experienced a collapsed state were slow to appreciate a state that had not yet collapsed. That was maybe Max’s biggest challenge: explaining the value of this enterprise at the center of a democratic society to people who either took it for granted or imagined it as a pernicious force in their lives over which they had no control. (pages .24-25)



dissonance sized

Beck and Cowan write regarding Change Condition 3: DISSONANCE (pg. 83):

  • “Awareness of the growing gap between Life Conditions and current means for handling those problems.
  • Enough turbulence to create a sense that ‘something is wrong’ without so much chaos that the whole world seems to be coming apart.
  • Abject failure of old solutions to solve the problems of new Life Conditions may stimulate fresh thinking, release energy, and liberate the next vMEME(s) along the Spiral.” 

Good bad news?

On Friday a federal judge in Texas ruled the ACA unconstitutional. Many are very disappointed, and while I share concern, I tend to see this as the monkey wrench [DISSONANCE] that is needed to finally push ‘Medicare for all’ legislation through congress. In the midterms Republicans went all-out on record about being the ones who want to protect pre-existing conditions. Medicare for all is one of the few (and perhaps best) solutions to the pre-existing conditions problem. Everyone is at least close to someone who has pre-existing conditions, so the political will is very widespread. We’ll see.

Some healthy Purple [BO] to go…

I saw this video recently and I enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d end up this post with an example of very healthy expressions of Purple [BO] ‘human bond‘ values, as in family, family singing here; and in community singinge.g., religious hymns, and community anthems (sung at soccer games, etc.) are fine expressions of Purple. Willie and two of his sons play and sing Willie’s “Healing Hands of Time.”



Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?



Spiral synergy?

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).


Why is change often so hard? Well, for one, everyone wants change, that is, for everyone but themself. 

change meme


I am feeling ambitious this week on the blog and hoping to help us imagine a human situation that, for many reasons, demands change. The trouble is, the problem needing remedy is one that, by and large, most people local to the situation simply do not care aboutthey are in a “CLOSED State” in relation to the issue. Their ‘CLOSED State’ is witnessed by the fact that the concern is one they do not share: “The more CLOSED…the stronger the denial that anything significant is even going on. [SD, pg. 78]” So, how does one solve a problem shared by a community that very few people in the community even know, much less care about? We’ll see in just a moment. 

Six Conditions needed for Change…

Last week we explored the first condition (of six) needed for a vertical change in values development (here). “POTENTIAL” for change is the first condition that is required for change and that makes really good, yet often overlooked, common sense. We’ll build on the “OPEN State condition” as we gothe first fruit of which is animating the second condition needed to make vMEME change possible, “Solutions.”


goldfish jumping out of the water 

Solutions are demanded…

The second condition required for vertical developmental change in our values (vMEME stage) is “SOLUTIONS.” A wake-up as the second condition needed for change provides a quick reckoning of the difficulty in effecting leading-edge change. More than a mere recognition of the need for new solutions to the existential problems created by the present and previous vMEME stages, real solutions need to be well in hand. If the present leading-edge has failed to provide adequate solutions, then any sustainable changethat is, Spiral ascentbeyond the present leading-edge is unlikely. It is foolhardy to expect healthy ascent to a new level when serious problems remain extant in the present Life Conditions [LCs]

In their (1996) book, Spiral Dynamics [SD], Beck and Cowan write:

Sensible people put first things first by concentrating on issues appropriate to their current level of existence. If you raise the threat of ‘Huns at the gates’ with the expectation that more complex thinking will emerge, do not be surprised if the walls go up instead and the person or group retreats into a psychological fortress of denial. If you resurrect even older Life Conditions and reawaken the vMEMEs calibrated to resolve those archaic problems, growth up the Spiral is unlikely and a regression may be the result. 

Instead of threats, satiate the vMEMEs that are active. Read the problems and solve them at the present level. If stability is the key issue, bring order. If Black Market corruption is rampant, flood the market with merchandise. If fear is draining productivity, deliver the bad news quickly and then make things safe. 

swirls fractals sized 500
Creative Commons CC0

Lighting the Spiral…

In this series we are only partially through unpacking the various vMEMEs, and only beginning to compare and contrast the values stages. Then, too, my ‘orienting generality’ grounding the blog is focused on identifying dysfunctions and pathologies. Nonetheless, I think the time has come that we see how these different levels of values development (an individual’s, or organization’s vMEME constellation) are able to work in concert, collaborate in healthy ways, and functionally enhance the health and vitality of the whole. So, what would it look like for all the colors of the Spiral to cooperate on something, on anything? Each level, or stage of values systems operating in the individual/organization must be honored and included in healthy collaboration. When vMEMEs that regularly compete for getting a corner on reality somehow align to work together, a truly amazing and powerful synergy often enables new solutions

Thought experiment… 

For a moment I’d like for you to imagine a situation in which a problem exists. The problem may or may not be immediately visible to everyone, but it is not hidden, and is certainly subject to being identified. To that I’d like you to add the fact that the community immediately proximate to the situation does not care about the problem. Individuals in the community may or may not know about the problem, however, even if they know, or even if one points out and demonstrates the existence of the concern, most people in the community simply do not care about the problem. 

OPEN and inclusive…

So, have you been able to imagine such a situation? I’m going to try and help out with an illustration in just a moment, first let’s reflect a bit. So, I’ve asked you to imagine a situation in which you have identified a problem that needs to be addressed. That simply means that whatever it is that you have identified violates your values in some way. If the problem did not touch on your values, you would be just like the people we’ve described in our imaginary community, you would not care about the problem. So, the question quickly becomes obvious: How do you, or does anyone, create a solution to a community problem that few individuals in the community even recognize as a problem, and don’t care about it if they do?

‘Superordinate Goal’ (Blue [DQ])…

Let’s watch this brief video story and then we’ll unpack how each level/color of the Spiral is recognized, honored, and integrated into the solution this community found to their shared problem.

Breaking it down…

A fine example of Blue [DQ] ‘order‘ values working effectively; e.g., creating clean waterways in an Indonesian community through a superordinate goal aligning all the first six values systems to work collaboratively for the common goodin a community that, going in, did not even care about the problem. 

  • Beige [AN] survival values ~ clean water = life. This most basic, non-verbal stage of values development is always poised in the background of our consciousness and will not be ignored should LCs demand. Beige is as simple and complex as fight or flight.
  • Purple [BO] human bond values ~ includes ‘family sections.’ This ‘fish farming’ solution included making families key stake-holders. Villages are made of families and no solution to a community problem will be sustainable without the support of families.
  • Red [CP] power values ~ champion, heroic savior. Causes and movements are built one individual at a time and so the Red values system is key. Spiral synergy seeks to enlist ‘champions’ for the cause and best accomplishes this through alignment of all values systems creating many common affinitiesany solution must show ‘what’s in it for me?’ So, Red provides any action the animating energy that is then somehow channeled for adaptation and change.
  • Blue [DQ] order values ~ superordinate goal. If Red provides animating energy, then good, healthy Blue harnesses and directs that energy toward an overarching goal that integrates all the values systems into the ‘mission,’ e.g., healthy fish farms –> creating clean waterways.  
  • Orange [ER] freedom values ~ entrepreneur, the benefits of fish farmingfresh meat for the family and income from selling some of the fish. The freedom to participate and innovate a better way to make the household economy serve the family, neighbors, and village/region.
  • Green [FS] justice/ecology values ~ individual/communal/ecological good. The leader in this case cared and became a Red champion for the clean waterways movement initially because of this values system.

So, transformation from ‘I/we don’t care‘ to ‘I’m/we’re helping solve‘ is a movement that we need to understand and master as soon as we are able. I’m suggesting that Spiral Dynamics can be a very practical tool in helping create Spiral synergy. Whether by intentional strategy or intuition, some churches are beginning to tap into the power of Spiral awareness/sensitivity. Witness Los Angeles 1st UMC:



Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?


goldfish jumping out of the water

Greeting change gladly?

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).



Change Condition 1: Potential [continued] 

“Change” is in the subtitle of the Spiral Dynamics [SD] bookin fact, it is the last, the final word.  In my view, SD‘s take on change is a crowning achievement of the research, the model, and the book. I think that responsible ways to think about change are on offer here and we do well to be mindful of spirally-aware and values-focused change.

A note to readers: this will be the most technical blog post in the series to date as I want to be especially faithful to the SD model and language with respect to this readiness for change issue. So, limited current events this week as my intention for this piece is not to think through how Change Condition 1 applies for you, or us; rather to provide you the relevant SD tools for your use in considering your given change situationwhether personal or organizational.

Now, if you are already determined how the outcome must/will go regarding the change dynamic that you are facing [e.g., you have some kind of an absolutist position on it], then it’s unlikely these tools will provide a great deal of help. However, if your mind is still somewhat ‘open’ to the possibilities intrinsic to the situation, and attending change dynamic before you, then these tools may just provide some grist for the mill of your thinking. The latter would be my hope as it seems pretty pointless writing to try to influence the formerI’ll leave that to the intentional nudges and good work of the Holy Spirit. Please consider Gaia Orion’s ‘Sacred Change’ image. It offers an excellent cover illustration for this post. 


sacred change
Sacred Change by Gaia Orion ||


Readiness spectrum…

Picking up right from where we left off last week (here), we’re looking at a spectrum of potential for successfully meeting change that reflects a range running from OPEN to CLOSED with various degrees of ARRESTED between (OAC).

Development/growth/adaptability are natural processes. When these natural processes are not evident, some kind of dysfunction is at work. A trauma, a lack in some kind of capacity, or an obstacle/blockage of any kind are only a few of the many ways that growth and change are disrupted and prevented. In Spiral Dynamics [SD] the CLOSED State is the category that holds a place for those who, for any reason, seem caught outside the natural process of healthy growth, development, adaptability, and change. If the reason underlying the CLOSED State in an individual is physicalor structural in the case of an organization, then, unless the condition is somehow alterable, growth and adaptation becomes impossible. This is as straight forward as the fact that, presently, it would be impossible for a human to somehow train/grow into the capacity of running a mile at 75 mphphysical limitation is the simple, practical reason for this. So, let’s move on to examine some more SD orthodoxy concerning the OAC spectrum. In the remainder of this post I’ll rely chiefly on the words of Beck and Cowan, from their 1996 book, Spiral Dynamics, pages 76-82.


Closed State graphic sized


CLOSED State system [continued]

Beck and Cowan [continue], Signs of CLOSED thinking are:

  • INSATIABILITY ~ There is never enough. The person’s urges are never satisfied.
  • EXCLUSIVITY ~ There is no other position, no other way to be. Any other view is rejected out of hand. Only a few people are in the inner circle, everybody else, even those slightly removed, are in the ‘them’ group.
  • UNDUE RESPONSE TO FRUSTRATION ~ Reactions to barriers or being blocked are extreme, far beyond what is called for in the situation. When stressed, the CLOSED person becomes irritable quickly.
  • FULFILLS TASKS TO EXTREMES ~ A perfectionist; compulsive. A person who constantly checks and rechecks to be certain it is ‘right,’ ‘in line with,’ or ‘true to form.’
  • BUILDS A SHELL ~ Avoids exposure to other positions or views. Hides or destroys information that runs counter to one’s own position. Demands censorship or thought control. ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.’


Creative Commons CC0

ARRESTED State system…

An ARRESTED State is the most common among us unless present conditions in our life are somehow testing our ability to cope/change, or we make intentional efforts to remain OPEN. The ARRESTED State is well summed: ‘going along to get along,’ or, ‘don’t rock the boat.’ Beck and Cowan write regarding the ARRESTED State:

  • ARRESTED thinking leads to attempts to live within life’s barriers and adjusts to them the best way possible.
  • ARRESTED thinking is evidenced in undue stress, gastro-intestinal disorders, passive-aggressive behaviors, and other forms of personal and social frustration. When ARRESTED, we may sense difficulties but believe there is nothing for it since ‘that’s just the way the cookie crumbles’ and ‘you can’t fight city hall.’ That inability to adapt and change things leads to frustration, denial, anger, resentment and a leading malady of our age – ‘stress.’
  • ARRESTED thinkers reject transformational models of change focusing instead on fixer-uppers within the tried-and-true. The barriers may be adjusted a bit, but basic assumptions remain unaltered. Change efforts are directed to refine, polish, and work harder-and-smarter.


Arrested State graphic sized


OPEN State system…



Beck and Cowan write regarding the OPEN State:

  • OPEN thinking strives to remove barriers to allow for the expression of individual differences without getting locked into habitual patterns or unexamined assumptions.
  • OPEN thinking anticipates that change is inevitable and shows considerable elasticity without always jumping on bandwagons.
  • OPEN thinking acknowledges the role external conditions play in making change easy or difficult for people.
  • OPEN thinking is often displayed in the ability of a person to engage a number of Spiral sub-systems ~ from celebrating Purple [BO] in ethnic festivals to contemplating Turquoise [HU] on Earth Day.
  • OPEN thinking is usually displayed in good listening skills, a non-judgmental approach to life, tolerance of differences, and a lack of closed-mindedness.


Open State graphic sized


Beck and Cowan’s take-aways…



Don Beck and Christopher Cowan write:

To summarize Condition 1, the mind/brain must have potential for further development and expansion of conceptual space. That includes OPENness (or at least alterable ARRESTEDness) and the necessary intelligences to handle the new LC‘s. No matter how often you attempt to jump-start change along the Spiral, it cannot happen unless the necessary raw material is present. For example, Stalin’s purges made free-market ‘democracy’ difficult for generations of Russians who still waffle between hard nosed controls and entrepreneurism. Significant corporate change usually requires new minds at the top, not just training and development interventions. And most human beings do seem blessed with ‘talents’ — latent capacities that can be stimulated, but we do not have the same ones.  

So, the stipulations for meeting Condition 1 are:

The thinking is not CLOSED, but is OPEN or at least ARRESTED. The person or group has not reached the limit of available capacities, whatever the reasons for that ceiling may be.

The requisite intelligences are present to deal in the more complex milieu. These may be within the individual or the cumulative knowledge/skill base of the social system. 

The person, organization, or society is free from restrictive pathologies, unresolved ‘sink-holes,’ and historical baggage. [pages 81-2]


Current events…

One current events application before we go. It is easy enough to see how Orange [ER] (e.g., freedom, competition, merit) values can become pathological in expression when corporate, capitalistic interests play into, and exacerbate our CLOSED State pathologies, e.g., “Builds a Shell,” and the resulting polarization and partisan politics. This is easily seen in the cable news business model [Fox and MSNBC, for instance], designed to capitalize on the tribalization of a fracturing and fragmenting society. The AI driving social media’s advertising industry is another example of ER (unintentionally) aggravating our CLOSED State vulnerabilities.

Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?


Closed State graphic sized