Conflict at Higher Levels

two man in white shorts fighting using sword during daytime

This is a mail that I sent to Andrew Cohen and cc’d Ken Wilber following one of their dialogues. I also copied Don Beck in and have included some of his comments below.

Dear Andrew,

I was listening to your conversation with Ken on IntegralNaked where you asked about conflict at higher levels. I think I may have something to add to the thoughts which came out then, based on some of the underlying dynamics which I see in the Spiral.
I am consciously using Spiral Dynamics here as I believe that the concept of tiers that Graves identified (with six systems per tier) is key to understanding your experience, Andrew. That is why I prefer not to use 3rd tier the way you are Ken, as we then end up with one tier of 6 systems, one of 2 and one of 4+… I believe there was deep insight in Graves intuition around three tiers of six systems.

In first tier, as you both agreed, conflict tends to emerge most strongly in Red and Blue. The reason for this is the strong sense of clarity about what one stands for, and the in-group / out-group ethnocentric worldview.

[Don: Red is the raw and impulsive expression of I:Me:Mine and Blue, likewise, is the most intolerant, unforgiving, and even punitive version of a We:Us:Our mindset. Blue is what it is because Red is what it is. The transformation from Red to Blue is often violent, wrenching, purifying, redemptive, conflict-producing, and single-minded.]

It is my belief that in the Gravesian “tiers” of six systems, there is a core dynamic which correlates with this experience. The first two systems of each tier (eg Beige / Purple and Yellow / Turquoise) are “entering” systems, where the tier is fading in. Beige and Yellow are both about just keeping one’s head down and getting on with what needs to be done to facilitate survival (individual at Beige and collective at Yellow). Purple and Turquoise are mystical systems where two major elements of the Great Chain are blending (at Purple body-mind, at Turquoise mind-soul).

The last two systems (eg Orange / Green and their 2nd tier equivalents) are “exiting” systems. They invite in greater diversity and complexify the clarity that existed in the central systems. They relativise and open up our systems for the next tier.
The two central systems (eg Red / Blue and Coral / Teal) are the places where the tiers really crystallise and great clarity is expressed. In 1st tier that is ethnocentric one-truth clarity. However at 2nd tier we experience a different type of clarity. I heard Ken say something recently that I have been suggesting to people for a while, namely that the emergence of Coral is equivalent to the emergence of what you call the Authentic Self. This ties in completely with these deeper Spiral dynamics, as 1st tier 3rd system (Red) was the emergence of the new individuated self (Gravesian code : “express-self without shame or guilt” – for one’s self. 2nd tier 3rd system (Coral) is also the birth of a new level of Self. I would use the same Gravesian code as for Red (“Express Self without shame or guilt”), but instead if it being for the ego, it is for the good of the whole.

I expect that like Blue, which creates higher meaning and purpose in exclusivist one-truth systems, Teal also creates higher meaning and purpose, but in inclusivist universal truth systems. Interestingly, the Gravesian code for Blue is “Sacrifice-Self for reward later”. I can see the same code apply for Teal – the sense of what you might call “top-down” surrender to make oneself available to what the universe is calling one to do / who the universe is calling one to become. There is an innate trust that if I do what I feel called to do now, the future will look after itself. I surrender to higher Universals.

[Don: I believe your description of Coral to Teal is accurate as well, and as long as humans are human, there will be conflict. But, as you also point out, this “conflict” will happen within the tradition of the impact of Green, Yellow, and Turquoise within mass minds and conceptual spaces.Just as the Graves code describes the pendalem swing between the warm and cool colors, it also, from a physics perspective, articulates why the major “quantum leaps” occur at a Seventh system which, also, becomes the First in the next Tier.]

Now by their nature, given their clarity and taking a stand, these third and fourth central systems generate conflict. They do not relativise. They stand for something, and are therefore likely to rub against people who stand for something else. It is clear how that plays out in 1st tier. In 2nd tier (Coral / Teal) I believe the conflict that emerges is that between the ego and Authentic Self.

The reason I think that this really emerges strongly only when Coral begins to come online, is also rooted in Graves’ theory – namely that there are normally three value systems interfering with us. So if the highest system we have access to is Turquoise, then we have both Yellow and Green as well. This could be a very static combination, as Turquoise escapes the material world (Graves’s code was “Sacrifice Self to existential reality”, i.e. accept what is, the core teaching of most traditional spiritual paths, what you call the Ground of Being), Yellow scuttles along doing its own thing (it is a very individualistic system) and Green is still exerting the 1st tier pull based on a fear of standing out. So it is only when Coral begins to light up that we really begin to free ourselves completely from the 1st tier energy, rooted in all the things you identify in Hell.

So that’s my take on why I think you are sensing that a new level of conflict begins to emerge at the higher levels you are working at. It is the nature of the central systems in each tier. Hope that helps! I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Love, Peter