Spiral Dynamics and Ian Morris’ Theory of History
I just finished reading Ian Morris’ “Why the West Rules – For Now” and it is an excellent read. In it, Morris uses a eastern and western development dichotomy to put forward a theory of human history that is based on biology and geography with notions such as culture or the ‘great man’ theory of history taking a back seat. What I liked about it in terms of Spiral Dynamics was his discussion of what he terms Axial thought changes (though he really only talks about the period of 400BCE-400CE as a time if Axial changes) and how they were adaptive from changes in the environment of humans. This environment is one effected both by geography and the increased complexity of human societies. Morris observes the paradox of development where greater societal complexity solves old problems while raising more difficult ones hence the need for new, more adaptive, paradigms.
So with this in mind, we can add the notion of SD to the Morris theory of history. From the rise of Home Sapiens to the first works of art, humans are hunter gatherers who live and die without much of a spiritual life. Theirs is a reactionary life or Beige level. When art and signs of ancestor and nature worship develop we see the entry into the Purple phase. With the rise of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt and the god kings, we see the emergence of the red phase, highlighting raw power and violence.
From here, we have the shift up the spiral to what Morris calls the axial thinkers, Jesus, Mohammed etc. These thinkers over several hundred years introduced new ways of thinking that allowed a shift into the blue spiral. Next, the enlightenment is another clear axial shift that was an adaptation of an industrializing world. Hence the orange rise.
In the 20th century with the rise of more complex societies, we have the most recent paradigm shift into green. Now is where it becomes hard to say what comes next. As Morris’ human development index becomes vertical, we see that the possibility of the Singularity has yet to be reflected in the speed of axial change.
I will post later a diagram showing the spirals as they fit in with Morris’ development index. I also want to talk later about the notion of societal hard ceilings and how new paradigms allow the overcoming of hard ceilings.