Spiral dynamics as art:


Spiral Dynamics as Art is a painting that depicts a theory of human development and

behavior called Spiral Dynamics, developed by Dr. Don Beck and Dr. Clare Graves.

This artwork was published in Spiral Dynamics in Action: Humanity's Master Code in June 2018.



Spiral Dynamics describes human development and motivation from the birth of humankind (Beige) to the present (Green). It uses colors to label different value systems. These value systems have chronological unfolding from Beige to Green and a decreasing timespan between each new color, but they are not intended to be understood as strictly linear and are active in cultures and people today. In addition, multiple value systems exist simultaneously as they are not mutually exclusive.

Spiral Dynamics in its entirety is complex, but the colors function as a shorthand communication tool for understanding the theory. Below are summaries of my understanding of each color based on information from Dr. Beck's book, Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change.



100,000 years ago

Survival, Animal Instincts, Warmth, Sex, Reproduction, Food, Water, Shelter, Sleep


Beige represents primitive times and basic instincts.

In the present, Beige can be found when our experience reflects our instincts and physiological needs. Infants, individuals who are homeless, those suffering from dementia, and people struggling with addiction can reflect high levels of Beige.

In the past, Beige was predominant when humans were hunter-gathers and traveled in loose bands. We existed and behaved much like other animals, as most of our activities were for survival. This was reality for a long stretch of history until we discovered the benefits of tribal living and the power of the collective. This brings us to Purple.



50,000 years ago

Kinship, Tribalism, Ritual, Shamanism, Magic, Sacrifice, Dreams, Mysticism


Purple represents tribal living and has symbolic and metaphysical aspects.

It can be found in rituals, magical thinking, and negotiation with Divine powers. But it is also present in sports arenas, concerts, and anywhere we find the masses, mob mentality, and all forms of tribalism in modern society.

In the past, Purple was found in actual tribes living in groups and making sacrifices to the gods. Purple evokes imagery of ceremonial dancing, drumming, and chanting. As Purple first developed, many attempted to understand life by looking to nature, the cosmos, storytelling, and myth. This way of life was safer and more spiritual than the Beige that preceded it. But following collective purple, individuality emerged. Theoretically, one person realized he could control the rest of the tribe with force, violence, and intimidation; Red was born.



10,000 years ago

Power, Individual, Dictator, Hero, Warlord, Conquest, Ego, Battle, Exploitation


Red is embodied by the ego, force, power, and domination.

While at first Red appears to be a negative color in the Spiral, it's important to note that the realization of individuality in general is necessary to counter the oppressive nature of excessive collectivism. The ego is prerequisite to self-consciousness, and personal power can manifest in healthy and productive ways.

Red can be found in the hero and the villain, the warrior and the warlord, the dictator and the tyrant. Excessive red can result in explosive and/or narcissistic personality traits, reckless driving, road rage, and bar fights. Given Red's potential for volatility and its too often violent manifestation in the world, Blue emerged.



5,000 years ago

Tradition, Stability, Structure, Conformity, Hierarchy, Authority, Rule of Law


Blue uses systems, institutions, and hierarchies to maintain social order and emerged to subdue Red's tyrannical tendencies.

Blue is predominant in prisons, schools, law enforcement, and organized religion. Healthy manifestations of Blue values help preserve the order civilizations require to thrive. When its forces are used appropriately and ethically, Blue can help protect societies from instability and collapse.

However when Blue manifests in an unhealthy or unbalanced manner, it can become authoritarian, punitive, conformity-obsessed, and excessively orderly - stifling individuality, freedom, and creativity. The remedy that arises? Orange.



300 years ago

Science, Reason, Mobility, Consumerism, Technology, Economics, Growth


Orange values speak to personal achievement, innovation, and competition.

Orange calls us to honor individual talents and ideas for the betterment of individuals, technology, products, and companies. It's embodied by the competitive entrepreneur, the athlete, the inventor, and CEO. The power of Orange is undeniable when we look at the rapid advancement in technology of the last 100 years and how drastically our way of life has changed.

However, unhealthy or excessive expressions of Orange can erode integrity and cause personal, professional, and financial incentives to outweigh compassion for others and environmental concerns. Hyper-individualism can cause people to lose sight of the greater good, the well-being and values of the larger society, and the health of the planet. Enter Green.



150 years ago

Human Rights, Community, Equality, Consensus, Compassion, Inclusion


Green represents values like compassion, fairness, inclusiveness, and equality.

Green restrains Orange by valuing people and the planet over systems, corporations, and profits. It can be found at fundraisers, animal shelters, environmental meetings, advocacy groups, and peace vigils.

Green is a great force for good in the world.

But like all the colors in the Spiral, Green has a dark side. An unhealthy manifestation of Green can descend into Red. This can be observed when activism originally motivated by peace and tolerance becomes radicalized and vengeful. Unrestrained and excessive Green can be counterproductive and paternalistic, sheltering rather than empowering, and unintentionally promoting the victimhood it seeks to eradicate.

So that's Tier 1 of the Spiral in a nutshell. While Tier 1 is about tension between the individual and the collective and presents each value system as a reaction to or remedy for another, Tier 2 is about the integration of values. Some have predicted that Tier 2 will be Yellow, then Turquoise, then Coral. But only time will tell.

About the Art

I have included the Moon (Purple), Mars (Red), the Sun (Orange), and the Earth (Green) both due to their relevant symbolism and to convey the universality of the theory.

I considered a left to right progression from Beige to Green, but organizing them from bottom to top better captures the upward and outward motion of the Spiral.  

Additionally, this piece emphasizes horizons to evoke depth, an evolution, a journey - a progression into the unknown.

Copyright 2017