LOWELL GRISHAM: Colors of life

All stages of development have room for God

Posted: November 7, 2017 at 1 a.m.

There are patterns in the development of human consciousness. We all start as infants, with primitive, self-centered needs for survival. Later we experience a wondrous, magical, fairy-tale world. As we grow, we make sense of our place in the world through our family and other close relationships. As our context widens, we usually develop a rational capacity; we start to question things for ourselves. Eventually some people develop a more pluralistic, universal perspective.

These patterns present themselves as stages of individual growth, but you can also see them as stages in human civilization or corporate consciousness.

One ancient way of describing these human patterns uses the natural colors of the rainbow as symbols of the stages of consciousness. This version from Ken Wilber is one of many similar illustrations of the path of human consciousness.

• Red -- Egocentric stages. Survival is first, along with safety, security and the satisfaction of basic needs. Thinking is very concrete; the fight/flight response is strong. Power and action are central in a win/lose world where you have to fight to maintain control. The "terrible twos," frontier pioneers, super-heroes.

• Amber -- Ethnocentric Stage. We find meaning and direction toward a stable and purposeful life. Self-identity is defined by relationships to groups with strong sense of values -- "should" and "oughts." We sacrifice ourselves for the sake of something greater: truth, values, laws and rules. We follow trustworthy authorities. They tell us what is right and wrong. We conform to the group's values. There is one right way. Others are wrong. Religious fundamentalism, codes of chivalry and honor, charitable good deeds, patriotism.

• Orange -- Worldcentric Stage 1. The bottom line is success and autonomy. Act in your own self-interest and play to win. Self-reliance, progress, prosperity, goals and results. Use the earth's resources to spread the abundant "good life." A deep sense of responsibility; interested in causes, reasons, consequences, and the efficient use of time. Research and rationality. The Enlightenment, Wall Street, sales and marketing, materialism.

• Green -- Worldcentric Stage 2. Promote community harmony and equality. Seek peace within yourself and explore with others how to care for all. Sensitivity to others and the environment. Feelings are important. Reconciliation, multiculturalism, pluralism. A desire for equal opportunity and equal access to earth's resources. Comfortable with complexities and differences. Adapts or ignores rules when needed or creates new ones. Often present in helping professions, education, human rights and diversity work.

• Teal -- Kosmocentric Stage 1. Live fully and responsibility as what you are and learn to become. Existence is wonderful. Spontaneity, flexibility, functionality. Knowledge and competency trump rank and status. Reframe the situation to support overall principles, strategies and foresight. Chaos and complexity theories; eco-industrial parks using each other's outflows as raw materials.

• Turquoise -- Kosmocentric Stage 2. Global order and renewal. Holistic, intuitive thinking; open to experience the wholeness of life through mind and spirit. Everything connects in a living, conscious energy.

We all start at square one. And we have a right to stop wherever we stop. For some people, a magical-red religion will always be fulfilling and comforting. Many find identity and meaning in committing to the truth and authority of amber loyalties. Some stop at orange, energized by the pursuit of good through reason and competence. Some will stop at each level. Religion spans all of the spectrum.

There are two crises that we might understand better through the metaphor of consciousness levels.

Wilber has studied terrorist acts and finds a common signature: amber beliefs with a red self. He says the terrorist cognitive framework is amber: conformist, traditional, absolutistic beliefs. But the self-sense is red: egocentric, power-driven. The terrorists' complaint -- "the modern world (orange) will not make room for my sacred (amber) beliefs, and therefore I am going to blow up that world every chance I get, in God's name and with His blessings."

A similar spiritual crisis happens when people nurtured in an amber fundamentalist religion go to college. Many find their faith ridiculed. They learn of evolution or scientific materialism or free-market capitalism, and they hit a spiritual ceiling because their traditionalist amber faith does not communicate in an orange world. Many then shut the door to God, spirituality and religion.

But God goes all the way up and down the consciousness spectrum. Evolution is the means God uses to draw consciousness toward complexity and union. There are authentic ways to express Christianity and spirituality at each of these stages of life. There are saints in every color. So be not afraid. Grow, and become who you are.

Commentary on 11/07/2017