INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber



powered by TinyLetter
Today is:
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion, SUNY 2003Frank Visser, graduated as a psychologist of culture and religion, founded IntegralWorld.net in 1997. He worked as production manager for various publishing houses and as service manager for various internet companies and lives in Amsterdam. Author of Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion” (SUNY Press, 2003), which has been translated into 7 languages, and of 100+ essays on this website.
SEE MORE ESSAYS WRITTEN BY FRANK VISSER

‘Yeah, but he got
the colors wrong’

A Suggestion for Improving
the Integral Color Scheme

Frank Visser

This is Appendix 4: A SUGGESTED COLOR REVISION, of a longer essay discussing why and how Ken Wilber changed the color scheme used in Spiral Dynamics around 2005 ("A More Adequate Spectrum of Colors?, A Comparison of Color Terminology in Integral Theory, Spiral Dynamics and Chakra-psychology, Review of "The Religion of Tomorrow", Part III.) For easy reference and to stimulate discussion I have posted it here as a separate essay. Please consult the original essay for further details.

-0-0-0-0-0-

The important question here (other than "So what?") is, of course: if Wilber's re-coloring was in some ways inadequate, could he have done a better job (assuming for the moment that such a recoloring was warranted)?

I believe so. To paraphrase Wilber's own words:

"the comment I got most often was 'Yeah, but [he] got the colors wrong,' and I'd always say, 'Yes, but that can be easily addressed.'" (The Religion of Tomorrow, p. 692)

Let's see what the implications are of the previous colorful considerations. To recapitulate a rather long story, this is what Wilber changed in the Spiral Dynamics color scheme. In fact, he changed everything except the colors marked with arrows:

Table 1.
A Comparison of color terminology in Integral Theory and Spiral Dynamics.
INTEGRAL THEORY SPIRAL DYNAMICS
" T H I R D   T I E R" " S E C O N D   T I E R "
WHITE: Supermind ???
ULTRAVIOLET: Overmind AUBERGINE
VIOLET: Meta-mind TEAL
INDIGO: Para-mind CORAL
" S E C O N D   T I E R "
==> TURQUOISE <==
Integral
TURQUOISE, GlobalView
Holistic/Experiential
TEAL
Holistic
YELLOW, FlexFlow
Systemic/Integrative
" F I R S T   T I E R "
==> GREEN <==
Pluralistic
GREEN, HumanBond
Relativistic/Sociocentric
==> ORANGE <==
Rational
ORANGE, StriveDrive
Materialistic/Achiever
AMBER
Mythic
BLUE, TruthForce
Absolutistic/Saintly
==> RED <==
Magic-Mythic
RED, PowerGods
Egocentric/Exploitative
MAGENTA
Magic
PURPLE, KinSpirits
Animistic/Tribalistic
INFRARED/CRIMSON
Archaic
BEIGE, SurvivalSense
Automatic/Instinctive

In "A More Adequate Spectrum of Colors?" I have argued that this re-coloring had some very unfortunate consequences. Since some elements of Spiral Dynamics were retained, but most were changed, a hybrid system arose which was neither true to Spiral Dynamics nor to the features of the light spectrum (or the tantric chakra tradition for that matter). If, as Wilber argued extensively in The Religion of Tomorrow, it is paramount to align the model with the colors of the rainbow, then use the colors of the rainbow, I would say. If not, don't bother.

I would therefore like to suggest the following improvements:

    Light Bulb - Intellectual Creativity
  • Re-introduce YELLOW as a primary color. It fits naturally between GREEN and ORANGE. Spiral Dynamics used Orange to symbolize "the color of industrial age furnaces at work", but an argument can be made that Yellow fits the description of egoic-rationality better. In color psychology Yellow stands for "Intellectual Intelligence: Our rational and analytical ability to organize information. Logical thinking ability, problem solving, sequential organization, the ability to see inconsistencies, weigh opposites and make judgments." This is the most important change.

  • ORANGE replaces the tertiary color AMBER and is moved one level downwards. As the color of mythic-rationality, it fits naturally between magic (RED) and reason (YELLOW). There is no reason anymore to resort to a tertiary color, now that Orange as secondary color can play this role. Again, color psychology tells us orange stands for "Social intelligence: The ability to associate and understand oneself in relationship to others. Leadership abilities, the ability to nurture relationships and maintain friendships, conflict resolution skills, and social analysis, the ability to understand other people." This fits perfectly with Wilber's "mythic-membership stage of development.
    The Blue Planet II
  • Re-introduce BLUE as a primary color. It fits naturally between TEAL and INDIGO. Spiral Dynamics used Turquoise to symbolize "the color of earth seen from a meta-level". But isn't our planet equally well describe by the color Blue, since it is mostly covered by oceans? Not without reason the BCC named its earth documentary "The Blue Planet" (2001), which turned into the movie "Deep Blue" (2003) and got a sequal "The Blue Planet II" (2017). It is important to have at least the primary colors included. Turquoise is not even a tertiary color.

  • The tertiary color TEAL can be preserved. It fits naturally between GREEN and BLUE, and as a hue of Green-Blue suggests the "beginning" of Blue (cf. "The Teal Altitude marks the beginning of an integral worldview, where pluralism and relativism are transcended and included into a more systematic whole.", Integral Life"). It is currently by far the most popular color in integral circles (cf. Teal Organizations Wiki and the "Teal Organizations Track" of the Integral European Conference 2018).

  • The other color assignments seem fine to me: The pre-prepersonal stages of development are all characterized by shades of Red (RED, MAGENTA, INFRARED) and the post-integral transpersonal stages are all characterized by shades of INDIGO and VIOLET. PURPLE, as a secondary color, would fit on the highest colored rung. This feels quite natural and doesn't violate any rules from either color psychology or scientific color theory, as far as I can tell. They form the opposite ends of the color spectrum, as it ranges from infra-red to ultra-violet.

In the following table, the revised colors are marked up with arrows;

Table 9.
Redesigning the Integral Color Scheme.
INTEGRAL THEORY SUGGESTED REVISIONS
" T H I R D   T I E R" " T H I R D   T I E R"
WHITE: Supermind WHITE: Supermind
ULTRAVIOLET: Overmind ==> PURPLE: Overmind <==
VIOLET: Meta-mind VIOLET: Meta-mind
INDIGO: Para-mind INDIGO: Para-mind
" S E C O N D   T I E R "
TURQUOISE
Integral
==> BLUE <==
Integral
TEAL
Holistic
TEAL
Holistic
" F I R S T   T I E R "
GREEN,
Pluralistic
GREEN,
Pluralistic
ORANGE
Rational
==> YELLOW <==
Rational
AMBER
Mythic
==> ORANGE <==
Mythic
RED
Magic-Mythic
RED
Magic-Mythic
MAGENTA
Magic
MAGENTA
Magic
INFRARED/CRIMSON
Archaic
INFRARED/CRIMSON
Archaic

To put the point I would like to make differently:

Wilber objected to Spiral Dynamics' placement of BLUE, YELLOW and PURPLE. But instead of relocating these colors in his own scheme to their proper levels, he abolished them altogether. BLUE became AMBER, YELLOW became TEAL, and PURPLE became MAGENTA. This resulted in a severely skewed and unbalanced model, with two of the three primary colors missing and the personal domains colored almost entirely with RED hues. Re-introducing BLUE, YELLOW and PURPLE restores this balance.

In the diagram below the major suggested revisions are graphically represented:

Spiral Dynamics and a Revised Integral Color Model
Spiral Dynamics and a Revised Integral Color Model. This revision preserves, rather than abolishes, fundamental SD colors, but puts them in a different context.

-0-0-0-0-0-

One can, of course, question Wilber's original argument that the color scheme should align itself with either the tantric tradition of the chakras, or the spectral colors of science. That presupposes relationships that still have to be proven separately. In the absence of such evidence, the color-psychological associations of Spiral Dynamics do not rely on any such speculations, and are intuitively and pragmatically understood. In the same spirit I have added YELLOW, BLUE and PURPLE, not because of any esoteric considerations but simply because they are important colors in the RYB color palette and for that reason alone can't be missed. They also have strong psychological connotations (see below).

Given the current popularity of Wilber's color scheme, I felt it clearly opportune to share my color-related deliberations. I don't harbour the illusion that my suggestion for updating Wilber's color scheme will be taken up by the integral community any time soon. Movements tend to defend their cherished notions—and this applies equally to the Spiral Dynamics community as to the integral movement and its offshoots. But as a sustained reflection on a large and influential part of integral culture I hope it has its merits.

One can also, of course, counter that in the end all colors are arbitrary, and are useful as long as we know what they stand for, but that overlooks the psychological effect they have on human beings.

To contrast these overly complicated color schemes, just have a look at this simple but effective color wheel below, taken from Pinterest, which uses only six colors in a balanced way, to express deep truths about human nature. It shows that RED and ORANGE cover the physical and emotional energies, YELLOW stands for "personal power, logic, intellect and creativity" and GREEN takes up "harmony, love and communication". In this presentation YELLOW has indeed received its rightful place in the scheme of things. Omitting such a primary color is simply unforgivable. And BLUE-INDIGO and VIOLET then quite naturally stand for more spirtual and transcendent capacities such as "inner peace, meditation and intuition". We all have this rainbow of colors inside us.

Color Therapy for Your Home
It could have been that easy, Ken!




Comment Form is loading comments...