Spiral Dynamics and the Biblical Narrative

Introduction to Integral Theology Part I


The legacy of religion continues to represent a history of division. As Einstein said, problems cannot be solved at the levels in which they are created, so a fresh search has begun for new vistas from which to see our dilemmas – and solutions – afresh. Spiral Dynamics promises to be one such breakthrough vantage point.

The study of the Spiral begins with humanity’s most archaic beginnings and traces our historical and cultural development up to the present. The highest level of thinking now observed by Spiral Dynamics practitioners is called Integral Consciousness.

Presence sees Spiral Dynamics as having credibility because it mirrors the Biblical Narrative – not vice versa. In other words, the Biblical Narrative does not have to be “force fit” into this model.

Presence is an Integral Theology and Integral Spirituality viewpoint that originated from seeing the all-in-all God that was the Genesis of human consciousness, the evolution of spiritual consciousness and the fulfillment of all things in the realm of integral spiritual consciousness.

Spiral Dynamics is exciting because it is another way to enter into the same transforming understanding; it adds greater depth and dimension to God, showing how the diverse fields of philosophy, psychology, education, science and more are pointing toward greater levels of empathy, compassion, and mutual concern. Simply stating that God is “all-in-all” really only begins the conversation. We want to grow in the infinite tapestry of meanings that we know this simple truth contains.


Let’s begin with the big picture of the Spiral as it compares to the Biblical Narrative. The spiral has two main levels of growth that are termed “first tier” and “second tier.” The first tier of humanity’s growth or evolution grew level by level to new stages of understanding, but it could not appreciate the purpose of the previous levels. Across all the stages that comprise first-tier consciousness, you believed that what was in the past had to be removed or torn down in order to establish the correct, improved way of thinking – which of course was what you believed at present! First tier thinking cannot see the value of previous levels of growth.

Second tier in the spiral is where truly inclusive thinking debuts. In the second tier one understands both the dignities and disasters of all previous levels. Second tier thinking does not label previous levels of understanding as inferior any more than I consider my first or second grade years as inferior to my high school years. This echoes the apostle Paul’s teaching about being a child and consciously growing into adulthood (1 Corinthians 13:11). Paul can be seen as a second tier teacher who saw first tier as absolutely necessary in order to move on. Paul was not ashamed of being a child. We emphasize this point at the beginning to explain the difference between unhealthy hierarchical thinking and what the Spiral terms a “holarchy”.

Integral Theology:Spiral Dynamics Chart large

Hierarchy, Holarchy, or Malarky?

Ken Wilber, in his book, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, presents a very good summary of the work of Arthur Koestler, a public intellectual who first saw how nature consisted of parts that were whole in and of themselves but also consisted as part of a self-organizing dynamic system – holons. A holon-based understanding of science (for instance) would recognize that molecules transcend and include atoms, cells transcend and include molecules, organs transcend and include cells. While the atom or molecule or cell exists as an entity by itself there is a greater whole that comes from them all. Of course this doesn’t imply that atoms have less value than molecules; it means they have a different purpose. This transcend and include nature of holons where both what’s transcended and included are seen as different yet valuable is called holarchy. You can see just by the etymology that it’s different from both flat, artificially-imposed egalitarianism on the one hand and rigid, top-down hierarchy on the other hand. Holarchy is whole, yet genuinely layered.

Integral consciousness would reject any God story that seems to value some children higher than others. Integral Theology is seeing the narrative of the Genesis to Revelation canon as a holarchy. So we will see that “Adam” was an “atom” as we begin in Archaic layers of development, but the trajectory of the Narrative will take us to Tribal Abraham, then through the Warrior Level of early Israel, moving into the evolution of the Traditional Level of Moses and finally to Jesus who is the last holon. This reinterpretation of the Narrative points away from Moses and Jesus as holarchical to their role or function as holons.  The narrative in this light will emphasize levels of understanding as sourced by the ‘All in All’.  God becomes synonymous with holarchy and Adam, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus as holons all point away from themselves to higher levels spiritual consciousness.

A 2000 year old interpretation of Abraham, Moses and Jesus has resulted in the story of 2 religions rather than the evolution by stages into an integral spiritual consciousness. History is full of the many conflicts between the religion of Judaism and the religion of Christianity. Christianity uses the terms old and new testaments, which immediately points to new as of higher value. Judaism then becomes displaced by Christianity.

The most recent evolution of spiritual consciousness (Postmodernity)has brought about Inter –Faith dialog and now the Interspirituality movement. But even here the best interpretation of the Biblical Narrative requires separating Moses and Jesus into 2 separate religions. Moses and Jesus represent particular groups of humans not a universal integral spiritual consciousness. In Postmodernity, any talk of Moses as holon leading to Jesus is as politically incorrect as interpreting Jesus as a holon leading to God—not a religion called by his name-meaning that Jesus is God consciousness in every human-not that Jesus was God.

Holarchy recognizes Adam, Moses and Christ as humanity growing from childhood to adulthood. God is the focus of the Narrative and God is the source of all growth. This is the essence of Presence. This idea of Narrative as a single, integrated trajectory will be explored on our web site over the years to come, as it represents part of the evolutionary leap into Integral Theology and Integral Spirituality. Let’s consider a few aspects of biblical-narrative-as-holarchy and its implications.

When the biblical narrative is holarchy, the canon would consist of one story, from Adam to Abraham to Moses and the prophets to Jesus. But – and here is the evolutionary leap; Christianity as institutional religion does not complete the trajectory of ongoing second tier consciousness.

Integral Theology sees the ecclesia or called-out (what’s often rendered as ‘church’ in Scripture and contemporary discourse) as an integral part of the holarchy belonging to the first century only. We do not see the ecclesia as a self-perpetuating, on-going religion. How now, sacred cow?

Moses and Jesus

Moses of Mesopotamia and Jesus of Nazareth comprise a holarchy; this holarchy is the story of God. They were received in the Judeo-Christian Traditional Level lens as founders of religions. But each of them was an instrument of God; neither claimed to be the source themselves. The narrative clearly unfolds Moses receiving the Commandments as God’s spokesperson and Jesus says over and over that all his teachings and works are not of himself but they come from the Father. In both cases the source is God. The unfolding narrative in Integral Theology is a witness to the All in All; both Moses and Jesus are witnesses that point away from themselves and directly toward the One.  This picture illuminates the Spiral of human development. Genesis through Revelation becomes an ever-unfolding revelation of God, with each piece critical to the next.

But isn’t Jesus the focus of the Narrative? Christian tradition asks. No. Jesus was chosen to represent and reveal the fullness of the Father (Col. 1:19). The Father is the point, not Jesus. Jesus tried to emphasize this throughout his ministry. The Father is the true source of identity, Who transcends and includes all. Are we trying to lower our love for the person and work of Jesus? No. We’re reframing the narrative to point solely to the One or to the All in All; Being or I am or Presence. In this way Jesus (and Moses) are elevated into a universal story for all humanity.

In following this concept Moses would precede Jesus as the one who brought that which was in part. In this way Moses was used by God to reveal the stages of first-tier spiritual understanding – what some scholars refer to as the ‘axial age,’ representing a flowering of spiritual understanding around the world in Buddhism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism and prophetic Judaism. Millennia later, Jesus is used by God to reveal the fullness of God’s story. But both the part (as first tier) and the fullness (as second tier) are making up the holarchy of God’s narrative and witness about the divine nature, which is both God’s alone and paradoxically shared by all (hence Jesus as the firstborn of a new order of creation; Jesus never intended to ‘possess’ this glory for himself, but to initiate humanity into a recognition that we’re all children of God – see Colossians 1:15 and Romans 8:29). The fullness of God in Jesus was dependent on the part that came from Moses – God  transcended and included. Revelation 15:3 says “and (they) sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the lamb.”  Both songs made up the totality of the music of God. Both songs were integrally related to each other. But the songs were not about Moses or the lamb. They were worshipping the One. So the ultimate movement in the spiral is into the realm of Spirit; it will take us beyond Moses and Jesus and beyond Judaism and Christianity. This will powerfully lead to an evolutionary leap in our view of what some call ‘Salvation History’ – but that will be addressed in future articles.

Let’s now start defining our Biblical terminology as it matches up with the language of the spiral.

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