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Orange: Rational Organization

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Levels of Development: Week 2

Orange: Rational Organization
Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The fifth level of development, what Spiral Dynamics calls the Orange or Achievist/Strategic level, began about 300 years ago. You can also call it the Rational/Organizational level. Ken Wilber writes, “At this wave, the self ‘escapes’ from the ‘herd mentality’ of blue, and seeks truth and meaning in individualistic terms— . . . experimental, objective, mechanistic, operational—‘scientific’ in the typical sense.” [1] (Perhaps you have noticed that the levels keep moving from individualistic to group oriented and back again.) Society as a whole decided that if we became rational, organizational, effective, intelligent, and educated that would do it. That’s the myth of modernism. Most of corporate America is at the Orange level. This strategic approach is needed in order to be effective in business, engineering, and medicine.

The basic theme of the Orange level is to “Act in your own self-interest by playing the game to win.” [2] At this stage, it is believed that people who are self-reliant, educated, and willing to take risks will “win.” Societies will prosper through competitiveness and technology. Earth is a machine with natural laws that can be mastered. The Orange level “Manipulates Earth’s resources to create and spread the abundant good life.” [3] America largely built itself with this mentality.

The Orange level was the basis of the historical period called the Enlightenment, but it was not full enlightenment at all. The Rational/Organizational level is also seen in Vatican II Catholicism and mainline Protestantism today. These people are smart, informed, and think they are at the head of the pack! Boston, New York, and Silicone Valley come to mind. People at the Achievist/Strategic level make up 30% of the population and 50% of those in power. [4]

At every stage (until you get to the higher, enlightened stages) you think you are at the final stage. The Orange stage thought it was the summit. It substituted correct, rational, scientific process for Truth. Orange-consciousness has essentially ruled Western culture since the 1960’s and is still widespread. Yet it so overstated its case that in recent years many, particularly the Millennial Generation, have turned to “postmodernism.” Only being rational does not solve the human problem; just being scientific and logical does not make people whole, happy, or satisfied at any deep level.

Remember, as we move from each level, we try to transcend the worst of the level and include the best. We need to transcend the way the Orange level substituted propriety, reason, and correct process for faith and truth and love. We would do well to hold onto a proper use of intelligence and reason even when we move on to the trans-rational or mystical tier of consciousness.

Gateway to Silence:
Transcend and include

[1] Ken Wilber, “The Integral Vision at the Millennium,” Part I, excerpts from Introduction to The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 7 (Shambhala: 2000),

[2] Don Beck in an interview with Jessica Roemischer, “The Never-Ending Upward Quest,” What Is Enlightenment?, Fall/Winter 2002,, 6.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ken Wilber, “The Integral Vision at the Millennium,” Part I, excerpts from Introduction to The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 7 (Shambhala: 2000),

Adapted from Richard Rohr, In the Beginning . . . Six hours with Rob Bell and Richard Rohr on Reclaiming the Original Christian Narrative (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), discs 2 and 4, CD, MP3 download.

Photograph by BryanHanson, 2015.
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