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Red: The Impulsive Hero

Monday, December 14, 2015

Levels of Development: Week 2

Red: The Impulsive Hero
Monday, December 14, 2015

The third level of development in Spiral Dynamics is the Red or Impulsive/Egocentric level. This is where the individual first realizes that he or she is distinct from the tribe and breaks free from group constraints. This level first emerged 10,000 years ago. The basic theme of the Red level is to “Be what you are and do what you want, regardless.” [1] People at the Red level enjoy themselves to the fullest, without feeling guilty. The individual feels “I have the ability to control and manipulate the good and bad forces.” He or she conquers and dominates other aggressors.

At the Red level, powerful, impulsive, egocentric, heroic individuals emerge. This was the basis of feudal empires in the West, where “Feudal lords protect underlings in exchange for obedience and labor.” We see examples of the Red level in “the ‘terrible twos,’  rebellious youth, . . . James Bond villains, soldiers of fortune, wild rock stars, Attila the Hun, Lord of the Flies.” Twenty percent of the world’s adult population and 5% of world power are still at the Red level. [2]

As I mentioned before, each movement forward tends to throw out the previous stages, and the immediately preceding stage it throws out with a vengeance! This has been the way with most revolutions and reformations up to now. The Red level, early Protestant Reformation reacted against the Purple level of popular Catholicism—to create the modern individual—and threw out things like icons, statues, the rosary, and what they saw as the “magical” transubstantiation of the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Individual reformers were seen as heroes, rescuing the people from tribal belonging systems and forced membership. This had to happen to move forward. The movement had to “protest” against the previous level.

According to Don Beck, what is good about the Red level, which will hopefully be included at the higher stages, are “wonderful spurts of creativity, heroic acts, and the ability to break from tradition and chart a whole new pathway.” [3] We need to go through and integrate some good Red level characteristics to grow up!

Gateway to Silence:
Transcend and include

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

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

[3] Don Beck, “The Never-Ending Upward Quest,” 12.

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.

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