Tag Archives: Spiral Dynamics

The Integral Nature of Cultural Paradigms







Each “cultural paradigm” can be thought of as a self-referencing integral whole. Each one will have some commentary on the elements of Ontos (Being) and Ecos (Nature), Spiritus (Spirit) and Soma (Body), Psyche (Self) and Polis (Society), Mythos (Myth) and Histor (History), Logos (Reason) and Pathos (Passion), Ratio (Logic) and Eros (Beauty), as well as Personage (Individual) and Cultus (Community).  And that is why it is difficult to falsify or displace cultural paradigms. Each part supports the whole in a complexly networked relationship. Moreover, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Each cultural paradigm forms an encompassing or totalizing gestalt that resists the presence and pressure of other encompassing or totalizing gestalts.

Varieties of Primal, Ancent, Medieval, Modern, Post-Modern and Trans-Modern Perspectives toward the ineffable mystery of “Reality” all fall under this principle of self-referencing symbol systems, meaning-models, language games and forms of life in which each element supports the stability and integrity of the whole.

This assessment will hold true even if we follow Jean Gebser’s model of primal-ancient-medieval “unperspectival”, modern Renaissance-Enlightenment “perspectival” and emergent Post-Modern & Trans-Modern “a-perspectival” approaches toward the encompassing mystery of being-in-the-world. Nevertheless, perhaps it is possible to follow Gebser’s idea in “The Ever-Present Origin” of various unfolding epochs of time that include the archaic, magical, mythic, mental and integral, and view the integral phase as affirming, critiquing and transcending the other four epochal paradigms but without eclipsing them. The image of a “spiraling staircase” comes to mind. Don Beck’s and Chris Cowen’s model of “Spiral Dynamics” has affinities with Gebser’s integral model, though it structures them a bit differently to arrive at eight instead of five epochal phases of unfolding and emergence.  Heraclitus wrote, “The path of ascent and descent is one and the same.”