Podcast – Episode 0157 – Applying Graves Model Spiral Dynamics To Christianity

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In this episode Joel and Antonia apply the Graves Model Spiral Dynamics to Christianity and show how the religion has moved up the levels through history.

In this podcast you’ll find:

  • Initial Graves Model Podcast
  • Podcast 155 – Stratified Levels Of The Graves Model Spiral Dynamics
  • Podcast 156 – Conditions For Moving Up Graves Model Spiral Dynamics
  • We wanted to explore something through the Graves model that we have seen evolve and change over the eons.
  • Christianity – Judeo-Christianity – Protestant branch.
  • This podcast isn’t an indication of the truthfulness of any specific religion.
  • There was a period in history when most cultures were animistic – Graves 2 –  looking for explanations and strategies and turning to superstitious beliefs to explain the unexplainable.
  • Abraham likely graduated from Graves 2 to 3 when he started serving the God, Jehovah. He had a personal relationship with this deity. Not a detached animistic kind of worship.
  • There was still a mystical quality to the relationship between Abraham and Jehovah. A likely straddling of 2 and 3.
  • The Abrahamic tribe grew into an entire nation of 12 tribes. A coalition.
  • By the time the Judges and Kings came on the scene, the 12 tribes of Israel was a warrior culture.
  • “I want so I take.”
  • All the early history (Pentateuch) was recorded by Moses long after the events. So the history was orally passed down to a large extent.
  • A lot of the cultures at that time were heading into Graves 3.
  • Not a lot of compassion during this stage. Lots of people getting killed, horribly.
  • While Abraham transitioned to Graves 3, his family/tribe would have been Graves 2. He would have been their leader.
  • “Worship the creator not the creation.”
  • Moses covenant arrangements would have been very late Graves 3 moving into 4.
  • The people would still have been Graves 2 and 3, so there was a lot of grumbling and complaining and insisting upon their rights. Ego.
  • Judges would have represented late Graves 2, early 3.
  • Adopting codifications and law codes – Graves 4. But the reinforcement of these statutes was still Graves 3 – “eye for an eye.”
  • King David came along, and we see the people themselves moving into Graves 3 – a bloody period in history. A lot of conflict and in-fighting.  
  • Deity gives these cultures the authority to take what they want.
  • Lots of building is happening. Temples. Royal Houses. These don’t bring benefit to the people as much as to certain individuals. No practical use.
  • Prophetic books of the Hebrew Scriptures indicate a peak into Graves 4.
  • Fast forward to Jesus.
  • Judaic system very much tied into the Roman political structure.
  • Rome is the best example of early Graves 4. They had lots of temples and palaces, but they also had communal structures – aqueducts, public bathhouses, higher educations, welfare system, etc.
  • The Jewish system had codified groups – Pharisees, Sadducees, etc. – very Graves 4.
  • We can see Graves 3 moving to Graves 4 guilt in the religion of the time. Jesus offered an easier way to sanctify oneself without all the animal sacrifices.
  • One Sacrifice covers everything.
  • Honor God above everyone else.
  • Golden Rule
  • When Jesus was put to death, it was procedural – very Graves 4 – he was put through the court system instead of just assassinated.  
  • His death was because of political/religious conflict – also Graves 4.
  • Pilate asks the people who they want to release – Jesus or Barabbas – and the crowd asks for Barabbas. A Graves 4 Democratic action.
  • Once Christianity is established, it starts as congregations – small family-like groups.
  • Voluntary, shared belief systems – Graves 4.
  • Apostle Paul establishes the rules of Christianity through democratic conversation.
  • People coming from multiple backgrounds and adopting some old stuff and leaving others behind and creating a belief system that keeps them exclusive from the world – also Graves 4.
  • Judaism was in Graves 3 for a long time – the majority of the Hebrew Scriptures.
  • Then the modern era begins, as depicted in the Greek Scriptures, and we see the establishing of a Graves 4 civilization sprouting up around the Mediterranean.
  • Constantine adopts Christianity in its established Graves 4 framework.
  • Most of recorded history, Christianity has been sitting at Graves 4.
  • Maybe during the Inquisition, Crusades, etc. we see Graves 4 implementing Graves 3 techniques to move people to where they want them.
  • When Rome fell, there was a massive destabilization, and some of the structures may have regressed to level 3 – Dark Ages.
  • Catholicism was the Christian religion for ages until Luther came along and started the Reformation. He may have been late Graves 4 early 5.
  • Whenever someone comes from a 4 institution and starts making demands it is usually due to bumping up into the next level.
  • Luther was very achievement oriented. Very driven.
  • He wasn’t rebelling violently, like Graves 3, he was using structure and reason to change the system to work for the people – Graves 5.
  • Graves 5 really kicked off during the First Great Awakening (the 1700s).
  • Zeal for evangelism. Conversions. Missionaries. New church leaders. New church belief systems.
  • The Reformation introduced Christian competition between ideologies.  
  • Competition itself is very Graves 5. So the religion itself may have been moving into Graves 5, even if the vast majority of the people were not.
  • Late Graves 4 and early 5 can appear very aggressive and pushy.
  • During these Great Awakenings, the Enlightenment is also growing. Printing, transportation, literacy, inventions, potential.
  • 20th Century saw the commercialism of Christianity. TV Evangelists. Merchandise. Pilgrimages.
  • One of the reasons this religion has survived as a dominant force is its ability to adapt.
  • We are now seeing pockets of Christianity peaking into Graves 6 because people from the developing world are peaking into 6.
  • Love Wins by Rob Bell – There is no hell fire. There is no need for conversion. God allows for everyone.
  • Shock waves throughout Christendom.
  • Christianity is still very much Graves 5, but there is a Graves 6 scene emerging and it is creating some conflict.
  • All levels of the first 6 tiers are represented within the Christian faith.
  • More in-fighting than ever before because of differing ideologies.
  • In the U.S, if you go to a church that believes in snake handling it is likely a Graves 2 culture. Most people are related. Small groups. Snake handling is very mystical.
  • Missionaries (Graves 4) that go overseas into a Graves 2 tribal village in Africa may find themselves creating a hostile situation by introducing a destabilizing influence and pushing the Graves 2 tribe into Graves 3. Some missionaries get themselves killed due to this unexpected result.
  • Graves 3 Christian culture – Motorcycle Gangs for Jesus.
  • The Graves model helps us understand why these conflicts occur.
  • Graves 3 developing cultures are moving into 4, and that is why most religions right now are growing in developing countries.
  • Religion provides a Graves 4 institutional structure for Graves 3s.
  • Just one example of how we can apply the Graves model to structures, corporations, families, etc.

Book referenced in podcast:  “Integral Christianity: The Spirit’s Call to Evolve”

In this episode Joel and Antonia apply the Graves Model Spiral Dynamics to Christianity and show how the religion has moved up the levels through history. #christianity #religion #gravesmodel #spiraldynamics

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Showing 8 comments
  • Andrew

    I just want to add what is probably the most interesting (in my opinion) manifestation of Stage Orange Christianity: Deism (e.g. of the American Founding Fathers), the notion that God made the world as a skilled craftsman makes a watch, an then basically left it all to its own devices. It’s very materialistic, and it stresses the existence of universal natural laws that can be discerned and harnessed for one’s own purposes without interference from any supernatural forces. (Very fitting for Stage Orange, which is the most skeptical stage, especially about anything spiritual.)

    Would love to see more videos about Spiral Dynamics in the future; are there plans to make any more?

    • Andrew

      Oops, not videos, I meant podcasts, I think I first found you guys through a Youtube link 😛

  • Naomi Most

    Deuteronomy was Fake News!

    No, really. There’s evidence showing that during the reign of Josiah (roughly 600 BCE), someone went into the back room of a temple and “found” the Book Of The Law.



    This was a huge turning point in Judaism, because it’s literally the moment when the Jews were not just asked, but /forced/ to reject “false gods”, whereas previously there was total acceptance of the idea that while there was one main god for the Jews, there were also important other gods like Asherah (goddess of fertility).

    The Deuteronomic reforms included a rewriting of the Torah to remove all references to El, the actual god of Moses (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_(deity) ) and replace it with “The Lord”.

    Josiah then used warlord-style tactics to forcibly remove opposition to this belief system, executing “pagan” priests (i.e. anybody walking around who supported the other gods which, just yesterday, would have been considered valid Jewish deities).

    Just thought you’d find this interesting, because this history dovetails a lot with the fact that Judaea had just tossed off the Assyrians, and Yahweh — Josiah’s choice for One God — came from basically the same memetic roots as Assur, the warlike god of the Assyrians.

    (And the Assyrians, man, their belief system was a real piece of work. They believed that if their conquest ended, the entire world would end. Hmm, which modern empire(s) now base their concept of economic well-being on this belief…)

    This is just a minor quibble; I totally loved this podcast and it mirrors a lot of the conversations my partner and I (ENFP and INTP, respectively) have been having about seeing the world through the lens of the Graves Model.

    Your discussion around Level 5 as being potentiated by the proliferation of competing sects of Christianity was a great insight!

  • mikkel

    Thanks, this series was great.

    For Christian examples of solid green/yellow and even turquoise, check out Pope Francis’ Encyclical talking about the last 50 years of Catholicism and an integrated vision for the Church.

    Here are a few excerpts:

    “Blessed Pope Paul VI referred to the ecological concern as “a tragic consequence” of unchecked human activity: “Due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature, humanity runs the risk of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation”.[2] He spoke in similar terms to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations about the potential for an “ecological catastrophe under the effective explosion of industrial civilization”, and stressed “the urgent need for a radical change in the conduct of humanity”,
    Saint John Paul II became increasingly concerned about this issue. In his first Encyclical he warned that human beings frequently seem “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption”.[4] Subsequently, he would call for a global ecological conversion.[5] At the same time, he noted that little effort had been made to “safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology”.[6]

    The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.
    The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home… I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity.

    I do not want to write this Encyclical without turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I took as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.

    Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason”

    • mikkel

      Sorry, forgot the name of the Encyclical: LAUDATO SI

      It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read and I’m not religious, let alone Catholic.

      • Holly McIntosh

        Hi Mikkel!
        Thank you so much for taking the
        time to pass along these examples
        to us! I love the very last paragraph
        especially! And we love hearing back
        from our PH Community!

  • Tim Kellogg

    Thank you for this podcast. I listened to this first, and then went back to listen to original Graves podcast (155), and then came back to this one again. Two thumbs up.

    I think the book that Joel was mentioning at the end of the podcast (the title of which he had a brain fade) is “Stages of Faith,” by James Fowler, with a follow up book a few years later titled “Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian.” Fowler’s ideas were taken and streamlined or simplified by Scott Peck in his book, “Further Along the Road Less Traveled,” (I forget which particular essay). A side to side chart of Fowler and Peck can be found here (although on a personal level, I disagree that Fowler 2 belongs with Peck 1). http://www.psychologycharts.com/james-fowler-stages-of-faith.html

    I do wish that you had taken an extra week or two to consider other ‘Christianities’ and cultures in the Podcast before airing. Rob Bell was mentioned toward the end, but Rob Bell didn’t say anything different than Gregory of Nyssa even Origen said, both 4th century. I believe that language has the most to do with that, as in the East, Greek was the spoken language, and in the West, Latin. Greek tends to be much more open and process oriented, where Latin is much more a language of Fiat and Dicta, hence more cut and dried, results oriented, if you will. And nearly all Western Languages are Latin based, even English.

    But mostly, I want to thank you for answering a question that I’ve been mulling for almost 20 years (when I first read Fowler), namely, what pressures a person to bump up to the next level? I have always believed that it was some kind of crisis, but Antonia hit the nail on the head- a real ‘aha’ moment for me. Even Peck said that people move from (his) Level 2 to Level 3 ‘when things aren’t working anymore.’ But for Antonia to say that people bump up when they physically have to, as in from Graves 2 to Graves 3, simply to survive- as in gangs, and then said that people like Bill Gates move up from Graves 5 to 6 because they have fully explored and exhausted the level they are leaving behind… well, just Brava! You answered my question! (I think you worded it “When the problem that we’re facing can’t be solved by the present level,” and that we have “fully explored the current level.”)

    A couple of questions for you to mull, and maybe explore in a further podcast: Since Fowler talks about his levels as levels of growth, do you think that would apply to Graves as well, a more organic approach? And if so, do you think that this organic approach can be applied to the macro level as well?

    Thank you again.

    • Holly McIntosh

      Hi Tim!
      I just Love when something clicks!
      When that A-ha moment hits me!
      Glad we could help you with yours!
      And thank you for the feedback and
      pointers. We really enjoy hearing
      from our PH Community!

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