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What Can Evolution and Spiral Dynamics Tell us About the Coronavirus?

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What Can Evolution and Spiral Dynamics Tell us About the Coronavirus?

By Said E. Dawlabani

Published by Medium on March 29, 2020

The spread of COVID-19 has rendered many human development models inadequate if not entirely obsolete, and the models I’ve been using for the last two decades have not been spared. I’m one of several practitioners of Spiral Dynamics and Spiral Dynamics Integral, and today, we are all playing Monday morning quarterback trying to pinpoint exactly what went wrong on the developmental spiral. Although much of our analysis is true, it is also partial. The two theoretical frameworks Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory have been known for decades as “the theories that explain everything”, but today they seem to fall short on providing a sufficient answer to the only question the world is asking: How do we explain the audacity of the Coronavirus and how do we stop it.

Deliberations in our communities have varied along the entire spectrum of values on the Spiral and across all quadrants, states and stages of the Integral model. Philosophical and spiritual discussions seem to be very popular, as one expects when catastrophic systems failure takes place. The archetypal nature of the devil, the shadow and the unconscious played central roles in opening minds to larger possibilities and comforted some frayed nerves. These types of discussions remind us of the frailty of human existence and our persistent failure to understand ourselves at the molecular, cosmic and Holonic levels of being.

This virus has done the impossible; it has heightened the righteousness of every value system that has existed since the dawn of humanity. Blame is being assigned at every level of development. We project our fears and blame the archaic First and Second levels of human and cultural development in China. We blame its spread on the absence of effective leadership in countries with egocentric leaders who are in the Third level of development. We get angry at the continued erosion of governmental powers and the absence of emergency medical planning in the Fourth level of development. People in the politically correct Sixth level shame us all for not seeing this as a collective problem for all of humanity to deal with. But, very little of our attention has turned towards those who bare much of the responsibility in getting us here. Those are the so-called Masters of the Universe, the blind believers in Neoliberal economics, the bankers and the power brokers who run a globally ravenous economy driven by a narrow and dangerous view of the Fifth level of cultural and human development. In short, these are the world leaders who minimize the dangers of pandemic diseases and other existential threats through their reductionist views on everything other than the power of money.

What I have described in the paragraph above are the values of a subsistent humanity that is limited to the first six levels of development on the Spiral. This is known as the First Tier of values. Healthy development of an individual or a culture usually alternates between individualistic psychological systems that thrive on competition and collective psychological systems that thrive on community and cooperation. The problem with the First Tier is that each level sees the world according to it’s own stage of development and resists the integration of other levels and their worldview. The higher this resistance is on the Spiral, the more the imbalance that effects personal and cultural development. In extreme cases, resistance can lead the entire Spiral to become arrested and beholden to the narrow values of one particular expression of a specific value system.

Today, that arrested expression is being defined by neoliberal economic policies and the blind global pursuit of wealth. We have all become subservient to a globalized capitalist system that is a grotesque outcropping of the modern values of the Enlightenment, the Fifth level on the Spiral, a highly individualistic value system empowered by high intelligence and the ability to manipulate the entire First Tier with little regard to community and cooperation. It ensnares you into the bowels of darkness whether you like it or not. It infects your mind and makes you think that competition in the pursuit of money matters above all else in life. It mutes the risk reported by top global scientists and epidemiologists about how dangerous the COVID virus was in 2007. It does so not by finding a vaccine, but by repressing the epidemiology research hoping the danger goes away on its own, or just long enough to maximize profits and exit the stage before it all comes crashing down. These are the individualistic competitive values at their worst and, as I argue in my work, they have overstayed their developmental welcome by a few decades as they have arrested the evolutionary movement up the Spiral and repressed all the communal psychological systems rendering the entire world vulnerable to everything that falls outside the pursuit of money and individual power.

It is at the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment, our initial ascend to the individualistic/competitive Fifth level of development that we made the fateful decision to tame nature instead of working with it. With the dawn of modern science, philosophy, politics and economics, we became our own Gods empowered by our reductionist minds that see the entire Cosmos through the lens of the telescope and the basic building blocks of life and disease through the ocular lens of a microscope. Five Billion years of evolutionary intelligence got quantified through carbon dating only to be shelved away and forgotten. Today, every time Nature’s evolutionary impulse presents us with a challenge, or a disease our instinct is to fight it and to tame it through the innocuous lens of science that often excludes the deeper ecology in which we live and breathe. We dismiss all non-microbial causes that ail the body, the mind, the soul, the culture and the planet. We empower big pharmaceutical companies to create blockbuster drugs for diseases that they anticipate as a result of our poor diets and hectic lifestyles while reducing public funding for research on viruses and vaccines. By continuing to pursue prosperity while ignoring other matters, we have burdened the planet and triggered what scientist believe is the Sixth Extinction, and unlike the five extinctions before it, this one is of our own making.

I have dedicated the last fifteen years of my life to exposing the fallacy of global development based on the narrow definition of modern wealth at the cost of moral and ecological decay. I have preached all over the world to those who would listen about the dangers of economic policies that place financial success as the thing that matters the most while repressing all the other important things that matter just as much. In 2013 I created a platform for economic development the exalts the virtues of the Seventh level of values that sees the importance of integrating the virtues of all of humanity on a conscious trajectory that makes the world a better place. In 2018 I began to work on defining a world economy based on the virtues of the Eighth and highest level of human values, the values of a world that is ecologically aligned, highly conscious and regenerative by nature. A world that, by virtue of its existence aims to restore Mother Nature’s various ecosystems and brings humanity back into the fold of being one with nature not apart from it.

I could go on about all the great things these development models can provide to the world, but I won’t. I won’t because today, I feel the collective pain of our humanity and our failure to become what we can be. I can longer ignore the existential threat that we have created for ourselves, and because of that, I find the theories that explain everything, failing to explain much of anything.

For weeks I’ve been asking myself: where does the Coronavirus fit on the Spiral or the Integral model? After researching writings on exogenous phenomena of this nature in both models and no convincing answers came, I thought, maybe the answer lies in the black void, the undefined and unarticulated black circular mass that is at the center of the Spiral and the Quadrants. This is the eye of the evolutionary impulse that began when single cell life form started billions of years ago. This required the expansion of my focus way beyond anything our models have articulated. This was a study of life that existed before we stood on our hind legs and proclaimed to all of existence “I am man!” Our developmental models labeled it the Prime Directive, which is a reference to evolutionary journey of all life forms that existed before the First level — the Beige system appeared 100,000 years ago. It is life that for 5 Billion years relied on the totality of cosmic evolutionary forces outside the influence of the human mind.

It is in the study of comparative evolutionary theories that I found some answers to my inquiry. Darwin’s theory of evolution explains 3.5 Billion years of life as an unyielding competition. It began with bacteria and single cell organisms that worked their way up the evolutionary ladder to mammals and Homo sapiens. The underlying theme in Darwinian theory is that evolution is determined by competition and through natural selection, random mutations and pure accidents, the fittest life forms survive and move on to perpetuate life in its next evolutionary form. The problem with that, as evolutionary biologist Bruce Lipton points out, is that when it comes to predicting the shape of the next evolutionary stage Darwinian theory says that because of the “random” claims in the theory, it is simply impossible to know.

It is in the work of evolutionary biologists like Bruce Lipton and Elisabet Sahtouris that I found more convincing answers for 3.5 billions years of evolution that we have dismissed since the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment. Both Lipton and Sahtouris believe that the game of evolution is more about cooperation than competition, and that it’s the balance between competition and cooperation that makes evolution possible. This is much like the oscillating movement of the Spiral, which led me to believe in the fractal nature of existence that includes one of the smallest fractals in all existence; our presence on the planet as defined by our developmental models.

Lipton describes the evolution of life along these lines: It took bacteria billions of years to evolve into a single cell organism. It took the single cell ameba 1.5 billion years to perfect being a single cell organism and when it reached the limits of it’s membrane, evolution stopped. To evolve to the next stage, single amebae (individuals) joined with other ameba to form simple colonies (community). Simple colonies became integrated colonies (intelligence of the collaborative whole) that share their intelligence through membrane awareness. This more complex community of organisms in turn grew to its limits before it began to form the next level organism (switching back to a higher complexity individualistic evolutionary system). This process continued through billions of years in leaps and jumps that define evolutionary biology. Lipton believes that humanity today is at the critical juncture where we can no longer evolve as individuals and that the next stage of evolution for us is a return to community where we identify not as individual humans, but as an intelligent, fully integrated organism called humanity.

To a culture driven by physical scientific evidence, Lipton’s assertion seems to be coming from the realms of spirituality and science fiction not from real science. To that, I say it is high time that we integrate all of our scientific knowledge back into the mysteries of life that fall outside the limits of today’s conventional scientific methods.

To bring this back full circle to the place of the Coronavirus in the evolution of life, there is a hypothesis in evolutionary biology called the “Virus first hypothesis” which basically says bacteria and viruses existed for billions of years before they differentiated themselves into single cell organisms that gave life to everything around us.

The Coronavirus cannot be about the failure of one value system or a specific culture. This is about the Universe reaching out from 5 billion years of evolution to remind us of our origins. We have repeatedly ignored messages from less threatening, defenseless sources about the damage we are causing to the totality of life that emerged since the universe came into existence. We became the most complex virus that was quietly killing everything around us. Yes, the Sixth Extinction is underway, and the Coronavirus became the necessary messenger to warm us of the dangers of our own ignorance. Our ignorance lies in our obsession to compete instead of cooperate with each other and with nature. Our ignorance is in our refusal to respect all forms life. Our ignorance lies in our persistence to quantify only that which is in our narrow worldview and call that science.

In the largest fractal of all fractals, at the center of the biggest spiral is the largest void, the one that existed long before we emerged as a species. It is an integral part of the largest evolutionary prime directive, and if we were to pinpoint the start of the biggest evolutionary journey, it points to viruses, the source of life before we determined what life was under the microscope.

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