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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Arnold

What Do the ARTS Look Like from Each Stage of Spiral Dynamics? | Part 2: Orange through Turquoise

What do Spiral Dynamics stages Orange, Green, Yellow, and Turquoise look like in the arts? This video features an overview of each stage plus many examples of each stage as it shows up in the arts.

Spiral Dynamics is a developmental model that describes the various stages of evolution that humans go through both individually and collectively, and which can help us understand how the growth of consciousness affects all areas of life, including the arts.

Learning about how each stage shows up in the arts can help you grow and develop as a person, and then make art from that more developed place. Doing so will benefit your artistic life at all levels: how you feel, how you create, and the impact your art has on your audiences. The best starting place to gain these benefits is simply to learn about developmental models like Spiral Dynamics and begin applying them to your own life.

Watch Part 1 of this series, which includes Purple, Red, and Blue, here:

The description of each stage includes the following:

- Basics, including an overview of its worldview and sphere of concern, core values, motto, and percentage of world population at this stage

- How a society at the stage views the arts and artists in general

- A selection of specific manifestations in the arts

- How the stage views mistakes and success

- A list of examples

00:00 Picking up where we left off in my previous video

01:10 Orange

06:19 Green

11:11 Yellow

18:24 Turquoise

24:30 How you might feel about each stage depends on your own stage

This video features an excerpt from Chapter 7 "Spiral Dynamics & the Arts" of my upcoming book. Read the full excerpt from this video below.

Be among the first to know about my upcoming book "Soulforce Arts: The Vital Role of Musicians & Artists in Creating a More Beautiful World" by signing up for my mailing list at

Joseph Arnold Violinist, Alexander Technique Teacher, Director of the Soulforce Arts Institute



Competitive, entrepreneurial, being the best. Motto: “I manifest myself through artful calculation.”

Basics. Orange is all about achievement, autonomy, and a focus on improvement. Its worldview is that the world is full of possibilities for improvement and to make things better. Morally, Orange is individualistic and because its circle of concern extends to all humans, it is the first stage to recognize universal human rights. Orange is at its best in its innovation, curiosity, autonomy, pragmatism, reliance on rationality over mindless dogma, and entrepreneurial spirit. Orange is at its worst in its lack of emotional connection, opportunism, self-promotion, and lack of concern for others or the environment. Orange first developed about 300 years ago and currently comprises 25%-30% of the world’s population.

How society views the arts. Orange societies see the emergence of secular arts. Artists are seen as individuals who are striving for success in their field, whether through seeking status, money, fame, or otherwise “making their mark.” Orange arts institutions are driven by the bottom line, and tend to focus on sales, technical advancements, and breaking with stuffy traditions.

Contemporary manifestations in the arts. In contemporary arts contexts, Orange shows up as a focus on individual achievement, enthusiasm, a desire for success through innovation, competitions, desire for profit, “showy” repertoire, glitz and glamor, gaining social or professional status via technical virtuosity, a focus on the monetary or legal aspects of the arts industry, self-development, a focus on technique that more-or-less ignores the heart, science-based practice or warm-up methods, the use of trial and error to achieve the best results, pragmatically achieving results in order to move ahead, the development of talent, teaching as mentorship, "SMART goals," trial and error, a flexible and fun attitude, achievement awards, and the use of games in teaching to achieve results.

Mistakes and success. To Orange, mistakes are irritating glitches on the road to self-improvement, for which there is no longer as strong a moral valence. Orange understands that mistakes happen, but also tends to denigrate people who make mistakes as “losers.” Someone at Orange, upon seeing a mistake, might say, “I don’t like the way you did that.” For Orange, success belongs to those who take risks and who are self-reliant. Orange is very focused on success and achievement in general. The primary emotions around mistakes are fear and anger.

Examples in the arts. The modern recording industry, the use of the arts in advertisements and other corporate contexts, the idea of popular art and music, the emergence of for-profit art, the idea of arts as entertainment, artists as celebrities, Nicolo Paganini, “The Flight of the Bumblebee,” concertos, the use of perspective, anything science- or research-based, the idea that the arts are “good for the brain,” competitions, anything high-tech, Techno, Bebop, Muzak, photorealism, technical drawings, copyright laws, the question: “But will it sell?”, top 40 radio, electronic amplification, a focus on an artist’s image or brand, the use of profanity in lyrics, comedy as a profession, and selling out.


Group focus, ideals, social. Motto: “I sacrifice myself now to be accepted by the group”

Basics. Green is all about peace, love, inclusivity, and sensitivity. Its worldview is that the world is a habitat where humanity can find love and purpose through connection, sharing, and caring. Morally, Green is collectivist and its circle of concern extends to all living beings and to the most marginalized people. Green is at its best in its sensitivity, compassion, multiculturalism, egalitarianism, idealism, and tolerance. Green is at its worst in its woolly-headedness, patronizing attitude, tendency towards ideological fervor, fear of setting boundaries, and—paradoxically—intolerance of intolerance. Green first developed about 150 years ago and currently comprises 10% of the world’s population.

How society views the arts. Green “Postmodern” societies view the arts as mediums of self-expression and tend to denigrate technique, tradition, and—especially—achievement. Green societies emphasize non-hierarchical and multi-cultural arts contexts, and elevate heart over technique (but not always, as is seen with post-tonal music or abstract art).

Contemporary manifestations in the arts. In contemporary arts contexts, Green focuses on expressing feelings, building consensus, shared experiences, breaking down barriers, questioning all traditions, views the development of technique as potentially oppressive and exclusionary, fears appearing to show off, displays a “Just feel it, man” attitude, practicing and creating as an opportunity for self-expression and an investment in the self, an idealistic approach, the idea of an artistic practice leading to personal growth and development, a greater social awareness, a focus on feeling good, a preference for collaboration rather than competition, a preference to engage in “explorations” instead of “exercises,” teaching as mutual understanding and discovery rather than a didactic, one-way transmission of knowledge (e.g. when the teacher says “In every lesson, I learn just as much as my students”), a sensitivity to different learning styles and abilities, including emotions as a part of the learning process, being a “great listener,” an ability of the teacher to show vulnerability, putting things into perspective, participation awards, wellness-oriented pedagogy, and a heart-centered approach.

Mistakes and success. For Green, mistakes are viewed with ambivalence. On the one hand, Green can clearly tell when something is wrong according to traditional standards, but it also tends to overlook mistakes due to not wanting to hurt anybody’s feelings. When seeing a mistake, someone at Green might say, “That’s OK! Let’s just try again.” For Green, success happens when everyone feels good or has been included. Green is also the first stage to view mistakes as potentially creative opportunities. Green’s primary emotions related to mistakes are fear, shame, and to some extent, curiosity.

Examples in the arts. Drum circles, jam sessions, non-judgemental improvisation classes, multicultural arts events, song circles, atonal and post-tonal music, John Cage, Jackson Pollack, Free Jazz, the use of social media, “process-oriented” pedagogy such as Method Acting, the whole genre of world music, atonality, abstract and impressionist painting, improv theater, the play “Waiting for Godot,” Authentic Movement, anything mindful, anything New-Age, anything with spiritual trappings (incense, candles, robes, crystal singing bowls, etc.), arts activism, civil rights-era music, electronic dance music, raves, Burning Man, flash mobs, intuitive drawing, psychedelic art, Phish, the Beatles, and the album “Kind of Blue.”


Visionary, systems thinking, synergy. Motto: “I manifest myself, but not at the cost of others.”

Basics. Yellow is all about systems-thinking, seeing the “bigger picture,” and self-actualization. Yellow’s worldview is that the world is a complex, self-organizing system and that humanity’s role is to create integral solutions for our collective problems. Morally, Yellow is individualistic and its circle of concern extends to the entire earth, and it can see how its own point of view builds on those of the past, and how the consequences of its actions extend deep into the future. Yellow is at its best in its creative innovation, visionary outlook, ability to set aside egoic concerns, ability to resolve paradoxes and polarities, non-judgementality, nuance, ability to discern what is relevant or irrelevant, and access to universal consciousness. Yellow is at its worst in its overemphasis on complicated intellectual systems and maps, perceived aloofness, and tendency to get lost in its compelling daydreams. Yellow first developed about 50 years ago and currently comprises about 1%-5% of the world’s population.

How society views the arts. Yellow societies view the arts as an emergent property of a society that are both a cause and effect of that society's evolution into greater levels of complexity and consciousness. In this view, artists are agents of individual and collective self-actualization, playing many vital integrating functions such as bringing people together and tapping into the self-healing power of the body. Yellow artists are the first to fully integrate what had previously seemed separate: head and heart, body and mind, and the personal and the collective.

Contemporary manifestations in the arts. In contemporary arts contexts, Yellow views performance as an act of the devotion to beauty that is an expression of the whole performer (body, mind, soul, and spirit), the full integration of emotion and technique, the ability to continuously sense and monitor the body during the creative act, the ability to include and adjust to the energy of the audience in real-time, the creation of purpose-driven projects, the use of multiple forms of technology to create an engrossing experience, valuing knowledge and competency over status or rank, the disappearance of fear due to growing beyond approval-seeking, the idea of practicing and creating as acts of self-actualization, an approach to teaching that takes account of the students' developmental stage, the pursuit of learning for its own sake, an attitude of flexibility, spontaneity, and functionality, the creation of new models and systems to help students better understand, practice, and grow, the balance of well-being and excellence, the ability to resolve paradoxes (e.g., how to instill internal motivation in students without forcing them to practice), open-mindedness, clarity, constructive criticism, and the ability to make choices based on a larger context or transcendent vision.

Mistakes and success. Yellow no longer views mistakes as problems to be avoided, but as genuine learning opportunities. Albert Einstein’s quote, “A person who never makes mistakes has never tried anything new,” is highly characteristic of Yellow’s open acceptance of mistakes as a part of a life-long learning process, as is the common jazz musician’s advice to “make it sound like you meant to do it.” For Yellow, success belongs to the most competent, who are rewarded for taking the right approach or process, and not necessarily for getting the right answers. Yellow’s primary emotions around mistakes are frustration and curiosity.

Examples in the arts Yellow is still fairly new, so there aren’t many examples in the arts, but here are a few: The use of the Alexander Technique in the arts, the use of the arts for eliciting certain states of mind, El Sistema, The Society for Artistic Research in Weimar, David Lynch’s film pedagogy, Free Play by Stephen Nakmanovitch, Goedel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstader, the ability to draw on many styles for use at appropriate moments, the full integration of internet-age technology into the creative process, Star Trek (each race is based on a different Spiral Dynamics level), Gandalf the Grey from The Lord of the Rings, and the Soulforce Arts Approach.


Holistic, wholeview, cosmic consciousness. Motto: I manifest myself for the benefit of existential reality.”

Basics. Turquoise is all about the interbeing of self and cosmos, reverence for all of life, transpersonal perspectives, and experiencing the wholeness of existence through mind and spirit. Its worldview is that the world is a single intricately balanced organism that is now in jeopardy in humanity’s hands. Morally, Turquoise is collectivist and its circle of concern extends to the entire universe, and is primarily concerned with participation in the harmony of all things through all time. Historically, Turquoise can be seen at the core of many of the great wisdom traditions and in the teachings of certain luminaries and sages, but as a matter of a more widespread phenomenon, it is emerging only now. Turquoise is at its best in its focus on searching for pragmatic planetary solutions that serve all life on earth, its relentless compassion, its ability to see the world and cosmos as one, and its effortlessness. Turquoise is at its worst in its other-worldly qualities, when it gets stuck in spiritual consciousness, and when it is unable to become grounded in practical, day-to-day realities. It currently comprises .01% of the world’s population.

How society views the arts. Turquoise societies are extremely rare, but those that exist view the arts as manifestations of spirit and vehicles for mystical union with all there is. From this perspective, artists act as agents of healing and harmony by participating in the flow of life force energy that runs through them. Turquoise artists serve a greater cause, are energetically attuned to all life, are community-oriented, and can, as William Blake put it,“???To hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour, to see the world in a grain of sand, and the heavens in a wildflower.”

Contemporary manifestations in the arts. In contemporary arts contexts, Turquoise shows up as the view that the creative act is a meditation, contemplation, or prayer (e.g. “praying music” more than “playing music.”), the use of art to elevate the consciousness of all humanity, the transmission of the artists's state of consciousness to the audience, a focus on the transcendent and the sublime, flow states and other altered states of consciousness, complete effortlessness, being vessel for your art, the view that art facilitates the evolution of the self, the integration of instinctive, cognitive, emotional, energetic, and spiritual modes of learning, technical and expressive skill that verges on the miraculous, the integration of scientific and spiritual approaches, the “freedom on the other side of complexity,” the view of teaching as a process of guiding students into humanity’s deepest wisdom, the ability to call on the full potential of healing power of the arts, the ability to integrate and use information from any source, the ability to bring the past alive and show students or audiences their place in the grand scheme of things, a child-like playfulness, an attitude of spontaneity, humility, and a light-heartedness that comes from deeply seeing the natural flow of things.

Mistakes and success. For Turquoise, the framing of “mistakes vs. success” seems simplistic and naive. That being said, Turquoise can clearly and penetratingly see what works and doesn’t work, and has compassion for the pain of not reaching one’s goals. Turquoise views mistakes as creative gifts from the universe, no longer assigning praise or blame to the separate self. Turquoise also has the ability to “Jiu-Jitsu” any problems or challenges that come along, turning what at first seemed like a mistake into a success. Turquoise experiences feedback from the “outer” world as reflections of the “inner” world: when seeing that things aren’t going as desired, Turquoise will ask, “What is it in me that doesn’t want to reach this goal?” Success for Turquoise goes beyond seeking the benefit of any one individual or society, beyond any polarized worldview, and happens when individual or collective action is aligned with the enrichment of life itself. The primary emotions related to mistakes are curiosity, compassion, and the joy of discovery.

Examples in the arts. Many of the most transcendent works of art, even those created hundreds of years ago, exhibit Turquoise characteristics. Examples include Chartres Cathedral, the Temple of Luxor, the Taj Mahal, Bach’s Mass in C minor, the late Beethoven string quartets, Ravi Shankar, John Coltrane’s album A Love Supreme, devotional art and music aimed at industrial-grade spiritual practice (as opposed to faddish, New-Agey pseudo-practices), Music and the Soul by Kurt Leland, The Mysticism of Sound and Music by Hazrat Inayat Khan, Alex Grey’s paintings, Cory Ench’s digital art, the film Koyaanisqatsi, M.C. Escher, Buckminster Fuller, the great wisdom tradition texts that blend spirituality and art such as the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, and the poetry of Jalaluddin Rumi, as well as the Soulforce Arts Approach.

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