The Ladder

The Ladder
The ladder is a metaphor for the levels of perspectives that individuals transcends through. These levels were identified by Dr. Clare W. Graves through cross-cultural study done from 1952 to 1959. This survey was the basis of Graves’ Emergent Cyclical Levels of Existence theory. The theory states that man will inevitably face conflicts on their current level which cannot be resolved using their current perspective. This unsolvable conflict forces the individual to transcend to the next (higher) level. The colors assigned to the levels were done so be Graves’ protégé David Cowen.

As individuals move up the levels (or ladder) their new understanding of their world includes their previous belief system. This is the important distinction between a transcendental move and a lateral move. Consider this example a letter is part of words and words are part of sentences. If one day you consider yourself the letter A and then a week later you consider yourself the letter R, you have not transcended but moved laterally. However, if you consider yourself the letter A and then a week later you consider yourself the word ‘apple’ your identification has transcended. A lower meme will sense that a higher meme is different but cannot fully understand it. Whereas a higher meme may consider a lower meme to be childish and wonder why it doesn’t evolve.

Until the 1950s psychology viewed human evolution from a flat perspective. Personality theories felt individuals assumed their personalities at birth and kept that personality for life (ie. Horoscope). It wasn’t until developmental psychology (Piaget) that researchers focused on how individuals evolve over their lifetime. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory is a great example of a transcendental model.

LevelsMeme Bell Chart Large
The levels outlined in the Graves/Cowen model are beige, purple, red, blue, orange, green, yellow, teal. Although teal is the highest level identified, the levels are thought to be open-ended. Individuals won’t typically display traits from only a single level (ie. an orange meme persons will have blue traits). This is expected as the higher levels contain the lower levels. An individual’s level refers to the highest level that person is able to integrate into their understanding.

Individuals of similar levels tend to group together and form societies. If you study a large group of individuals you’ll likely find that their levels are distributed in a bell curve fashion. For example, some will refer to a country as an orange meme society. This does not mean that every individual in that country is orange meme. An orange meme society refers to the center of bell curve of memes. So in an orange meme dominant society you will find red, blue, green and yellow meme individuals but it’s likely that their overall influence will be less than that of the orange. The power of memes is so powerful that even societies separated by thousands of miles that share a common dominant meme will seem amazing similar in the structure and beliefs.

Individuals evolve through the level of memes throughout their lifetime. However, there is no guarantee that an individual will reach the teal level in their lifetime.

In a society the meme levels are distributed along a bell curve. This bell curve evolves as individuals evolve and the society as a whole is forced to deal with new challenges. As a societies’ dominant meme shifts its institutions, beliefs and perceptions also shift.

As stated earlier, individuals are drawn to transcend up the memetic ladder when there are conflicts that can’t be solved on their current level. Until recently the concept of a meme hierarchy was little known. So as individuals felt compelled to transcend to the next higher meme they often rejected their current meme. The result is meme groups fighting each other. The lower group doesn’t understand the higher group and the higher groups demanding that the lower groups evolve. Researchers of meme hierarchies have concluded that the yellow meme is the first level with the ability to reconcile or understand the lower levels.

Always Shifting
The universe is designed to produce situations that promote meme transcendence. Like the shifting of plates that make up the earth’s crust, groups of memes are always sliding up the ladder. In a society it’s hard for an individual to get too far ahead or too far behind the pack.

Intention of the message
The objective of promoting this meme hierarchy is to give all of humanity a common language and another tool for personal evolution. Because the hierarchy is open ended it’s hoped that individual on the higher levels realized that they still have much to learn and treat lower level individuals with respect and compassion.

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