Rob Cobbold is the founder of a global mind-heart-spirit movement called Conscious Evolution. Rob’s work focuses on the higher evolution of human beings and as a global conscious structure — indeed, as the entire human family we are. His upcoming podcast will bring in guests who talk about this greater perspective and what it means for us. Catch him on his Twitter at conscious_evo.
Humans and the entire cosmos seem to be evolving into endlessly more complex systems. Think about when you were ten years old and what you knew; now you can see that with each year, more complexity on your worldview has become accumulated based on a vast number of personal experiences, education, and social interactions. Of course, some peoples’ worldviews do not necessarily change that much over a lifetime. However, it has become easier to communicate across the globe with enhanced technology and travel, so open-mindedness is coming to a peak. (We’re not there yet, but my feeling is good that we are co-reaching this stage of development).
This is where spiral dynamics comes in. Spiral dynamics is an observational “theory” that Ken Wilbur and others have created to explain how humans evolve beyond biology. The stages are ordered by colour:
Beige for survival: Babies are in this phase along with some animals. Those in poverty and war-torn areas can be here. Also, when extreme conditions arise requiring sacrifice of moral boundaries in order to stay alive push otherwise comfortable people into this phase.
Purple for security: Tribalism is at the root, where survival is taken care of but the needs of the tribe have to be kept sancrosanct. Ritual, magic, and patterned behaviour make sure the tribe is safe and grounded. Organised religions fall here.
Red for relentless power: The red phase comes in when purple gets cocky. Red societies realise their security is met but they still see a threat from somewhere out there, including other tribs. Red will do whatever it takes to gain more control, including murder. Powerful and ruthless dictators are here along with government officials who care only about their own interests and not their brethren.
Blue for nationalism and rule: Blue is more civilised than red, because it has learned it can use the power of the mind and subtle tactics to keep order and control. Rather than rule by sword, it can also rule by manipulation and word. Blue societies are highly ordered so that members keep their belief. Laws, regulations, religious sectarianism, absolute right and wrong / black and white thinking fall here.
Orange for individualism and success: Individuals are seen as key players who rely on themselves for success. Egocentrism, self-image, and mental strategising to gain prestige, fame, or wealth lie here. Goals, achievement, and planning rule orange. This is the current phase the western world is in on the whole.
Green for cohesive community and environmental concerns: When orange begins to notice there’s not much to get ahead of, it will seek the green phase to worry about other people and the natural world. Individuals organise themselves into communities and express themselves freely and compromise on what the other wants and needs. Egocentric behaviour still governs green, as it does not yet see the larger picture of the whole; it still relies on small tribal behaviours within an in-group, such as political liberals or a specific charity organisation.
Yellow for holistic integration: Yellow is the phase we want to see in our lifetime. We realise that human beings are not the centre of the universe but a cohesive part of the universe. Strategies for picking up the pieces from the other phases will be thought-through (such as un-doing the damge from the industrial revolution) with the power of intelligence, working together, extreme open-mindedness, and taking all sides into account. It is like holographic or diamond-thinking, looking at all angles and stepping in one anothers’ shoes. Creativity and invention and innovation without profit rule. When yellow makes a mistake, they admit it wholeheartedly and move on to a better way of behaving.
Turquoise for compassion and harmony: Turquoise is the highest level we can imagine thus far. It is the total integration of all it has learned from the other stages and is the embodiment of peace and harmony on earth and universal systems. When body, speech, mind, spirit, and all the factors that make a person come together in perfect synchronicity, then we have this stage. It’s likely the garden of Eden but nobody knows yet!
Spiral dynamics takes a step back and looks at how complex humans and their conceptual creations have been and can be in the future. This is one way of looking at human evolution in the new sense of the word. As complexity increases, so does novelty. When novelty gets boring, then peace and harmony will be the outcome.
Did you ever get that sinking feeling that this is the true purpose of life?
What is true non-judgement? First of all, it is love at the root of all things. Love for all experience, love for every situation, love for each landscape you find yourself in, and love for your emotions, reactions, and actions. Then there’s love for other people you come into contact with daily.
Other people are not “other” — they are YOU. You created everything you see here on earth and every interpretation, no matter how subtle or gross. So owning them all, including what we call “evil” will help you move past delusisons and unnecessary pain, frustration, and avoidance. There is nothing that is not you. So each time you come in contact again and again, do not hurt yourself.
Secondly, if we still see other people and their behaviour that we dislike or are judgeing, then we can ask ourself if what we assume is actually true. The Buddha and Jesus were great role models for teaching non-judgement; they hung out with harlots, they hung out with regular people, and they hung out with the most high spiritually. It didn’t matter, because they knew that form was not the reality.
Form is simply part of materiality that we should use to express the divine.
We should be expressing Nibbana; Bhakti; Love; Kindness; Understanding; Reflection; Creativity; Flowing; and Foresight. Noble qualities!
If you read the Buddhist suttas or go back to my past 3 episodes, I have uploaded brilliant suttas to begin to understand the Dhamma and the Buddha talks about form and the truth about form.
Om Namo Buddhay and Namaste!
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Varanasi in the Game Refuge at Isipatana. There he addressed the group of five monks:
“There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth. Which two? That which is devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects: base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable; and that which is devoted to self-affliction: painful, ignoble, unprofitable. Avoiding both of these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathagata — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.
“And what is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding? Precisely this Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.
“Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress: Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.
“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.
“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress: the remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving.
“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: precisely this Noble Eightfold Path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of stress.’ Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This noble truth of stress is to be comprehended.’ Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before:’ This noble truth of stress has been comprehended.’
“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of the origination of stress’… ‘This noble truth of the origination of stress is to be abandoned’  … ‘This noble truth of the origination of stress has been abandoned.’
“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of the cessation of stress’… ‘This noble truth of the cessation of stress is to be directly experienced’… ‘This noble truth of the cessation of stress has been directly experienced.’
“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress’… ‘This noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress is to be developed’… ‘This noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress has been developed.’ 
“And, monks, as long as this — my three-round, twelve-permutation knowledge & vision concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be — was not pure, I did not claim to have directly awakened to the right self-awakening unexcelled in the cosmos with its deities, Maras, & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk. But as soon as this — my three-round, twelve-permutation knowledge & vision concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be — was truly pure, then I did claim to have directly awakened to the right self-awakening unexcelled in the cosmos with its deities, Maras & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk. Knowledge & vision arose in me: ‘Unprovoked is my release. This is the last birth. There is now no further becoming.'”
That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the group of five monks delighted at his words. And while this explanation was being given, there arose to Ven. Kondañña the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye: Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.
And when the Blessed One had set the Wheel of Dhamma in motion, the earth devas cried out: “At Varanasi, in the Game Refuge at Isipatana, the Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by brahman or contemplative, deva, Mara or God or anyone in the cosmos.” On hearing the earth devas’ cry, the devas of the Four Kings’ Heaven took up the cry… the devas of the Thirty-three… the Yama devas… the Tusita devas… the Nimmanarati devas… the Paranimmita-vasavatti devas… the devas of Brahma’s retinue took up the cry: “At Varanasi, in the Game Refuge at Isipatana, the Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by brahman or contemplative, deva, Mara, or God or anyone at all in the cosmos.”
So in that moment, that instant, the cry shot right up to the Brahma worlds. And this ten-thousand fold cosmos shivered & quivered & quaked, while a great, measureless radiance appeared in the cosmos, surpassing the effulgence of the devas.
Then the Blessed One exclaimed: “So you really know, Kondañña? So you really know?” And that is how Ven. Kondañña acquired the name Añña-Kondañña — Kondañña who knows.
Courtesy of Access to Insight
How can we know that the spiritual teachings we are interested in learning are genuine or will lead us off some beaten track?
Firstly, the goal of the teaching, the book, or the guru/teacher has to be the same goal you have in mind. Without a goal, we are groping in the dark and can end up absolutely anywhere.
Really reflect on why you want to take up a spiritual practice. Here are some reasons I have come across:
- Simply following the advice of friends, family, co-workers, or authority figures based on a social and cultural contexts. (For example, “Jnana, you have to try mindfulness practice because it’s given me so many benefits!” or “Say your prayers or you’re going to Hell”)
- Out of sheer curiosity
- Egoic necessity: collecting knowledge to impress others or oneself, the accumulation of merit/wealth/relationships/etc. by reciting “special mantras”, doing “special meditations” or performing magic
- Recognising an inner longing for what the material cannot provide and thus searching for it, whether that be God or otherwise
- Liberation from the wheel of birth and death (suffering) and/or the wish that others also be free from birth and death
- Collecting interesting experiences and states of mind; consciousness expansion
- Learning, personal growth, and self-help
- Or, you’re a journalist who just wants an interesting story…
So, with the goal in mind, investigate if the end goal of your chosen teaching matches your goal. This might sound silly, but it’s absolutely crucial.
Secondly, recognise reaching your goal is a process and is not figured out overnight. Yes, there are spontaneously awakened beings who did not have to do anything or “simply got it” one day with minimal effort, but if you are still seeking, then you are still in the process. As we know from our own lives, reaching goals can take weeks, months, and years to achieve.
As with any goal, including spiritual goals, there will be setbacks. Let’s apply this most obviously to losing 10 kilos of fat. The first setback is that it doesn’t happen instantly. “It takes months?! WHAT?!” The second setback is cheating on your diet or missing a day at the gym. Another setback could be giving up completely or changing course so that you gain 10 kilos instead of lose them. Because we’re not perfect and we are still learning and growing during the process of figuring out how to reach our goal, we will have setbacks and challenges. Guaranteed.
So be wary of any teacher or teaching that makes it absolutely simple and easy. Because it’s not. Losing 10 kilos if you’ve never done it befire or relaxing into meditation if you’re over-stressed is absolutely difficult and challenging — nevermind figuring out all the secrets of the universe or becoming 100% liberated from suffering forever! Spiritual liberation is, well… the most ambitious and arduous pursuit on the face of the earth. I can’t stress this enough!
So we have created our goal and now have a way to get there that we trust. What next?
There must be some evidence that it works from your own experience. Attaining spiritual wisdom is unlike any other form of learning that we know of. It is trans-rational and goes against the grain of logic and the world. A good rule of thumb is that experience means that it does not come from memory or recollection; it is not an abstraction/concept and is not imaginary; and it is not based on general knowledge or anothers’ supposed experience whatsoever.
A good example of experience is, “I can see the sun.” It is experienced by you, directly, without memory/recollection, abstract conceptions, and nobody else has to show or tell you that. However, don’t confuse knowledge with experience. They are two separate entities. I will demonstrate this here:
A baby cannot add 1+1 together and has no recollection that the answer is 2. If that child is left not knowing anything about math, then 1+1=2 is never knowledge. Even if the child does learn that 1+1=2, it is still an abstract concept coming from the imagination. “But,” you might say, “it’s true and I can experience it because I know it. It’s a fact!”. Yes, it is a logical fact, but it does not come from your own experience. If you’re not a mathemetician, you have no idea how or why 1+1=2. “It just does.” And spiritual experience is not concerned with abstract verifications, claims, imaginations, or blindly trusting others’ claims.
The accumulation of knowledge in the form of information and abstraction that the brain mechanically spews back out is not and never was the goal of any true spiritual tradition anywhere in the world.
The mind is just a tool that recalls and learns, and healthy people can use it in similar ways. You want to learn Yoga Asanas? Okay, many people can do that. You want to learn quantum physics? Okay, less people do that, but it is still in the realm of possibility for those with healthy minds. Therefore, identification with the mind’s concepts will not lead to spiritual liberation: just because a teacher showed you Yoga Asanas does not mean you will experience the full impact of the purpose of Yoga.
The bottom line is if you’re experiencing what the teacher or teachings are said you are supposed to experience — then you are on the right track!
Why, then, do we have mind-centred/mind-made paths and teachings that lead us to the trans-rational?
Because most human beings are used to it. Since childhood, we have been conditioned by other ignorant human beings about whoand how we are supposed to be but were never taught who we really are. So we are not clear yet. Teachings are like feather-dusters to show us the truth about our own mental scope: our emotions, fears, beliefs, goals, thoughts, and general viewpoint of our own conscious experience and the world — then, when we are honest about all of this, we human beings can begin to experience the trans-rational.
Giving without getting anything in return is trans-rational. How is it logical that you would give away your thing, if it belongs to you, for no good reason? It’s not. It’s other-worldly. We have to learn this, and we will struggle and fail many times in our own psychological mind when we have this basic conception of me and my thing. This is precisely why there is a path and there are teachings: to bring us back on the good boat.
The authentic and original teachings of the Buddha make it absolutely clear about the number one goal, the trials and tribulations on reaching it, and that experience is the most important so that you can verify for yourself and not just blindly believe. He was against Vedic rituals, for example, when they did not produce results and pointed this out in debates with Brahmans many times.
He also admitted the 8-fold path is a fabrication!
The Buddha, too, admits every single word uttered from his mouth is only “a raft” to be abandoned when we no longer need it. We do this all the time with: when we change jobs, for example, the skills from previous jobs are abandoned because we no longer need them.
Just for fun, I’ll leave you with this real-life analogy on how spiritual teachings function:
The Buddhist path is akin to building a beautiful mansion from scratch: first, we have to imagine the mansion (our goal) and then start to build it. The first step is Right View, which is like making the blueprints from the awareness that we want to end up with a mansion. Then we have Right Intention, knowing that we will be there physically, mentally, and emotionally to build it. Next, we lay concrete and put up scaffolding so the structure starts to take shape: Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, & Right Effort. In the final stages, the structure becomes more complex, nuanced, and beautiful. We paint, furnish, add lighting, artworks, and decorations: Right Mindfulness & Right Concentration. Finally, we have the goal: the mansion or Liberation.