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The Spiral Dynamics of “A Christmas Carol”

[T]he wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for.

marley's ghostIn Stave One of “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens makes this observation in reference to him not knowing why the phrase “dead as a door-nail” aptly describes the extent to which Jacob Marley is actually dead. From a Spiral Dynamics viewpoint, this observation expresses a very Stage Blue sentiment. That is, it not only expresses reverence for the wisdom of ancestors but it also connects reverence for this wisdom to the Country’s well being. Of course, the term country could easily be replaced with tribe, race, religion or culture. In Stage Blue, these identities are of primary importance as is the belief that one’s identity is supreme and the beliefs and values of the identity are true. This naturally implies that other identities are inferior and the beliefs of other identities are false.

Of course, Charles Dickens lived in 19th century England during the industrial revolution. This was a time when the country in which he lived was transitioning from Spiral Dynamics Stage Blue to Stage Orange. You might say that it had one foot firmly in each stage. Religion at the time still had great influence over the culture, the white race was supreme in England and increasingly so around the world. At the same time Stage Orange capitalism, scientism and liberalism were taking on a larger role. The Stage Green doubt of white supremacy had not yet formed in the European consciousness or in the consciousness of Europe’s daughters (North America, South Africa, Australia etc.). But Stage Green does play a role in the story.

Indeed, the Stage Green sentiments of compassion for one’s fellow man are certainly strong themes in the story. In Stave One, the ghost of Jacob Marley rejects capitalism’s negative effects on the poor and disenfranchised by exclaiming:

“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

In Stave Three, the most outwardly judgmental of the three spirits who visit Scrooge after Marley’s ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Present, chastises Scrooge for thinking that the religious authorities correctly represented divine Truth in all aspects:

“There are some upon this earth of yours … who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived.”

The “us” to which the spirit refers are spirits and the divine in general. Later, the same spirit chastises Scrooge’s political beliefs as to the government social policies of his day:

“Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

GCPHere we see a rejection of Stage Blue religion and Stage Orange capitalism. However, it is probably safe to assume that the “common welfare” to which the Marley’s ghost refers applied more strictly to his own country and not so much to mankind as a whole. In the same respect, the Ghost of Christmas Present’s criticism (in Dickens’ mind) probably assumed the supremacy of white Europeans and the truth of Christianity. Whereas, to our more modern sentiments (generally speaking) which have been more heavily influenced by Stage Green would interpret the ghosts’ references to have a more universal application. In this respect we can see the still strong influence of Stage Blue in the telling of the story.

When we speak of applying the principles of Spiral Dynamics to cultures we are necessarily speaking in general terms. The culture from which Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” was one transitioning from Blue to Orange with some influence of Green. By contrast, our culture at present can be described largely as transitioning from from Orange to Green with a waning influence of Blue. Within this larger dynamic, each individual can be described as embodying different stages in different amounts. Moreover, there are pockets of people who are influenced by various stages to greater and lesser degrees. For example, modern day San Francisco is more heavily Stage Green than is say Houston, Texas generally speaking.

A recent blog post on the (very Stage Blue) Orthosphere entitled “The Modern Cosmopolitan Cult Tends to the Cult of Moloch” is a very clear example of a Stage Blue mindset describing the Stage Orange and Green culture in which we live. The post argues that modern Stage Green notions of toleration effectively cannot tolerate Stage Blue notions of intolerance. From the Stage Blue perspective there is no higher stage than Stage Blue. Stage Orange and Green are errors. In fact, the entire Spiral Dynamics model is an error and salvation lies in a return to Stage Blue. Obviously, a Stage Blue person would not employ this terminology to describe this idea.

According to the Spiral Dynamics model, however, it is impossible to revert back to a prior stage except in extremely traumatic circumstances and this reversion tends to be temporary in nature. No, each stage is a necessary precursor to the stage that follows. Each stage solves the problems of the previous stage and creates problems that must, in turn, be solved by the next stage. From this perspective, we can see that the story of “A Christmas Carol” describes Ebeneezer Scrooge’s transition from Stage Orange to Stage Green. From a larger perspective, “A Christmas Carol” is an interesting time capsule within the larger Spiral Dynamic.

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