Customer comments and reviews from

David O'Gorman, Sr., Springfield, Illinois USA (

April 19, 1999

May be one of the most important books of the millennium.   The flaws in this book should not obscure the fact that this may be one of the most important books on human behavior of the millennium—probably even  ore important than even the authors realize. For this is the first book to link two of the most important concepts in human behavior of our time—the theories of psychologist Clare Graves and the concept of memes.

(I have been working with Graves' theories for about 25 years, and had the pleasure to collaborate with him on a consulting project in 1976. Regarding memes, I have been teaching about them for about 5 years.) 

Graves integrated "bio-psycho-and socio-" in a way that resulted in the identification of clearly distinct levels of existence, with each level having its own psychological and behavioral characteristics. This was a remarkable revolutionary achievement, especially in light of the subsequent work of others that corroborate the characteristics of each level. Beck and Cowan have conveniently provided excellent references for each level.

A second revolutionary idea comes from the 1973 work of Richard Dawkins, who while discussing the need that genes have to replicate themselves ("The Selfish Gene"), also posited the existence of another replicator, a unit of cultural transmission, which he dubbed a "meme" after the French word for imitation. After lying dormant for many years (except at Microsoft—see Richard Brodie's "Virus of the Mind") the concept of memes has arrived. And although I have been teaching about memes for five years, even I have underestimated their importance until recently, thanks to Susan Blackmore's book "The Meme Machine." Since Beck and Cowan are the first to write about the linkage of Graves' theories and memes, they are blazing the trail for what may become a major field of study in the future. 

And now for some nit picking. The authors use colors (Red, Blue, Orange, etc.) to identify the Gravesian levels. I understand why they did so, because I, too, have grappled with the issue of whether to use Graves' original nomenclature or some other scheme. I personally prefer Graves' original nomenclature, and believe colors have more disadvantages than advantages.  Somewhat more troublesome is the authors' tendency not to clearly differentiate Dr. Graves' theories from their own extensions of his work. While I have no trouble separating the two, the average reader would have trouble doing so. Nor am I comfortable with calling the various levels "vMEMES," because it implies that each Gravesian level is primarily memes as opposed to a complex combination of a neuro-chemical predisposition and memes that are compatible with it.

One major advantage of Graves' theories is that it allows for prediction of second tier characteristics based on the characteristics of corresponding first tier levels. The authors missed the opportunity to project what the "Coral" (Graves' C'P') level would look like. The authors also omitted consideration of where Graves got some of his memes. They don't mention the early influence of Gerald Heard ("The Five Ages of Man") or the work of Harvey, Hunt and Schroder ("Conceptual Systems and Personality Organization"). Aside from these relatively minor criticisms, Beck and Cowan's book is extremely important because it ushers in a new focus on Gravesian levels and memes—a terrific combination for understanding and predicting human behavior. Hopefully their book will stimulate academic research as well as a wide range of practical applications.

A reader from Melbourne, Australia , March 25, 1999

Stunning Guide To Revitalising Teams And Communities

Based on the 'Bio-Psycho-Social' Systems framework of Dr. Clare W. Graves, authors Dr. Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan have developed a powerful tool for revitalising individuals, business and sporting teams, and communities. This book is truly 'third-way' thinking for the new millennium. 

Beck and Cowan fuse many different elements together into a powerful and *practical* synthesis, including the latest scientific research from neuro-biology, multiple intelligences, memetics, paleo-psychology, values systems design, and various schools of business management. Like grasping Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), this initially takes some personal commitment and intensive self-study, but the longterm benefits of Beck and Cowan's lucid comments are well worth the initial effort. The models are part of a wider 'Third Culture' paradigm that many academics and cultural theorists firmly believe will become a major force within empirical mainstream science over the next fifteen years.  The book also has an invaluable extensive reading list covering the major conceptual theorists and models across many disciplines. It covers over thirty years of pioneering academic research and subsequent real-world application.

Spiral Dynamics principles have been successfully applied to a wide variety of situations,including blue-chip corporations, sports teams, and high-level government institutions, and the authors have consulted with many international institutions, including the Clinton (U.S.) and Blair (U.K.) administrations, the World Future Society, the London School of Economics, and the EC Committee for the Future. Beck is highly regarded for his 'behind-the-scenes' geo-political work since the early 1980s in South Africa dismantling apartheid.

Like the 'Six Thinking Hats' of Edward de Bono, the controversial 'crazy wisdom' of Tom Peters, or the leadership principles of Stephen Covey, a knowledge of Spiral Dynamics will add a powerful real-time diagnostic tool to your perceptual engineering toolkit. In an increasingly hyper-real postmodern world, Spiral Dynamics principles will enable you to outwit your competitors, gain an understanding of the 'psychological DNA' of your customers and market niche, and promote effective and efficient high-performance teams and encourage leadership within your organisation.

Bernhard H. Schmitz, Germany, December 17, 1998 (

The best insights into reality

Outstanding! This is not only one of the few books I have read several times, this is the one I take almost always with me on travel (other people take the Bible). As a consultant, I often enter new organisations, and this book provides the most valuable insights to read the organisations and the individuals within, where they are, and where they go. It shows you very fast the meta-structures behind their values, what they expect from you, and what you can expect. It is also very useful, when you are interested in (inter-)national politics or cross cultural interactions. Or take it as a mirror to reflect your own perceptional and behavorial flexibility. The Book explains why and how the peoples values and views of realities are influenced by their life conditions. Included: conditions of change, how should who manage whom to do what, leadership packages, designing natural systems, motivational structures, etc. Vivid examples and explanations of each vMEME pattern convince you instantaneously. WARNING: Once The Book has opened your eyes, you can not close them again.

Dr. Caleb Rosado, President, ROSADO CONSULTING for Change  in Human Systems, McKinleyville, CA , February 17, 1998 (

This is the "Bible" of Spiral Dynamics, a bio-psycho-social-spiritual framework for understanding human development and the emergence of human systems. It unveils the hidden codes and dynamic, spiral forces that shape human nature, create global diversities, and drive social change. The authors, Beck and Cowan, are the best interpreters of the pioneering ideas of the late Dr. Clare W. Graves, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Union College, NY, whose Value Systems theory of levels of human existence is  the basis of this work. If you want to know everything about Spiral Dynamics, memes, and vMEMES, this is where you start. The best book on understanding the spiral forces of human development. A must read to become a Spiral Wizard. Highly recommended.


Copyright 1999, The National Values Center, Inc. All Rights Reserved