Observation of human evolution shows that different aspects of human nature do not evolve in the same way and at the same speed. Nowadays, it is possible to make intellectual progress very fast. Schools and educational systems allow for intellectual development hindered only by the individual capabilities of each individual. Apart from intellectual development, numerous systems of spiritual development that have appeared lately also allow for fast and unconstrained spiritual development. However, systems of intellectual and spiritual development will not automatically produce emotional maturity, no matter how progressive they are. For the longest time, academic knowledge was considered to bring about emotional maturity automatically. Later, this was discovered not to be accurate, and many scientists and artists have dedicated their work to unveiling and demystifying intellectuals, together with the society based on the glorification of reason and intellect. That kind of critique became so widespread with time that the term “intellectual” almost became a synonym for rigidity and feebleness, impotence, and incompetence.

Today, the same thing is happening with spirituality, where people have started believing that this kind of knowledge automatically brings about emotional maturity and that persons who have gone through specific exercises or techniques and reached spiritual experiences represent embodiments of wisdom and emotional stability. However, we witness seemingly unexplainable irrational behaviors of many spiritual leaders, teachers, and trainers. Some of them are obsessed with money, some with sex, and others with their own greatness. Some of those “teachers” have more problems than their clients or show signs of extraordinarily childish and immature behaviors that disappoint people who work or hang out with them.

For example, one person is leading a spiritual organization which is, among other things, based on the celibacy of its members and financed with voluntary contributions. He suddenly marries his young followers, becomes obsessed with sex, and buys a fancy house in the exotic landscape with the money collected from his members. The leader of another spiritual organization and writer of spiritual literature suddenly starts glorifying an authoritative political leader, forbids his followers to practice and promote spiritual techniques that he hasn’t personally blessed, and, in his books, attacks his teachers, demeaning their value and importance. However, all of his work is based on their discoveries. One “great spiritual teacher” from India personally owned ninety-three (93) Rolls-Royce automobiles that belong to the most expensive and the most luxurious in the world, although his country is plagued by poverty and hunger. Similar things happen to less famous persons of spiritual orientation, so the question naturally arises – what are the sources of such behaviors, and is it possible to do something about it?

The model I will use to analyze each phase of emotional maturity is the model of human motivation devised by American psychologist Clare W. Graves. Namely, as much as we would like to believe that we choose our goals freely and are not subject to any structure, our goals nevertheless reflect our needs, and all humans fulfill their needs in a particular order. For that reason, during the sixties, Graves defined the natural order of human needs. He has added to the work of Abraham Maslow and established that all humans have identical needs and that they satisfy them in a predictable way or predictable order. Graves created a model of human motivation that later influenced many explorers of human consciousness. His model became the basis of the Spiral Dynamics(1) system developed by Graves’ students Don Beck and Chris Cowan. The Graves model has also influenced Martyn Carruthers and Janelle Doan(2), who expanded it with their interpretation of levels eight and nine. The model of human motivation I will present here combines the stated sources and my own insights. So, according to my interpretation of Graves’s model, human needs and goals evolve predictably and can be put into a hierarchy in the following way:

1. biological survival

2. survival of family or tribe

3. manifestation of personal power

4. social security

5. personal success

6. success of the community

7. personal development

8. global development

9. total fulfillment

Each person fulfills their needs in this order and forms their worldview according to those needs. For example, somebody who has started a family and in that way satisfied one of the basic human needs will replace what was by then their primary goal (family) with some other goal (for example, material well-being) and will match their value system and their beliefs accordingly. Their emotional reactions will change so that they will have more sensitivity toward the information that arrives from the stock market and will be less attracted by persons of the opposite sex because they are already involved in a harmonious relationship.

1.   The need for biological survival

Working on higher or abstract goals is impossible, while some concrete needs must still be met. Everything starts from physical survival, so the first level of human needs concerns biological security. People use their basic instincts and habits, characteristic of their species, to meet this need. It is futile to think of any other goal when a person doesn’t have shelter, enough food, or money for survival. Feeling safe, protected, self-reliant, and filled with physical pleasure is the first and basic human need. For this reason, the person shouldn’t try engaging with anything else until this need is satisfied.

Here is an example. People who became victims of war – refugees and people with ruined homes and no material assets left, are definitely suffering from strong psychological stress or trauma. During the war in Croatia in 1993, a group of American and German therapists arrived in Zagreb to offer training for handling PTSD to the Croatian government so that the trainees could give psychological aid to war victims. The government accepted the project, and newly trained experts started visiting refugee camps to offer psychotherapeutic interventions to people under stress. However, it soon became evident that the whole project was ill-fitted with the real needs of refugees. They wanted food, shelter (apartments) and money. They didn’t show interest in psychotherapy, and the reason is simple – the need for psychological stability can be worked on only after people are physically taken care of. It would have been much better if the Croatian government and NGOs that co-operated on this project spent the money on the basic needs of refugees. This would bring about the feeling of being protected and safe much quicker than any form of psychotherapy, no matter how efficient or highly advanced it was.

Emotional needs shown at this level are needs for a physical manifestation of love – touch, hug, tenderness, and fulfillment through sexual intercourse. To achieve this level of emotional maturity, a child needs to be cuddled and fed. Physical punishment or abuse creates huge psychological problems, not just because of the traumatic experiences it brings but because it creates an unfulfilled hunger for physical closeness and tenderness that can take on different forms of compensation later – mainly various forms of addictions.

All forms of physical activities that give physical pleasure – from sports to yoga, good food, or great massage, are also parts of this level of human needs. The physical aspect of a human being cannot be neglected or separated from its emotional, mental, or spiritual aspects – it has the same importance. Physical closeness is just a different manifestation of love that, instead of being more abstract or subtle, expresses itself here in a very concrete and tangible way.

 2.   The need for the survival of family and/or tribe

After the people have secured biological survival, their attention goes to the needs of their family or the social group they belong to. Family values get all the attention and priority and are given a significance that can sometimes achieve even mythical dimensions. The person feels the need for emotional security that they are trying to accomplish by closely following family or tribal customs and rituals. They respect their elders and pay tribute to spiritual beings experienced as protectors of family and tribe. They are fighting for the preservation of tribal customs, and they will become aggressive if they feel threatened by another tribe. They have little or no opinion of their own but are constantly adapting their worldview to match the opinion of tribal or family chiefs. A person thinks what is suitable for the family is good for them. Croatian folk saying, “It’s better for the village to be lost than for a village custom to be lost,” shows that kind of reality and way of thinking.

If someone has a family and family needs are not being met, they have to know their priorities, and their decisions should match those needs. So, caring for our family or taking care of relationships between family members is a goal that becomes apparent immediately after the need for biological survival. Psychologically speaking, large numbers of traumatic experiences that people have concerned the lack of emotional support from the members of their family. Handling traumatic experiences that were created as a result of lack of support represents work on meeting second-level needs. In that way, the background of the second level of human needs is a yearning for emotional security obtained by support from their family. Children need support for their goals, ideas, behaviors, or plans. Even the forms of behavior that may seem negative should be supported. For example, if we catch our child smoking, it should be allowed to smoke. A child will regularly abandon devious forms of behavior if she finds support from his parents.

3.   The need for the manifestation of personal power

Beyond biological and emotional security follows the need for self-respect, which is achieved through self-proving. People need to feel respected by others; they want to be who they are and be accepted by others as such. They want to fight for themselves and their goals, so they leave behind family restrictions or domination of tribe and tribal values. They want to take personal care of themselves, to become powerful, influential, independent, and respected. “Growing up” and going through adolescence are psychological processes behind this need.

All people need to express themselves and gain affirmation and acceptance from others openly. Persons who can express themselves without restraint will later be able to accept different forms of behavior imposed by society. In other words, they can participate in a harmonious social life. Without that, they will become either too obedient or rebel. If someone doesn’t get an affirmation of their value from the environment, they will withdraw or try to get such affirmation violently. Family or tribal relationships where elders are continuously belittling young people for their “stupidity, incompetence or rudeness” can’t lead toward emotional maturity and health.

Affirmation from loved ones is an essential means of emotional development, but it has been neglected the most. A tendency towards excessive modesty or trying not to produce an arrogant or egotistical person out of our child by denying affirmation will later lead directly to arrogance and egotism. In emotional relationships, such shortage will be manifested through subtle games of control and domination that turn a relationship into a battlefield where partners fight for supremacy. A person will also create such games in every other aspect of their lives and each life system they find themselves in. Such behaviors are just compensation for the lack of affirmation in the phase of their development where such affirmation was extremely important.

4.    The need for social security

When people have secured their biological survival, emotional security, and personal affirmation, they will move their attention to the broader social community they live in. Their first need is to feel safe and protected in such a community, so they will try to build a social system that will provide people with safety. The means used to achieve that goal are work, discipline, order, obedience, awareness of one’s duties and responsibilities, respect for social hierarchy, authority, law, or religious rules. Building a lawful state, economic stability, and immaculate functioning of state apparatus become the primary goals of a person on this level.

The same thing happens on a personal level – a person tries to build their own family and starts with traditional values such as order and discipline, duties, and responsibilities that will serve as a foundation for family relationships. Human life has to have a certain structure that reflects life goals. This is the level where we find the need for structure. Human need is for such structure to be built on rational foundations and to give expected and predictable results that one can rely on. Each person that has a family wants to provide it with security. Hence, there is a need to contribute to a society that will be able to provide an individual with elementary protection. This society will be built on the rule of reason, law, safety of banks, and political system.

An emotional need that arises on this level is fulfillment through a harmonious relationship. We want to express love to a specific person of the opposite sex; we want to love and be loved. During adolescence, people yearned for self-affirmation through emotional relationships, so they couldn’t take them seriously. Now, people seek a partner to enter a stable relationship based on common needs and values, shared commitment, equality, and common yearning for wholeness. Such a relationship becomes a foundation for a harmonious family.

5.    The need for personal success

It is possible to achieve harmonious material success only on the foundation of a secure and lawful state. So, the following need will be to act in personal interest and prosperity. The level before this was characterized by deterred gratification because one sacrificed one’s needs to contribute to social order. On this level, people turn to taking risks that private entrepreneurship brings. They will plan strategies and tactics that will lead to success to ensure personal prosperity. They will use appropriate technology, natural and human resources, and management and create channels to distribute their products. They will try to achieve personal financial success or take “their piece of the cake.”

Such people will strive to surround themselves with gadgets representing status symbols – expensive clothes, cars, yachts, luxury condos, or houses. They are participating in making a capitalist society; based on the ideas of progress, a free market, the development of technology, and competition. In such a society, an individual has unlimited chances to succeed. Such people have a need to provide themselves and their loved ones with a comfortable and prosperous life, whose ranges are determined only by the persons themselves, without influences or restrictions imposed by society.

This motivational level also contains the need for creative work. Sometimes, it takes the form of some specific creative activity, and sometimes, it is manifested through the need for children or progeny. By that time, people will have satisfied all the prerequisite conditions for making their own family, and now they will yearn to fulfill themselves emotionally through the love they will give to their children. The emotional need of people on this motivational level is to reap the fruits of their work – material, emotional, or spiritual. They want to work but only if they can earn through working. While the previous motivational level was marked by deferred gratification, now people want to be rewarded for their work as soon as possible. They also long for the appropriate social status and feel bad if they fail to achieve it. Such people need to enjoy the fruits of their work, share their fulfillment with loved ones, and gain social status that suits them. In that way, they gain self-respect and social recognition, which allows them to feel worthy, successful, and accomplished.

The fifth level is the crucial and central level that satisfies all criteria of personal fulfillment and stability. Material security and harmonious family are clear manifestations of mental health, and mental health builds the foundation for spiritual development. Traditionally, it is considered that an emotionally mature person has a harmonious emotional relationship, family, work, and good income that allows them to create their own life independently of anyone. If such people continue to develop further, their development will inevitably lead towards spiritual waters. If the needs of the fifth level are satisfied, they will have a good foundation for spiritual growth.

People who have satisfied their own material needs and the needs of their families can find new meaning in creating a humane society. According to my experience, the sixth level is the higher octave of the fourth one. These people want to put themselves again into the service of the community, but this time by working on eliminating destructive social processes such as war, hunger, pollution, or poverty. They want to fight against religious, moral, or racial prejudices and against a society that is characterized by greed and destructive exploitation of natural resources. They are also trying to contribute to a global strategy that will provide equal rights and social security for everyone. They are trying to solve social conflict through negotiations or consensus, not pressures or wars. They want to abandon cold rationalism and create a society that will treat every individual with love and compassion.

The emotional need of the person on this level is unconditional love for their loved ones and society as a whole. They can give without the need for buying-selling kind of relationships. In practice, this usually comes out as humanitarian activities. These people want to create harmony in society, which arouses their interest in spirituality. Here, metaphysics and feelings replace cold scientific rationalism, which has characterized the fourth level. The awareness of differences is abandoned and substituted with unity in variety. The mentality of abundance, according to which there is enough for everyone if it’s evenly distributed, takes the place of furious acquisition and thoughtless exploitation of natural resources. Also, according to the idea of sustainable development that arises on this level, the exploitation of natural resources needs to be limited in specific ways, while investments should be made in discovering new technologies that will transform industrial civilization into something less destructive to our planet.

7.  The need for personal development

The idealism of the previous level is now substituted with the awareness of personal potential and, therefore, personal imperfection. The seventh level represents the higher octave of the third level, where people yearn for personal affirmation. Here, they also need affirmation, but in a completely different way. They turn towards improving their lives by working on inner transformation and developing their potential. Continuous studying, new experiences, finding the purpose of one’s existence, exploring relationships, and gaining various kinds of knowledge are characteristics of this motivational level. These people are open to new information, develop adaptability, become more flexible and spontaneous, and yearn for functionality. They are interested in knowledge and competency and are open to receiving information from different sources, not just from people with status, power, or authority. They are again interested in progress but no longer motivated by ambition or material possessions. Here, they are moved by the idea of personal development that lies in the awareness of the boundlessness and greatness of life.

People on this level experience life as a paradox, a kaleidoscope of natural hierarchies, systems, and forms, but they are simultaneously aware of their changeability. They are developing their creativity and possess synthetic thinking abilities, allowing them to integrate differences into meaningful wholes. This kind of person becomes, for the first time, aware of their earlier identification with their own needs and finally develops the ability to dissociate from themselves. With that, they gain the ability for self-observation. They can adapt to any lower levels and act through them while staying independent and uninvolved. Such a person demands openness from all life systems and accessibility of information to everyone who needs it.

The emotional need of such a person is complete emotional independence. That is why they demand independence for themselves and support people in their yearning for independence. In that way, love is expressed through respect for one’s own and other people’s independence. The chorus of Sting’s song “If you love somebody, set them free” describes this kind of love. I want to point out that a correct understanding of this kind of love can be realized only when a person has satisfied emotional needs from previous levels. If that doesn’t happen, people will experience this type of love as emotional coldness, which is untrue. This kind of love comes from the level of awareness where each human being is experienced as a separate individual, with the purpose of existence previously defined as “creative self-realization.” That is why turning attention to oneself and the process of personal development, followed by abandoning dependent relationships, are emotional needs that arise on this level. This kind of love is sometimes expressed as emotional closeness and sometimes as moving away, as active or non-active love at a standstill.

8.  The need to contribute to global development

After they have fulfilled their need for emotional independence and reached the level of awareness that allows for unrestrained development, people want to put their abilities into service for the world they live in. They want to participate in big global projects whose goal is changing the world. Such people are aware that the planet is a living organism; they are aware of the unity of matter and energy, in other words – universal unity. They are also aware that all parts of a whole do not lose their independence in that kind of interconnectedness. These people think global; they feel they are citizens of the world and aspire to act quietly from the background. They are trying to make and maintain order that can be found in the background of seemingly chaotic events.

This level is a higher octave of the second level, where the basic need was to preserve the family and tribal customs to ensure the survival of the family or tribe. On the eighth level, people experience the whole planet as a global village. They feel cosmopolitan and work for the preservation of the planet by following the natural processes and rules of the planet itself. Such a person is aware that the planet is endangered by shortsighted solutions for basic human problems. For that reason, they pay no attention to momentary political or social barriers and act independently of the system. They are also trying to find new types of spirituality, independent of religion and able to really free humankind. That is why such people act independently, sometimes as spiritual teachers and sometimes as leaders of organizations that aim to create world peace. Sometimes, they lead some secret organization, or they manage financial means that are used for the development of science and art, the promotion of democracy, or the development of a free market.

The emotional need of such persons is complete freedom from overcoming suffering. That means they experience emotional fulfillment when they free someone of suffering, either themselves or others. Their primary need is to act in that direction since it gives them the greatest satisfaction. Their activities will be aimed at freeing the world from barriers and problems. They will support all people who strive for that goal, but they will act independently and keep the maximum of their creative freedom.

9.    The need for complete fulfillment

The creators of Spiral Dynamics mentioned the existence of the ninth motivational level, but they haven’t processed it further (according to the data I have available). Martyn Carruthers also mentions the ninth level and describes it as the need for complete fulfillment with love. I would say that here we can find enlightened and purified persons who are striving to creatively realize themselves in the most direct way possible. They are aware that the root of all human problems lies in separation from their own source. That’s why they are trying to free themselves and others by using knowledge systems, technologies, or energies that connect people to their source. Such persons are usually spiritual healers, artists, prophets, or hermits.

As much as this motivational level seems static or complete, people on that level still possess a specific emotional need – achieving complete innocence. Those people yearn to overcome even the subtlest feeling of guilt at the root of the illusion of separation from God. Therefore, they use the state of innocence to stay connected to their original nature as completely as possible. Innocence becomes a means that allows them to fulfill themselves and others with God. Those people are not interested in spiritual techniques, psychology, causes of human problems, fulfillment through family, money, a stable economy, or a humane society. They are concentrated upon the very core of all human problems: the separation from the Source or God. Since the ninth level is a higher octave of the first one, this person yearns for complete fulfillment – mental, emotional, and spiritual, but also physical. They desire to return to the state of unity with God in the most direct possible way, and that is a return to the state of the child or the state of complete innocence.

Graves’ Model and Emotional Development

The stages of emotional development, as seen through this model, look like this:

  1. physical closeness and pleasure
  2. emotional support
  3. emotional affirmation
  4. harmonious relationship
  5. creation of a harmonious family
  6. manifestation of unconditional love
  7. emotional independence
  8. freedom and creativity
  9. complete innocence

When we look at the characteristics of human needs on all of those levels and then analyze our own lives, the direction of our actions becomes obvious, together with the kinds of decisions we should make. People always try to realize themselves through the highest level they can comprehend intellectually. Still, the fact remains that no one is fixed on just one motivational level and that people realize themselves through numerous levels in parallel, mainly through the highest and all or some of the lower ones. That will undoubtedly be the case if the person hasn’t realized the stage of emotional maturity that a certain level brings. Namely, most people can intellectually comprehend very high motivational levels and thus create a belief that they can live according to those levels. One of the reasons for this is that higher levels seem much more attractive than lower ones, so that most people will be drawn to them.

However, emotional development is not able to automatically follow intellectual or spiritual development, because emotional development needs concrete life experience, and that takes time. A person can grow intellectually and spiritually through learning and meditation, separated from everyday life, but they simply cannot develop emotionally in such a way. Emotional development needs concrete relationships with other people and experiences gained through such relationships. That’s why “spiritual teachers” or instructors who lack such emotional relationships cannot teach others how to realize harmonious emotional relationships. The degree of emotional (and also spiritual) development of a person who avoids concrete relationships with other people is questionable. There are some people who possess certain kinds of talents or spiritual capabilities that push them into the roles of spiritual teachers, but because of their emotional immaturity, they will be unable to perform aspects of their roles that demand them to positively influence other people through their example.

If a person has experienced and lived through just some aspects of a certain level but hasn’t achieved the degree of emotional maturity that this level brings, they will sooner or later have to compensate for this shortage. They would, therefore, have to live through all aspects of that level to be able to achieve the adequate degree of emotional maturity that each level brings. One cannot escape any developmental phase. If our age and intellectual or spiritual development have directed us towards higher-level needs, but we haven’t fully lived through lower needs, we will have to go through that later. Many adults sometimes act childishly because they haven’t achieved a certain level of emotional maturity when it is time for that. This is often a cause of the so-called “middle-age crisis,” where persons of both sexes “go crazy” and act like adolescents, much to the surprise of their environment. If we haven’t lived our sexuality, gained the appropriate material status, or got affirmation from our environment, we will try to get it sooner or later. That’s why it is helpful to use this model of human motivation while choosing our goals or making decisions: it provides us with some orientation map that can direct our actions towards our real, and not illusionary, needs.

Even “spiritual teachers” have human needs; sometimes, their role enables them to satisfy the needs they were not able to satisfy before. Sometimes, they use their position to misuse their power or compensate for their emotional hurts by immersing themselves in some egomania. Who needs 93 Rolls Royces? Someone who wants to prove something, first to themselves and then to others, someone who was very poor (first level need) and now needs compensation for their poverty. Why does someone become an authoritative leader of a spiritual group and support the dictatorial political leader? This person has not satisfied his third-level needs – one or both parents didn’t allow him to manifest his personal power in his adolescent years.

For someone to develop harmoniously and quickly, without extensive expansion and stalling on certain phases (which can sometimes take a whole lifetime), achieving the ninth level experientially as soon as possible is best. Awareness of one’s unity with God has a healing effect and speeds up emotional development processes while shortening the phases of emotional compensation. For that reason, it is helpful to utilize systems for personal development that are available today and comprehend the original source of our beings as soon as possible. That would accelerate developmental processes, but acceleration requires maximum effort and responsibility.

Towards the Final Structure of Graves’ Model

I would like to present a hypothesis here that deals with the structure of the Graves model. Claire Graves and the founders of Spiral Dynamics hold an opinion according to which their model probably stretches into infinity. My belief is different, and I gave arguments for it while describing each of the developmental phases. Namely, the fifth level seems to be the last one in the first sequence of five basic needs, and – at the same time – it is the first of the next five higher needs. Each following level after the fifth represents the higher octave of the previous one as if seen through the mirror. So the sixth level is a higher octave of the fourth, the seventh is a higher octave of the third, the eighth of the second, and the ninth of the first. Nine stages of development make the whole that is not closed, but seems as a complete and stable system. If we consider the claims of numerologists according to which number 9 is perfect, and number 10 represents just some sort of transitional phase in which a certain object exists and doesn’t exist at the same time (which is similar to the forms of existence after the death of the physical body), then a model like this has its logic.

I consider my improvements to Graves’ model to be the final. Each developmental process starts from self-recognition and goes through a series of phases, from partial to total self-awareness. Final self-recognition usually takes the form of awareness of self to be the manifestation of God and each life process as a manifestation of God. A new process can begin after such a level of awareness, but every life process ends where it has started – in its original divine source. Although Graves’ model is attractive to contemporary psychologists and explorers of human consciousness because it looks “scientific” and possesses brilliant clarity, further research and additions to this model will inevitably lead to the discovery of the original source of human beings as spiritual or divine because the highest levels of human needs are spiritual needs. Therefore, it is vital to introduce spiritual aspects of human beings into Graves’ model because it is simply not complete without them. Knowledge of spiritual aspects of human existence already exists – it can be found in spiritual traditions. They all share the common understanding of humans’ original unity with God or knowledge about the processes that lead towards such insight and its realization in everyday life. Those processes can be found in four higher motivational levels: unconditional love, meditation, inner purification, freeing from suffering through “enlightenment” – awareness of universal unity – and processes leading to complete self-realization through achieving inner innocence.

So, on the ninth motivational level, which was unfamiliar primarily to researchers, we realize the process of returning to the original unity with God. The sixth, seventh, and eighth levels are concerned with gradual connecting and matching higher consciousness. Still, the ninth level orients developmental processes directly towards the return to the state of complete inner innocence that facilitates stable contact with one’s core being. After such an experience, a person can start with a new developmental process, but it will have the same phases, and it will again lead to some previously unknown aspects of the same goal.

ã Tomislav Budak, January 2001.

1) Don Edward Beck & Christopher Cowan: Spiral Dynamics – Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change, Blackwell Publishers Inc., 1996.

2) Martyn Carruthers & Janelle Doan: Soulwork and Human Evolution (part I & II), https://iscmentoring.eu/soul-of-soulwork/