Observation of human evolution shows that different aspects of human nature do not evolve in the same way and same speed. Namely, nowadays it is possible to make intellectual progress very fast. Schools and educational systems allow for intellectual development hindered only by 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 it was considered that intellectual knowledge automatically brings about emotional maturity. Later, this was discovered not to be true and many scientists and artists have dedicated their work to unveil and demystify intellectuals, together with the society based on 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 started believing that this kind of knowledge automatically brings about emotional maturity, and that persons who have gone through certain exercises or techniques and reached spiritual experiences represent embodiments of wisdom and emotional stability. However, we bear witness to 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 extremely 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 celibacy of it’s members and financed with voluntary contributions. He suddenly marries his young follower, becomes obsessed with sex and buys a fancy house in exotic landscape with the money collected from his members. Leader of another spiritual organization and writer of spiritual literature suddenly starts glorifying 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, although 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 an American psychologist Clare W. Graves. Namely, as much as we would like to believe that we choose our goals freely and that they are not subject to any structure, our goals nevertheless reflect our needs, and all humans fulfill their needs in certain order. For that reason, during the sixties Graves has defined the natural order of human needs. He has added on 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 has created a model of human motivation that later influenced many explorers of human consciousness. His model became the basis of the system called “Spiral Dynamics ”(1), which was created 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 that I will present here is a combination of the stated sources and my own insights. So, according to my interpretation of Graves model, human needs and goals evolve in a predictable way and can be put into 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 the this order and they also form their world-view 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 towards 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

It is impossible to work on higher or abstract goals while some very concrete needs are not being met. Everything starts from physical survival, so the first level of human needs concerns biological security. Person uses their basic instincts and habits, characteristic of their own species, in order to meet this need. It is futile to think of any other goal when a person doesn’t have a 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, 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, with 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 to Zagreb to offer training for handling PTSD to Croatian government, so that the trainees can give psychological help to victims of war. The government accepted the project and newly trained experts started visiting refugee camps, offering 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 human being is physically taken care of. It would have been much better if Croatian government and NGO’s that co-operated on this project spent the money on basic needs of refugees. It 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 physical manifestation of love, physical closeness – 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 traumatic experiences it brings, but because it creates unfulfilled hunger for physical closeness and tenderness that can take on different forms of compensation later – mainly different 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. Physical aspect of human being cannot be neglected or separated from its emotional, mental or spiritual aspect – 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 for themselves, their attention goes to the needs of their family or the social group they belong to. Now, family values get all the attention and priority and they are given significance that can sometimes achieve even mythical dimensions. The person feels the need for emotional security that they are trying to achieve by closely following family or tribal customs and rituals. They respect their elders, they pay tribute to spiritual beings who are 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 chief. Person thinks that what is good for the family is good for them. Croatian folk saying “It’s better for the village to be lost then for a village custom to be lost”, shows that kind of reality and way of thinking.

If a person has family, and family needs are not being met, such person has to know their priorities and their decisions should match those needs. So, care 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 concern the lack of emotional support form the members of their family. Handling traumatic experiences that were created as a result of lack of support, basically represents work on meeting second level needs. In that way, the background of 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. Child will regularly abandon devious forms of behavior if it finds support from his parents.

3.   The need for manifestation of personal power

Beyond biological and emotional security follows the need for self-respect, which is achieved through the processes of 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 personally take care of themselves, to become powerful, influential, independent and respected. "Growing up" and going through the phase of adolescence are psychological processes behind this need.

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

Affirmation from beloved ones is an extremely important means of emotional development, but it has probably been neglected the most. 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. 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 the 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 person has secured their biological survival, emotional security and personal affirmation, they will move their attention to the wider social community they live in. Their first need is to feel safe and protected in such community, so they will try to build the social system that will provide individual with safety. Means that are 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, economical stability and immaculate functioning of state apparatus become the primary goals of such person.

The same thing happens on personal level – 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 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 the need to contribute to society that will be able to provide an individual with elementary protection, society that will be built on the rule of reason, law, safety of banks and political system.

Emotional need that arises on this level is emotional fulfillment through harmonious relationship. Person wants to express love to a specific person of the opposite sex, one wants to love and be loved. During adolescence the person yearned for self-affirmation through emotional relationships and for that reason they couldn’t take them seriously. Now person seeks a partner to enter a stable relationship with, based on common needs and values, common commitment, on equality and common yearning for wholeness. Such relationship becomes a foundation for a harmonious family.

  5.    The need for personal success

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

Such person will strive to surround themselves with different gadgets that represent status symbols – expensive clothes, cars, yachts, luxury condos or houses. They are participating in the making of capitalist society; based on the ideas of progress, free market, development of technology and competition. In such society, an individual has unlimited chances to succeed. The need of such person is to provide themselves and their beloved ones with comfortable and successful life, whose ranges are determined only by the persons themselves, without influences or restrictions imposed by the 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 person will have satisfied all the prerequisite conditions for making their own family and now they will yearn to fulfill themselves emotionally through love that they will give to their children. Emotional need of the person on this motivational level is to reap the fruits of their work – material, emotional or spiritual. Namely, they want to work but only if they can earn through working. While the previous motivational level was marked by deferred gratification, now the person wants to be awarded 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 person needs to enjoy the fruits of their work, share their fulfillment with loved ones and gain social status that will suit them. In that way, they gain self-respect and social recognition, which allows them to feel worthy, successful and accomplished.

In my experience, fifth level is the key and central level that satisfies all criteria of personal fulfillment and stability. Namely, 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 person continues to develop further, their development will inevitably lead towards spiritual waters. If the needs of the fifth level are satisfied, such person will have good foundation for spiritual development.

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

Emotional need of the person on this level is unconditional love to their loved ones and to the society as a whole. They are able to give without the need for buying-selling kind of relationships. In practice, this usually comes out as humanitarian activities. Person wants to create harmony in society, which arouses their interest in spirituality. Now, 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, exploitation of natural resources needs to be limited in certain ways, while investments should be made in discovering new technologies that will transform the industrial civilization into something less destructive to our planet.


  7.  The need for personal development

The idealism of previous level is now substituted with the awareness of personal potentials and, therefore, personal imperfection. The seventh level represents the higher octave of the third level where person yearns for personal affirmation. Now person also needs affirmation, but in a completely different way. They turn towards the improvement of their lives by working on inner transformation and development of their potentials. 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. Person opens to new information, develops adaptability, becomes more flexible, spontaneous and yearns for functionality. Person is interested in knowledge and competency and they are opened to receiving information from different sources, and not just from people with status, power or authority. Person is again interested in progress, but no longer motivated by ambition or material possessions, but by the idea of personal development that lies in the awareness of boundlessness and greatness of life.

Person on this level experiences life as a paradox, as kaleidoscope of natural hierarchies, systems and forms, but they are at the same time aware of their changeability. They are developing their creativity and posses the ability for synthetic thinking, which allows 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 are also able to adapt to any of the lower levels and act through them, while staying independent and uninvolved. Such person demands openness form all life systems and accessibility of information to everyone who needs it.

Emotional need of such person is complete emotional independence. That is why they demand independence for themselves and they 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”, expresses this kind of love. I would like to point out that correct understanding of this kind of love can be realized only when 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 not true. This kind of love comes from the level of awareness where each human being is experienced as separate individual, with the purpose of existence that has previously been defined as “creative self-realization”. That is why turning attention to oneself and the process of personal development, followed by abandoning of 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 love or non-active love in standstill.


  8.  The need for global development

After the person has fulfilled their need for emotional independence and reached the level of awareness that allows for unrestrained development, they 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. Namely, such person is 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 that are making a whole do not lose their independence in that kind of interconnectedness. This people thinks global, they feel themselves to be 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 basic need was to preserve the family and tribal customs, so as to ensure the survival of the family or tribe. On the eighth level, person experiences the whole planet as a global village. They feel cosmopolitan, and they work for preservation of the planet by following natural processes and rules of the planet itself. Such 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 human kind. That is why such person acts independently, sometimes as a spiritual teacher, sometimes as a leader of organizations that aim to create world peace. Sometimes they lead some secret organization, or they manage financial means that are used for development of science and art, promotion of democracy or development of free market.

Emotional need of such person is complete freedom that comes from overcoming suffering. That means that such person experiences emotional fulfillment when they free someone of suffering, either themselves or others. Their basic need is to act in exactly that kind of direction, since it gives them the greatest fulfillment. Their activities will be aimed in freeing the world from barriers and problems. They will support all people that aim to that goal, but they will act independently and keep the maximum of their creative freedom.


 9.    The need for complete fulfillment

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 which connect people to their source. Such person is usually a spiritual healer, artist, prophet or hermit.

As much as this motivational level seems static or complete, people on that level still possess a certain kind of emotional needs. The need we can find here is achieving complete innocence. That is why those people yearn for overcoming even the subtlest feeling of guilt that lies in the root of the illusion of separation from God. For that reason, they use the state of innocence to stay connected to their original nature as completely as possible. Innocence becomes a mean 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, stable economy or humane society. They are concentrated upon the very core of all human problems, and that is 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 yearn 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 harmonious family
  6. manifestation of unconditional love
  7. emotional independence
  8. freedom and creativity
  9. complete innocence

When we take a 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 kinds of decisions we should make. People always try to realize themselves through the highest level they can comprehend intellectually, but the fact remains that no one is fixed on just one motivational level and that people are realizing themselves through numerous levels in parallel, mostly through the highest and all or some of the lower ones. That will certainly be the case if the person hasn’t realized the stage of emotional maturity that a certain level brings. Namely, most people are able to intellectually comprehend very high motivational levels, and thus create a belief that they are able to live according to those levels. One of the reasons for this is that higher levels seem much more attractive than lower ones, so most people will be drawn to them.

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

If the person has experienced and lived through just some aspects of a certain level, but they haven’t achieved the degree of emotional maturity which that 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, our intellectual or spiritual development has directed us towards higher level needs, but we haven’t fully lived through lower needs, we will just have to go through that later. Many adults sometimes act childishly, because they haven’t achieved certain level of emotional maturity when it was time for that. This is often a cause of so-called “middle-age crisis” where persons of both sexes “go crazy” and act as 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 useful to use this model of human motivation while choosing our goals or making decisions, because it provides us with some sort of orientation map that can direct our actions towards our real, and not illusionary needs.

Even "spiritual teachers" have human needs and 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 to compensate for their own emotional hurts by immersing themselves in some kind of grandomania. 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 authoritative leader of a spiritual group and supports the authoritative political leader? Because this person has not satisfied his third level needs - one parent or both of them didn't allow him to manifest his personal power in adolescent years.

For someone to be able to develop emotionally in a harmonious and quick way, without extensive expansion and stalling on certain phase (which can sometimes take a whole lifetime), it is best to achieve the ninth level experientially as soon as possible. Awareness of one’s unity with God has a healing effect and speeds up the processes of emotional development, while shortening the phases of emotional compensation. For that reason, it is useful 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 which deals with the structure of the Graves model. Claire Graves and 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 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, 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 it’s logic.



I consider such structure of Graves’ model to be the final. Each developmental process starts from self-recognition that goes through 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 being a manifestation of God. New process can begin after such level of awareness, but every life process ends where it begun – in it’s 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 original source of human being as spiritual or divine, because the highest levels of human needs are spiritual needs. For that reason, it is important 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 knowledge of human’s original unity with God, or knowledge about the processes that lead towards such insight and its’ realization in every day life. Those processes can be found in four higher motivational levels – unconditional love, processes of meditation and inner purification, processes of freeing from suffering through "enlightenment" - awareness of universal Unity - and processes leading to complete self-realization through achieving inner innocence, i.e. freeing oneself from subtle feelings of guilt.

So, on the ninth motivational level, that was mostly unfamiliar to researches, we realize the process of going back to the state of original unity with God. The sixth, the seventh and the eight level are concerned with processes of gradual connecting and matching higher consciousness, but 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 experience, person can start with new developmental process, but it will have the same phases and it will again lead to some previously unknown aspect of the same goal.


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)", www.soulwork.top.pl


ã Tomislav Budak (January 2001)