The Tri Spectra Typology

Mapping The Progressive Counterculture

I’ve been writing more articles recently so you’ll be hearing from me more often. Hope you enjoy. First up… The Tri Spectra Typology.

I've always felt that if we’re ever really going to shift the status quo then at some point we're going to have to unite the entire progressive counterculture around a singular mass movement. And by progressive counterculture I mean the collection of people who feel that we must radically revolutionise our current system and replace with it something much more egalitarian, compassionate and kind. After all if we’re the ones preaching inclusivity and diversity but are unable to put our differences aside and demonstrate what it means to work together across ideological divides, then how can we have similar expectations of wider society?

But after two decades of exploring different parts of this global counterculture I’ve come to appreciate just how the broad the spectrum of views is within it. It became particularly evident in the years following 2015 as the increasing levels of polarisation seen across many parts of society also sharpened the differences in world view within the cultural ecosystems I was a part of. I had front row seats to this phenomenon as between 2016 and 2020 I helped to cultivate an in person community of over 200 people. We watched it slowly grow towards peak levels of cohesion before quickly tearing itself apart after some of the underlying ideological differences were brought to light.

My broad takeaways from this experience were that incredibly high levels of mutual support and connection can be achieved between people who have very different world views as long the more polarising issues are either not openly discussed as a group or else are approached in small doses in very well facilitated circles. Although not having directly experienced the latter of these two strategies I can’t say for sure whether this approach would actually work in practice.

What I do know is that if want to give ourselves the best chance of cultivating diverse and long lasting communities then it would serve to us to become as clear as possible around what our own and our fellow community members positions are in regards to the more divisive issues of our time. The idea being that once we have attained such shared clarity we might then have access to a deeper sense of appreciation for and more nuanced understanding of each others points of view, which in turn could enable us to more easily find common ground whenever disagreements may arise. Of course upon discovering each others ideological positions we may also wish to adjust our levels of interaction as well.

So in the spirit of such mutual understanding I’ve crafted three spectra which when combined together appear to cover the major points of difference I’ve observed within the progressive counterculture and beyond. They include The Conspiracy Spectrum, The Social Justice Spectrum and The Magic Spectrum. Each of which spans a range of world views or perspectives related to that particular issue. By mutually agreeing where ourselves and others are located along the spectrums we may be able to become more accomodating of the broad range of views we are likely to encounter in countercultural communities.

Before we take a look at the model here are a few caveats and how to guide for interpreting the spectra.

Intentions, Caveats, Observations & Disclaimers

  • I am a completely unqualified armchair (or bean bag) sociologist whose conclusions are entirely unsupported by any kind of formal research.

  • The intention of this model is to provide a means of approaching discussions around topics that can often be difficult to approach. By having an objective scale to refer to we give ourselves and each other a much greater opportunity of separating our sense of identity far enough from our beliefs to increase the chances of having a productive discussion around these ideas with the people we hold dear.

  • These spectra are meant to be used as guiding heuristics and are not wholly precise descriptions and categories. At best they are approximations that shouldn’t be taken too literally. It is after all impossible to approach a representation of the nuanced complexities of the human psyche in such a simple model.

  • I have attempted to avoid any pejorative descriptors and haven chosen a selection of terms that are intended to appeal to the person holding each perspective. In some cases I’ve used a degree of artistic license and stretched the limits of how some words are commonly interpreted.

  • The describing sentences in each spectrum are western centric and largely specific to modern culture.

  • It is worth carefully reading the summary of what each particular spectrum is tracking as they are easily misinterpreted. For example the Social Justice spectrum is not tracking political perspectives along a left and right wing binary, instead it is specifically focussed on the degree to which people sympathise with left wing identity politics. As such a someone can still hold radically progressive or conservative views in relation to economic or social policy and yet still score themselves as a Social Centrist in this model.

  • Likewise the Magic spectrum is not gauging a persons sense of spirituality as some one can still have a highly developed contemplative practice and sense of ‘oneness’ while only scoring as a 1 or 2 on the spectrum.

  • Underlying this model is the fact that we all appear to have a range of different parts within our psyche that can each simultaneously hold various and often conflicting positions along each of the spectra. So where we place ourselves is perhaps most accurately described as where a majority of our parts land a majority of the time. This level of nuance and complexity is not yet reflected in the model but is still worth bearing in mind.

  • The fact is different people may arrive at similar points on each spectrum for very different reasons. However I haven’t yet figured out how to convey this in a relatively simple way.

  • It’s interesting to note that the degree of peoples certainty in their position tends to increase towards either either end of the spectra.

  • It’s probably wisest to let people type themselves rather than doing it for or to them. It’s also good to keep in mind that none of these perspectives are set in stone and can most definitely change over time.

  • I’m using the word belief to indicate when someone is more than 80% sure of something.

  • I’m of the opinion there is some degree of wisdom to be found in each and every one of the perspectives and positions.

How To Read Each Spectrum & Determine Your Overall Type

  • The idea is to place yourself at a po­sition between 1 and 5 on each of the spectrums. You do this by choosing a statement that best reflects your general level of belief.

  • If you are below 2 but above 1 you are a 1 for typing purposes on that spectrum. If you are below 3 and above 2 you are a 2. So on and so forth.

  • The full description of the straight type 1 is inferred by being in opposition to the statements directly below it. And a 5 is someone that believes all the statements in the 4 category above it, technically landing them at the same point as the highest decimal score in the 4 category.

  • You may wish to add a decimal point to provide more specificity. For example if you resonate with the final sentence between 2 and 3 you might be a 2.8.

  • Once you have figured your three numbers for each spectrum you can then use the table provided to determine your full type. You will then have shiny new typology to add to your list.

So without further ado. The Three Spectrums.

The Conspiracy Spectrum

The degree to which you believe different societal actors are conspiring together. By conspiring I mean secretly colluding beyond what is seen at the surface level. While there is always some level of this occurring in every system, the question this spectrum addresses is to what degree.

1 - ‘The Orthodox Thinker'

  • Will openly critique govt & industry corruption and revolving door policies (1.4)

  • Keenly aware of Gulf Of Tonkin, Iran Contra, Mk Ultra & Operation Northwoods (1.6)

  • Critical of the military industrial complex & US imperialism (1.8)

2 - The Critical Thinker

  • Believes modern politics is largely dictated by industry money (2.1)

  • Believes most conspiracy theories over estimate individuals and organisational capacity to coordinate en masse and keep secrets over a long period of time (2.3)

  • Has doubts about the official JFK assassination story (2.5)

  • Had strong doubts around the official 9/11 story (2.8)

3 - ‘The Alternative Thinker'

  • Certainty that 9/11 was an inside job (3.2)

  • Believes the Covid vaccines are either entirely unnecessary or wholly unsafe (3.3)

  • Believes the moon landings were likely faked (3.5)

  • Believes that alien visitation has been suppressed (3.7)

  • Believes in an NWO/Illuminati agenda to limit population and/or control the world. (3.9)

4 - ‘The Free Thinker'

  • Believes chemtrails are intentionally created to harm or control the population. (4.1)

  • Believes in the Anunnaki, Reptilians or other such races (4.3)

  • Believes the Earth is flat (4.8)

5 - ‘The Truth Seeker

The Social Justice Spectrum

To what degree you sympathise with left wing identity politics. To what degree do you believe racism is the central and all important lens for making sense of history and society.

1 - 'The Traditionalist'

  • Unsupportive of Same Sex Marriage (1.2)

  • Tends to believe gender is wholly determined by sex at birth (1.3)

  • Self identifies as deeply proud of the history of their nation (1.6)

  • Strongly believes in preserving the status quo (1.8)

2 - ‘The Social Conservative'

  • Finds the level of diversity in most recent Hollywood block busters ‘over the top’ (2.2)

  • Tends to voice wholly unsympathetic criticisms of the social justice oriented left (2.5)

  • Strong resistance to using others chosen pronouns (2.6)

  • On balance unsupportive of Black Lives Matter (2.8)

3 - ‘The Social Centrist'

  • On balance supportive of Black Lives Matter (3.2)

  • Will voice nuanced criticisms of the social justice oriented left (3.3)

  • Agrees with The Harpers Letter (3.5)

  • Tends not to voice criticisms of the social justice oriented left. (3.9)

4 - ‘The Social Progressive'

  • Broadly supportive and perhaps proactive within call out culture (4.1)

  • Believes racism & discrimination are the defining issues of our time. (4.2)

  • Due to systemic oppression believes it is technically not possible for BIPOC to be racist.(4.5)

  • Supports removing Shakespeare from curriculums due to racism, sexism & classism (4.8)

5 - 'The Social Justice Activist'

The Magic Spectrum

To what degree you believe in magic. Your preference in forming and holding beliefs that are outside the mainstream scientific consensus. How much you trust your intuitive read of things and t­o what degree you believe that thought forms can literally effect material objects. For this scale a literal belief in a God places you at (4.6) even if any of the statements above it do not ring true.

1 - 'The Rationalist'

  • Tends to place great value on empiricism (1.0)

  • Tends to believe anything as yet unproven by science to be highly unlikely (1.0)

  • Holds exclusively metaphorical interpretations of myth (1.0)

  • Is keenly aware of flaws in human reasoning due to various cognitive biases (1.0)

2 - ‘The Intuitive’

  • Believes in things that aren’t isn't yet scientifically proven (2.0)

  • Thinks there might be something more to the psychedelic realm (2.1)

  • Believes there might be something more to intuition (2.2)

  • Talks about ‘energy' a lot (2.4)

  • Open to the notion of reincarnation (2.7)

3 - 'The Gnostic’

  • Believes in a literal Collective unconscious (3.1)

  • Believes in synchronicities (3.2)

  • Believes there might be something more to crystals (3.4)

  • Believes in astrology (3.8)

4 - 'The Mystic

  • Believes that thoughts can directly alter matter (4.2)

  • Literal belief in deities (4.4)

  • Literal belief in entities (4.6)

5 - 'The Transcendentalist

Key Takeaway

I’ve come to the conclusion that for the majority of us the greater the degree of time and intimacy we share with another person the more ideal it is to be at similar points along each spectrum. However there appear to be exceptions to this rule where vast differences in world view can lead to a sustained state of harmony and cohesion.

Example Typings Of Some Public Intellectuals

These are my best guesses at the typings of some public intellectuals:

  • Russel Brand 3-3-5 The Alternative Thinking Socially Centrist Transcendentalist

  • Sam Harris 1-2-1 The Orthodox Thinking Socially Conservative Rationalist

  • Noam Chomsky 2-3-1 The Critical Thinking Socially Centrist Rationalist

  • Peter Joseph 2-2-2 The Critical Thinking Socially Centrist Intuitive

  • Barack Obama 1-3-4 The Orthodox Thinking Socially Centrist Mystic

  • Jordan Peterson 1-2-3 The Orthodox Thinking Socially Conservative Intuitive

  • Joe Rogan 3-3-3 The Alternative Thinking Socially Centrist Gnostic

  • Charles Eisenstein 3-3-4 The Alternative Thinking Socially Centrist Mystic

  • Ken Wilber 2-3-3 The Critical Thinking Socially Centrist Gnostic

Find Your Type - The 121 Combinations

111 - The Orthodox Thinking Traditionalist Rationalist

112 - The Orthodox Thinking Traditionalist Intuitive

113 - The Orthodox Thinking Traditionalist Gnostic

114 - The Orthodox Thinking Traditionalist Mystic

115 - The Orthodox Thinking Traditional Transcendentalist

121 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Conservative Rationalist

122 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Conservative Intuitive

123 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Conservative Gnostic

124 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Conservative Mystic

125 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Conservative Transcendentalist

131 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Centrist Rationalist

132 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Centrist Intuitive

133 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Centrist Gnostic

134 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Centrist Mystic

135 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Centrist Transcendentalist

141 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Progressive Rationalist

142 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Progressive Intuitive

143 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Progressive Gnostic

144 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Progressive Mystic

145 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Progressive Transcendentalist

151 - The Orthodox Thinking Socially Just Rationalist

211 - The Critical Thinking Traditionalist Rationalist

212 - The Critical Thinking Traditionalist Intuitive

213 - The Critical Thinking Traditionalist Gnostic

214 - The Critical Thinking Traditionalist Mystic

215 - The Critical Thinking Traditional Transcendentalist

221 - The Critical Thinking Socially Conservative Rationalist

222 - The Critical Thinking Socially Conservative Intuitive

223 - The Critical Thinking Socially Conservative Gnostic

224 - The Critical Thinking Socially Conservative Mystic

225 - The Critical Thinking Socially Conservative Transcendentalist

231 - The Critical Thinking Socially Centrist Rationalist

232 - The Critical Thinking Socially Centrist Intuitive

233 - The Critical Thinking Socially Centrist Gnostic

234 - The Critical Thinking Socially Centrist Mystic

235 - The Critical Thinking Socially Centrist Transcendentalist

241 - The Critical Thinking Socially Progressive Rationalist

242 - The Critical Thinking Socially Progressive Intuitive

243 - The Critical Thinking Socially Progressive Gnostic

244 - The Critical Thinking Socially Progressive Mystic

245 - The Critical Thinking Socially Progressive Transcendentalist

251 - The Critical Thinking Socially Just Rationalist

252 - The Critical Thinking Socially Just Intuitive

253 - The Critical Thinking Socially Just Gnostic

254 - The Critical Thinking Socially Just Mystic

255 - The Critical Thinking Socially Just Transcendentalist

311 - The Alternative Thinking Traditionalist Rationalist

312 - The Alternative Thinking Traditionalist Intuitive

313 - The Alternative Thinking Traditionalist Gnostic

314 - The Alternative Thinking Traditionalist Mystic

315 - The Alternative Thinking Traditional Transcendentalist

321 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Conservative Rationalist

322 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Conservative Intuitive

323 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Conservative Gnostic

324 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Conservative Mystic

325 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Conservative Transcendentalist

331 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Centrist Rationalist

332 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Centrist Intuitive

333 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Centrist Gnostic

334 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Centrist Mystic

335 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Centrist Transcendentalist

341 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Progressive Rationalist

342 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Progressive Intuitive

343 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Progressive Gnostic

344 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Progressive Mystic

345 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Progressive Transcendentalist

351 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Just Rationalist

352 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Just Intuitive

353 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Just Gnostic

354 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Just Mystic

355 - The Alternative Thinking Socially Just Transcendentalist

411 - The Free Thinking Traditionalist Rationalist

412 - The Free Thinking Traditionalist Intuitive

413 - The Free Thinking Traditionalist Gnostic

414 - The Free Thinking Traditionalist Mystic

415 - The Free Thinking Traditional Transcendentalist

421 - The Free Thinking Socially Conservative Rationalist

422 - The Free Thinking Socially Conservative Intuitive

423 - The Free Thinking Socially Conservative Gnostic

424 - The Free Thinking Socially Conservative Mystic

425 - The Free Thinking Socially Conservative Transcendentalist

431 - The Free Thinking Socially Centrist Rationalist

432 - The Free Thinking Socially Centrist Intuitive

433 - The Free Thinking Socially Centrist Gnostic

434 - The Free Thinking Socially Centrist Mystic

435 - The Free Thinking Socially Centrist Transcendentalist

441 - The Free Thinking Socially Progressive Rationalist

442 - The Free Thinking Socially Progressive Intuitive

443 - The Free Thinking Socially Progressive Gnostic

444 - The Free Thinking Socially Progressive Mystic

445 - The Free Thinking Socially Progressive Transcendentalist

451 - The Free Thinking Socially Just Rationalist

452 - The Free Thinking Socially Just Intuitive

453 - The Free Thinking Socially Just Gnostic

454 - The Free Thinking Socially Just Mystic

455 - The Free Thinking Socially Just Transcendentalist

511 - The Truth Seeking Traditionalist Rationalist

512 - The Truth Seeking Traditionalist Intuitive

513 - The Truth Seeking Traditionalist Gnostic

514 - The Truth Seeking Traditionalist Mystic

515 - The Truth Seeking Traditional Transcendentalist

521 - The Truth Seeking Socially Conservative Rationalist

522 - The Truth Seeking Socially Conservative Intuitive

523 - The Truth Seeking Socially Conservative Gnostic

524 - The Truth Seeking Socially Conservative Mystic

525 - The Truth Seeking Socially Conservative Transcendentalist

531 - The Truth Seeking Socially Centrist Rationalist

532 - The Truth Seeking Socially Centrist Intuitive

533 - The Truth Seeking Socially Centrist Gnostic

534 - The Truth Seeking Socially Centrist Mystic

535 - The Truth Seeking Socially Centrist Transcendentalist

541 - The Truth Seeking Socially Progressive Rationalist

542 - The Truth Seeking Socially Progressive Intuitive

543 - The Truth Seeking Socially Progressive Gnostic

544 - The Truth Seeking Socially Progressive Mystic

545 - The Truth Seeking Socially Progressive Transcendentalist

551 - The Truth Seeking Socially Just Rationalist

552 - The Truth Seeking Socially Just Intuitive

553 - The Truth Seeking Socially Just Gnostic

554 - The Truth Seeking Socially Just Mystic

555 - The Truth Seeking Socially Just Transcendentalist

Joe Lightfoot is a writer, podcaster and apprentice community weaver. He is the author of A Collective Blooming: The Rise Of The Mutual Aid Community and the host of The Lightfoot Podcast. You can sign up to his newsletter The Lightfoot Letter and stay up to date with any new publications. You can also find him on Facebook.