A More Integral 2015

I’m back from a holiday season vacation and I’ve noticed several wonderful articles and podcasts in the blogosphere that I want to give my attention in the days to come. But first, I want to express my New Year wish for the Integral community.

Let’s let the past be the past, especially the controversies and divisiveness and any ill will that has cropped up between one part of the community or another, one leading figure to another, or person to person. Let’s give everyone a chance to show a new side and demonstrate the capacity for growth.

Let’s let go of resentments on account of not having been noticed, or given our fair share of credit, appreciated enough, seen as right, or whatever the case may be.

Let’s let go of resentments that have arisen because some folks have taken the Integral movement in a direction that we would rather have it not go, made some important mistake, not done their homework well enough, or not used our preferred terminology or schema for consciousness, or not spoken with enough care.

Let’s let go of resentments towards those we may see as “less evolved” (inside and outside the community) on account of their ignorance or failure to grow, and let’s go of resentments towards those we may see as “more evolved” because they haven’t done enough to lead the way.

Let’s let go of resentments towards popular culture and mainstream society and conventional politics and so forth, for being filled with first-tier dysfunctions.

Let’s start 2015 with a simple desire that the world become a more Integral place. How much more Integral? Just as Integral as it needs to be, and at least a bit more for the sake of delight.

We will know it is becoming a more Integral world because…

  • people who thought only of themselves will begin to think of their neighbors as well, and leaders who thought only about their community’s interests begin to think about the globe
  • people will begin to evolve their traditions to allow for new ways in which we can all co-exist together, recognizing our common depth of unity behind all the surface diversity
  • people will take the reigns of evolution and consciously grow as part of an integral, coherent, systemic whole world order
  • people will begin to “wake up” at whatever station of life they are at, becoming re-born into their Supreme Identity
  • people will begin to “grow up” to see their unsolvable problems “solved” at a higher level of consciousness
  • people will begin to look around for others who share a more expansive consciousness and when they do they will be attracted to the body of books and blogs and movies and art masterpieces and workshops and educational programs and therapies and spiritual teachings and leadership development offerings and think tanks that we in the Integral / Evolutionary community have developed.
  • having been drawn to the offerings of the Integral / Evolutionary community, its philosophers, artists, activists, healers, business people, educators, and so on, many new people will join in the movement, contributing their gifts, and becoming full participants in the larger game.

As these many thousands and even millions of new people encounter the Integral / Evolutionary community for the first time, do we want them to be greeted with in-fighting and disarray and dysfunction, or a true unitas multiplex?

It’s time to do our part in creating a more integral / evolved world in 2015. What a beautiful opportunity for practicing being our Self/selves together as  Unique We!

Integral Blog will be there along the way, playing a small role in the blogosphere ecosystem to help draw connections and build community. I started this blog largely out of a sense that the Integral movement needs a healthy ecosystem of publications and social media presence to thrive, and it takes all of us doing our part. I am looking forward to taking this journey with you, and open to the possibility of becoming more fully integrated and whole in my own 2015.

Since I’ve Been Away … Or: Have We Become Altitude Denialists?

Yes, it was a little bit of a stunt, a dramatic gesture not usually made in civil debate. But I did it anyway. I told Frank Visser, head of Integral World, that I believed his arguments to be “orange”, and then I asked him to take an assessment test. (The context: Frank Visser recently added a new chapter to his widely read book on Ken Wilber which I dissected in a way that Frank did not like.) If Frank would show the world his results, I said, I would share the results of my own assessments publicly.

Frank Visser’s only reply so far is a quip. [Update 12/12/2014: “Proud to be ORANGE” by Frank Visser]

Meanwhile, I’ve received a variety of supportive and critical comments from members of the Integral community. Some of these leave me genuinely puzzled and worried. You see, I haven’t followed every post on every Facebook forum or Ning community over the past several years, so I’ve got some catch-up work to do.

I’m a bit stunned. And I have to wonder aloud … since I’ve been away … has it become impossible to discuss altitude openly even within the Integral community? If that’s true then I’m afraid that the Integral revolution is over. And Integral has already lost.

There were early signs that I’d been away from the blogosphere for too long. Immediate reactions to my challenge to Frank: I was told that I was inviting an “altitude contest” and an “altitude competition” and “altitude waving” and “arguing from altitude” (John Vagnon). (There were also replies from outside the integral community that found my offer “appalling” and “Pulling Rank”.) Vagnon wrote:

Here’s my problem with argument from Altitude. It has nothing to do with hurting people’s feelings. Its just imprecise. If someone is arguing from a “blue/amber” altitude, they might be incorrect (or partially incorrect) about something – not because of their altitude – but because of reasons that come from higher altitudes. Those reasons are expressible in language. A blue (or lower) argument that the Bible is literally true is limited for reasons we can express without simply calling it “blue”. If Frank’s view is limited because his argument is limited to orange – and it well might be – those limitations can be identified with post-modern critique – with no need to refer to altitude or to engage in altitude competition.

Vagnon’s views were supported by Elliott Ingersoll, a psychologist and co-author of 2010 book, Integral Psychotherapy. Ingersoll wrote:

As psychologists we can’t even agree on what personality is, let alone consciousness or levels of consciousness – really. We’re all over the place….

There is no psychological test that functions to capture the whole of how a person experiences/interacts with the world….

The idea of levels of consciousness, even as a holarchy, may not be at all what is going on….

We need to use such tools carefully because – and here is the kicker – we don’t understand the 3 pounds of miraculous tissue between our ears that seems to be running much of the show….

It’s ok – we are a work in progress but there is no objective psychological science that can “explain” what a person’s views on a subject reflect so no test can be administered that “explains” those views (or explains them away)….

Continue reading “Since I’ve Been Away … Or: Have We Become Altitude Denialists?”

Read my reviews of Ken Wilber’s The Integral Vision and “Integral Politics” (from The Many Faces of Terrorism)

The Integral Vision-(Credit: InnerSelf)

As an expression of my desire to build bridges between an often insular Integral community and mainstream discourse, I’ve contributed nearly a dozen articles to the OpEdNews.com progressive website over the past three years.

If you want to express your support for this effort to bring Integral perspectives into wider circulation, visit my author page and become a fan.

One of the articles I published to OpEdNews.com in 2007 exclusively appears on the site, a review of two works by Ken Wilber. Here’s an excerpt:

Review: Ken Wilber. The Integral Vision: A Very Short Introduction to the Revolutionary Integral Approach to Life, God, the Universe, and Everything. Shambhala. August 2007.

Review: Ken Wilber. “Integral Politics: A Summary of Its Essential Ingredients”, excerpt from Book Two of the forthcoming Many Faces of Terrorism trilogy. www.kenwilber.com. April 2007.

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” — Winston Churchill

Ken Wilber would probably agree with Churchill’s famous dictum. He would catalog the failures of anarchism, monarchy, republicanism, aristocracy, socialism, communism, and all other forms of government. Then he would add to them the failures of liberalism, conservativism, and democracy. All these political movements create a “fragmented, broken, partial, tortured mess of political chaos.” None are integral enough.

What does it mean to say that every political system and movement in history is tortured? What alternative is there, if even democracy is a sorry mess? What does integral mean? And who is this Ken Wilber, anyways?

The last question is the easiest answered. Wilber is a prolific author of more than twenty books of psychological theory and philosophy. He’s one of the most widely translated authors in the world today, and his influence extends from leading mystics and teachers of Enlightenment to the world of former presidents and vice presidents (Bill Clinton and Al Gore have praised his books).

Now Wilber is writing a treatise on politics called The Many Faces of Terrorism. According to kenwilber.com, the treatise “is actually a trilogy of books … with each book, to be published separately, being around 450 pages long.” The excerpt “Integral Politics” outlines an Integral Political Theory and has already been made available in draft form through Wilber’s blog.

The terrorism trilogy is premised on a political theory that gives prominence to four major scales, not all of which are included in mainstream politics. The four: the tension between externalist and internalist views of the causes of human suffering; translative or transformative approaches to the nature of change; the role given to individual versus community or collective; and something called altitude. The first three scales are fairly self-explanatory and familiar to most students of political theory; however, Wilber’s theory may be the first in history to accommodate the relative altitude in which various political movements are grounded.

Altitude refers to a stage of human development, either individual or collective. Basically Wilber is arguing that the reason there is so much wrong about politics is that current thinking is too partial and limited. He points out that various political movements are based on a spectrum of developmental stages. Lower rungs on the ladder are fraught with pathologies of egocentrism. Middle rungs succumb to pathologies of ethnocentrism. And — yes — even the higher rungs are cursed with pathologies of their own. Any political theory that wants to connect to reality will need to pay attention to the different stages of development that support all political movements, according to Wilber.

In the Integral Political Theory, the fundamental conflict in American politics today is not between Democrats and Republicans or progressives and conservatives (those categories blur critical distinctions and can’t account for the diversity of actual political thought). Instead, Wilber sees the most central conflict as that between internalists and externalists. Internalists see the cause of suffering in the self’s motivations, values, and human nature whereas externalists see the cause of problems in forces external to the self. The Right blames you for your own misery, whereas the Left blames other people.

Integral Politics rejects the partial distinctions of Right and Left in favor of a more complex analysis. The first step in such an analysis is to index or catalog very political system in history, and then identify its ingredients according to a comprehensive map of consciousness: the integral map. And what, pray tell, is the integral map?

It’s a model called AQAL (short for “all quadrants, all levels”). As Wilber envisions AQAL, it is the most revolutionary philosophy today because it’s probably the first in human history to take advantage of all known cross-cultural research into human evolution in personal, cultural, and social domains.

The Integral Vision (Shambhala, 2007) is Wilber’s most recent effort at presenting the AQAL model to a fresh audience in relatively simple (but not overly simplistic) terms. In just over 200 pages of a 7 by 5.7 inch, full color book filled with beautiful art and helpful illustrations. The AQAL model is introduced in five short chapters, with a sixth discussing a practical application called “integral life practice”. A seventh chapter is a guided tour through a spiritual practice called a “Witnessing meditation”. …

The rest of my review of these two works by Ken Wilber can be found in “Beyond Liberal, Left, and Progressive: An Inclusive and Revolutionary Politics for Tomorrow” published on OpEdNews.com on August 2, 2007.

A bit about integral criticism

In a comment on his blog recently, William writes:

“Joe is [working to reshape things you object to in the existing Integral model, and I admire… that] with his STEAM project…”

And my reply in a comment box here, edited:

Hey thanks, I appreciate that, William.Just one note, though. STEAM is mainly a different acronym for AQAL (the label for Wilber’s integral theory). It’s a teaching device and memory aid. In the future, I may choose to differentiate it from AQAL if the need arises, but currently don’t seen the need. In choosing to work with my own acronym, I was also motivated by a desire to keep control of the creative direction of my work.

My criticisms of AQAL are offered from within the AQAL framework, by attempts to enhance its usefulness, completeness, and adequacy. For example, as part of my most serious critique, I have published a diagram describing my theory of “gayness,” a concept not in Wilber’s theory, and showing how it relates to the four prime drives of holons. I am building, or trying to build, within the AQAL framework. The critique of Wilber’s published model is thoroughgoing, but largely implicit. It says implicitly: “Look, here’s what was missing in Wilber’s theory, and it didn’t need to be, so here’s how I’ve enhanced it in this context.” I don’t always phrases this as “Wilber’s theory is flawed because it doesn’t explicitly mention ‘gayness’ as a holonic tenet, and therefore it needs to be replaced with STEAM,” because that sort of deny and exclude approach isn’t necessary. Nor would I say, “Wilber hasn’t demonstrated how AQAL is totally adequate to producing a solution for the gay marriage issue, so therefore the theory has no practical use.” I’ve worked to flesh out the uses of the theory and test them to see if they work. Wilber’s theory is not intended to be 100% complete or perfect. It can be supplemented, and he encourages people with more specialized knowledge and experiences to do so, and as I see it, that’s the sort of critique I have been able to offer and continue to do so. I think it’s by far the most common form of criticism in the integral community.

In contrast, others commonly take approaches to critique that are more deconstructive. Traditionalists say it’s not in the Bible, rationalists want rational proof, pluralists think it’s phallocentric, that sort of thing. In my opinion, most such critiques are first-tier (citing problems from the perspective of one specific first-tier value sphere), as opposed taking to a systematic approach. Such criticisms may be right or wrong, and they may shed light on many useful directions, but they are not working from within the integral/AQAL framework.