Great article, Jason.
One quick note for now. You wrote: “Let’s just say that if the integral movement had investors they wouldn’t be happy with our conversion rates.”
But the integral movement DOES have investors. Funders of integral organizations. How happy are they with the growth rates of their membership and activism? How happy are they with progress towards the organizations’ goals?
When Integral Naked was axed in favor of Integral Life, paid subscriptions are said to have declined by 50% or more over 4 years. What kind of financial performance has there been, and are the leaders of Integral organizations taking responsibility?
I like Robb Smith personally a great deal, but honestly I have no idea how to assess his performance as a CEO of Integral Institute and Integral Life based on publicly available information. There aren’t even any archives on the News page of integralinstitute.org, so I can see press releases of the organization’s accomplishments over his tenure. It may very well be that he’s done a great job in ways that I know nothing about. I only have the rumor mill and his decision to decline to interview with me, and some of what I hear on the rumor mill is harsh.
I’m disappointed that few people are willing to take the discussion of Integral’s popularity to the next level and ask, how do we assess the job performance of the leaders of integral organizations?
The following letter by Daniel Gustav Anderson‘s just came to my attention this morning:
An Open Letter to Joe Perez
28 October 2011
Dear Mr. Perez,
We do not know each other well. So I hope it not too impertinent for a stranger like me to make a public demand on your time and attention. I do this in a spirit of friendship, and with an eye toward pushing the horizons of contemporary integral thought forward.
Here is the thing: It seems to me that you are in a unique position to contribute to the integral studies discourse in a productive and creative way, and not only because you already have a readership of significant numbers among those who are interested in this material. I am referring instead to your legitimacy in writing on issues of gender and sexual identity. You are able to write the queer with authority, as you did in Soulfully Gay.
That is point A.
Point B: There exists a lively, provocative, and occasionally problematic body of scholarship and reflection uneasily categorized as Queer Studies. You may be surprised to hear that there is significant and evocative overlap between your project in Soulfully Gay and the concerns of queer theorists such as Lauren Berlant, Michael Warner, and most especially Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, who describes her experiences in meditation in Touching Feeling. I am also of the opinion that Juana Rodriguez’s Queer Latinidad is a quietly soulful book.
I am writing you to bring points A and B into meaningful dialogue in your mind. I am asking you, Mr. Perez, to give this work a careful and critical reading, and then to write about it. The readers of the JITP would surely benefit from this. How so? In a few ways. This will take some explaining.
I bring this up with the understanding that there is nothing particularly “postmodern” about the material I am drawing your attention to. Seriously. If anything (and Berlant spells this out in Queen of America), the practices described are a reaction to, a resistance to, the postmodern condition, to cultural life under Reagan and neoliberalism. (See David Harvey’s classic The Postmodern Condition, and Fredric Jameson’s Postmodernism, to specify my meaning. You surely know this work, Mr. Perez, but since this is also a public document, I want to foreclose public misunderstandings before they arise.)
Engaging with queer theory in detail will give you a chance to broaden the understanding of queer identities and experiences and practices in integral theory (which you are uniquely positioned to do), and along the way to tighten up the concept of the postmodern as it circulates in integral studies. That is the take-away. You can do this effectively, and this discourse will benefit when you do.
So please. Enlighten the counterpublic.
First of all, I really appreciate your remarks in the letter and that you’ve noticed that I’ve been pretty silent on the topic of Queer Theory since the publication of Soulfully Gay. If I’ve largely ignored writing about LGBT/Queer Studies scholars, it’s fair to note that they’ve ignored Soulfully Gay, so far as I know. That’s not true in the non-academic discourse of Gay Men’s Spirituality, by the way, even though my own work is located as a critical voice within that movement.
On my part, this is an oversight I intend to remedy in time, but I am blessed and cursed with several different areas and modalities in which I desire to contribute. I do not foresee writing another book or substantial essay on Queer Theory for another year or more. I have a shelf on my bookshelf devoted to the latest developments in Queer Theory including some of the books you mention, and will be writing short pieces in the months ahead.
Let me be blunt: apart from a few authors such as Gilles Herrada, I have not yet read a single Queer Theory book even closely approaching an Integral or post-postmodern level of consciousness. That’s not to say there aren’t glimmers of post-postmodern insights in different writers, as one would expect a few decades into the rise of postmodern discourse in academia. Of course there are. However, academia is pretty abysmal right now. I perceive more interesting emerging integral voices in the LGBT community in spirituality, literature, art, and music — but not yet among academics.
I take issue with your judgment “there is nothing particularly ‘postmodern’ about the material…” of Queer Theorists. We clearly disagree. I guess that depends on your definition of postmodern. In 2009, I wrote a post for a popular audience called “Top 10 Signs Your Spirituality Might Be Integral” for Integral Life. It’s not intended as an academic paper, more of an “at-home self-test” of integral perspectives.
But if you ask questions like those 10 of your typical Queer Theorist you will find that the answer is definitely “No, their writing is NOT integral.” There are two important senses in which I intend this point: first, that the authors’ writing so far as I can tell probably does not evidence levels of ego-development centered at post-Individualist maturity in Susanne Cook-Greuter’s scale of ego-development maturity; secondly, that the positive values articulated by Integral Theory such as inclusion of developmental diversity, comprehensivity, non-dual perspectives on spirituality, etc., are not valued as such.
I try to hold the former judgments lightly (and generally privately), given that I have not administered any diagnostic assessment of the author and in any case it’s rarely necessary to talk about an author’s implicit psychological profile when it’s much easier to talk about the author’s explicit values.
A telltale sign of a postmodern Queer Theorist is that they value diversity in its own right and refuse to situate their discourse in a “big picture” of an evolving human nature; a sign of an integral LGBTQ/gay theorist is that they value both diversity and unity together and situate their discourse in a model of gender and sexuality capable of making sense of the facts of development in their particularity and in their general principles. An early exemplar of this approach is my own Soulfully Gay.
I want to add that there’s nothing wrong with Queer Theory as a vibrant, healthy postmodern (but non-Integral) expression of critical consciousness. “Not Integral” is not an insult in my book, it’s a tool of criticism itself, a pointer to the ways in which a writer has omitted something essential that could provide a wider and more useful perspective.
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick was a brilliant theorist whose contribution to scholarship was seminal; without her work in developing various postmodern critiques, integral scholarship could not stand on her shoulders. Her brilliance as a postmodern thinker is not diminished by the fact that she had not made certain connections obvious from a more integral perspective; indeed, it is from an integral view that her brilliance is all the more valued even as the partiality of her methodology comes more clearly into view.
Healthy postmodern perspectives are needed today inside and outside academia, just so long as they are willing to allow integral voices to work alongside them. There are destructive and constructive phases of postmodern criticism, and as writers naturally flow away from tearing down reality into appreciating and beautifying reality, they naturally progress into more integrative modes.
P.S.: I contract every time I hear you talk on your blog about “Wilberians” and “Wilber and his followers,” or attaching “dynamics of exploitation” judgments to spiritual teachers without a justification that I find persuasive. Such dismissive pigeon-holing is a major turn-off to me; it’s a common tactic of academic writers, I know, but I find it cringe worthy. I’m looking forward to having time after my vacation to cutting through the contractions and commenting on your work including your new essay. Overall, Integral needs to pay more attention to justice issues, and I’m glad there are folks out there who take them seriously.
Note: Re-post from my now-defunct blog, Until, on April 21, 2007. Updated final paragraphs on the Quadrants and sacred time.
Whether we are talking about the vicissitudes of our emotional life, the history of our country, words in the Bible, sacraments at the altar, or any other thing, there are four fundamental perspectives we can take. They encompass everything we want to talk about.
Four Prime Perspectives
The integral Christian embraces four primary angles, called the Four Quadrants, as primordial or foundational. These angles are the “A” in the acronym “STEAM”, which is useful for remembering the essential ingredients of an integral approach (S = structures, T = types, E = experiences, A = angles, M = modes).
As Christians, we can choose to symbolize the quadrants as the sections of a whole divided by the Cross. This way of looking gives our traditional religious symbol a new spin. The symbol of the brokenness of the world, the location upon which God’s ambassador is crucified, also denotes the brokenness of ordinary reality into fragmented perspective. Nothing in the world as we commonly know it is wholly whole.
Of course, there are many more perspectives we could take, not just four–an infinite number! (Not to mention that taking a perspective is just part of recognizing what it means to be a human being. It is not a specifically Christian affair.) But the four perspectives that are called the upper-left, upper-right, lower-left, and lower-right describe human nature and destiny in a satisfyingly comprehensive quadratic embrace that resonates with our Christian symbolism.
The integral Christian strives to take into account, at the very least, four fundamental perspectives, in order to better operate in the world and understand God’s will. These points of view do not need to always be consciously recognized in every act (that would be absurd). But over the course of time, we can’t afford to leave any of these vantage points out.
The upper-left quadrant: our physiological sensations, emotional states, the sense of who we are, our memories, and states of spiritual awareness. This is the perspective in which the person encounters the soul, and through the soul, our personal relationship with God.
We look inward and ask, “Who am I in body, mind, soul, and spirit?” The answer is found through the discoveries of our conscious awareness, the preconscious shadow, and that which is beyond any individual person’s awareness.
Introspection, meditation such as centering prayer, and individual prayer and shadow work is useful for exploring this territory. Freud’s dreamwork, Teresa of Avila’s mysticism, and Saint Augustine’s confessions do not share the same understanding of sex and spirituality! But each of these persons, and many more, have navigated the inner domains of knowing and being.
The upper-right quadrant: look at detached, objective data about yourself, the brain, and the entire organism. This is the perspective in which the person looks for objective information about the individual self or any other individual thing.
We look at the world and ask, “What facts do I know about the nature of a human being?” The answer is found through objectivity, especially the scientific method by means of the senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Also included in the answer are data found by expanding the reach of the senses with microscopes, telescopes, and such.
Biology (including the neurosciences) is one useful methodology for exploring this territory about human beings. Cognitive science and neuropsychology take two different roads into researching consciousness. But their investigations into subjectivity each offer an approach to the territory of without.
The lower-left quadrant: look at the impact on others and how the boundaries of your decision are determined by interpersonal and cultural contexts beyond your control; cultural constructs; theologies, philosophies, and world views that we are not entirely aware of.
We look at the world and ask, “How do I know anything at all about myself, the world, and God? How shall I live?” The answer is encountered via intersubjective inquiries and responses (that is, relationships to others and our art, literature, and worldviews). Ultimately, the question is answered by our I-Thou relationship with God.
Hermeneutics (the science of interpretation), structuralism, poststructuralism, philosophy, and theology, are the major disciplines of knowledge used for investigating this domain. In Carl Jung’s psychology, for example, his understanding of mythic archetypes in the collective unconscious is probably best located in this area. Another view of the lower-left is Michel Foucault’s understanding that culture dictates power relationships through a complex system of controls for defining “normal” and “abnormal”.
The lower-right quadrant: look at your functioning as an agent in a wider system of concrete interlocking, social forces, economic structures, police and military institutions.
We look at the world and ask, “How do we all relate to each other objectively and to nature?” The answer is encountered via social scientific research into human societies, religions, and economic forces that attempts to be grounded in an objective science.
Anthropology and sociology are the major ways of investigating problems in this area. Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Talcott Parsons take widely divergent looks into religion and society, but each were making maps of this domain. More contemporary sociological researchers including Peter Berger and Robert Bellah have also looked at this part of life.
Within each quadrant, there are fascinating and sometimes radical and disturbing differences of opinion. But the main point remains unobscured: there are four fundamental perspectives for traversing the roads to everywhere, and integral philosophers seek to map the terrain.
Philosopher and psychological theorist Ken Wilber has made a profound contribution to the theoretical study of the four quadrants in his many books such as Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World (Integral Books/Shambhala, 2006).
Thinkers and researchers in a wide variety of disciplines have applied the four quadrants to their areas of expertise. Many of these thinkers (and their essays and books) can be found at Integral Institute, Integrative Spirituality, or ARINA.
The integral Christian is committed to the outlook that all four quadrants offer important insights into human nature and destiny. We cannot understand ourselves adequately without taking, at least, these four basic perspectives. At the very least, our worldviews are enriched and made more comprehensive by including perspectives that we would otherwise ignore. And our view of God must also accomodate each of these domains.
God and the Four Quadrants
Where is God in the four quadrants? God is everywhere; God includes and transcends each of the domains. In Jesus Christ’s proclamation of the Kingdom of God (or the Reign of Heaven), we can also find the gospel message includes each of the four perspectives. According to The New Testament, the Reign of Heaven…
• Liberates eternally the renews the body, mind, soul, and spirit of every person who accepts the gospel. Salvation is offered for the whole person, not only one aspect of a person’s identity (upper-left and upper-right quadrants)
• Enfranchises and heals the poor, the meek, and the oppressed. All who suffer will find redemption from their suffering. In the end of days, God will create a new Heaven and a new Earth (lower-left and lower-right quadrants)
The integral Christian is committed to the gospel teaching of hope for the soul’s eternal realization, healing of body and mind for every member of the Body of Christ. Salvation is for the whole person; the whole world; the whole kosmos; or it is for nothing at all.
The integral Christian is committed to evangelizing the gospel in all four prime domains of human nature, and we take other perspectives as well. It’s true that there are many different ways of looking at the good news of the gospel proclamation, but the word of Christ is always good.
The Quadrants and The Kalendar
Each of the four quadrants are represented as days on the Kalendar, an integral map in which the Kosmic coordinates of spiritual evolution are described as sacred time. The first day of every week is Half Sun, representing the upper-left quadrant (subjective individual); the second day, Full Sun, representing the upper-right (objective individual); the fourth day, Half Moon, representing the lower-right (objective collective); the fifth day, Full Moon, representing the lower-left (subjective collective).
Sun Moon, third day of each week, is the holiest day of the week from an intrinsic perspective. This day represents the aspiration, possibility, and experience of aperspecitval nonduality: the view from nowhere and everywhere.
A Ken Wilber fan writes:
In Atlanta – here studying at the Center For Disease Control for another week long intensive (The Institute for HIV Prevention Leadership).
Riding in an SUV with a local friend (I’m a Maui resident) just to get out and about. We’re riding in the car and I begin explaining Ken Wilber and Integral “Life”, how it’s the first time I thought about getting another Master’s Degree – now that courses are being offered, etc (like many – he’s never heard of it)
I ask him to stop at “Outwrite” – a gay bookstore/coffee shop at 10pm. We walk in and right before our eyes, in full display is your book. We both reach for it at the same time (seeing the word “integral”). I love it when shit like that happens… (my friend finds it spooky/wierd)
Your book is making it hard for me to continue my studies for the week – I just want to immerse myself in it – like diving into Maui’s waters. (So glad you had “integral” on the cover – normally a rainbow cross would have made me just roll my eyes,………….hmm “May I speak to the sarcastic self” hehe)
Just a reminder, folks. I am not responsible for either the book’s subtitle (which includes the word integral) or the graphic on the front cover or the book’s wonderful rainbow-colored spine. All kudos or boos are due to the publisher, Integral Books/Shambhala.
Although I considered various titles during the writing process (including, at one point, “Queer Eye of Spirit” and at another point, “God is Gay”), by the time I submitted the manuscript to Ken Wilber it had the title “Soulfully Gay” which stuck the whole way through.