Announcing a New Facebook Group: “Integral Agape”

On April 14, I created Integral Agape, a new Facebook Group located at

Here is the group’s description:

In Integral philosophy, we distinguish between Eros and Agape. Eros is the force driving creation to reach higher and higher. Agape is the transcendent force reaching down and including lower levels. Both of these drives are necessary and important … and they manifest up and down the Spiral of existence at every level.

This group is focused on Agape: the self-immanent, descending current of evolution. In politics, this take the form of a focus on preserving what needs to be preserved, maintaining healthy values, and conserving valuable traditions. We are not defenders of the status quo, but we believe progress needs the attention of an integrally-informed consciousness in order to move ahead responsibly and deliberately.

We focus on what we do not to exclude Eros, but to ensure the integrity of the Spiral in which the Ascending and Descending currents meet. In that sense, our “conservative” ethos is married with a “progressive” spirit.

And here is my post today:

Yesterday on Integral Global, Theo Horesh asked: “Whether or not we want to support the Sanders campaign, the question remains as to whether the most inclusive mass movements will be supported or subverted by integral thinkers.”

I didn’t write a long response. But I pointed to something else I wrote earlier yesterday which expressed my vision of Integral Politics as a sort of Integral Methodological Pluralism in the political sphere, serving as a universal donor of wisdom to every first-tier political meme as it is embodied in particular parties and institutions. I concurred with him that green/socialist political movements have a ways to grow before entering maturity and having their full impact on the USA in particular, and I opined that the Integral movement needs to support their emergence. But support and subvert are not necessarily opposed! I said that the Green Meme will wreak havoc if left to its own devices (so will any first-tier meme), and needs to be subverted to avoid potentially catastrophic missteps, and to protect the health of other valid political memes (values and real people and institutions) up and down the Spiral.

I think what Theo was asking for is best handled really in a sort of Integral Progressive movement, much like there are also Integral Christian and Integral Buddhist scenes. I said, “Let the IPs choose the best way to move progressive issues forward — e.g., support Sanders or Clinton? — and let the Integral Conservatives or whatever they call themselves (though they are seemingly not to be found at this Facebook Integral-themed group) choose the best way to advance conservative causes in an integral direction. One group represents the impulse to Eros and the other to Agape, and let them each check the others’ Phobos and Thanatos. Nothing like this has ever been done in any other political movement, though in a sense it could be seen just as an expression of the emergence of ‘wings’ in the Integral political scene. The idea that the Integral movement — uniquely charged with protecting the entire Spiral — should *only* align itself with ‘progressive’ political causes, indeed those affiliated and endorsed by only one first-tier meme, Green — is frankly a bit frightening. It may answer the challenge of the hour, but it is short-sighted in the extreme. It is the perfect recipe for a nightmare scenario. Let Green do Green well. Let the post-Green memes do what only they can do.”

It was in writing these words that I realized that lo and behold *I* was one of the Integral Conservatives that I was talking about! In conversations on Facebook since last fall, I had been consistently saying and liking things that were closer to the political mainstream (Hillary Clinton as opposed to Bernie Sanders, Democratic Party as opposed to Radical Left, conventional reality vs. conspiracy theories, etc.) It seemed that 90% of my Facebook friends were all drifting farther away from the mainstream and into this new-fangled radicalism. Well good luck and God bless with that, but I’m ready for something different. The majority of people on Integral Global and similar groups sometimes seem to want nothing more than Green philosophy and spirituality with a few sprinkles on top, rebranded as “Integral”. Every day it’s the same thing: more Wilber bashing, more rabid anti-capitalism, more Hillary derangement syndrome, more conspiracy theories, more calls for Revolution!(CC NC-ND), and more silence about how much this is really in tune with the fuller, expansive spirit of Integral. I don’t think they’re all bad Integralists (not by a long shot), and I certainly don’t think they’re bad people, but they’re out of touch. I just think it might be an appropriate time to let the spirit of Agape run wild.

If you feel a kinship to our purpose, you are warmly invited to join Integral Agape.

Integral Thinkers, Like Poets, Underacknowledged Visionaries

In “How Has the Social Role of Poetry Changed Since Shelley?” in The New York Times, Adam Kirsch explains a key difference between Romantic poets such as Percy Bysshe Shelley and poets of today. It is the “the imaginative confidence of poets themselves”:

“Shelley was wrong to think that writing poems like ‘Queen Mab’ or ‘Prometheus Unbound’ would bring revolutionary change to England, but his conviction that they would is what allowed him to write the poems in the first place. Today, poets with a grasp of reality must start from the premise that nothing they write will be much read or have much influence on public discourse. A poetry written under such circumstances may have its own virtues, but they will not be the virtues of the Romantics — conceptual boldness, metaphysical reach, the drive to bring religion and politics themselves under the empire of art. As if in recognition of this fact, poets in our time prefer to imagine themselves not as legislators, but as witnesses — those who look on, powerless to chayou thinge the world, but sworn at least to tell the truth about it.”

One thing which hasn’t changed since the Romantics’ day is the lack of much acknowledgement of poetry among the majority of the population, including the folks in power. He writes:

It would be a mistake, then, to think that the social role of poetry has actually changed very much in the last 200 years. Poets were unacknowledged then, by a vast majority of the population, and they are only slightly less acknowledged now. No one in power in 1814 was asking for Shelley’s views on the Congress of Vienna, just as no one in power in 2014 is asking for John Ashbery’s views on climate change.

If you think about it, the social stature of Integral thought is aligned with poets in certain ways. And I would suggest that we can learn a thing of two from the Romantic poets’ boldness of vision.

In a day when poets have ceded the role of “legislators of the world”, any sort of grand epic vision of reality, one might turn to philosophy. But there too the mainstream philosophers of our time seldom make bold grand syntheses which put themselves as arbiters of truth, even people with something to say of Truth itself (by the way, who writes with capital letters these days? where have the neo-Platonists gone?)

No, for grand, bold thinkers who are in a sense similar to the Romantic poets setting themselves forth as “legislators of the world”, you have to turn to Integral thinkers and artists. I am one of them. And I would venture to say that my role within the pantheon of Integral folks mine is that of a more Romantic type than the Rationalistic type.

Continue reading “Integral Thinkers, Like Poets, Underacknowledged Visionaries”

Unapolgetically Integral In Our Own Way

“Our Most Important Activism For This Point In History Involves Building The Integral Worldview Itself” — Steve McIntosh, author of Evolution’s Purpose

Integral Blog has a new quote plastered across the top of our sidebar, so I thought I’d tell you more about it. You may have recognized it from a 2011 conversation between Scott Payne and Steve McIntosh published at Beams & Struts, or my discussion of the conversation on Awake, Aware & Alive.

Here’s the immediate context of McIntosh’s remarks:

[T]here are obviously many forms of legitimate political activism that integralists can pursue. But from my perspective, the most important form of activism for this point in history involves building the integral worldview itself. That is, we need to demonstrate the power of the integral perspective and show how effective it can be at providing solutions. We need to build wider recognition of, and agreement with, this emerging understanding of evolution. In other words, we need to teach the truths of integral philosophy and persuade people that consciousness and culture do evolve, and that we can solve many problems by coming to a deeper understanding of this phenomenon.

“Teaching” integral philosophy as a form of activism can, of course, involve a wide variety of activities. It can involve creating media such as books, videos, blogs, articles, etc. And it can also be as simple as engaging our friends and family in conversations about it. Further, the more we can each embody it as our own philosophy and not simply Wilber’s philosophy or Whitehead’s philosophy—the more we can show how it is actually a new understanding of evolution that recognizes interiors and can detect a new kind of depth—the more effective we’ll be in these communications. (Bold added.)

Now there’s a reason why I’ve given these words a special place on this new blog. Firstly, they have been inspirational to me in my blogging since I first heard them over three years ago. Secondly, they are just as relevant today as when Steve first spoke them. And thirdly, I believe they have the power to shake my fellow Integralists from their comfort zones and help to give focus to and context for the work they do. (Incidentally, as you will see I’ve shortened it a bit and changed the first word. I hope we can agree these changes are not significant.)

Integral Blog is unapologetically written by an Integralist for fellow Integralists (or integralists) if you prefer. We will not say we’re sorry for discussing theory when others would say that we are “stuck in our head”. We will not shy away from using vocabulary that requires more than a middle school education. (We have a rudimentary Integral glossary for the interested.) We will not try to sneak Integral perspectives quietly into conversations in order to appeal to the huffy-huff-huffington-posters or the league of not-so-extraordinary gentlemen.

Continue reading “Unapolgetically Integral In Our Own Way”

Top 10 Signs Your Spirituality Might Be Integral

Unlike traditional religions, spirituality can be as individual as you are. And when that spirituality is founded on Integral principles, it opens the door wide for expanding human potential for rich inner development, cultural progress, artistic creativity, and spiritual renewal. But how can you tell if your spirituality is really based on integral principles?

If your spirituality is integrally based, it’s a way of being in the world as who you truly are, giving you a roadmap to finding yourself, clarifying your values, facing and healing your shadows, and eventually losing yourself again in the bliss of identity with the driving force of evolution itself: Love. It’s that simple and elegant.

An integral spiritual worldview shows you the divinity of humanity mirrored equally in both our particular and universal identities: male and female, rich and poor, black and white, gay or straight, adult or child, mature or immature. It does not blur differences into a blah sort of fake uniformity, but allows us to be uniquely ourselves, fully human, and fully capable of realizing our divinity.

In fact, maybe you are Integral without even knowing it. Here are 10 signs that your spirituality might be integral:

10. You don’t find yourself easily offended by slights to your ego, subculture, or group identification; therefore “political correctness” has little appeal to you (though you intuitively tend to avoid causing others unnecessary pain through your words or deeds). You look for signs of agreement with others and try to mediate or negotiate solutions whenever possible. You realize that there are more ways to work for justice than complaining that people are being insensitive. You don’t try to silence or shout down those who disagree with you.

9. You have come to a compassionate stance with regard to religious fundamentalists and conservative zealots because you recognize that their own stage of evolution may be less than your own. You know that everyone has a part of the truth. You know that many of the worst problems in the world are caused by people who think they have the full truth when they only have a part. You believe sacred texts such as the Bible are a source of wisdom, even if they contain many teachings which aren’t useful today. You pick your battles for justice carefully and strategically, not by reacting out of anger or fear.

8. You don’t think spirituality and religion are antithetical: Whether or not you have found a spiritual community, you know that being fully human is not strictly an individual affair. You know no person is an island. You may even admire the strong bonds of commitment and devotion shown by the religiously orthodox or traditional, and you long for deeper relations with people in your community and — through virtual communities and/or travel — around the world. When someone asks if you believe in God, before you say yes or no, part of you wonders what they mean by “God” and questions whether you are both talking about the same thing.

7. You don’t look for “explanations” of religion as strictly a subject of interest to biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, social historians, or theologians, but seek comprehensive approaches that include individual and collective dimensions of spiritual experience in subjective and objective perspectives. You believe not only in biological evolution but you are at least open to the possibility that cultures and societies undergo a sort of evolution. You don’t think science and spirituality are opposed. You don’t want to stay “stuck in your head” all the time; however, at the same time, you want your spirituality to be intellectually rigorous, not anti-intellectual.

6. You are non-judgmental not because you want others to like you or you because you seek to avoid being judged by others, but because you recognize your own shadow in everything you judge. You don’t think spiritual people have to be nice all the time. You know that anger — even rudeness — can have a healthy place in the spiritual life. You are skeptical when you hear of spiritual people blaming sick people for causing their own illnesses. You want to be free of shame, but still take responsibility for mistakes and shortcomings without blaming every problem on other individuals or classes of people.

5. You reject beliefs that insist on classifying people into victims and perpetrators, because you know that ultimately Spirit knows no such distinctions and every person has light and dark within themselves. You understand that many -isms such as classism, sexism, racism, and so forth, are wrong and need to be addressed; at the same time, you know that these socio-cultural conventions emerged in the context of a world evolving in greater degrees of Spirit and reflect the concerns of earlier stages in religious and cultural development. You believe strongly in human liberation, but think the ways that most people think of liberation are too limiting.

4. You reject overly simplistic answers to complex questions, and realize that our beliefs about ultimate reality should not seek to diminish, sentimentalize, or rationalize the mysterious and awe-inspiring nature of life. Likewise you try to avoid supposedly certain answers for understanding the mystery of death. Whether you believe in heaven and hell, reincarnation, or are agnostic about the afterlife, you know that human life is purposeful and our actions make a difference in this world. You understand that denial of death is the hallmark of an ego that doesn’t understand its true nature, its higher Self.

3. You are concerned about both ecology and justice not only in your community, but for all people around the world, part of your concern to alleviate the suffering and contribute to the holistic development of all sentient beings. You may have evolved beyond thinking only about people in your community or ethnic group or nation. You may have discovered a worldcentric worldview, one which realizes that in the 21st century it isn’t good enough to only think locally but also to think globally. You are deeply concerned by environmental concerns and protecting the natural world for future generations, but you know that technology isn’t the root of all evils; it can sometimes be the solution.

2. You recognize that Eros pervades every dimension of the world, and you celebrate erotic energy as well as spiritual energy because they are ultimately one. Nevertheless, you give sex a unique role for encountering beauty, expressing blissful play, exercising ethical behavior, and for giving and receiving love. You aren’t afraid to talk about subtle energies of yin and yang or masculine and feminine. You know that our gender and sexual roles are biologically, culturally, and sociologically conditioned; at the same time you recognize that there are meaningful cross-cultural patterns and universals that we can benefit from understanding.

1. You aren’t afraid to see your own divinity, inside and out. You may worry about arrogance sometimes, but you don’t think pride is the worst sin. You know that having self-esteem is important and that it is only genuine when it is based on recognition of your intrinsic worth, gorgeous uniqueness, and inner divinity. You know it’s safe to “come out of the closet” about both your shadows and your light, and doing so is central to your spiritual journey.  You strive to overcome all limited conceptions of who you are into a fully authentic sense that accepts everything that arises in an integral embrace as not distinct from your own highest Self.

If you look at your life and beliefs and see some or all of these signs, then you are discovering that you may already have an Integral worldview. I hope you’ll enjoy learning more about the Integral philosophy of life and World Spirituality. Follow me, Joe Perez, on Facebook and Twitter and learn more about my approach to spirituality on Awake, Aware & Alive.

Why I Stand in Solidarity With the Occupy Wall Street Movement

Occupy Wall St. (Credit: getdarwin)

Today I’m not only writing for my blog Awake, Alive & Aware, but also for the emerging new blog Occupy Philosophy, a venue for philosophers who stand in solidarity with the #Occupy movement. My blog’s readers are broadly familiar with the tradition of integral philosophy in general and integral politics in particular, but I don’t assume that you have any specialized background other than the basic principles of political theory.

Incorporating insights from perennial philosophy, the constructive thread of postmodern thought, and developmental psychology (Piaget, Maslow, Kohlberg, Carol Gilligan, Ken Wilber, etc.) integral politics understands that human consciousness evolves. From this perspective, the Occupy Wall Street movement is situated amid the conflict between modern and postmodern approaches to political economy.

Wall Street epitomizes modernity’s concern with optimizing the autonomy of individuals, freedom from the restraints of bureaucratic control, and a culture of wealth accumulation and global domination. Wall Street is a powerful symbol, and the Occupy Wall Street movement chooses the symbol as a locus of demonstration because of its capacity for dramatizing a radical rejection of some of modernity’s core values.

Thus, the Occupy Wall Street movement epitomizes the postmodern consciousness with its solidarity for the oppressed and marginalized, its internalized guilt over the West’s legacy of imperialism, and a rebellion against materialism and selfishness. That the movement begins with a ritualized expression of outrage rather than a well-articulated list of demands is understandable; long have postmodern politics been impotent in American political discourse, relegated to the periphery in a two-party system with an iron clad grip on power.

View from an integral window on politics

Distinct in its vision of politics, the integral worldview understands that postmodernity follows modernity as part of a deep and complex spiral of development. The evolutionary view it shares with thinkers such as Fichte and Hegel and spiritual thinkers such as Tielhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo, though in the 21st century the most serious integral thinkers have shed the baggage of simple metaphysics in favor of a view that is arguably both “post-metaphysical” and “post-postmodern.”

Integral recognizes that postmodern political economics emerges from modern economics and is basically an elite, higher level of political consciousness. Postmodern politics is more evolved, more capable of embodying a spirit of justice and compassion, and more capable of taking appropriately worldcentric perspectives on important global problems. Both integral and postmodern political philosophies sense deeply that the days of ethnocentric social organization and independent nation-states is inadequate for coping with the complexities of today’s world.

Writing on Integral World, Joe Corbett, Ph.D., sketches an integral approach to critical theory:

Including justice as more distributive fairness and inclusion within the discourse of Integral Theory and its practice is something the postmodern (green) level of analysis has already provided. However, postmodernism is mostly about promoting the diversity of social relations generally, and is absent of any explicitly higher level of unity that a class analysis and critique of money and power gives us. Postmodern and post-structuralist analyses critique relations of domination, to be sure, but mostly from a multicultural perspective, and they provide no vision for a higher synthesis. In fact, they are premised on resisting any restoration of synthesis, much less a ‘higher’ synthesis, within the historical dialectic, as that would, by postmodern reckoning, be ‘totalitarian’.

In this way, Corbett suggests that postmodernity’s focus on justice is incorporated into the integral worldview, which alone can provide a “vision for a higher synthesis” which to the postmodern mind is rejected as “totalitarian.” The higher synthesis of which he speaks is made possible because of a sophisticated and nearly comprehensive map of human nature given by AQAL, the most prominent integral map.

Occupy Wall Street’s partiality could potentially be ineffectual or even dangerous

From the AQAL view, Occupy Wall Street can be described as arising out of values and behaviors in terms of particular coordinates: e.g., green altitude (a.k.a. postmodern) cultural values seen from a Lower-Left Hand quadrant angle. AQAL stands for All Quadrants and All Levels, meaning that the movement is optimally viewed from perspectives which include subjective and objective, individual and collective angles at all stages of the developmental spectrum.

The jargon and subtleties of integral philosophy are not so important as the big picture: integral tells us that Occupy Wall Street’s view of reality is important but partial, and if that partiality is not checked by a more expansive vision of human nature it can easily become ineffectual or even dangerous.

What is needed is not merely anger at Wall Street or demands for specific policy changes, but an expansive vision which tells us how remedying social injustices is connected to changing individual hearts and minds and the culture and social organization of a world economy.

Steve McIntosh, one of the leading figures in articulating an integral politics situated within a call for global governance, writes:

In solidarity with postmodernism, integral consciousness sees that in the long run, the ethnocentric politics of group selfishness are dead, that the future belongs to those who recognize that all lasting political progress is grounded in morality, and that everybody counts. The integral worldview thus recognizes that civic improvement ultimately depends on the further development of the ethic of fairness within human society and government—integral consciousness can see that the increasing morality of interpersonal relations is the foundation of all real political evolution.

Since its rise as a political force in the sixties, postmodernism has been influential in the politics of the developed world (achieving considerably more success in Europe than in the U.S.), but there are still many important ways in which its agenda is currently trumped by modernism. Yet from an integral perspective, this is evolutionarily appropriate. Postmodernism may stand for the future of worldcentric political mores, but its policies are not yet mature enough to take charge of the developed world. Integral consciousness can thus make political progress by helping to moderate and restrain postmodernism’s radicalism so that its important contributions can be better integrated into the politics of the developed world. Integral politics must therefore concentrate on the two areas where I believe postmodernism needs the most development: moderation of its often staunch anti-modern bias, and education regarding the “fragile ecology of markets.”

In other words, just as you would expect from any philosophy with a basically dialectical understanding of history, when the integral philosophy supersedes or overcomes postmodernism, it reemerges with a renewed appreciation for modernity, the previous wave in the spiral.

Thus, an integral politics appreciates the contribution of Wall Street to increasing wealth, improving opportunities for education, and lifting the standard of living of people throughout the world. Integral politics knows you can’t just burn down the banks. Integral is not anti-business.

Other points of solidarity and tension

Integral thought — which has influenced politicians of the Democratic center such as Bill Clinton (a fan of Ken Wilber’s writings) and Al Gore (another Wilber enthusiast) — is not a natural fit for extremism of the right or left. It tends to resonate more with Third Way politics, and some integralists laud Barack Obama’s leadership style as pretty integral in spirit.

What’s more, integralists such as myself are loathe to join in Occupy Wall Street group activism which would require consensus for making all decisions (we see that as an ideological commitment which absolutizes the value of including diverse views to the point of sacrificing other important values such as efficiency and valuing of expertise).

Still, I find myself in sound solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, even as I am concerned that the movement’s participants may not have a large enough view of their goals and effects. Why?

America has always suffered from wealth disparities, but in recent years the enormous gaps between haves and have-nots has grown horrifying. That such differences have not been achieved on merit and that they also exacerbate racial divisions adds to the gruesomeness.

Moreover, societal inequality foments tensions which are disruptive of social cohesion and could ultimately harm all sectors of society. A society in which the top one percent of the population dominates wealth and exercises exorbitant influence over the political system is called, to my way of thinking, a “dominator holarchy.” That’s a bad thing.

No one has done more in such a short period of time to highlight this pressing social injustice than the Occupy Wall Street activists and others who have begun to emulate their activism throughout the world.

They are not alone. Even Warren Buffett has had a valuable role in arguing for increased taxes on millionaires and billionaires. If the movement matures in more integral directions, it could have a lasting and revolutionary impact on American politics. And leave the know-nothing Tea Party behind in the dust.

Many on the left wing view the conflict with Wall Street through the prism of politics as war: “us” vs. “them.” However, a more integral approach calls us to bear in mind that there is a greater unity behind the differences, and we are all called to a higher purpose which is justice for all.

Integral morality advises non-violence but does not repudiate civil disobedience, even if it means choosing a higher law over the law of the land. That peaceful protesters seeking social justice are jailed while hedge fund managers who brought the world’s financial system to its knees receive multi-billion dollar bailouts and multi-million dollar bonuses outrages the conscience.

Finally, integral morality does not arise from resentment, feelings of jealousy, or animosity of any kind. It asks us to look at our individual shadows and acknowledge when our own antagonism towards the ultra-rich borders on its own sort of greed and will to power. Integral politics is based on love.

In future blog posts, I may explore in more detail the specific contributions of integral philosophy to the dialogue around redistributive justice in America and worldwide.

What do Integral philosophy and hand soap have in common?


I’ve taken a few weeks off from blogging this month in order to focus on other areas of my life. At the same time, I’ve been reflecting on how to best integrate blogging with my work in career services and the full gamut of my creativity. Now, thanks to soap, I’m returning with greater clarity on what I aspire to achieve with Awake, Alive & Aware.

A few weeks ago, I framed this blog’s mission like so:

Awake, Alive & Aware is committed to practicing, exploring, and advocating Integral ways of living as conscious beings in an evolving universe.

The idea of blogging as a practice for building greater awareness and understanding of “Integral” ways of living is still quite important to me. But I think there was something in my messaging that wasn’t quite working. And when I read an article about how a company gets people excited about toilet bowl cleaner and other mundane household goods, I began to better understand the issue.

In “Making People Passionate For Toilet-Bowl Cleaners And Other ‘Low-Interest’ Products,” Erik Ryan and Adam Lowry describe the dilemma they faced in marketing cleaning products:

We believe in making the act of cleaning more enjoyable and, if we may say so, aspirational. But virtually every commercial treats cleaning as if it were a huge hassle, virtually screaming promises of convenience and ease. Pandering to women with images of grinning maids in aprons, it was as if taking care of your things was something to be ashamed of, something you’d rather leave to someone else. This is typical problem-solution marketing, in which you set up a problem (mildew in the bathroom) and then present your product as the hero solution (Pow! mildew gone). The problem with this approach is that it forces the consumer to enter through the problem, so your brand will always live in low-interest land.

What I realized is that too often I’ve been thinking of “Integral” with a problem-solution framework, and then applying that framework implicitly in my blogging. Integral politics provides a Third Way between liberal and conservative, Integral spirituality provides a way beyond the dichotomy between “spiritual, but not religious” and fundamentalist, Integral health provides a way of reconciling alternative and Western medicine, Integral psychology provides a model for bringing Freud and Buddha together, etc.

Whatever the problem, if there’s a solution, it can be better seen from an Integral lense. From this framework, I began to blog without need for artificially restricting my focus to any one area. When the focus of the blog is basically methodology, then anything is fair game. I could even write about baking bread integrally so long as I was looking at the consciousness infused in the baking process and how a distinctively developmental or otherwise integrally oriented mindset resulted in tastier, better, or more economical bread.

Ryan and Lowry describe how they rejected the problem-solution approach to marketing Method products:

Even if you don’t find an ounce of joy in cleaning, virtually everyone loves the end state, a clean home. So we focused on talking about the aspirational end state of cleaning, and we found that, to many people, cleaning is an important part of life. It’s the ritual of connecting to their homes and families by putting life back in order. To many, cleaning is a form of caring for their children or pets by providing a safe haven for those they care about most.

It turns out that the Integral worldview has more in common with Method cleaning products than I would have guessed. Most people don’t enjoy reading meta-psychological, meta-cultural, and meta-sociological models steeped in arcane terminology seemingly requiring two Ph.D.’s to decipher. But they do like a tidy worldview.

Integral philosophy as a cleaning product

The point to the extensive philosophical modelling is not theory for theory’s sake, but connecting people to themselves and their world by putting life into good working order. Integral philosophy is a form of shampoo that helps people to create safety and sanity and health for ourselves and people we care about.

But Integral isn’t often thought of in this way, or marketed like this. Integralists have frequently been selling hand soap by listing all the ingredients and saying, “Isn’t that the most comprehensive and inclusive list of ingredients you’ve ever seen?”

Or we have focused on the benefits to be had in applying the Integral method. Its like integralists have been selling hand soap by showing how moisturized, germ-free, and nice-smelling it makes one’s hands. That’s an improvement over cataloging ingredients, but it’s still not quite working, I suspect.

Ryan and Lowry continue:

Seeking to draw out our audience’s inner clean freaks, we filled our ad campaigns with young, great-looking naked people in gorgeous, hip homes, using (or maybe just caressing) a rainbow of beautiful Method products. Rather than the “quick and painless” promises in our competitors’ ads, we communicated with clever, cheeky messages intended to promote the aspirational idea that cleaning could be cool (gasp!). Flying in the face of decades of traditional cleaning commercials, the ads resonated with people of all ages.

Now I’m not suggesting that Integral philosophy ought to consist merely in advertising copy, nor would I usually recommend the splashing of hot naked people to sell Integral-themed wares. (Though ads for integral pornography might be an exception!) What I am sensing, however, is the importance of communicating ideals through exemplars to create resonance.

A hand soap advertisement communicates the aspiration to cleanliness through Method products to inspire the desire to be like hip, cool figures in the advertisement. Similarly, an Integral blog communicates the ideal of integration/holism through Integral ideas and practices to inspire the desire to be like the blogger and/or the blog’s subjects.

So you may not be an Integral blogger, but if you are a therapist, coach, business person, consultant, minister, artist, writer … or whatever it is you do … you encounter a similar dynamic. You may not think of yourself as marketing, but if you want to do what you do Integrally, you can’t avoid the challenge of positioning your offering in relationship to the Integral brand.

Integral is beautiful

Everyone wants a house that’s beautiful and well ordered. The house is the world and the Integral philosophy is the cleaning solution that helps to put it back into order and working better; it’s not an obviously sexy thing to sell, but it can be done.  Those of us who are in the “Integral business” in one way or another can’t hide behind a list of product features for Integral meta-maps; we need to embody and exude the qualities that we are promoting.

Creating demand for Integral products and services can only go so far by offering problem-solution or features-benefit comparisons. We must communicate not that Integral Theory is the Best Theory, but that “Integral is cool,” or “Integral is beautiful,” or “Integral is clever,” or “Integral is ___,” where that ___ is YOU.

There are spiritual and intellectual fads that come and go. In One Taste, Ken Wilber said that Integral was pretty much a trend, but one that was not going to be going out of fashion. Some of us lonely integralists are wondering when the trend is going to get into fashion the first time! We’d all love our books to be bestsellers and our conferences to sell out and our art to be widely appreciated … if only the wide world would open its eyes!

In fact, there’s a sense in which Wilber is non-controversially correct: if “integral” means whatever comes after post-modernity, then by definition it is arriving on the scene with a sort of undercover but celebrated status. It is new and original, like everything hip and cool. A trend fades, but the trend-behind-the-trend becomes ever more apparent with the appearance of every new post-postmodern arrival. And Integral is the name we are giving to that trend-behind-the-trend.

So I’m returning to duty at Awake, Alive & Aware with a bit more humility. I don’t want to assume that I already know the mysteriousness with which “Integral ways” move. I am more curious about discovering the values and ideals and aspirations of the post-postmodern spirit … and less interested in advocating any fixed model of those ways. (Not that there are many “fixed” Integral models out there. The ones I know are quite dynamic.)

The experiment which is Awake, Alive & Aware continues.

Infant research suggests malleability, evolutionary potential for attention. Old news for some thinkers.

Baby (Credit: Jefield)

The history of science is the unfolding of people learning to ask better questions. As soon as one question seems answered, many more questions pop up. Advances in knowledge are seemingly met with an equal but opposite force: advances in ignorance. The wise know this and are humble.

Recently scientists asked the question, “Can you train an infant to improve her powers of attention, awareness, and concentration? And if so, what will be the impact on her later education?”

The answer they discovered, it happens, suggests that human nature is malleable and its evolution can be directed and re-directed by training in techniques for developing consciousness. None of this surprises meditators or contemplatives, naturally. But it’s news on ScienceDaily. Today the blog reports, “Infants Trained to Concentrate Show Added Benefits”:

“Research suggests that differences in attentional control abilities emerge early in development and that children with better attentional control subsequently learn better in academic settings,” said Sam Wass of the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development at Birkbeck, University of London….

The researchers trained 11-month-old infants to direct their gaze toward images they observed on a computer screen. For example, in one task, a butterfly flew only as long as the babies kept their eyes on it while other distracting elements appeared on screen. Infants visited the lab five times over the course of 15 days. Half of the 42 babies took part in training, while the other half watched TV. Each child was tested for cognitive abilities at the beginning and end of the study.

Trained infants rapidly improved their ability to focus their attention for longer periods and to shift their attention from one point to another. They also showed improvements in their ability to spot patterns and small but significant changes in their spontaneous looking behavior while playing with toys….

The fact that the babies’ improvements in concentration transferred to a range of tasks supports the notion that there is greater plasticity in the unspecialized infant brain.

By implication, nobody knows what leaps forward are possible in the human child’s capacity to be more aware. What one study learned in 15 days could be only the tip of the iceberg regarding our ability for focus. Regarding the nature of awareness, Ken Wilber once said,

The first fear of dealing with fear is not to avoid it. Bring it to attention. Awareness touches it, and all contact is love-based. So to the extent that you can bring awareness into any situation, you are also bringing Love into it because you’re touching it, aware of it. (Not an exact transcript.)

Of course, not everyone believes that all contact of awareness is love-based. But if you do, as I do, then it’s possible to recognize that enhancements in the human capacity for attention are capable of more than meets the eye. Maybe “changing the fabric of the universe” kind of stuff, if you are inclined to think metaphorically.

Paying attention to the fabric of the universe

An integral perspective sees the world as more harmonious than conventional thought suggests it is, woven together by underlying connective patterns. Even when those patterns are recognized as themselves a construct of reality, not a metaphysical glimpse into Reality itself, they are nonetheless still taken as useful signposts at the very least.

And so if you an improve an infant’s capacity to spot patterns and maintain their attention by 10%, you increase their ability to learn in school. But what else do you improve? Their capacity to meditate with 10% fewer distractions or, for Buddhists, to reach a state of Satori 10% faster? The ability for Christians to experience the presence of God, the Divine’s loving and omnipresent embrace, with 10% more lucidly or 10% more often?

These are great questions, but perhaps ones few of us would have been asking before the research results were published online today. We can ask questions at this level of specificity today, but tomorrow the questions will be more and more interesting as new possibilities for research arise. Consciousness research is surely one of the most exciting interdisciplinary fields to be watching these days.

Integral approaches to consciousness depart from the norm in a number of ways, but none so central as their indictment of the ideology of scientific materialism’s insistence that awareness must only be described in terms of brain states. Instead, an integral approach makes room for scientific, medical, spiritual, and philosophical perspectives without limitation.

Integral thought can do so because it recognizes both interior and exterior perspectives, as well as both individual and collective methodologies. Scientism offers merely exterior perspectives (so it’s sometimes called “flatland.”) Nothing about an integral approach invalidates the scientific findings into attention, but it tells us that reality is wider and deeper than is picturable only by what is measurable by the senses.

Transcendence evolves

As I see it, integral perspectives suggest the possibility of transcendence, but not an ultimate and final realization of transcendence. Even Enlightenment is evolving. Even Salvation evolves. The Kingdom of God evolves. And so the merry-go-round of existence turns, leaving us to occasionally look around and ask, “Where did it all come from?” and “Where is it all going?”

Integral philosophy is not particular about the answers one might give to such questions, but it is generally concerned with the way in which we view the ways that the questions are asked and answered. In other words, an integral thinker notices something about Enlightenment or God that other perspectives have missed: that there are different ways in which people conceive of the worldviews in which we talk about such things, and those ways arise in a developmental trajectory.

Part of an integral orientation’s distinctiveness is its ability to make room even for perspectives which refuse to sanction its own inclusive and comprehensive vision. Don’t believe in a telos to evolution? Don’t believe in God? Don’t believe in Enlightenment? Well, that’s fine and good. There is plenty of room for rational discussion about the merits of different philosophies and worldviews. But all that discussion takes place in different worldviews corresponding to various states, types, and structures of consciousness.

William James saw part of this picture: he saw the importance of recognizing different “types” or “forms” of consciousness, and the way that they determine our understanding of what is real. In an often-quoted passage of The Varieties of Religious Experience, he writes:

One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question,–for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes though they fail to give a map. At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality.

William James seems here to be talking mainly about altered states of consciousness, but integral perspectives generally include room for developmental structures (Piaget, etc.) as well as psychological types (Jung, etc.) And so when someone say they disbelieve in God or Enlightenment, an integral perspective wants to know what that statement means relative to its “coordinate” in a matrix of evolving consciousness.

By taking a big picture view that allows for some skeptics to be modern, other skeptics to be postmodern, and still others to be integral, etc., the nature of skepticism begins to emerge as a developmental phenomenon. And then something else becomes clear: as one maps the ways of being skeptical from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric perspectives, one sees that Doubt itself becomes more flexible, more tolerant, and more inclusive.

Polarities of faith and doubt

At late stages of development, indeed it can be difficult to distinguish between doubt and faith, because both are part of a polarity rooted in the fabric of the universe. One organizational consulting firm describes polarities in this way:

Polarities go by a variety of names: paradoxes, dilemmas, or wicked problems. High performance leaders and organizations have developed a tacit wisdom about managing polarities. Their experience and intuition has led to a natural ability, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, to “… hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

No polarity is excluded from consideration in an integral worldview, not even the polarity between evolutionary and cyclical worldviews. On the one hand, the integral worldview is the first to understand that consciousness is evolving in ways that are bringing about greater levels of complexity and integration; and on the other hand, it begins to become aware that its own perspective is relative to its own partiality.

In order to integrate this insight, an integral awareness begins to doubt its former focus on growth. It makes space for staying still, refusing growth, and even relishing in the exact coordinate you are at and desiring nothing to be different. It insists that “more developed” is not necessarily “better,” and evolution is not necessarily taking us to “Utopia.”

In short, a mature integral worldview appreciates a developmental diversity, including a stage of its earlier growth which recognized the fact of evolution but which had not yet recognized a timeless and essential and cyclical quality to the fundamental polarities of existence.

The dissolution of evolution itself

And then … there can be yet a further signpost along the highway of consciousness: a falling away of the polarities themselves, relaxing into the awareness that even Self v. Other, Masculine v. Feminine, or Creator v. Creation are all simply facets of something universal which unites the apparent opposites. It is from a place not unlike this, I suspect, that Ken Wilber’s statement, “all contact is love-based” must be situated.

Knowledge (if it can be called that instead of Knowledge/Doubt) that awareness is based in love is not an orthodox or heretical belief as a traditionalist might say, senseless as a modernist might say, a “myth to be taken ‘as if'” as a postmodernist might say, a High Level of Conscioiusness as an early-stage integralist might say, or an unbalanced polarity as a late-stage integralist might mistakenly believe.

Love and awareness are what is, what was, and what will be … and little else can be said without taking a perspective situated in a worldview seemingly less involved in the immediacy of the Knowledge/Doubt. Indeed, even the phrase “Love is,” is two words too many to be without constructs, contexts, and intentions.

There are many other ways of looking at all of these matters, but this is one overview of what an integral worldview looks like. It is in itself emerging out of postmodernism bit by bit, showing itself more clearly every day. Integral is in its infancy.

Today, we discover that the brains of infants are more plastic than we thought, capable of being trained to higher stages of awareness. How much more can we learn about the potential for humanity by asking new questions and conducting more studies? At some level, we all already know the answer to the question: we are becoming more aware, we are becoming more loving, we are becoming more God-like, and we are becoming more fully who we are.

Steve McIntosh: Our Most Important Activism Today is Building the Integral Worldview Itself

We all know what a product brand is: a name, design, logo, or some more intangible quality that identifies one good from another in the marketplace. Marketers sometimes say that a brand is really the first thing you think of when someone mentions a product; in other words, its reputation in totality or the impression it leaves after the product is out of sight.

Continue reading “Steve McIntosh: Our Most Important Activism Today is Building the Integral Worldview Itself”

As the world searches for a 21st-century philosophy, Objectivism and Integral thought vie in Russia

The twentieth century philosophy of Objectivism staunchly opposed statism and collectivism and defended laissez-faire economics as the salvation of the all-important individual. This philosophy, born of the passions of Ayn Rand, the Russian-American philosopher and novelist, is one of the most influential edifices for rationally defending an essentially pre-ethnocentric worldview — that is, a mindset dominated by an individual’s own needs and wants, incapable of much psychological insight into oneself or others. Rand once said:

Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.

Rand did not intend to encourage raw, brutal domination or criminality, I don’t think. She decried motivations rooted in power-lust or the desire to beat others. And yet according to Objectivism the achievement of an individual’s happiness is an end to itself, without any understanding of what creates happiness or any ability to distinguish immature forms of happiness from more mature forms. It’s a “rebel without a cause” philosophy (very popular, as it happens, with teenage boys).

The limits of Objectivist philosophy

The result is a philosophy easily misunderstood and misused by individuals without the psychological maturity to employ it as a pit-stop along the path of philosophical self-discovery, not the end of the line. In Russia and elsewhere today, intellectuals sometimes recourse to Objectivism (or more mild forms of libertarianism) in reaction to oppressive governments. When they embrace Objectivism with too much enthusiasm, their newfound liberation may become a mask for greedy, chaotic, self-destructive impulses run amok.

Could an Integral philosophy such as one drawing upon the work of Ken Wilber, Don Beck, Steve McIntosh, Allan Combs, Ervin László, or others become a sort of 21st-century alternative to Objectivism, one that could provide a healthier psychological foundation capable of bringing societies further along the developmental spectrum rather than regressing them into pre-ethnocentric rationalizations? According to a new article in Integral Leadership Review, there are hopeful signs.

Integral philosophy: an alternative to Objectivism for emerging societies

In “Notes from the Field: The Implications and Remarkable Moments of ‘Russian Davos,'” psychotherapist and organizational consultant Eugene Pustoshkin describes the cultural moment in Russia like this:

Today’s Russian society, gradually empowered by online social networking and information-based, increasingly cybernetic ecosystems (which is rapidly interiorized as a natural environment by consciousness of both younger and older generations), witnesses unprecedented trends of social integration and defragmentation which, most likely, will eventually catalyze massive shifts in Russian cultural consciousness. For instance, the Internet allows reconnecting Russian emigration (which fled the country in the end of 20th century) with the “continental” Russian population and reunions of classmates and childhood friends as I observed in many instances—including my own parents who now communicate with their friends who live in a surprisingly diverse set of countries from the Americas to the Middle East and Asia.

This openness to the world pressures Russians into leaving the habitual tunnel of nationalistic self-isolation and start inhabiting the worldspaces of global citizenship and unity-in-diversity of us all. What the candid American philosopher Ken Wilber calls Eros and Agape, the forces of loving transcendence and embrace, almost tangibly comes into play in this large-scale dynamic intercourse, thus manifesting the viscerally felt zeitgeist of novelty in Russia. Of course, Freudian neuroses and fixations, resistances of all sorts to novelty and self-healing, addiction to power games and a scarcity-based mindset (which drives towards zero-sum exploitation and opportunistic corruption) generate enormous force of self-harming, self-defensive tendencies, something that Freud called Thanatos or the destructive force. In addition to these obstacles Ayn Rand’s psychologically inadequate Objectivism apparently somehow started to play an important role in rationalizations of the elites and entrepreneurs, remaining an influential attractor for construction of a selfish narrative (with her books having been translated to Russian and promoted by libertarian intelligentsia in the recent years). However, the deepening exposure to the world’s best wisdom traditions and integral practices may counteract this trend (especially if a set of actions is to be taken to systemically distribute information on the plurality of perspectives in the coming years).

Read the whole article.

According to Pustoshkin, the Internet and social networking have unleashed a wave of newfound social integration, bringing people together across diverse stratums and distances into greater interaction. These developments are beginning to turn Russians away from “nationalistic self-isolation” towards greater “global citizenship.” Indeed, one can look at phenomena such as the use of Twitter by Iranian rebels and imagine that the World Wide Web may be shifting many cultures in unprecedented and poorly understood ways throughout the world.

It is human nature for people facing the loss of their distinctive cultural identity to react with powerful emotions, sadness, fear, and anger. Mourning creates the opening for new ways of creating meaning out of cultural chaos, but denial of a changing reality can close the opening just as fast.

Into a dispirited and vulnerable population the limited philosophy of Objectivism (which was arguably more suited for a world in a cold war) can become a festering cancer. A philosophy extolling the virtues of immaturity can cease to empower newbie entrepreneurs and others to taking control of their own destiny, and instead encourage them to start fucking other people over.

In contrast, an Integral worldview provides a genuine philosophical alternative. Integral philosophy in Russia and elsewhere can empower people by insisting on the protection of the sovereign liberties of individuals while also making space for the individual’s responsibilities to families, neighborhoods, communities, nations, and the global commons.

Objectivism and Integral thought: two different views of the self

Integral thought is grounded not in Ayn Rand’s pledge to “never live for the sake of another man,” but in the wisdom of the world’s mystical traditions, scientific discovery unfettered by religious restrictions, and postmodern insights into the culturally constructed nature of reality. If it will have more appeal to rising leaders, it may be on account of its having a more hopeful and forward-facing vision for humanity.

Objectivism and Integral philosophy share a common starting point: the self. As Ken Wilber wrote in the Foreword to Conscious Business:

But perhaps the best place to begin with an integral approach to business is with… oneself. In the Big Three of self, culture, and world, integral mastery starts with self. How do body and mind and spirit operate in me? How does that necessarily impact my role in the world of business? And how can I become more conscious of these already-operating realities in myself and in others?

However, whereas Rand concerns herself with the self’s desires and wants, Wilber employs a much more expansive definition of self. On my reading, Rand’s writings use language of value statements similar to what one would expect of persons at preoperational cognitive development (Self-protective Stage 2/3 in Cook-Greuter’s model) and formal operational cognition (Conscientious Stage 4).

There’s nothing wrong with articulating a philosophy with the values she does per se; but thinking your values are the only valid ones is symptomatic of early stages of cognitive reasoning, a rather shaky foundation for building a worldview which supposedly elevates Reason to the highest pinnacle. Surely there are more adequate philosophies for an enormously complex world.

An Integral philosophy allows for a more complex self to emerge, a self-in-relation more at home in a globally interlinked 21st century world than the defensive self lauded by Rand, the Russian émigré who fled oppression to find salvation (and fame) in personal autonomy. Whether Russian intellectuals and elites will be more influenced ultimately by Objectivism or Integral thought or some other philosophy, the choice they face is momentous for all of us.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Notes on Evolution of Bridge of Light Tradition

There have been several changes to the Bridge of Light holiday since it was first celebrated in 2004 (the first gathering used the name Yuletide). While much of this information is technical of interest to a few, some of you may find the historical details of interest.

I originally derived the meanings of the colors from principles in Integral philosophy (a nonsectarian philosophy based on the principles of spiritual evolution and the mystical thread connecting all the great world’s religions). I still find my inspiration for the holiday as fundamentally “Integral,” but I apply the principles differently.

In the 2004 version of the ritual, the colors represented main stages of evolutionary spiritual development, with each color aligned to a specific vMeme of Spiral Dynamics theory of cultural evolution. In subsequent years, this narrow inspiration proved problematic on several levels: first, I have never really adopted the color scheme of Spiral Dynamics into my spiritual practice; second, I have begun to place more emphasis on the modes or lines of development than stages, and now use the chakra system as a convenient traditional way of describing these modes; third, the ordering and naming of the principles was overly esoteric and this probably hindered more widespread adoption of the ritual.

There is wisdom in favoring simple principles that are easily communicated to others based on traditional associations that are already widely in use and need not be reinvented. The color associations of the charkas are an excellent way of communicating basic principles of evolutionary spirituality without being too heavy handed or rigid.

As a side note, I will add that new color scheme and ordering is compatible (if not a direct match) to the eight-mode developmental model that I have begun to use in my 2009 writings on the Kalendar, my vision of sacred time, so all in all I believe the modifications help to bring the ritual into line with my best and most contemporary insights into the spiritual significance of homophilia.

I fully credit Kittredge Cherry for originally suggesting use of the charkas for defining the principles. Her meditation on the chakra meanings and their specific application for LGBT spirituality have been quite valuable. I have more or less adopted her ordering and descriptions of six of the seven principles with only minor modifications. (Just as I have fully credited Toby Johnson for originally suggesting that the holiday be held on the New Year rather than the winter solistice, an idea that has improved the ritual considerably.)

Kittredge advocated differentiating between the first and second chakras (red and orange) because these principles are of particular importance for the LGBT community and I couldn’t agree more. Also, her color scheme lends itself well to ordering the candle lighting in a more straightforward evolutionary scheme than my original ritual: (1) red, (2) orange, (3) yellow, (4) green, (5) blue, and (6) purple. I think that these are developments for the better.

Kittredge also recommended combining the eye and crown charkas into one in order to fit the six-color scheme of the rainbow flag with the seven-color scheme of the traditional chakra symbolism. Upon further meditation, I have opted instead for a different solution that retains all seven charkas. I achieved this by adding a seventh principle (depicted by two candles, one black and the other white) for New Year’s Day.

By adding a seventh candle on New Year’s Day just for the crown chakra, then we can retain a celebration of the third eye chakra. It’s my conviction that the Third Eye, representing holistic understandings, integral models of development, and “Right Understanding” (to use a Buddhist term) in the service of enlightenment is somewhat neglected in LGBT spirituality. It would be a shame to miss an opportunity to reinforce the principle’s importance.

Kittredge adds, “I see this as a work in progress, and am open to ongoing dialogue about it.” And that is my own opinion as well. I’m publishing these recommendations now, a couple days in advance of Dec. 26, when some individuals will begin their own Bridge of Light rituals, and encourage feedback from the community.

I intend to light seven candles for my own celebration of the Bridge of Light. I expect my celebration will look like this:

Evening of Dec. 26. Light a red candle in honor of the Root of Spirit, the Principle of Community.

Evening of Dec. 27. Light a second candle, orange, in honor of the Passion of Spirit, the Principle of Creativity and Eros.

Evening of Dec. 28. Light a third candle, yellow, in honor of the Core of Spirit, the Principle of Self-Esteem and Self-Actualization.

Evening of Dec. 29. Light a fourth candle, green, in honor of the Heart of Spirit, the Principle of Love and Compassion.

Evening of Dec. 30. Light a fifth candle, blue, in honor of the Voice of Spirit, the Principle of Self-Expression and Justice.

Evening of Dec. 31. Light the sixth candle, violet, in honor of the Eye of Spirit, the principle of Integration and Wisdom.

Morning of Jan. 1. Light the seventh and eighth candles, black and white, in honor of the Crown of Spirit, the principle of Spirituality and Universal Consciousness.

How will you embrace the Bridge of Light?