An Integrative Approach To The Holidays

In this week’s podcast, Jeff Salzman tackles topics including the beauty of icicles and his new approach to holiday gift-giving, from an integral vantage point. He writes:

One of the hallmarks of integral thinking is that evolution moves forward by differentiating and integrating. Atoms differentiate into elements and integrate to create molecules. Cells differentiate into muscle, liver, blood, etc. and integrate to become an organism. So it is with culture and consciousness. Ambivalence arises as a muddled mess of knowing too much, and differentiates into its component ideas and feelings, often polar opposites, which are then integrated into a bigger, wiser more flexible view.

As evolutionaries we notice that the holidays evoke a set of negative feelings that hold that religion and materialism are what’s wrong with the world; and they evoke a set of positive feelings that hold that love and generosity are what will save it.

Rather than have to figure out which one is right and which one is wrong, or to live in the approach/aversion ambivalence of one view polluting the other, we realize that the way forward is to see the truth of both views fully in a bigger, more flexible space of awareness that can accommodate contradiction and paradox. “Out of the dimness, opposite equals advance”, wrote Whitman.

The advance Whitman is talking about is into a new synthesis of the polarities, a new realization that takes into account the best of both views and acts accordingly.

So that’s the theory. Here’s the practice, at least the one I’m using to make the holidays make more sense to me this year. As always I want to be part of the fun of giving and receiving gifts, but I don’t want to just buy things for people. I want to enjoy the spirit of love and peace, but I don’t want to be blind to people and critters throughout the world who have neither.

So for many people on my shopping list, I am making a donation to an organization that is doing some good in the world.

Jeff also writes on the movie Interstellar, saying it is a “movie told from all four quadrants” and a “work of integral art”. Read the full article.

I also shared a few thoughts on the movie, and concur completely that it is an outstanding work of integral art. That’s the buzz I’ve seen out on the social media of integralists as well. It’s really something when a Hollywood big-budget blockbuster gets this close to challenging the dominant ethos. You can tell it’s gold when scientific materialists write damning reviews of the movie on science-minded blogs for taking Love too seriously.


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The Evolution Of Tribal Identity

On the most recent edition of The Daily Evolver, Jeff Salzman describes a key difference in tribal identity (Red) at an integral consciousness (Turquoise):

The gay rights movement of the late 20th century has substantially won its two big fights: 1) AIDS, which while not cured is manageable, and 2) social acceptance, with gay marriage now legal in 32 states and a comprehensive Supreme Court ruling expected next summer.

So last weekend was a bit of a lesson for me in the power of tribal identity and the pain of its loss. I have a better understanding of why people in today’s tribal cultures are not willing to give up their identity easily. Those of us who have do so are left with the sense that we have lost something precious. But I don’t wish to have it back any more than I wish to go back to childhood. There are bigger, higher battles to be fought, with comrades that are bound together more by creativity than necessity.

At integral consciousness we begin to be able to create new tribal connections, but this time they are more more memetic than genetic, more organized around ideas than blood relations. We’re able to experience the juice of being deeply bonded to all kinds of people in ways that are not exclusive but expansive.

Read the whole article.

Other topics explored in the podcast include racism, white privilege, and a leftist critique of Obama.


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Jeff Salzman: Justice Is Fully Included As An Integral Value

Postmodernists are on alert when reading Integral thought for any shred of evidence that their pet values aren’t getting supreme attention. If Integralists say too many nice things about conservative values or fail to make central institutional features of power and money, then representatives of the Green Meme are soon on the attack.

Recently theorist Joe Corbett criticized two Integral thinkers, Ken Wilber and Jeff Salzman, for — oh my! — forgetting about Justice. On The Daily Evolver today, Salzman replies to an essay by Joe Corbett published recently on Integral World:

Corbett’s essay reveals a fruitful friction often found among integralists. First let me address his opening theoretical argument that when justice is not included on par with the primary human values of goodness, truth and beauty it is a “glaring omission of the L-R [lower right] quadrant”, and therefore the conversation Ken and I had is “entirely devoid of any structural analysis or acknowledgement of social institutions and the prevailing forms of justice within society.”

This is nonsense of course; suffice it to say that Ken WIlber, author of AQAL Theory, didn’t just – ooops! – forget about the exterior collective dimension of reality. Indeed Ken and I both talk about the structures of society all the time, including in our conversation. I wouldn’t know how to discuss current events without doing so.

Part of the confusion may come from a misreading of AQAL Theory where Ken relates the four quadrants that make up a human being to the three native perspectives a human being can take: first person (I and me), second person (you and we) and third person (it and they)…

Read the whole article and listen to the podcast.

Befriending evolution: Jeff Salzman on Integral leadership

Jeff_Salzman-from-ilcWe are evolving beings in an evolving universe. Evolution happens. That much is indisputable. But what difference does it make?

There are many different ways of responding to the evolutionary impulse, from the impulse of premodernism to deny evolution because it doesn’t fit with an ancient scriptural authority, the impulse of modernism to seek to control and dominate nature, and the impulse of postmodernism to remedy “natural” inequities.

And yet none of these worldviews is quite yet conscious of being a being whose awareness itself has undergone development… until the emergence of a new perspective that some of us call “Integral.”

An Integral World Rises

With his presentation, “It’s an Integral World,” at the Integral Leadership Collaborative online event this week, Jeff Salzman looks at Integral consciousness as an aspect of evolutionary awareness. Jeff Salzman is the lead teacher at Boulder Integral and the blogger behind The Daily Evolver.

Salzman said:

Human beings evolve. That is in a sense the Integral creation story. We’re the first beings in history who are capable of seeing history. We have the ability to lay all of human wisdom on the table, and then see when we do that, when we really make it a practice to inhabit different perspectives and look through the eyes of other people and to really confront our own demonization of our enemies … we become more friendly to everyone. That is a very important evolutionary move because it allows all these different perspectives that we are feeling into, travelling, studying, all the things we are capable of doing. [Transcript by J.P.]

The “friendliness” of the Integral worldview is a central theme of Jeff’s online talk, which included a discussion of current affairs, global economic and environmental sustainability, spirituality, and leadership.

Integral is “friendly,” in Salzman’s view, because it is able to accept people with premodern, modern, and postmodern worldviews for who they are. The Integralist is able to collaborate, ally, and partner with a wide spectrum of people who would be natural enemies of each other.

Integral leaders become “a non-anxious presence,” he says, because they are more trusting. This trust arises from a widely expansive spirituality which attempts to include and embrace magic, myth, science, and a passionate concern about the common good of the world.

If I am understanding Jeff correctly, in his view it is as a result of such a faith that Integral leaders may realize “I don’t have to work as hard or be as responsible as I thought.” Confident in the evolutionary emergence — a “bias towards novelty” — they are more relaxed and exude a sort of wisdom and confidence that others notice.

The Sacred World to Come

My favorite part of Salzman’s presentation was his hint-dropping of the sort of far-ranging vision of the future that is possible at high levels of cognitive development. I’m not sure if Jeff was joking or not about having a “300 year plan,” but I would not put it past him to have explored some far-flung possibilities.

Jeff imagines a “sacred world to come,” which sounds similar to my own Integral Christian understanding of the emerging “Reign of God.” In Jeff’s vision, human beings are evolving to a point where we will be “free to give and receive each other’s gifts in an ever more complex matrix,” including all of who we are.

In the emerging future, Salzman forsees an optimistic possibility: as the world gets more productive and population growth stabilizes and shrinks, happiness will grow and work will take less of our time.

Salzman doesn’t deny the possibility of negative developments, of course. He is particularly concerned with the real dangers presented by terrorists with premodern worldviews armed with modern weapons.

But we should not discount the possibility of peace, he suggests. He quotes someone who said, “No country with a McDonald’s has ever attacked another country with a McDonald’s.”

Going forward we are learning how to handle terror threats and small-scale conflicts better to minimize the threats posed by the jagged edges of evolution. Eventually, perhaps, evolution may unfold the possibility of non-violent means of winning peace.

Although it’s true that the Integralist is able to befriend folks from a huge number of worldviews, there is also a special bond created among friends sharing a common evolutionary worldview. For many years, Jeff said, he was a lonely Integralist. Today, with events such as the ILC, all that’s begun to change.

Photo Credit: Integral Leadership Collaborative