The Train Out of Radical Linguistic Postmodern Relativism is Now Boarding

train1“Will fans want to learn your new language like Dothraki [the language from Game of Thrones] or Klingon [the language from Star Trek]?” my friend asked. She saw that I was posting something about a new language on social media. She also knew that my forthcoming book, The Kalendar: Book One, includes a fantasy/sci-fi novel. I wasn’t surprised by her question.

“No,” I said. “I don’t think so. I think that fans will want to learn the new language the same way that people who get into Yoga want to learn Sanskrit, or people who get into Aikido want to learn more about Shinto and the Japanese language.”

It’s something hard to communicate when the books aren’t here and the language’s grammar and vocabulary are still under development and not public knowledge. How do I say about Lingua-U that the language is part of a spiritual path, one which doesn’t really exist yet, outside of my own nascent practice?

I don’t know. Anticipating the challenge of communicating the spiritual path to people who will become fans of the books, or for people stumbling across my blog and social media, I have taken the first step of giving the path a name. I’m calling it Integral Renewal for now, and that will have to do until a better name comes along. It is a path not merely about development to new heights, but about making the world new again, full of beauty and life which sprouts from deep and honored roots. I have a mind not to define or create a path, but to describe for others what I have found true and useful and important, and set in motion a movement which others may want to carry with them.

So “Integral Renewal” is really the name for the spiritual path which uses the practices which are described in the forthcoming and future books of The Kalendar: the Lingua-U, the New Magic, the New Zodiac, the New Tai Chi, and the cognitive landscape chartered by the New Atlas and the New Map of the Heavens, among others. These aren’t just elements of a sci-fi/fantasy story that has no connection to this world: like the stories themselves, they are part of this world and contribute their wisdom to it.

Since 2004, I have found myself drawn to the Integral spiritual movement pioneered by figures such as Ken Wilber, Deepak Chopra, Marc Gafni, Terry Patten, and more. But there is no deep understanding of linguistic iconism in the Integral Theory. As I wrote recently, Integral Theory has inherited a fetid and murky version of linguistic relativism from postmodern linguists, and it hasn’t bothered to change the bathwater. Without an appreciation of linguistic iconism, there can be no Integral Magic, nor really any deep appreciation of certain aboriginal and shamanic contributions to wisdom, in my opinion. Go ahead and keep paying lip service to “including” pre-modern wisdom, I dare you. Your claims will ring increasingly hollow as a more authentically Magenta/Violet alternative arises.

Integral Theory as it stands now cannot support the truth that the sign is not arbitrary; that there are universal patterns which connect the phonemes of the world’s many languages, patterns which cry out with significance, beauty, and power. It has erected a fine conceptual scheme upon words which it falsely takes to have no iconic significance in themselves. But the root of magic lies within these patterns, at least those roots that I have personally explored the most deeply, and so I am called to break from the Wilberian traditions of the Integral movement, so that I may describe a new path unencumbered by a rigid intellectual edifice.

It is a maxim of AQAL that the truths of all Four Quadrants (individual subjective, collective subjective, individual objective, and collective objective) must be recognized and honored, and that truth “tetra-arises” in all of them simultaneously. The very definition of reductionism is to plant your feet in one perspective only and insist that it bears the whole truth. Well, to my way of thinking, AQAL does something rather similar on a subtle energetic level. It honors very specific vowel and consonant patterns in its ethos and just as specific numerology in its conceptual scheme; it takes these energetic patterns to be universal and absolute. In fact, the phonemes which it honors most especially are merely a small portion of the total set of subtle values and powers manifest among the universal patterns of language. A more whole ethos must include truth from, forgive me, “marginalized and oppressed” vowels and consonants and numbers, which are not spoken in Integral Theory as it stands today. The wisdom of truth from every letter of Lingua-U must be incorporated into a truly integral synthesis, and the practices of Integral Renewal are, for one thing, about doing just that.

No one ought to learn Lingua-U simply because they think it will be fun or a hoot to speak in code at a science-fiction convention to perfect strangers. A good reason to learn Lingua-U is that humankind today has forgotten the wisdom known to ancient shamans and mystics who understood that the sounds and letters of language were a map to human nature and renewal. I intend to help reclaim that wisdom because I am convinced it is the way forward beyond postmodernity which can include everyone’s wisdom, the old mysteries revealed and new mysteries unveiled. To anyone in Post-modernity or Integral who is fed up with the radical green linguistic relativism which infests them both: the train is boarding.

The End of Spirituality?

One look at Google Trends for “spirituality” ought to raise eyebrows of anyone who believes that spirituality is an increasingly popular phenomenon, or some sort of cure for the illness of secularism, or some sort of replacement for religion.


Since March 2004, to June of 2013, interest in “spirituality” as a search time has declined by over 70 percentage points. For every hundred or so web searches nine years ago, only thirty people searched on the topic over the summer. Pick other timeframes and you’ll still find an enormous loss of 40 percentage points in less than a decade.

If there were a CEO of Spirituality, she or he would have been fired long ago. If there were a public relations firm responsible for promoting spirituality, its contract would have been terminated.  But who do you hold accountable for such a precipitous decline in interest in the topic?

Not only is it hard to point fingers to find a responsible party, it is equally difficult to explain how it happened. Did some sort of bubble burst caused by media fads or the alignment of planetary forces or a spate of bestselling books? Did the intellectual apogee of spirituality occur with the first Matrix movie? Seriously though, what’s up with the precipitous numbers and how much ought we care?

There’s a play on words in the title of this new blog. Spirituality Post is not merely a blog with posts about spiritual topics. It is an inquiry into the possibility that we are entering a Post-Spiritual World, an exploration of what the contemporary spiritual landscape looks like, and a constructive vision of a new way of being in the world which might transcend the dichotomy between spiritual and non-spiritual.

I have several hypotheses which I believe may help to explain the decline of interest in spirituality and the rise of a new ethos. This blog will tell all. Here is the first hypothesis: the belief that there is spirituality distinct from religion became infused (or infected if you’re inclined to judge negatively) with postmodern relativism, ultimately leading to the quintessential message: Everything is Spiritual.

Whether you are inclined to think the slogan Everything is Spiritual is deeply profound “non-dual” wisdom or the banal logical conclusion of the death of the truly spiritual, it’s hard to deny that it’s easy to get people excited about Something but it’s next-to-impossible to get them excited about Everything. How long can that level of enthusiasm last? Is it even possible for the average person to orient his or her ultimate concern in life to Everything or is that the exclusive province of rare mystics?

The End of Spirituality could be on the horizon, but if so it need not fade into a breed of secularism. If contemporary spiritual and religious leaders adapt to the transformed landscape, there is reason to believe that Post-Spiritual is only a rejection of certain vacuous forms of spirituality and the beginning of something new and hopeful.

Follow Spirituality Post to discover yourself with a view at the front-line of Life, Culture, Society, Spirit.

The Story of Enlightenment, Part 1: Marc Gafni’s TEDx talk in Las Vegas

Photo Credit: Wonderlane

Today I’ll begin a regular series of posts discussing my own views of the Story of Enlightenment, an important theme in the thought of Marc Gafni, one of the world’s brightest lights in terms of awakened consciousness.

Gafni’s pioneering work on the Enlightenment of Fullness — a vision to be set forth more fully in upcoming books and workshops and trainings — has the potential to revolutionize the world’s view of enlightenment. It is already catalyzing a World Spirituality movement based on integral and evolutionary principles. One of its core ideas, a teaching extended from the Kabbalah tradition, is about understanding the distinction between separateness and uniqueness.

Let’s begin with a 20-minute video on “The Future of Enlightenment” from which outlines the essentials of the vision.

Here’s a quote from one section near the middle of the talk:

The great [religious] traditions are beautiful, they’re holy, stunning, they’re deep. But they’re pre-modern. So if we are going to actually be guided by the shared depths structures of pre-modernity, we’ve made a regressive move. We’ve gone backwards.

So a World Spirituality has to integrate the best and deepest insights of the pre-modern, the modern, and the postmodern. We have to weave those together in a vision that actually allows for a shared story that we can actually transmit  and hold and live in.

It’s not that the story knows everything. There’s so much we don’t know. We hold the uncertainty, we dance in the mystery. But there’s also that which we know. That which we can feel. We know it not because of faith. We’re not interested in faith. We know it not because it’s a dogma someone has told us. We know it because we have first-hand, first-hand experience after having done experiments in Spirit. Having done them in double-blind structures all over the years for thousands of years. We’ve gathered the results. We’ve checked them with the community of the adequate, which is precisely the scientific method, and we have revealed using the faculty of the Eye of the Spirit a shared story, which actually is one which can unite us.

Marc’s first point is that the great traditions are pre-modern. Straightforward enough. Or is it?

Look around at the traditions called “World Religions,” we see that at around 2000 BCE, there were was Judaism and religions in Greece, Rome, and Egypt, and Brahmanism; Theravada Buddhism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism emerged close to 500 BCE, Christianity and Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shintoism, around 0 CE, give or take a few hundred years. The last great tradition was the founding of Islam around 610 CE, to say nothing today of the important faiths to emerge in the last 200 years.

Continue reading “The Story of Enlightenment, Part 1: Marc Gafni’s TEDx talk in Las Vegas”

Integral Thought and Queer Theory, a reply to Daniel Gustav Anderson

Daniel Gustav Anderson
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.

In friendship,

Annandale, Virginia

Hi Daniel,

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.

Warm regards,


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.

Un-Branded Consumer Goods: A Quintessential Postmodern Performative Contradiction

Un-Branded Jar (via Fast Company)

Fast Company notices:

For many people, one of the most satisfying things about buying a new widget is the brand attached to it–whether it’s an Apple logo on the iPhone or a Prada logo on a handbag. Unconsumption, a Tumblr blog that explores the idea of creative reuse, is turning the branding concept on its head with the Uncollection, a project that invites DIY-ers of all stripes to stick the Unconsumption logo–a shopping cart known as Mr. Cart–on items they already own.

Many have noticed an impotence associated with postmodernism, a sort of attitude that prefers whimsy and contradiction to practicality. Now such impotence has a quintessential expression: a brand you can slap on everything you own to show you don’t like to own things.

Well, okay.

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.

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”

What is an Integral Theory of Leadership?

ken-wilber-with-frog-from-kenwilberdotcomThe Integral Leadership Collaborative has kicked off a four-week online gathering of Integral leaders with an impressive opening play. Ken Wilber, the “MPV” of Integral Theory and one of the leading public intellectuals of our time, spoke to the gathering yesterday.

The conference itself is one of the most ambitious online experiences that I’ve encountered. It is slated to run from August 15 through September 10, and includes live events as well as interactive discussions connecting practitioners of integral leadership with many of today’s integral thought leaders.

Firstly, Wilber explained the central tenets of his Integral Theory, including a look at concepts such as levels or stages, lines, types, states, and quadrants. Subsequently, he situated integral theories of leadership in the present context of other ways of thinking on leadership. He said:

What particularly distinguishes Integral leadership theories is their profound inclusiveness and comprehensiveness. Moreover, they’re one of the few models that explicitly include a developmental component: all lines go through the various levels. As also previously noted, these levels or stages have truly profound and significantly different characteristics. The cultural wars in the West for example are driven by three of the first-tier levels: traditional values, modern values, and postmodern values. And yet the role of these stages in culture wars is rarely if ever mentioned or even noticed. These levels of development are one of the most important molders of culture that is, and yet their role goes largely unnoticed.

The same is true of their impact on leadership theories. A theory stemming from modern values is significantly different from one stemming from postmodern, a fact very rarely noted. Except by integral theories, which go out of the way to include a developmental component, and often several of them, with different developmental dimensions for different quadrants and levels, and states for example. But one item is unmistakable: a truly comprehensive theory of leadership will definitely most include developmental or evolutionary dimensions. [Transcript by J.P.]

Wilber also says that integral theories of leadership are increasingly replacing postmodern theories in the practice of leadership. Older theories, he says, are winding down as new integral models arise which are able to make sense of more dimensions of leadership. He also addressed provocative questions about the differences between men’s and women’s leadership styles, whether Barack Obama is an example of an Integral leader, and the Dalai Lama’s leadership style.

Both men and women, Wilber said, have been found by Carol Gilligan and others to evolve hierarchically, even though men to think hierarchically more than women. Gilligan identified a fourth stage, called “Integrated,” which fits very much in line with other developmental theories. “Boys have wings, girls have roots,” Wilber quotes another thinker as saying, highlighting the tendency for men and women to have different leadership styles at least at earlier stages of development before the traits become more alike at later stages.

Ken Wilber says he saw Barack Obama’s campaign progress in the 2008 campaign as almost literally a transformation from a pluralistic, postmodern, green, highly liberal to an integral stance in which he started talking about trans-partisanship. Now that he’s in office, there seems to be a lot of disappointment about his performance. One way of reading the disappointment is to say that he’s transformed into a trans-partisan mentality which offends the highly partisan players in Washington. If that’s the case, then he’s showing us “what Washington is not quite yet ready for.”

Although registration for the ILC event is now closed, individuals may sign up to receive announcements about future ILC events. Meanwhile, if you’d like to be a fly on the wall, Awake, Alive & Aware will be blogging on highlights from the gathering over the next month.

Photo Credit:

Two wacky interesting reviews of Brokeback Mountain

A movie I’ve been eagerly waiting for for a very long time is finally released, and as soon as it arrives in Seattle I’ll be there. Reviews are appearing, and a couple of the early reviews strike me as particularly interesting. This one from a reviewer on the wacky right with a perfectly normal, traditional outlook and set of values at a certain developmental level:

“If you read what Hollywood is saying about it, they’re calling it ‘an achingly beautiful love story,’ ” Price said.

“But I don’t see it that way at all. You see two characters obsessed with a type of bondage that they don’t know what to do with. They don’t know where it came from, and they don’t know how to resolve it. And they both end up experiencing tragic consequences in their lives.”

Youth could easily be led astray, he said, into thinking that gay sexuality is perfectly normal — a message that homosexual activist groups have been harping about for years…

“If you’re not looking at this through the eyes of someone caught up in the ‘love affair’ between these two men,” Baehr said, “then the movie appears to be twisted, laughable, frustrating and boring Neo-Marxist homosexual propaganda.”

And this one from a reviewer on the wacky left with a postmodern, pluralistic sensibility that would be right at home on an Ivy League campus and strikes lots of folks as nutty:

Finally, does it matter where you spend your money, and who profits from it? It’s necessary to ask because Focus Features is a subsidiary of the media conglomerate NBC Universal, which is owned in turn by General Electric. Having already recouped its cost through international pre-sales, “Brokeback” profits further enrich what is in fact the world’s largest corporation measured by market share, while the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion and other laurels burnish a public veneer that obscures a record of malevolence as long as the mountain is high.

Beholding “Brokeback”’s lyrical images of the pristine natural environment, for example, you’d never guess that its corporate parent has worked tirelessly to sabotage the federal Superfund law requiring egregious polluters to clean up their toxic wastes. GE’s attempts to evade an Environmental Protection Agency-ordered dredging of some 1.3 million pounds of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) it dumped into the Hudson River would also have the broader effect of undermining the enforceability of future Superfund cleanups.

Perhaps best known for its nuclear commitments, GE’s power is such that, despite the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s knowledge of their faulty engineering—in the event of a meltdown, GE-designed nuclear reactors are 90 percent likely to disgorge radiation directly into the atmosphere—it continues to issue licenses…

In this context, “Brokeback” is perfectly of its moment. The film’s mass embrace by gay audiences offers no less an instance of people acting against their self-interest than poor and working-class red-state voters shoring up Bush’s fraudulent majority last November, hastening their own ruin…

Good Lord in heaven! It’s time for the integralist’s prayer that begins like so: Lord, save me from the arrogant sense of superiority I feel inside when I see the partiality of that which people at a lesser stage of development view as the whole…