The Integral Critic’s Dilemma: Beams And Struts Or Soft And Squishy?

By Joe Perez

Given that I wrote recently about an essay of Frank Visser’s which raised the topic of Ken Wilber’s 2006 Wyatt Earp post, I was given the opportunity to re-read what Ken had to say about cross-altitude criticism. It’s an important topic owing to the Integral worldview’s finding that there is not one consciousness that all people share, but a variety of worldspaces conditioned by our developmental level, each of which interact with other extant worldspaces out of virtually inescapable prisms of their own action-logic. Religious fundamentalists and postmodern feminist theorists don’t just disagree about facts, they talk right past each other in ways that neither quite understands.

In “What We Are, That We See. Part I: Response to Some Recent Criticism in a Wild West Fashion” (the Wyatt Earpy post), Ken Wilber wrote:

In short, it’s just ridiculous to say that I try to hide from this criticism, I live on it! Every new truth I find, I rejoice. That’s why it went from wilber-1 all the way to wilber-5. This is what second tier does automatically anyway, it takes new truths wherever it finds themand weaves them into larger tapestries. It can’t help doing so! If I find one, I am ecstatic! So mark this well: Only a first-tier mentality would even think that one would run away from good criticism. But then these folks…. Okay, I won’t even take a shot at that one, too easy.

But I suppose it should be pointed out that many of the ideas these critics offer are in fact at a green or orange altitude, and not even teal or turquoise altitude, where they could at least begin to see the integral patterns that connect. These critics simply cannot see these phenomena, which are “over their heads,” to borrow Kegan’s felicitous phrase—and they get absolutely furious, and I mean furious, when this is pointed out or even mentioned.

But furious or not, that happens to be a completely valid critical approach. So I’ll stop teasing the animals for a moment and get serious. For the developmentalist, some ideas are not at the altitude of those they are criticizing, and those criticisms, in those specific aspects, are nonsensical. Strictly speaking, they are neither true nor false, but empty.

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Ram Dass on Unconditional Love (and a Teaching on Postmodernism)

The power of unconditional love is truly amazing. If you’ve ever been pulled over by a state trooper, you’ll be struck by this tale from spiritual guru Ram Dass:

pulled-overSo I started out on the New York thruway. I was just galumphing along in such a high state that I was hanging out with various forms of the Divine. I was doing my mantra, which I usually am doing one way or another, to remember that this isn’t the only game in town. So I’m holding onto the steering wheel and I’m keeping enough consciousness to keep the car on the road. At another part I’m singing to Krishna, who is blue, is radiant, plays the flute, is the seducer of the Beloved, all of whom we are, back into the merging with God, back into the formless. I am in ecstasy hanging out with blue Krishna, driving along the New York freeway, when I noticed in my rear view mirror a blue flashing light.

Now, there is enough of me down, so I knew it was a state trooper. I pulled over the car, and this man got out of the car and he came up to the window. I opened the window and he said, “may I see your license and registration?” I was in such a state that when I looked at him, I saw that it was Krishna who had come to give me darshan. How would Krishna come in 1970? Why not as a state trooper? Christ came as a carpenter.

Unfortunately, this piece was posted on Facebook with a graphic saying “Everybody is the Guru”. This is not the point of Dass, unless I am mistaken and I don’t think I am! His point is that everybody is the divine being, the Krishna or the Christ. A guru is a teacher who, regardless of whether he is regarded as divine by others, leads people to enlightenment or divinity.

Read the whole thing.

Dass is a guru, a wonderful writer and enlightened soul, and his story is splendidly more illuminative of divine truths than the average person’s. Unfortunately, Dass’s writing was advertised on Facebook with the meme “Everyone is the Guru”

It’s not the best in spiritual teaching that claims “Everyone is the Guru”, to say the least. It’s a fallacy, or better yet it’s a meme which is part of the postmodern pulverizing of value hierarchies. In terms of Integral Theory, it’s the Green meme. But pulverize the distinction between gurus and everyone else and you obscure the light which leads to the realization that “Everyone is Divine”. That is tragic whenever it happens in postmodern thinking, which is not at the front line of consciousness.

On the other hand, the message that unconditional love can transform one’s encounter with a state trooper into a blissful mystical union is gorgeous.

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.

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

Post-PC? Give me a break

Andrew Sullivan gloatingly describes a real cultural phenomenon as the emergence of the “post-PC era.” In his most recent post, he adds this caveat: “Maybe political correctness was indeed a necessary phase in our churning popular culture. I’m just glad it’s over.”

His error, as I see it, is simple: PC is not only a necessary phase in popular culture, it’s also an enduring necessity. It’s not over. If PC is ever over, then post-PC ceases to exist. You can’t have one without the other.

Don’t get me wrong. I think post-PC is real. It’s part of the emerging integral, post-postmodern sensibility. But the emergence of post-PC is fragile, and it’s not to be taken for granted. It is built on the foundations of postmodernism and PC-influenced sensitivity, inclusion, and acceptance of diversity. Destructively tear away the foundations–attack it mercilessly, unfairly, and ungenerously as so many of its conservative critics do–and post-PC falls. If you haven’t gone through a “PC phase,” whatever that looks like to you, here’s the bad news: you’re not post-PC, you’re pre-PC.

Let’s say you’re white and you want to laugh at a dog barking at a black man and saying it’s okay because he (the dog) is a Democrat. Funny, isn’t it? (This is an example Sullivan cites of post-PC humor.) If you’re PC, you’re not laughing. If you’re laughing you’re either post-PC or pre-PC. And that makes you either hip or a racist. Take PC out of the equation, as Sullivan hopes happens, and your options narrow. Laugh at the barking dog, and you’re just another sorry sap who thought he was hip when everyone around him was laughing nervously. You look over your shoulders and see all these white faces enjoying the sight of a dog barking at a black man, and start to worry that maybe y’all shouldn’t be laughing so freely. The laughter dies down.

Post-PC isn’t a stylish new purse you inherit because it’s a hip cultural fashion. You can’t put it on and then throw it off. It’s a state of mind, a way of being, an aspect of a level of consciousness, and it must be earned. In Sullivan’s naive gloat that the PC era is over, he raises the distinct possibility that he hasn’t quite earned what, perhaps, he thinks he has.