We 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.
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