Here’s a reader’s comment related to my post on defining integral:
Joe, I applaud your independent STEAM streak .. Orienting consciousness maps are a good thing… and – but 🙂 I think following any ‘leaders’ methodology to a ‘t’ restricts one’s own flow of creative juices…
Ah, that’s the rub, isn’t it? In a modern, American culture that places a high premium on having an “independent streak,” and being “leaders (not followers),” and above all not restricting the flow of “one’s own creative juices,” then how the hell do you become a truly systematicthinker? Are we so tied to narcissistic notions of creativity and independence that we are incapable of merging into a more encompassing and ego-shattering whole? Is “that sounds like group think” or “he’s just another Ken Wilber ditto-head” the worst insult we can hurl at something new? Must originality be limited to how we resist something greater than ourselves, and never describe how we surrender?
I think it is possible to be both integral and original, independent and systematic. One way is to latch on to the broad movement called integral and claim that your version of integral is the most correct version, or at least a better version, and point out how other versions leave something important out. If you’re right and persuasive, then perhaps your ideas will have an influence in shaping what counts as truly integral. And then you have demonstrated that you’re both an independent thinker and a systematic thinker. You haven’t erected a new system or demolished the old system; you’ve strengthened the value of the system by correcting its shortcomings.
I imagine that pretty much all good internal criticism of integral would have to look something like that. (By distinguishing between internal and external criticism, I am talking about criticism launched from within a second-tier stage versus criticism launched from a lower stage. An example of second-tier critique is: “This model of reality leaves something important out, obscures valuable distinctions, or fails to incorporate the ideal number of contexts to be truly useful.”) In contrast are criticisms such as “It doesn’t make central to its paradigm the act of listening to marginalized or oppressed minority voices,” or “There’s no rational proof for the supposedly trans-rational benefits of meditation,”which are perfectly valid concerns derived from a first-tier level of analysis. However, even if all first-tier criticisms are granted, a second-tier system remains standing.)
As useful as it is to think about criticism in helping one to develop a sense of distance, originality, and independence of thought, it’s not the only valid approach to life. That would be like saying that the only way to be a creative, integral thinker is to continually search for weaknesses and faults in the foundation of one’s own consciousness. I suspect that such a sentiment is more a holdover from first-tier rationalistic philosophy than truly a second-tier mode of being. Transcending rationalism means finding ways of being appropriately critical in the right time, for the right reasons, and to the right degree, without spending inordinate, unnatural amounts of one’s time and energy in the smashing idols and gods. In other words, as we ascend in stages of concsciousness and incorporate more angles in our life-maps, we become more fully rational, not rationalists.
So I think the sentiment that “following any ‘leaders’ methodology to a ‘t’ restricts one’s own flow of creative juices” is a perfectly understandable and ordinary sort of view. And it may be right or it may be wrong, but it’s a recipie for narcissistic abandonment to the self. There’s nothing wrong with a little first-tier “I want what I want and damn anyone who says they’re a leader worth following, this is my life, I’m doing it my way” sort of thinking. I’ve got a healthy “red streak” myself, even as it doesn’t define me. The challenge with STEAM-powered living, as I see it, is to think about the world in a comprehensive and systematic way that defines the proper place and relation of self, other, world, and the Divine, in the context of an evolving world… and to live from that vision as deeply and graciously as possible. If that isn’t being original in this culture and age, then what is?