I just cracked open my new copy of The Listening Society today and don’t know when I’ll be writing more about it, but let me say a few words about the very first thing that caught my eye. I saw the chapter called “Death to TURQUOISE” and wanted to hear what Hanzi had to say. Hanzi wrote, regarding the highest values memes after YELLOW in Spiral Dynamics or TEAL in AQAL:

At this point in history, there are no higher effective value memes, for all practical purposes, than the Metamodern (and even that one almost doesn’t exist, as we shall see). There are three main reasons for this.

The first and most important reason is that there is no symbolic code available that seems to cancel and radically overturn the metamodern code, in a way corresponding to the way that the metamodern code overturns the postmodern one. All of these theorists, who claim that there are several stages beyond the postmodern, basically describe the same values and ideas: to adopt a radically holistic, accepting and developmental perspective of reality, as presented also in this book… But if there would truly be a value meme beyond the metamodern, there would be a murderous critique of the metamodern code–which is nowhere to be found….

The second reason is rarity….

Which brings us to the third argument. For a value meme to exist in any substantial sense, it has to have a social setting, i.e., it has to define different institutions, organizations or communities…. No, the TURQUOISE vMeme (or corresponding) is simply not real. It’s an immature fantasy.

I hope the rest of the book improves because unless I’m missing something arguing against Freinacht here is child’s play.

First, my inner trickster just wants to say that unless you’ve seen Hanzi and me in the same place or have a photo of the two of us together, how do you know we’re not actually the same person? Ha ha.

Now, let me begin by granting what Freinacht gets right. At this point in history, there is no widespread and pervasive cultural system in which the value memes higher than Teal (late Systemic-Mind) can cohere and develop, unless you want to count online communities with tens of thousands of members interacting daily in hundreds of different groups, forums, blogs, lists, and courses. Freinacht is partially right, therefore, when he says there is no “effective” TURQUOISE “for all practical purposes” if that’s what he means.

But why should that be the criteria for assessing the validity of TURQUOISE? He admits himself that Metamodernism barely exists. Post-Metamodernism is basically of the same status:  a bit of vaporware in the cultural and social dimensions but alive and in-birth in the individual quadrants (both internal experience and artifacts such as books and websites). If he’s going to get strict about counting cultural artifacts and social institutions in order to assess the health of the meme, then he better be careful because by his sort of reckoning Metamodernism is also going to look like vaporware.

If Hanzi is using words in an unusual way, then it’s possible I misunderstand him. Perhaps I need to read the book first in order to understand Hanzi’s point about TURQUOISE not existing as a meme.  You can walk into any bookstore in the world and find a wide selection of books by Ken Wilber that form the TURQUOISE meme writ large, combining developmental findings with post-rational insights from the Great Traditions enfolded into the cognitive toolbox. Add to it dozens more books (most of which are more at the lower METAMODERN or TEAL/YELLOW levels) by other authors. Doesn’t Wilber’s oeuvre (including his spiritual books) and the countless websites, publications, conferences, businesses, and organizations related to it count, for starters?

One of the organizations that I know about quite well is Pacific Integral, where about eight years ago I studied for over a year in a cohort with 12 other people in Integral Leadership. Every member of the cohort received a developmental assessment before we started (and after, as part of O’Fallon’s research project). The center of gravity of our cohort was TURQUOISE with some above at VIOLET/ULTRAVIOLET and some below at TEAL/METAMODERN. (They used Cook-Greuter’s terminology, not the altitudes.)

The Pacific Integral faculty said it was the highest-ranking cohort they’d ever tested. The 13 of us formed a “culture” together over the course of our studies and together we saw first-hand, among other things, how TURQUOISE looks, feels, and shows up in real life. Not book knowledge, but hands-on, “Now I see you…” sort of thing. TURQUOISE is very real.

Now it’s true that TURQUOISE doesn’t have a large spiritual institution or political party or think tank to back it up. In the Wilberian world, TURQUOISE and TEAL people are basically intermixed and mutually supportive, but sometimes at odds. So does that mean there is no valid meme? That makes no sense. I think TURQUOISE doesn’t need the same sort of cultural support in the same way that the earlier stages do. Would be nice to see something more defined emerge though! To explain more would take more time than I have, but it really makes sense when you understand that at its healthiest, the Construct-Aware/Ego-Aware stage of ego-maturity acts independently of the cultural norms and parameters (other memes) and at the same time is able to interact with them and add value to them. Therefore, in an ideal situation, TURQUOISE doesn’t need its own institutions and organizations because it is “at home” in ALL of them. That’s genuinely different than METAMODERN, which sees itself as “above” all the rest. (I think of TURQUOISE as “rising up (out of TEAL) and centered”, but there are other ways of thinking of it.)

Freinacht’s second argument from rarity is irrelevant. At best, it explains why TURQUOISE is just as much a baby as METAMODERN, but maybe a bit smaller baby.

Now, as for Freinacht’s top-line argument that if TURQUOISE were real there would be “a symbolic code available that seems to cancel and radically overturn the metamodern code”, um, yeah, I think there actually sorta is. You can see Ken Wilber hinting at it in Integral Spirituality (2006) with his concept of “stations of life”. When all the developmental levels are recognized in a higher form, they are able to be more fully appreciated epistemically and ontologically as interrelated stations of intrinsic wholeness.

As readers of this blog are well aware, I’ve been working on Lingua-U since 2010 (it was my final project in the Generating Transformative Change program), and the book will be coming out within a matter of months. Since Lingua-U constructs reality through subtle energetic markers — and sees concepts and other elements of symbolic reasoning as applications “running on” these energetic markers, with different modes of functioning — perhaps something like Lingua-U is the “murderous” code Hanzi wants to see. (But not strictly speaking is it merely a “symbolic code” so much as a “meta-symbolic code” — one can hardly criticize expressions of consciousness which are increasingly post-symbolic in nature for not having “symbolic codes”.)

After all, Lingua-U can induce something like developmental stages (i.e., the Nine Stations) as an application layer running on its kernel, but no developmentalist can ever replicate a model of reality based on the subtle energies of symbols — heck, they can’t even perceive them at this time. They work in concepts and have no ability to work with the energies (yin and yang and yung, etc.) in which those concepts are composed. The concepts of the METAMODERNIST (or TEAL integralist) are basically the TV dinners of the intellectual world (Marie Callender’s Salisbury Steak, Hungry-Man Home-Style Meatloaf, etc.) whereas the VIOLET MAGICIAN — building on TURQUOISE Konstructs — is working directly with the elements: protein, carbohydrates, fats, etc. to optimize their ratios for nutrition.

But it’s not necessary to speculate about such future possibilities at this point. There are many people right now at TURQUOISE and higher modes — “light” forms at least, in the sense that Hanzi defines — who have operationalized a way of life that is not only a step beyond METAMODERN, but a step into a “higher center”. I’m not saying it’s fully fleshed out with a high level of philosophical sophistication beyond what you will find in Wilber’s sublime passages. I’m not saying it’s pervasive in the culture. It’s just another baby in the world.

But TURQUOISE just may have a “murderous” critique of METAMODERNISM on offer to all takers: it says, I would say: at last, you can understand the “within” of development (evolution) itself as Eros, and find that it is paired with the “within” of God’s love (involution) which is Agape, and together they form a unitive whole. By situating one’s identity within this union of Eros and Agape, one is able to see and engage with every station in an appropriate dignity, discerning the appropriate gifts to offer and receive in exchange. It’s initially a more relaxed and humane way of being, I think, with much to offer the world that has barely even been glimpsed, moreso than TEAL/YELLLOW/METAMODERN. But it has groundbreaking potential to be a powerful force of global significance, once the Global-Mind emerges more fully and becomes operationalized.

(These are my words and views, but the basic notion that I’ve just described is right there  in Ken Wilber’s 1995 Sex, Ecology, Spirituality.)

By the way, there’s another argument against Freinacht’s notion that value memes have “to define different institutions, organizations or communities” to be valid. It’s worth bringing up because once you get past TURQUOISE into INDIGO and VIOLET and so on, this topic comes up again and again. As far as I can tell, and I can’t claim to prove it, TURQUOISE (when it fully emerges) is the last station of life that one can expect will have a manifest institutional, organizational, and communal form that reaches a massive scale… at least for hundreds of years. The later Stations of Life do not radically restructure the global society; they affect smaller and smaller populations of people as subgroups — think of monks in a monastery who all have complex cognitive skills — not the population as a whole. This doesn’t mean they’re invalid; they’re just different from what came before, and as their cultural and social stations “come online” we will see how they will co-exist together.

Please let’s not say “Death to TURQUOISE”. The history of philosophy and spirituality isn’t kind to folks who thought their own particular stage of realization was the highest and greatest on offer, only to be supplanted within short order. It would be a shame to see Hanzi Freinacht fall into the same regrettable mistake. Let’s love the TURQUOISE baby, not abort it.

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