Having described both the so-called “green” and “teal” altitudes of consciousness as at one with a station of life in which Evolution is becoming increasingly self-aware, rising up from the dawn of the Second Tier to an eventual identification with Eros (holistic creativity) itself, it makes sense to wonder: What does this Mind consider to be “integral” or “whole” or even “being-in-Being”?

Well, the way I see it, there is a three-phase shift happening in the Month of the Golden Egg (my chrono-mythological term for the first third of the Second Tier). In the first phase, or yang movement, the ?? or Svaadhiʃθaanə (which we can think of as Spirit-in-embryo, or the base of the self), comes to glimpse Everything as a system in itself and partially identify it with the evolutionary impulse itself. This movement is tremendously stimulating to the intellect, leading in next stage at ? to the beginning of the Sətvə or Subtle realm, the work of the Scholar, and the awakening of both the idea of Suchness and the Səhəsrərə (Crown Chakra). This is the Throne of Success in The Kalendar; it is a grand endeavor which has its day in the Sun ere leading quite soon to disappointment (Sadness at ?⚌).

Weakened by its toil in the early subtle realms, the Self is nevertheless strengthened and ready to enter the second phase of the Golden Egg: its identification of a system filled with new riddles, often taking the shape of a withdrawn (Shy) and painfully distressed (Shamed) phase in which Everything appears to be merely an illusion; the individual sense is now more so a collective ethos. There is no consciousness of wholeness here, not even in the overly intellectualized sense of Everything-questing which initially motivated the archetype of The Evolutionary. At this phase, midway between the gay hanky-codes of Green (hustler) and Teal (cock & ball torturer), one is preoccupied with the Shiva energy (deconstruction and creative shunting) or with Shadow-eating, which eventually may lead to Shunyata-awareness or some lesser Education in wisdom. Wholeness is now in eclipse; it is seen now as nothingness in drag.

The third phase of The Golden Egg, mature Teal as it were, begins with a new emphasis on emptiness in both the increasingly coalescing individual and collective dimensions as well as empathy, embodiment, and the pleasureful dimensions of human life. Now that individual and collective senses are coming together, the system is increasingly aware of its manifold origami-like shapes which can be consciously manipulated through elegant design and enactive (constructive) political action. Shadow, once eaten, can be defecated. The shit can be used as fertilizer (and please don’t ask me to explain the brown handkerchief in the gay hanky code). The intellect is no longer disowned as it was for a time while difficult shunting processes were underway. It is now increasingly enlightened, more than ever before. And hence, the apex of the “hero’s journey” for The Golden Egg: The Throne of Treasuring which glimpses eternity in a new way, followed by the anti-climax of The Throne of Eros. What has happened is essentially that the system has begun to identify with Essence itself, and therefore with the root of the life-force, the sexual and primal creative drive.

So you see, “integral” or “whole” or “being-in-Being” looks different at different points in The Golden Egg. As the Second Tier rises like a mother hen, it lays a magnificent new creation, a chick ready to be born, but not quite yet.

If it sounds like you’ve heard something like this story before, it may be because you read one or both of Ken Wilber’s books, A Brief History of Everything and A Theory of Everything. In these works written for a well-educated yet popular audience not already familiar with the nuances of Integral Theory, Ken articulates a theoretical framework capable of allowing the Mind to situate itself within the story of Evolution itself. Not since Hegel and the other German idealists, not even in the human scientific works of Clare Graves or Jean Gebser, had anyone explained how the evolutionary impulse can rise up within a single human being and allow her or him to grasp itself as a distinct-but-not-separate face of an evolving Spirit-in-action. Through erudition and wit, biting but not cruel humor, and dogged clarity of prose on extraordinarily complex topics, Ken developed a following and therefore created a sturdy cantilever bridge to the Second Tier for a world ready for the crossing.

Among the many talented scholars to comment on Wilber’s so-called Theory of Everything is Bonnitta Roy, who counts among her many credentials the role of co-editor of Integral Review. About eleven years ago, Roy wrote a memorable critique of Wilber’s project as “hyper-intellectual”, reducing it to mere “abstract theorizing” (without actually naming him personally, using only the “Theory of Everything” reference for her peg). It begins like so:

It seems to me rather unfortunate that the term integral has been associated with the notion of “A Theory of Everything.” In a recent dialogue hosted by Integral Review, a revision to “A Theory for Everything” was proposed—but even that seems to me to be problematic. While I consider the term “integral” to refer primarily to noetic enterprising, the notion of theorizing about everything seems somewhat at cross purposes to the integral embrace of body, mind and spirit. I believe that what is integral about integral is the capacity for integrating thinking, doing (including communicative acts) and being.

While an important critical component of integral is the articulation of distinctions, too much abstract theorizing results in the stratification of existence into a dizzying complexity of parts, and the hyper-intellectualization of the person at a loss for the whole being-in-Being. The product of this kind of hyper-intellectualization is the belief that reality is really composed of the discrete parts that we continue to identify. This puts us in the unfortunate position of having to create complex frameworks to explain how the parts fit together to retrieve a really whole reality.

Humpty Dumpty fell off a wall … all the king’s horses and all the king’s men…

Read the PDF of the entire article.

Without going into a long-winded review of her entire editorial, which contained many interesting and informative points and on the whole was an entirely reasonable piece of writing, let me just say that she seems to have fallen into the trap of not appreciating the brilliant strategic fittingness of Wilber’s project for its time and place (which is still ongoing). Wilber needed to awaken the radiance of the Zohaar and the exuberant Shakti in the world by stimulating it to imagine itself as the spirit of evolution itself, Spirit waking up as the evolutionary impulse. And to do so, this required a systematization of thought on an order that few intellectuals have ever endeavored.

In short, there is no need for Ken Wilber to apologize for being “hyper-intellectual” or to feel guilt for “abstract theorizing”. His theories of everything, which have formed the basis of Integral Theory for so many of us, have shaped some incredibly significant “Kosmic grooves”. But maybe if Bonitta Roy has a better idea, one that avoids such hyper-intellectualism and abstract theorizing, she would share it with us? It turns out, she just did, in 2007, in Integral Review, and it took less than 800 words. In less than 800 words, she develops an alternative version of the Integral project as not being one of theory-making, but rather one of embodying “degrees of freedom”, similar to the way that a “fitness landscape” in biological evolutionary theory creates useful distinctions without needing to first construct a complex edifice to encompass the entire playfield.

But what is “freedom”? How is it defined, and at what levels of meaning-making? How does it fit in with the agentic drive for freedom and does it not give agency (yang) too great a role, shortchanging both communion’s (yin’s) drive for love/agape and the balanced (yung) drive for reconciliation and unity? And how does it suit the incredible complexity of the human philosophical and spiritual enterprise which has been the subject of mental labor since before the time of Socrates to reduce it to a graphic chart of red dots and black dots on an early 21st-century biologist’s “fitness landscape” spreadsheet? I suspect in 5 years or 10 years those spreadsheets will be obsolete. These are questions that would need to be answered in far more detail than 800 words before Roy can hope to win this fight. Her column packed quite a punch — good for her to have put it out there and advanced the game some yards down the field — but when it comes to tackling A Theory of Everything, she was simply out-thought. Humpty Dumpty, etc.

At the birth of the Systemic-Mind, home of the Element of Air in the Nine Elements artwork, the intellect and its processes for theorization need to be celebrated and owned. There’s room for flexibility and intellectual dissent, including a multiplicity of theories and constant improvements. But no matter how far along we get in our “growing up” as integralists or evolutionaries or whatever-label-comes-next, we ought not forget that the path of Spirit is one through the Mind, not dodging it in a swerve.

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  1. […] No matter how nuanced, “degrees of freedom” is not at all a workable starting point for integral theory as was once proposed. Freedom is a partial value and elevating it into a totalizing force, the yardstick for all other measures of value, is not a worthy theoretically contribution to Integral theory post-Green. It’s magnificent at Green. I love Gustavo Gutierrez, you know, and am deeply committed to the (healthy aspects of the) human liberation movements that arise at Green consciousness. Is it too much to ask Green/Teal to let the Turquoise constructs show them the road out of freedom’s solipsistic isolation? Freedom (yang’s drive) and love/agape (yin’s drive) and reconciliation/unity (yung’s drive), at a minimum, are necessary for envisioning a whole of reality; they cannot be reduced to each other without doing violence to form. Love is the ultimate force to show us how freedom is not nuanced as we evolve; it is enfolded into a much more expansive whole. If you see an “integral theorist” elevating one value of an unreconciled polarity (like freedom) into a paramount value and saying that all forms of integration are merely variations (or degrees) on its theme, nuances on its aspects, pay attention! They’re not giving you an integral vision. They are regurgitating the old, polarizing flatland concepts in a new dress. Let’s rebut it when we see it, and not twist Integral into a misshapen movement that stretches to include such poor formulations. For more, see my recent post on Bonnitta Roy’s definition of integral. […]


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